Here we are to close out the season of approval ratings, starting with Coach Singletary. Consider this poll the same way you have every other week. We'll be doing more review style posts about Mike Singletary probably at some point next week, but for now I'd like to close this out like every other poll. The review will include a graphical look at how people have voted, and also how it compares with the voting over at ESPN's approval poll.
Speaking of ESPN, as we wrap up the regular season, Coach Singletary currently sits in the high 80s, and is second in the ratings behind Norv Turner. For an 8-8 team that's certainly saying something.
Coach Singletary held his closing press conference for the season yesterday afternoon and addressed a variety of issues. The big issue for most folks was whether he would name Alex Smith starting QB for 2010, or what exactly. Coach Singletary spent yesterday, and will also spend today meeting with all the players before they go their separate ways. In addressing the QB issue (among other things) Singletary basically said the team would be reviewing all the film and re-assessing how the season truly went down.
Singletary's game plan for the early part of the offseason involved meeting with the players to get feedback, and then meeting with the coaches to really evaluate things:
The next thing is to sit down and really talk to the coaches and get the feedback from the coaches, look at the film and really take our time - take my time - going through the staff and looking at things that we need to do a better job of and try and get my arms around that. So, that's the most important thing. After that's solved, after that's situated, then we go to the next step.
When asked about if any coaches had been let go he said "we're going to evaluate that and go from there." I'm curious to see who potentially gets the axe. Barring somebody hiring Manusky as a head coach (knock on wood), I don't see him going anywhere. I know some folks want Jimmy Raye gone but I don't see that happening, even with some of Singletary's comments. So, could we conceivably see a new offensive line coach? Or is it more about finding some more personnel rather than new coaches?
Coach Singletary closed out the press conference with a great comment on transitioning from player to head coach:
You know what I've learned? I've learned how hard it is to be consistent. Not to win, but to be consistent - that's what I've learned. Because I don't think it's that hard to win, but I think that it's definitely difficult to be consistent.
That would basically sum up this team's season in a nutshell. A lack of consistency across the board.
Head Coach Mike Singletary
Press Conference - January 4, 2010
San Francisco 49ers
"Good afternoon. As far as the injuries are concerned, [CB Marcus] Hudson just got sick during the game, had a little bit of an asthma attack. [LB] Manny Lawson had a mild concussion. It wasn't that big of a deal. He came back in the game later on, passed all the tests. We talked about that a bit yesterday. [CB Shawntae] Spencer had an ankle sprain. He sprained it earlier in the week and just had to get it taped a bit better. [WR] Jason Hill, rib contusion. He seems to be doing much better.
As far as looking at our season coming to an end yesterday, I just think it's one of those situations where you took a step this year, not as much of a step as I would have liked to have taken or the team. I think I mentioned to you before, it's disappointing to be at this stage and they're still talking football, still playing football and we're not. That's not exactly what I had in mind. But nonetheless, the most important thing going forward is we ended the season on a winning note, and it gives us the momentum to go into the offseason and do the things that we need to do, put the missing pieces together and go from there.
As far as the offseason is concerned, of course, we're evaluating film. I'm talking to all of our players today and tomorrow, just meeting with them and listening to what they have to say and saying what I need to say, and at the same time, just getting a feel for where they are. Then, after that, I need to meet with all of the coaches this week as well and have conversations with them about the things that we need to do better going forward, going into the offseason. All of that is in the offseason. All of that starts this week, and what we're going to do in the offseason - the plan that we're going to have in the offseason, the free agents and all of the other stuff - that will stay in the offseason because right now, we have to make sure we go through the film and get the evaluations done before we can really talk about something out in the future.
On whether any coaches have been let go:
"At this time right now, I think the biggest thing that I want to do is complete the next couple of days. As far as coaching changes and all of those things, we're going to evaluate that and go from there."
On whether he's going into the offseason presuming QB Alex Smith will be the quarterback in 2010:
"I would say Alex Smith is the quarterback going forward. But, the thing that I want you to understand is that we're always trying to get better at that position. We're constantly evaluating. It does not mean that we will not sign another quarterback. We're always looking at - that's a very important position - we're always looking at the best possible position situation, period."
