And, just like that, it's over.
He was so sure. So sure he'd succeed. His goal, he said, was "to be one of the greatest coaches of all time." And he knew how he'd get there. When he got his own team, he knew what he'd do. Yeah, he'd made his name on the side of the D, but the heart of the Vision would lie with the O.
He'd "run it, run it and run it some more."
Inevitably, by the force of his will, he got his own team, and it came with some perks. A roster of young and talented players. A good and creative defensive coordinator.
And, perhaps, the most important offensive mind of the decade.
There was just one thing wrong. The offensive mind liked to pass, not run. That philosophy might've been proven to win, but it didn't comport with the Vision at all. So the offensive mind had to go, you see. The Vision simply wouldn't bend.
All he needed was a man who would buy it. Of course, in a pass-happy league, there wouldn't be too many takers around. But all he needed was one. Someone--ANYONE--who'd do as the Vision instructed. And after a long and painful search, he found one. Not much of a reputation, but that didn't matter. Nothing ever would stop the Vision.
And so it was that Mike Singletary hitched everything--his identity, his essence, the entirety of his being--to Jimmy Raye.
Last year the Vision failed, but of course that wasn't the Vision's fault. Singletary spoke of the value of continuity, of having Raye for a SECOND year. But also, the team just had to get tougher. Sure, five O-linemen against eight defenders might seem like a mismatch in any event, and Alex Smith swore we'd evolved to the spread. Nah. Smith just needed his Vision checked.
Fast-forward to Sunday, at Kansas City.
The Chiefs executed a brilliant strategy, spreading our D and getting the ball to their speedsters in space. Meanwhile, though the Chiefs' D was weakest going down the deep middle--and though their "whole focus was stopping the run"--we wouldn't dare depart from the Vision. For the second straight week, our first two plays were Frank Gore up the gut. But though last week we loosened things up with the pass, this week our throws were as tight as our runs.
Once again, we couldn't run. And we couldn't run 'cause there wasn't space. And there wasn't space 'cause the field wasn't stretched. And it wasn't stretched, 'cause we simply do not stretch it first.
So, down 10-3 at halftime, Singletary knew what he had to do. He simply had to run the ball BETTER. The Vision simply wouldn't bend.
And thus, even now down 24-3, Frank Gore up the gut on three straight plays. The spread that Smith had promised before? It showed up late, as it always does, just in time to get Josh Morgan hurt.
Afterward, his season lying already in ruins, Singletary bristled at the foolish mortals who questioned the Vision. Down three scores, "the thing we did not want to do is go strictly into the pass. If you can't really execute [it], then you're talking about your three-and-out." (The Vision, of course, would NEVER produce a three-and-out.) And no, we weren't outcoached. And no, Raye wouldn't be leaving. Again it wasn't the Vision's fault; the players just had to execute better.
One day later--ONE DAY LATER--Raye was gone. Gone for "carrying out the head coach's wishes." Gone for following the "philosophy he wanted installed."
Gone for trying to win with the Vision.
Trying to explain, Singletary looked like an empty shell. Sure, he'd given Raye that vote of confidence, but that was yesterday, before he'd looked at his magical film. (Yeah, right.) And yes, this was HIS decision. (Oh, no question.) And no, there'd be no shift in offensive philosophy. (The spread just happens to be Mike Johnson's specialty, but naturally that's just a coincidence.)
And after all those dubious assertions, at last he revealed the desperate truth: "The most important thing to me is winning. How we do it, I really don't care. Yes, we can talk philosophy, we can talk opening up, closing it up, whatever it is. But the bottom line is winning. I want to do what we need to do to win football games. That's the philosophy that I want to become very familiar with."
In light of all this, I'll go out on a limb. When Singletary got back to Santa Clara, the Yorks were waiting. They're usually patient, perfectly willing to put up with losses. But they're trying to build a stadium/gold-mine, and Singletary's starting to get in the way. So they told him, this ends now. Sure, the power to fire your coaches is yours. But if you want YOUR job, Raye must lose his, and then you need to start winning some games.
So Raye is gone. The continuity that the Niners stupidly thought would save us--gone. And the Vision--"run it, run it and run it some more"--is now "How we do it, I really don't care."
Along with his 'mates, Smith danced on the Vision's grave. "You're not going to shove the ball down anyone's throat," he said, stating what 31 other teams knew. "You've got to be able to isolate your playmakers, find mismatches in the defense." Though Johnson's unproven--he's a Niner, after all--I'm sure he'll do that. But we can't expect too much too soon. As Smith observed, we can't expect an overhaul with the season already begun. And though I'm sure he's grateful for the opportunity, we can't expect Johnson to show all he's got after taking the job in conditions like these.
In three short weeks, we've gone from dark-horse contender to national joke. We could turn it around. But we can't expect it.
And if this season is like all the rest, lost in the haze of our awful decisions, the bright side is this. The Vision is dead. Like so many visionaries who've come and gone, Singletary held on 'til the heat got too hot, then traded his Vision to save his own skin. In time, that'll help. But make no mistake. Though he vowed to be one of the best of all time, Singletary's been reduced to zero. He's just waking up in the mess he's made, and he's looking to Johnson to come clean it up. All he's got is a desperate hope. A desperate hope, and nothing else.
No matter how much success we achieve, Mike Singletary has already failed.
Jimmy Raye has paid for the Vision. The Visionary himself must be next.
