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Can new head coach Mike Singletary be the catalyst that turns this team around? I asked myself this question over and over and really couldn't come up with a straight answer. I felt like I had multiple personality disorder. So, in the spirit of MPD, here is a little argument I had with myself earlier today.
Many people have come out in support of Singletary. Mike Nolan, Mike Ditka, Mike Martz (seriously, is everyone in the NFL named Mike?), Trent Dilfer, Scott McCloughan... the list goes on and on. Universally, everyone says the same thing: the man can move mountains with his power of motivation. He could get a slug to happily roll around in salt.
The simple fact is, the 49ers need a better head coach, not a cheerleader. Singletary was already the de jure motivational speaker for the team; it was one of the primary reasons that Mike Nolan brought him to the team. This is so typical of the Yorks. "Hey, what we're doing is not working. Let's do more of the same!"
I'm sure Singletary is a great person. I'm sure he has many an important skill set and can contribute to an NFL coaching staff. But what is his philosophy on offense? What about on defense? When pressed he couldn't answer. He was more vague and political than a candidate running for office. The team needs to get to a "higher level" and he has "full confidence" in Mike Martz.
The 49ers need a coach that can create a game plan and execute it on game days. It doesn't even seem like Singletary can get a handle on his offensive coordinator, let alone dictate a particular course of action. "Hey Martz, I want you to make the offense better. I'm not sure how to make that happen, but that's why we pay you, right?" It's like when you know you could do your manager's job better than he/she could. This is an NFL franchise, not the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
Mike Nolan's biggest failing was that he had to rely too much on coordinators and was beholden to their skill set. If Nolan's offensive coordinator was a West Coast coach (McCarthy) a conservative Zampese coach (Turner) or an aggressive pass happy coach (Martz) Nolan was just along for the ride.
Can the 49ers really afford another coach who is just along for the ride? Nolan never lost the locker room. The problem with the 49ers was never motivation. The problem was schematic - it was with Xs and Os. What the 49ers need may just be the one thing that Singletary can't give them.
Now hold on just one minute. Who are you to doubt his football knowledge? Mike Ditka, who himself was never a coordinator, referred to Singletary as a coach on the field. He knows his stuff and can get it across to the team better than Nolan could. At least Singletary won't pantomime a player writhing on the floor in fake agony to make a point. How can you argue that Mike Nolan never lost the locker room when he pulled stunts like the whole writhing things against Jonas Jennings and completely threw Alex Smith under the bus?
What is it the 49ers need more than anything else? It's not smarter coordinators, or a smarter coach. The team needs an IDENTITY. The "Big Sub 3-4-4-3 Hybrid Nickel Prevent Super Defense" isn't a real defense, despite Nolan's best attempts to make it one. And that offense? For three years Nolan and McCloughan tried to build the Brian Billick Ravens: run, run, run, pass if you have to, run, run, run. Now all of a sudden the 49ers are supposed to be some kind of passing machine? Right. Good luck with that. Call me when the diagnosis for "David Carr Syndrome" is finally official for JT O'Sullivan.
Singletary gives this team what it's been thirsting for. Fire, will and excitement. Fourth quarter collapses come about because a team cashes it in and Singletary won't let that happen. If he has to strap on pads and go out there himself, he will do it.
With Singletary at the helm the defense will be more aggressive. He will let Manusky loose and allow him make the calls without Nolan's conservative meddling. Singletary can also make sure Martz runs the ball when he should. Martz is no match for Singletary's intense death stare.
Singletary will let the 49ers break the conservative chains of the Mike Nolan era and while it won't get the team to the playoffs, it will at least make them better than they were under Mike Nolan. And if that happens then the Yorks made the right call.
What do you think? Can Singletary do it? Do you agree with me or me? (Lots of options, I know.)