On whether he has a priority list of what he will get things done this offseason:
"I think the most important thing in the next two days, I think it's very important to sit down with every player that we have and really get a feel for where they are. I want to get a feel for, get a chance to look at them, talk to them, look at their eyes, body language - the whole nine yards. Some guys feel good about the season. Some guys don't. Some guys have various opinions from A-to-Z. I want to hear what they are, whether they're positive/negative about me, the staff, the organization, whatever it might be. I just think it's important to get the feedback. So, that's the most important thing. The next thing is to sit down and really talk to the coaches and get the feedback from the coaches, look at the film and really take our time - take my time - going through the staff and looking at things that we need to do a better job of and try and get my arms around that. So, that's the most important thing. After that's solved, after that's situated, then we go to the next step. But, that's the most important. This week is critical in my mind."
On whether he has any questions about offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and/or quarterback Alex Smith:
"I don't really have a question about the coordinator. As far as the execution is concerned, I think when I look at Jimmy Raye, there are just a lot of different things that have come across the table this year. On one hand, I'm very pleased with his ability and the staff to be able to do a 180-degree turn and try and put together a different style of offense for a different style quarterback, and at the same time, it's just one of those things that you have to continue to address, third-down - that sort of thing - moving the chains, being consistent. I don't think it's a matter of another coordinator. I think it's a matter of putting the pieces together, identifying exactly the offense that you're going to run, identifying the kind of offensive line that you need in order to run that. I think we have a lot of pieces in place. I just think it's a matter of getting all of the pieces in the right places."
On whether finding the pieces will be the first priority when he sits down with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye in preparation for OTAs:
"It will start way before then. It will start this week. I just think it's important, the earlier the better, that we get on the same page, clarify what it is, identify. Here it is. This is what we want. This is what it's going to be. These are the pieces that we have. These are the pieces we need. And, we go from there."
On whether Raye might not be the best coordinator considering how much the team threw the ball:
"No, because I don't want to throw it that much. The thing that I want to do is the thing I said when Jimmy was hired, I want a balance. To me, to throw the ball as much as we had to throw the ball is something Jimmy had to get his arms around. For a few weeks, it just kind of took us a while to really say, ‘Okay, this is what we are going to do for now. But wait a minute, we have Frank over here and we have to make sure we implement him.' I just think it is one of those things like I talked about before, making sure we get together and identify, ‘This is exactly what we are going to do. This is who we are.' But I have never gotten away from the fact that I want to be a balanced offense. I don't want to be a throwing offense. I don't want to be a running offense. But when we run the ball, I want to be able to run the ball with a physicality. When we run the ball, I just want to be able to do that without hesitating or blinking or anything like that. We are going to run the ball."
On whether QB Coach Mike Johnson will have a bigger role next season:
"I think right now we have a lot of conversation that we have to have. Right now, Jimmy is the coordinator and I think it is a matter of putting pieces in the right places and going from there."
On whether the offense we saw in the final four games is what he envisions for next season:
"I think for Frank Gore to do the things that he has been able to do, and in the second half of the offense yesterday, just kind of opening it up and you're in 22-personnel, you are in 21-personnel, you are in 11, you are in 12 - that is more of what we want to get to. Keeping a balance, but at the same time being unpredictable; them not having an idea what the heck we are doing and making sure that on third down we have a great plan for that."
On whether he has the offensive personnel to achieve balance:
"Yes I do. Yes. I think that on both sides of the ball, in order for us to get better on both sides of the ball, I think we need a couple of players here and there on both sides of the ball."
On what positions he would like to address this offseason:
"I think right now, in all honesty, I really think we have to evaluate. Right now there could be a number of things in my mind where I think the priority is, but when you look at the film, it is kind of like when the game is over. You think, ‘I tell you what, after that particular game we needed to do this.' Then you look at the film and you find it wasn't that. I think for us, in order to make wise decisions, we really have to evaluate and evaluate closely what we need to do before we begin to prioritize what that is. We are going to take our time, go through that thoroughly and make the appropriate decision going forward."
