When Mike Singletary took over, there was some thought that Singletary would bring a necessary discipline to the 49ers. He wasn't bringing an iron fist to the San Francisco 49ers but his disciplinary style seemed like it would only improve the 49ers. After watching the 49ers in 2010, it's possible nothing drove me quite as crazy as the insane amount of penalties. The 49ers somehow managed to shoot themselves in the foot several times a game and potentially cost themselves several wins.
The penalties weren't the only examples of foot-shooting, but they were often the most glaring. I took a quick look at penalty rankings over at teamrankings.com and the results are fairly predictable. The 49ers finished with 28th in the NFL with 7.0 penalties per game. The 49ers finished 27th in the NFL with 58.3 penalty yards per game. Neither of these is shocking as most of us could see with our own two eyes that the 49ers were committing way too many penalties. The league leader in fewest penalties per game was Atlanta with 3.6 and fewest penalty yards per game was Green bay with 37.2.
As the team heads into 2011, the question now is what will help solve the penalty problems. One of the reasons the 49ers had a large number of penalties was Anthony Davis' struggles in his rookie season. As of Week 13 (no more recent post), Davis was "among the NFL leaders" with 11 penalties on the season. I can't find more specific statistics, but given the bye week, that's just about one penalty per game. That's certainly not a good thing.
However, one has to hope that he'll show improvement in 2011. He might not but given his raw nature, is there any value in assuming he won't improve? Maybe he won't but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I believe he's earned that based on some strong performances over the course of the 2010 season.
Of course, the discipline issue goes well beyond Anthony Davis. After Mike Singletary was fired I recall hearing some players talk about how they played tight during his tenure because they were worried about screwing up and pissing him off. It's rather ironic that the team's efforts to avoid not screwing up might have in fact resulted in more screw-ups.
The 49ers now bring in a coach in Jim Harbaugh who is a bit more in the pump-them-up mold. While professionals might not get quite as pumped as college kids with this act, would something like this put the 49ers in a position on the field to be less concerned about screwing up and better able to just take care of business?