With talk of Mike Singletary heading for the chopping block some interesting perspective comes into focus. While the panic button was pushed months ago, and even with the bizarre prospect of still making the playoffs (cries Mora?), the crystal ball now seems to clearly cast a change in coaching philosophy is needed at the Stick.
66 year itch
At this point, it is a bit fascinating to compare the two Frisco franchises. The 49ers and Giants came into the new millennium known as offensive juggernauts yet both teams brought in coaching staffs for defensive prowess. The old adage defense wins championships was certainly a venture well worth its weight for the baseball team, and added to the allure of a city golden in the quarterback tradition.
The pitchers are finally worth the mantle of the pigskin flingers. But these two types of hurlers, perhaps the most prestigious of American athletics, are a paradox. Pitching is defense and quarterbacking offense. While it’s quite debatable if they are both entertaining to the casual eye, few should argue that they are not amongst the most skilled positions in sports. And that a town as sophisticated as San Francisco and as intelligent as its fans, that both shouldn’t shine as bright.
Of course, the stars shot off in different directions. Or have they? In contrast to the entire Giants franchise history of Hall of Fame hitting, Bruce Bochy’s play for stellar pitching enhanced his predecessor Alou’s conception of a sleeker, quicker team designed around great fielding. Perfect timing for the post-steroid-paranoid era, climaxing the year of the pitcher.
faith or magic
Coming down, Mike’s iron fist echoes off press conference podiums, slamming home the message of authority, tradition, and dominance. Again, in contrast to a franchise that since the Debartolo era, has featured coaches who moved with humility, prudence, and were somewhat creative. And again, he followed his predecessor, Nolan, in building on a team built for defense.
Perhaps a step in the right direction, but was it a step too late? The decade of the Aught will be defined as the era of the dominant AFC pursuit defense, sparked by Brian Billick’s Ravens and Bill Belichik’s shock defeat of the Rams in 2001. And, here is where some underlying elements shape the 49ers future in which we are gasping for air. The Greatest Show on Turf looked very familiar to most Niner fans, and Mike Martz appeared to be exactly the kind of coach to replace the only charismatic Mariucci.
I absolutely believe, if it were not for Spygate it is our old rival the Rams that is the team of team of the decade, and Kurt Warner that is soaking up all of Tom Brady’s (Vinatieri’s) glory. Of course the Gods spoke against the clash of the titans, Warner versus Manning, and actually gifted us the opportunity to revive a humiliated Martz in 2005. And even three years later, there he is, standing on our sideline watching Nolan fashionably sink in the Bay.
It was that decision in 2008 to replace Nolan with Singletary instead of Martz that now trembles so violently under our feet. Martz lacked so much credibility after the defensive paradigm shift of 2001 and we all fell victim to Singletary’s powerful gaze.
Did the Yorks alone make the mistake of handing the permanent coaching job to the conventional Mike Singletary? Absolutely not. Everyone appears to have been vulnerable to Mike’s potent spell. What is it about him that hypnotizes men and turns them into loyal subjects to his will and beckon? Is it those incredible eyes or the illustrious tradition he represents? If it’s the history, we have defied it.
The decade of the Teen is now upon us, and a new dynasty will emerge above the Patriots. And history tells us it will not be our 49ers, or the Cowboys, Steelers, or Packers, though each have shown we can still improve on our ring count. A fresh, new franchise will emerge, with new ideas. Doctrines that will unlock the pursuit defense, just as Sean Payton’s offense did last year. Our quest to emulate the AFC defensive era instead of our desire to solve it has possibly failed.
Has the 49er motto ever been let’s follow what the other guys are doing? I spark up and get juiced when I see a player in the blood red throwback uniforms. Win or lose I simply adore watching the 49ers play in them. As a young boy, what lured me to San Francisco football was the mystique Bill Walsh created around the franchise. Like Charlie Murphy, I’m not bullslappin’ I seen Joe Montana’s aura, I seen it! And it was gold. It is dynamic to the Singletary stare five to one.
Lust not for Chicago’s tradition of solid defense, for the proof Mike is a mortal is the symbol wrapped everyday around his neck and lying on his superman chest. Time has passed him by, more specific: the NFL has passed him by. We need a savior. Who? Pete Carroll?? A media savvy type like the boisterous buffoon Rex Ryan??? Nobody knows for sure. The man is as hidden from our view as Bill Walsh was from the rest of the sporting world in 1979. It took a crafty gambler like Debartolo to find him.
Placing down the safe bet, we rolled with all the old school NFL analysts who continue to criticize and disrespect Mike Martz. Though it is the football Gods we answer to, who appear to be laughing at us for our blind obedience to tradition and have cynically blown the misfit Mike away from the Bay and to the windy city where Singletary carved his name in stone. And there Martz stands, on the verge of making the playoffs. Of course, he’s no more assured of a playoff spot than we, the paradox looms still. One tradition or another the Giants also seemed out of the playoff race two-thirds through their season. Has Singletary another ace up his sleeve?