On his first full season as a head coach:
"For me, I would say okay. It was okay. I think the most important thing that happened this year is, at the very least we finished 8-8. We took a small step towards where we want to go. I think we got a little bit better, as crazy as that sounds. I know how our guys feel, looking at them this morning and talking to them this morning. They want to play. They want to play this week, and to not be in that position is disappointing. There is a bitter taste, but at the same time we have to learn from it because no one stopped us but us. Those are things that we have to correct. Those are things we have to address and we will address going forward."
On the team's slow starts on the road this season:
"I can't say right now, identifying it and putting my finger on it like this is what it was. I just know that most of the games we played on the road, five or six of those teams are pretty good football teams. I think number one, when you are playing a good football team, you have to be together. You have to be ready when you get out there. And to be on the road playing a good football team and not playing your best football early, you have to start early. To start those games slow, put yourself in a hole against a good football team, that does not mix for a good ending. So I think that is a big part of it."
On whether finishing is something that can be taught:
"I think finishing is really all about a mindset. I think you go through the season and you end up 8-8 and it is one of those things that you can look back and you can point towards a couple of games where you say, ‘You know what, we finish this game and we finish this game and we are in the playoffs. This is ridiculous. What the heck is this?' You can taste it. You can see it. It's not like we are 2-14 and you are thinking, ‘Wow, we have to finish and we have a chance to be in the playoffs.' It's not like that. I just think it is one of those things that after the season, after this season, guys can really look at it and really put their finger on a couple of games, ‘If we make this play or make that play we have a chance. We are there.' I think going into OTAs, you kind of bring that into it. There is an excitement. There is an expectation. I just think there is a progression you have to work through and you get to that point where you know you can do it because you came so close the year before. Now it is just a matter of, ‘Let's complete this thing. Let's get out there and let's make this happen.' I think it really is a process. Finishing is something that is definitely more of an attitude than anything else."
On whether not making the playoffs this year makes him more or less certain that they will make the playoffs next season:
"I guess the best way to handle that question is this. I think this year, the goal that we set was to get in the playoffs and of course you play with fire, you get burned and you don't get there. Going into this offseason, I'm not going to focus so much on this and that. The thing that I want us to focus on is executing and going out and just getting the pieces that we need and just doing what we do, just doing our jobs, nothing more, nothing extra. Just going out there and let's get our jobs done because at the end of the day, that's what it comes down to. It just comes down to executing one game after the next and just doing your job. Everybody does their job, we don't have to do anything extra. No one has to be Superman, just do your job and everything will take care of itself. So at the end of the day, I think about this week, I'm excited to get through this week and then I'm excited to get through the next thing and that is beginning to put the other pieces together that we need. Identifying what those are and then putting those pieces together. The one thing that I will say is, I know that it's not going to happen just because we put those pieces in place, we've got to work. We've got to make those things happen. We've got to keep working and understand, I don't care how we were, we weren't and you can come close again, but I just want us to focus on, let's get the pieces right and let's focus on the detail and everybody do their job the best we could possibly do it and I think everything else will take care of itself."
On whether this will be a playoff team next year:
"Everything else will take care of itself. I believe we will be a very good football team next year, not going to be at home."
On whether NT Aubrayo Franklin is a priority to resign this offseason:
"All of our guys are priorities and we'll have to get through the evaluation process and put all the pieces together, but all of the guys are priorities. Once again, we have to go through an evaluation process."
On whether he's had a chance to talk to CB Nate Clements:
On how he sees him fitting in next season:
"Nate's a good football player. We want good football players and once again, the evaluation process. I'm looking forward to talking to Nate, but I really believe that Nate is a very important part of the football team."
On whether he sees him as a cornerback or a safety:
"I think he's a cornerback."
