Mike Singletary Approval Rating, Week 4

Last week when I ran the Mike Singletary approval rating, my biggest concern was how the team would rebound from the devastating loss in Minnesota.  Mike Singletary is a great motivator, but even many optimists had to be concerned following the loss.

Well so much for those concerns.  The team rebounded to paste the Rams 35-0.  One might initially argue that the team obviously struggled out of the gate, only leading the Rams 7-0.  Offensively the struggles were certainly there.  The offensive execution was a little less than stellar in the first half.  However, given prior offensive struggles, I don't see that as an issue of coming out flat after the previous game.  I say that in part because the defense was flying all over the field in the first half.  They absolutely shut down the Rams throughout the game and were playing at an extremely high level.

The defense is certainly talented, but I'm willing to give credit where credit is due.  Mike Singletary has been masterful with this team from a psychological edge.  The team made some additions to the roster this offseason, but they're really not a whole lot different from last year's squad.  The major variable in all this has been Mike Singletary.  Bill Walsh will always be the coach on the Mt. Rushmore of 49ers legends.  And yet, while it's still early, Mike Singletary seems to be on his to securing his own little spot in 49ers lore.  We'll certainly have to re-address this in the future, but consider me happy so far.

I've attached Coach Singletary's Monday press conference after the jump, but I wanted to point a couple more things that jump to my attention about his actions with the team.  I found his thoughts on halftime particularly interesting.  It showed the level to which the players are truly buying in to the message:

On whether players have begun to take ownership of his message and he can take a step back at halftime and let the players carry on his message:
"I thought yesterday I saw a lot of guys disappointed in the way the first half went. Like I said, there were no shouting matches, it was just a matter of, ‘Guys, just remember what we said we needed to do.’ They kind of took it from there. ‘Yes, we’ve got to go out and we’ve got to do this. And, we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to execute better.’ The coaches didn’t really have to talk a whole lot. Whenever you have that situation, you know you’re going in the right direction."

On whether he wants the players to carry out his message:
"The less I have to say the better. The less I say, the better I feel because I’m going to say what has to be said and hopefully they beat me to it all the time, so we can stay on the same page."

The team has bought into the Mike Singletary philosophy hook, line and sinker (to steal Danny's VD metaphor).  This is not a team that will be quitting on their coach anytime soon.  The team never seemed to quit on Mike Nolan during the down times, but in my opinion this is a different kind of buy-in.  It's more of a playoff mentality (ironic enough given Mike Nolan's "Win the West" mantra!)

Head Coach Mike Singletary
Press Conference – October 5, 2009
San Francisco 49ers


Opening statements:
"Good afternoon. To start with, I’m very thankful that we came out of yesterday 3-0 in our division. I’m very proud of our guys and the way they played. To talk about some of the injuries, we still have [RB] Frank Gore and [S] Reggie Smith. They will be out. From last week, it’s just carry-over. [LB] Marques Harris has a hamstring strain. [LB] Jeff Ulbrich, concussion. [FS Dashon] Goldson just got the wind knocked out of him. He’s OK. [LB] Manny Lawson just got hit in the nose. He’s fine. Other than that, I think we’re in pretty decent shape.

Overall, our guys played hard. I think, offensively, the best thing that we did was just protect the football. I think going into every game, if that’s something, if that’s the mindset going into the game, just protect the football, I think we have a chance of being in it – as long as we don’t take ourselves out of it. I thought [QB] Shaun [Hill] did a good job spreading the ball around. He got the ball to several different receivers. I thought [RB Glen] Coffee, his first start, I thought he ran well. I thought he ran hard. He’s just going to have to continue to get in a grove and really understand exactly what he needs to do on every down. I thought our receivers did pretty well, for the most part. Obviously, there were some passes that we dropped that we have got to catch. [WR] Josh Morgan, I thought, did a good job coming back after missing the first ball, the deep ball, and coming back and catching a touchdown. That was good. Shaun just went right back to him. I thought our tight ends did a good job. [TE] Vernon Davis did a good job continuing to mature and staying involved in the offense, and I think Shaun is doing a good job of developing a rapport with him. [TE] Delanie [Walker] did well. He’s just continuing to do the things that we need to have him do, getting involved in the offense and creating mismatches. The plays like the reverse that he had, I thought he did a good job.

The o-line, we just have to continue to get better. [Offensive line coach] Chris [Foerster] and I have to sit down and look at some things we need to do in terms of what’s going to help our offense, but at the same time, there are a couple of guys who are doing a good job. [C Eric] Heitmann is working his tail off. Every down, he’s battling somebody. Thankfully, we have a center because everything wants to be from the inside out. So, if that’s where it starts, if you don’t have a problem at center, that’s a great problem not to have. I think [LT Joe] Staley is continuing to mature and get better. I think the right tackle situation, those guys are continuing to work it out over there, working together and taking plays here and there. Overall, they did a pretty solid job yesterday. I think we just have to get better overall, and we will.

