Mike Singletary is going to be fired. Probably soon. Yes, he's been a bad coach with x's and o's. Yes, he hired one of the worst OCs imaginable and anointed him king of smash-mouth. Yes, his game planning and adjustments have been well below par. But the main problem with our coach in my opinion is that he is just too damn stubborn to become a good head coach. Instead of learning to be cunning, open-minded, and flexible, Singletary drinks his own Kool-Aid and starts to believe in irrational and unpractical things. He thinks he can motivate his way to success. But you need a game plan, and you need to make the right personnel decisions, Mike, because guess what? It's not all about you.
Because of this stubbornness, which some fans mistake for grit, or determination, Singletary has made fatal mistakes that have led this football team to the brink of humiliation. (The brink of elimination is one level of sad. The brink of humiliation takes it to a whole other level.)
I list a few of these stubborn decisions, each of which Fooch certainly knows I've brought up in previous posts, lest you think this is all hindsight. My focus will be on the offense because this is what I've been writing about:
1. Not playing Nate Davis for parts of the the last two games of LAST season to let him get a feel for NFL football, and to be inspired to get cracking on the playbook and feeling like he was actually part of the team. Instead, Singletary insisted the Niners get to 8-8 no matter what it took. He pulled every string he could to beat the pitiful second stringers of the worst two teams in football -- the Rams and Lions -- using an inconsistent Alex Smith to eek out two wins. Those games were torture to watch. In the first half of both games Smith looked like he was playing against the old Chicago Bears defense. It was apparent even then that Smith couldn't throw deep with any consistency, and therefore had no potential as our QBOTF. But Singletary refused to "watch the film." Instead, we go ahead and win those two games, dropping us down in the draft, and he tells Davis, in essence, you're not a part of this team. Alex is our guy. You have no shot.
2. Just in case Nate didn't get the memo, he then names Alex Smith his starter way before the pre-season even begins. (Thinking that would give a mediocre, inconsistent QB with no accuracy on his deep balls enough confidence to take us to the playoffs in a weak division.) But he's not thinking how that might screw with the mind of a naive young 5th round QB who had had some semblance of hope about his future. Singletary knows what's best though, at least in the mind of Singletary. He's positive Smith can "do the job." He stubbornly sticks with his plan instead of keeping his mind open. Suddenly the QB spot was locked.
3. Because Smith is now our anointed QBOTF, and maybe because something about the young kid Davis rubs him the wrong way, he gets personal. He's going to show this cocky optimistic kid who's the boss. So instead of taking Nate Davis under his wing, to help him mature mentally and physically, he doesn't even assign him a tutor during the off-season to help him learn the playbook. He doesn't push him to work out with Donovan McNabb during the summer (McNabb publicly invited Davis to do this out of deep respect for his potential). No, Sing leaves Davis high and dry, because Alex Smith is the second coming, no religious pun intended. And our very stubborn head coach, who prides himself on motivating people, completely misreads this kid, thinking Davis needs to motivate himself. And the way to do that is to not play him. And not help him in the off-season. Singletary will later tell us he was shocked at Davis not having learned the playbook on his own. Here's the fight card: A ridiculously stubborn man vs an immature young kid with a learning disability and a pretty big upside if someone can tap it. And, no shock, stubborn wins.
4. Smith sucked even in the last two games of last year, against two horrible defenses. An open-minded coach assessing things rationally, and actually "watching film" would have realized three things (which most of us already saw): 1) We needed better O-linemen (duh). 2) Our OC sucked. His imagination was equal only to a Daily City architect. Defenses could read his formations as if they were handed the plays a week ahead of time. 3) Our QB didn't have the physical or mental skills to be great even if those problems were fixed. He recognized only one of the three things when all three needed addressing. We needed a pro-level QB and a better offensive scheme urgently. But Singletary actually thought choosing two tanks on the O-line would open up big holes for Gore, and poof, through shear physical force we'd be in the playoffs. Ah yes, smash-mouth football. Mike Sinlgetary's individual will to dominance beats the rest of the NFL. Stubborn.
How about this idea, Sing: Signing McNabb to lead us for the next year or two, while letting him teach Davis, who McNabb respects and wants to see succeed? No, Sing wails, I'm positive Smith is good enough. And we'll win with our running game.
Oh and by the way, Singletary knew as well as we all did that Gore was too physically fragile to carry the ball 25 times a game and catch 5-10 passes a game for 16 games and then be fresh as a daisy in the playoffs. But, hey, let's not use Westbrook. I mean, SIGN HIM, but don't let him play. Amazing. Now that we're 1-6 will we at least play Westbrook in a mop-up roll? Or do we wait for Frank to go on IR? Odds of Westbrook staying with the 49ers next year if Singletary is still the coach: zero. Can Westbrook still play? No, too old, too injured, just like LT when San Diego let LT go to the Jets. Hmmm.