On whether there is a veteran quarterback that can slide in as the No. 1 quarterback next season:
"Alex Smith is the starting quarterback right now. If we sign a quarterback this offseason, we'll see where it goes, but I don't want to get into, ‘Well, we could sign a veteran quarterback, who could become the No.1.' I don't want to get into all of that. Alex Smith is the starting quarterback right now and hopefully, this offseason, if one happens to show up or however that works out, there's always a possibility of signing another quarterback, depending on what the situation is, depending on where that puts us, in terms of the cap and all of that other stuff. But, I just think it's very important to keep in mind that right now, just knowing step one, Alex Smith is the starting quarterback."
On whether he liked what he saw from Alex Smith throughout the year in terms of progress:
"I think I saw steady progress. Now, when I look at the last couple of games or whatever, one thing that I want you guys to understand is this. Anytime that Alex goes out and he plays a football game, you guys could say, ‘Well, Alex won five games or Alex won 10 games.' However that is. I never look at the film and say, when I cut the film off, ‘Alex Smith won another game.' Everybody else has to do their job and I think that's what it really comes down to. But as far as when I look at Alex, I think yesterday, he made the plays that he was supposed to make. I thought he made some good plays and there were some good opportunities. I think he hung in there when he was getting hit constantly. I think one of the biggest things that he did yesterday that was very important is he didn't turn over the ball, and in a game like yesterday, it is very easy to get really careless and throw the ball to the other team. I think he did a very good job of staying focused, and sometimes when they were blitzing the whole kitchen sink, he hung in there and either took the sack, either threw the ball away or made a good throw."
On the game that stands out as the real heartbreaker:
On what happened there:
On whether things could have been different if they had won that game:
"Yes, but I don't want to get into all that. We didn't make the playoffs, we just didn't make it. 8-8, that's it. "
On whether he will watch the postseason:
"I will watch."
On whether he will be looking to see what those teams are like at the next level:
"I will watch because we will probably play some of those teams next year. So, that's one of the biggest reasons that I will watch because playoff atmosphere is really different. I know some of our guys won't watch, but I challenge them to watch because it's important that you see teams that have earned the right to be there. What are they doing? How are they playing? What did they do when you saw the game? What do you remember? I think it's important to learn from those things even though they are difficult to watch. Watch them."
On whether he favors the possibility of giving up a home game to play in London next season:
"You know what, that's all in the hands of the NFL, the commissioner, and however that falls down. Whatever they say, we'll look at it and we'll go from there."
On the importance of giving up a home game:
"You know what, to me - I always say if we're going to play in the parking lot, if we're going to play in London, if there's a way to get to Pluto, I really don't care, we're going to play the football game. We're going to play the game, that's what we do."
On playing five teams on the road that made the playoffs:
"I think, you know for me when I look at the five teams that we played on the road that are in the playoffs or whatever, maybe one of the games that they played against us helped them get there. I just think that I'm very thankful for our guys. I'm very thankful for the way they fought through and fought to the end. I think that the guys learned a lot this year. I think we learned a lot about ourselves, and I think that we learned a lot about what we can't do in order to be a great football team, things that we can't do and things that we must do better. So, it was a great lesson to learn, once again we're 8-8, neutral, that means you're not going forward, you're not going backwards. We got to get into the offseason and start the wheel rolling forward and go from there."
On the message that he left with the team:
"The message was kind of like the message in the press conferences. You have to remember we're 8-and-8, it's a sad thing to say for me to say that this is the best record for this franchise in seven years, but at the same time, it is reality. It is what it is and we took a very small step, and our guys, I just want them to focus on ‘don't leave the room with your head down.' We fought through a lot, we did not accomplish what we wanted to accomplish, but we didn't go backwards, and this offseason we will find a way to get the necessary pieces we need to begin the wheel to roll forward, gain momentum going into the next season and we'll go from there."
On when will the players come back and start working out:
"Probably on March 15th, 16th. Something like that.
On whether any of the players are scheduled for surgeries:
"Maybe a [few] minor things. A little clean up on the elbow or something like that, nothing major that I know of."
On what he's has learned transitioning as a former NFL player to an NFL head coach in his first season:
"You know what I've learned? I've learned how hard it is to be consistent. Not to win, but to be consistent - that's what I've learned. Because I don't think it's that hard to win, but I think that it's definitely difficult to be consistent."