I think a good many of you will identify with aspects of this post. Some of you will disagree with parts of it, and agree with others. The reason this is a dreaded post is simple: I like Mike Singletary. My tune regarding his attitude, speeches and above-all, his coaching have changed and taken a turn for the worse of late, but I cannot deny that I was a strong Singletary supporter at one point. A lot of us had our doubts regarding his actual coaching ability, but he would make up for it in fire, wouldn't he? London Niner is one member I recall who has recently started speaking out against Singletary, and every time he does it's just a bitter-sweet tone. That's because our lovable Brit grew to admire Singletary the person and the coach as one entity, and it's one reason why it's taken me so long to write a post like this.
I think Mike Singletary should be fired, now I'll wait for the stunned silence. Did you digest that? There's just so many reasons for this, but to put it one way: Singletary is not an NFL head coach. We bought into the hype and we reasoned with ourselves that his motivation and attitude would bring us to the promised land, despite his obvious deficiencies, like ... never having actual, factual coaching experience in the NFL. Singletary could probably be one of the best assistant head coaches in the league, but he shouldered far too much.
Mike Singletary spent the entirety of his life learning how to be one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game, do you know how many years he spent learning how to be a head coach? Maybe one, while also working full-time as a linebackers coach and assistant to the head coach. He did not spend his life devoted to the intricacies of coaching and gameplanning. He's not a master strategist, he's a master motivator; yet he's had a lapse there as well.
Yesterday, Mike Singletary was out-coached in every aspect of the game. Raheem Morris, eighteen years younger than Singletary, put together a gameplan that was tailor-made to beat a team that would have a one-track mind. The 49ers deficiencies are clear and out there for everybody, and it falls on Singletary and his assistants to disguise and correct them. Raheem out-coached Mike at every single turn, and looked like a genius doing it, in only his second full-year as an NFL head coach.
Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson's gameplan reeked of Mike Singletary. I'm sure that Johnson isn't the for-sure answer at offensive coordinator, but you don't go from that game against St. Louis to the performance against Tampa Bay.
The 49ers entered the game with the correct gameplan: run the ball. Move the rock, get Frank Gore with the ball in his hands and you have the key to beating the 31st-in-the-league rushing defense. The thing is, Singletary became obsessed that number, assured everyone around him and himself that it would eventually pay off. Come halftime, Gore hadn't done anything and the 49ers made zero adjustments. They didn't change it up, get Troy a moving pocket and sling it downfield to Delanie Walker or Vernon Davis. They kept plugging away, they tried to "impose their will."
A good offense under a good head coach knows that imposing your will is something you want to do early, but a good offense under a good head coach knows when to impose their will and when to just take what the defense is giving them. Mike Singletary needs to look at the film, but I watched it live, he won't find any rogue touchdowns that we all happened to miss live when he reviews the tape. The 49ers kept running, and the Buccaneers continued to keep stopping them. Even the lowly Buffallo Bills fight every time they are out there. They don't win games, same as the 49ers, but the fans are watching a team that at least has some semblance of coaching there; just no talent. What could a real head coach do with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis? It's not that Alex Smith and Troy Smith are particularly bad, it's not that Nate Davis learns this slow, it's that San Francisco is the place quarterbacks go to die. There is not a single quarterback that would have won the game yesterday for the 49ers.
Often, I find myself falling back on mixed martial arts (MMA) references. For this case, I'll cite BJ Penn of the UFC. Penn recently dropped two straight losses to Frankie Edgar, a man who entered as the underdog in both fights, even after taking the belt from Penn in the first meeting. BJ Penn is renowned for weak training camps, lazy nutrition and more than anything: not really having a coach in his entourage.
Frankie Edgar came into their five-round fight with a gameplan. He would out-box Penn and secure takedowns when he tired Penn out with the standup. He would work circles around him with his speed and not give Penn an advantageous position. One thing in particular was eerily similar to the 49ers. After round four of their second fight, BJ Penn went to his corner down in the fight. He was down 40-36, having lost all four rounds to Edgar and his boxing. Penn needed a finish, sure, but his corner is supposed to be the clear-thinking entity that can guide him. His corner hasn't had their brain jumbled for twenty minutes. They need to guide Penn to a finish, here.
Kick his ass BJ! Knock this mother****** out! - BJ Penn's excellent strategists.
I'm sorry, but is that a coach, or is that a fan? Is that a gameplanning strategist, or a drunken buddy? When Frankie Edgar went to his corner, despite being up 40-36 on the judges scorecards with a unanimous decision coming his way, his corner kept the gameplan going. They told him "You're doing fine, keep working. Watch the right hook, it's flying with reckless abandon. Use it to set up the takedown," things of that nature. They guided him to victory. Guess which one of the two fighters' corners Mike Singletary and co represent?
The 49ers kept on fighting a losing battle with a losing strategy, by means of a losing coach. Today, Brad Childress was fired in Minnesota after leading the Vikings to a 3-7 record. These are the very same Vikings that were Super Bowl favorites on many preseason prediction pieces. Wade Phillips was released from his head coaching duties in Dallas following a 1-7 start, after the Cowboys were once again paper champions coming into this season. Mike Singletary has guided the 49ers to 3-7, while the Niners were the favorites to win the division and finish as a top ten team in the league. This kind of thing can't go on much longer.
Hindsight is 20/20 and it's fruitless that I look back on things now and ask "Why in the world did we hire this guy in the first place?" I mean honestly, I wouldn't have my head coach hold the edge on third down or drop back and cover a tight end, why did we let a linebacker with no coaching experience lead one of the most prestigious organizations in football?
It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, because prior to the recent trend, Singletary was such a great guy to listen to. Great guy to be around and was definitely a good thing for this organization. It's a shame that demoting really doesn't work out, because he'd be a great person to keep around as an assistant, as a linebackers coach. Those guys really do look up to him, but it can't work. He has to go and take his spark somewhere else, when he gets there he can hope it catches and spreads like wildfire, and may the waters of the Bay keep it away from here on out.
This all just leaves one problem (if only we just had one problem), and I'll point to a tweet from the Bay Area Sports Guy:
#49ers should keep Singletary because hiring an interim guy would just make the guys play harder and confuse Jed. #theyneedafreshstart
Makes sense, it really does. Do we want Green Bay to lay waste to Mike Singletary and add his trademark stare to their mantle, next to Wade Phillips' impassive stare and Brad Childress' forehead wrinkles? We don't want some false hope and posturing like we were treated to last year. We don't want to be deceived, but then again ... doesn't something need to happen?
Hopefully we can make a move and still be level-headed enough to realize we need a coach with NFL head coaching experience. If the list includes Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren and Bill Cowher, well fine ... we have to hope Jed York can go out there and lay down some money for those guys, because God knows his father wouldn't.