5. We all were screaming about how bad the OC was last year, and early this year. Here was a chance to bring in someone McNabb could work with, if we had been smart enough to get Donavan for a mid round draft pick. How about an OC who could get back to 49er football? Lots of odd formations and trick plays -- not just running Gore up the middle . . . But no, Singletary was so hung up on "smash-mouth" football, and having Smith get two straight years in the same system, that he kept a dinosaur as our OC, sealing our fate for this year.
The fact is, if Singletary had actually "watched the film," and had some knowledge about great offenses, he would have realized Smith was not the guy, and neither was Raye. Everyone kept taking about Smith's inconsistency, lack of arm strength, and his haunting ability to shoot himself in the foot right at the key moment in the game. An anti-Montana. And everyone knew Raye was not fooling anyone with his play calling. But Mike was too stubborn to do anything about it until it was way too late and the buliding had already fallen to the ground. After a terrible game against Oakland guess who he started at QB? Yes, our one and only Alex Smith. And when he got hurt, let's try something to really rally the troupes and excite our fans -- David Carr. We knew he sucked. Why didn't Singletary know he sucked? And where the hell was Nate Davis? Still on the practice squad.
6. Sorry, I just can't get off this Nate Davis thing. Everyone sees he's raw. Not ready. I agree he's not ready to be a permanent starter on a winning team. But now, on this team? To get him the reps he needs? So we can see what we have in him? Why not try?
Remember, Walsh drafted a skinny QB without a lot of arm strength or running speed in the 3rd round because he was a winner. He had that special something that's not created by simply having a better O-Line. Walsh saw magic happen too often to be coincidence. No one else cared about that during the draft. So Montana fell to the third round. But Walsh kept his mind open. (And the kid didn't look real good in his first games as a starter.) But Walsh saw through it. He threw him in there in year 2 after the team began to sputter. He let him have a bad year. They all did. He taught Montana his system and waited for him to catch on. Singletary hasn't given Nate Davis the time of F****** day, and at this point he's not even part of the team. Singletary's stubbornness cannot possibly be helping this team, or Nate Davis. Only a truly stubborn man would think otherwise.
7. If we had a coach that didn't, apparently, hold some stubborn grudge against Nate Davis, it would have been accepted as common knowledge when we drafted him that he needed help learning, and Singletary would have had someone on the staff take him under their wing. Instead, Singletary is somehow rubbed the wrong way, and instead of helping the kid, sends him off during the summer without anyone to help him learn the playbook. Without anyone even checking in with him. Is that sensible? Then he blames Davis, who everyone knew before the draft has a learning problem, when Davis doesn't learn the playbook without anyone's help. WHAT IS THAT? Who is the learning disabled in this situation?
As Jackie Chan said in the Karate Kid: "There are no bad students. Only bad teachers."
Stubborn people make very bad teachers. And guys, we have one as our HC, but not for long I hope.
Not a lot of great HCs to chose from out there at the moment, but of the choices being thrown around I would say Gruden is the best answer. He's never had a great QB to work with. And he won't now. But if Davis were to become that kid, that special kid with that special something, and Gruden actually took the time to teach him a damn playbook, well, who knows what kind of magic might return to the SF 49ers? In my view, both moves are worth the risk. And the sooner the better.
I don't know if contractually Gruden could come in this year, or if emotionally he would want to. But as I've said in previous posts, to come in now and set the tone, try out Davis and see what he's got, and to slowly get to know the personnel and the personalities on this team so he can assess firsthand before training camp, and have a good working plan for the draft with Balke, would seem to be the best way to go.
Personally, I don't blame the Yorks for any of this. They are not savvy football men, but they are trying. They're willing to learn. And they're willing to spend. They are willing to give control to the coach. They just have to find the right guy. Singletary and Smith have to go, ASAP. It's becoming clearer and clearer what needs to be done. Let's move on and pray that our Chicago Bear experiment is at an end. I for one am ready to get back to 49er football. Fun, exciting, fast, tricky football, that while we're at it will by no means exclude smashing people in the damn mouth. It never did exclude that. Ask Ronnie Lott. Charles Haley. Etc. We just didn't try to have our offense look like our defense. Thunder on D and lightening on O is what we need! Singletary's stubbornness has just brought us another winter of steady rain.
Critical as some of you might be, once again, of giving up on Sing and Smith, it really doesn't matter. They're as good as gone. I've dealt with your differences of opinion before with good humor in previous posts. And many of you have made good opposing points. But enough is enough. I think it's time that we focus on with who replaces them, and when. Let's not be stubborn about the changes that need to be made to get this team back in sync with the best of the NFL.