Defensively, when you look at the film, the first thing that jumped out at me when I looked at the film was just guys running. Every time you looked at a play, guys were running to the ball. So, when we talk about being relentless, obviously, that’s what you see on the film. I think we had a couple of missed tackles here and there, but a lot of times, guys were just taking their shots. They were just coming in and just getting in there. That’s something that we have to continue to do a better job on. On defense, that’s something that we pride ourselves on. We have to be a good tackling football team. I think it’s very nice when you turn the film on and you see 11 guys sprinting to the ball. That’s the best thing that we have going right now. Obviously, [LB] Pat [Willis] had a nice game. He went out there and he just continues to get better. Any time you have a game like he had yesterday, that’s a great thing to see this early in the season. [LB] Takeo Spikes, also, I thought Takeo did very well, had a very nice game. Did all the fundamentals and the details of the position, did it very well. Our outside guys, [LB] Parys [Haralson] and Manny Lawson … thought they did a good job. [LB] Ahmad Brooks, continuing to come back from the knee scope, after being out a little while there are still some things that he has to get down, but he’s coming and coming fast. On the back end, we did a pretty decent job. [SS] Michael Lewis had a great game. He had several tackles, I think a couple for losses, a couple hits on the quarterback. I thought he did a nice job. So, defensively, it was a great day, and I think all of the guys get a game ball, simply because of the zero, the shutout.

Special teams, [LB] Scott McKillop, I thought, he came up big getting the ball in the end zone and scoring a touchdown. [RB] Michael Robinson, [P] Andy Lee and [CB] Tarell Brown did a nice job, in terms of special teams. [WR] Arnaz [Battle] fumbled one of the punts. We’ve got to work on that. It was his first time being back there in a while, and that’s just something that we can’t do and we have to get better at."

On the reason why KR Allen Rossum was inactive:
"My thinking was to get another linebacker up, a defensive player so that Parys and Manny – rushing the quarterback as much as they have to – giving them a break. And, Ahmad coming back from the knee, not giving him too many reps and hurting ourselves in the long run. So, getting Marques up and Ahmad so they could go in, as well as play special teams, just taking some of the load off. That’s really the biggest thing there."

On whether he’s thinking about personnel changes on the offensive line:
"It could. Hopefully not. Hopefully, we’re able to work it out because we do feel that our best five guys are on the field, but if it comes to that, it could. But, right now, hopefully not."

On whether he is unhappy with the offensive guards:
"I would just say that they did not play up to par. I know that whatever it is, we’ll just have to figure it out. [LG David] Baas could still be banged up a little bit. I don’t know. Sometimes, if you know a guy, when you’re playing on the offensive line, it’s just one of those things where, ‘Yes, I can go.’ But, at the same time, you’re not 100 percent. We’ll get to the bottom of it and find out exactly what it is because both of those guys, we have to have the whole offensive line in sync, and we’ll get there."

On whether it is his aim to have a 50-50 run-to-pass balance on offense:
"That’s always – that has always been, from the very beginning. I say we want to be able to run the ball, but I say we want to be able to run the ball when we have to run the ball. So far, we haven’t been able to do that, but I always want to have a balanced offense. I think people interpret what I said previously, thinking I want to be three yards and a cloud of dust. That’s not me. That’s not what I want. [Offensive coordinator] Jimmy Raye understands that, and I think our offense understands that, and that’s something that we’ll strive for. Obviously, in every game, sometimes you’re not going to be able to run as much as you want. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to pass as much as you want. The No. 1 thing is you want to be able to win the game, and we’re going to do whatever we have to do to win the game, but the goal is to be able to have a balance and do both."

On whether players have begun to take ownership of his message and he can take a step back at halftime and let the players carry on his message:
"I thought yesterday I saw a lot of guys disappointed in the way the first half went. Like I said, there were no shouting matches, it was just a matter of, ‘Guys, just remember what we said we needed to do.’ They kind of took it from there. ‘Yes, we’ve got to go out and we’ve got to do this. And, we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to execute better.’ The coaches didn’t really have to talk a whole lot. Whenever you have that situation, you know you’re going in the right direction."

On whether he wants the players to carry out his message:
"The less I have to say the better. The less I say, the better I feel because I’m going to say what has to be said and hopefully they beat me to it all the time, so we can stay on the same page."

On who those guys are that are beating him to it now:
"Well, you can pick any guy on defense. The leadership on the defensive side of the ball has really picked up, whether it’s [DE] Justin Smith,[LB] Patrick [Willis], [LB] Takeo [Spikes], [S] Michael Lewis, all those guys are talking. On the offensive side of the ball, primarily [QB] Shaun Hill has really stepped up and has been a real bright spot in terms of the leadership and, ‘Hey guys, we have to do this, we have to do that. This is what we said we were going to do and let’s do it.’ So that’s great to see. On the offensive line, [T] Joe Staley and [C Eric] Heitmann, it’s great to see those guys step up and they will continue to do so because we will continue to get better."

On how close he thinks the team is to being one of the best teams in the NFL:
"I think we are a ways away. I won’t even go there and try and be philosophical about it. We are a ways away and I only say that because sometimes you’ll say, ‘Well, we are about this much away,’ but when you really measure that, it’s a ways away. I’m always looking at the tape and looking at other teams and looking at where I think we are compared to some of the better teams in the league. Right now, we are just trying to get better each week and that’s really the bottom line and as we go forward, that is the goal, is to go out and get better in practice, just get a little bit better in practice each day and each game we play, just get a little bit better in some area and at some point in time, it’s going to come together, but obviously right now we are a ways away from it and we are continuing to work to get there."

On what he sees in this defense:
"The No. 1 thing that I see in this defense in unselfishness. That is the number one trait in this defense. These guys don’t care who gets the credit. You don’t have guys arguing about, ‘Now, wait a minute I got that sack.’ You don’t hear that. These guys are excited, they play together, they get along together, they sit in a room together and talk about the game plan, they talk about who’s doing what. It’s just a joy to be around and normally guys that are playing defense sometimes are a little more selfish, but not these guys. That is amazing to me. Defensive line, linebackers, DBs, there’s a lot of unselfish guys. So that lets me know right now that we are going to have a great defense. How great? Some guys just have to continue to mature and get there, but its coming."

On how much credit Mike Nolan gets for the way things are now:
"It’s the big thing that I talked about last year. It’s amazing. Any success that we have here, I always attribute a large part of that to Mike because I know what he was trying to do and I know where he was trying to go and it was just a matter of guys really understanding it, guys really believing it and stepping into it this year and just taking it to the next level."

On how he has turned the team into one of the league leaders in turnover differential this season:
"One of the things we talk about as a team is not losing football games. Making other teams earn every point they get. When you turn the ball over, it is a formula for disaster, and our guys understand offensively. Our guys understand that defensively. It just takes the breath out of you. The more turnovers you get, the more it lessens your opportunity to be successful."

On the approach he will take towards Atlanta:
"When I look at Atlanta, and I have not looked at them yet on film, I am still looking at our film and trying to dissect that a little bit more, but everything I know about Atlanta, they have great personnel on offense and defense. Defensively, they are flying around. They have good rush outside linebackers. They have good inside guys. Their defensive ends, John Abraham, they are coming from everywhere. On the offensive side of the ball, they have the young quarterback Matt Ryan, who was a huge success last year. They have good receivers and good running backs. So we are going to have our hands full once again. I think when the guys talked about the week we played Minnesota, and maybe there was a difference in me. Any time we have an opportunity to get better, any time we have an opportunity to measure ourselves, I think if you’d ask them there was also a difference in me for the first game. Each and every week there are different challenges for our team. This past week, yesterday, that was a mental challenge. That was a character challenge, in terms of where are we. Are we mature enough to be able to go into a game where we are supposed to be nine-point favorites? You have a young team just starting to develop a mindset of winning, are we mature enough to go into a game like that and win and play well and continue to get better? So we have to answer something every week, and I think yesterday, that was huge for us for different reasons. So each and every week we have a challenge. When I look at the film of Atlanta, we’ll look at the challenges we have there."

On whether he considered playing QB Alex Smith at the end of the game:
"No. Not really. Probably, the biggest reason why, is I want Shaun to get all that he can right now because he needs it. And I think it would be different if he had started for a couple of years and had a lot of games under his belt, a lot of success under his belt. I think right now, he needs to see all the looks he can get because it is going to serve him well down the line."

On the hits Hill took yesterday:
"They came from, sometimes, the safety inserted late in the game. Sometimes it was just a rush from the outside. But for the most part, it was definitely too many hits. Once again, the offensive line, some was due to them. And some, Shaun got no protection-wise, where not to go after the ball is snapped. It is getting better, but is too much. We will have to keep working on it."

On whether the team needs WR Michael Crabtree:
"Same answer. Same answer. I am going to say it again Any guy that can play and that can help us win, I am never going to say no, we don’t need him."

On whether Crabtree is perhaps a diva:
"You said the key word: perhaps. I don’t know that. I don’t know that for sure. Why say no to someone who may be one heck of a kid? Like I said, I met him, I talked to him and I had a good feel for him. I haven’t been wrong too often. I think he is a great kid. But this is your rookie year, you’re just coming into the NFL, all you know is what they are telling him."

On whether he has any indications that Crabtree will sign soon:
"I just hope he is right. It would be great."

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