Date: June 4, 2011 at 9:51 PM
Comment: Thanks for the insight. It brings light into the dark!
Date: October 4, 2010 at 10:55 AM
Comment: Very true Jeff. Been a Niner fan for 45 years. What I don't understand about Sing is when he first came in here he wanted smashmouth football. When a coach takes over a team the cards are already dealt. (the players.) You need to look at your cards and see what you need to do. Your quarterback came from a spread offense. Sing wants to run it down the middle with short passing. We already lost. At the very beginning he should have gotten rid of Smith. Smith would do better in the Colts and Patriots offense. I'm not saying Smith would do good, but better. Sing is not a head coach now. He needs to go out there and put his time into other coaching areas. Hopefully he will learn. I hope Jed learned a good lesson here. Maybe if Jed played his cards right we could have gotten Scott Pioli from the Patriots instead of the Chiefs.
Date: October 2, 2010 at 9:30 AM
Comment: Jeff said - "Response: I couldn't agree more, Cat. It all started to go wrong for us when we abandoned our glorious identity--when we went outside "the Walsh Tree"--and it's way past time we got it back. How can Jed, who grew up in the glory years and who claims to be trying to replicate 'em, be too dense to see that?" I've been saying the same thing for years. We have completely lost our identity and need to set up a new foundation based on our glorious past.
By: Dallas Niner Fan
Date: October 1, 2010 at 1:30 PM
Comment: I just heard that another Niner player is missing in action mysteriously, sorry, out because of "personal reasons." I can't believe this. Sing is supposed to be such a motivator yet his players are dropping (ie: Coffee, Balmer, now Lewis) like flies. What is going on here???????? This team is unbelievable. Guys, something is very very wrong here.
Date: October 1, 2010 at 12:09 PM
Comment: Nesbit: You're an idiot. If you can't see that Dingleberry and Li'l Abner's presence dooms the 49ers to bottom-of-the-barrel status, you're just not paying attention. Dinglefarty is Nolan v2.0. More bloatware, no more substance. Li'l Abner is nothing more than he was as a rookie. The time for patience is over. The time to get back to the 49ers' powerful roots is here. You must be too young to remember the 49ers when they were great. That seems to be a common thread among those who are too young: they want "rough and tough" like Dinglefarty even though Walsh himself said "four out of five of those guys get their asses KICKED, because they're dumb." I remind you he was talking about Singletary's '84 Bears, during the week leading up to the NFC Championship game, in which the rough and tough Bears were shut out, 23-0. Dingleberry has not changed in 25 years. He was a great linebacker but beyond that, he's dumb. It's time for the 49ers to get back to smart football. That can never happen until Dingleberry and Li'l Abner are gone from 4949 Centennial.
By: Dallas Niner Fan
Date: October 1, 2010 at 8:38 AM
Comment: Parcells looking for work. Should the Niners hire him as GM? Your thoughts. Anyone?
By: Shane Colamarino
Date: September 30, 2010 at 8:59 PM
Comment: pessimistic or ass? that's two different words. i know what they both mean. man, i'm happy you're happy and i actually mean this when i say it: i hope by 4:30pm eastern time (1:30pm west coast if you prefer) we can both be happy. Look what happens on here, you got 49er fans bickering at each other all the time. i don't think you get that on Colts blogs. Saints blogs, Pats... well maybe but the point is it's cuz we have sucked for so long. the difference is some fans have looked that ugly truth in the eye. My point is i don't think it makes you any less of a fan, or girly or whatever, that's all. it's just a different stage of where we are at. As far as these articles, i love sarcastic truth, i love this stuff. that's me. I'm a Jeff fan. but also honestly this is the most excited i have been about a game in a couple years. I have this ridiculous gut feeling this guy is gonna be a REALLY good OC. and if he is (which i totally believe in) then we can ALL just get along. If 3 weeks from now we suck, i'll guess nothing on this site will change and i might REALLY cry... seriously i might... but that's not gonna happen. Go 9ers!
Date: September 30, 2010 at 8:08 PM
Comment: Absolutely on the money, Jeff. Sadly, the firing of Dumber still leaves Dumb and Li'l Abner in place. If there is any justice, Dinglefarty will be fired the week before the bye, just like his mentor Nolan. Regrettably, the Yorks aren't going to sell the team, so we can only hope they finally come to the conclusion they don't have a goddam clue about anything, hire a GM with West Coast credentials and a HC from the Walsh coaching tree, preferably Jim Harbaugh or Jon Gruden. Those of you clamoring for Bill Cowher, stuff it. We need a branch of the Walsh Tree. 3-13 should get us Andrew Luck. Bring him and Harbaugh over at the same time.
Date: September 30, 2010 at 6:49 AM
Comment: Singletary, like Raye, is just a symptom, the cancer is Jed "Lucky Sperm" York and the York family. The fans have to organize and drive the Yorks out of town. BOYCOTT the stadium, DO NOT renew season tickets, and force the Yorks' hand. If the fans do this, either the Yorks sell, or they move the team. If it's the latter, the city will sue to keep the 49er name, just like Cleveland did with the Browns, and the NFL will award a new San Francisco 49ers franchise to NEW ownership, i.e. Larry Ellison, within two years. A small price to pay to get rid of the cancer that is the Yorks!!!!!
By: mister nesbit
Date: September 29, 2010 at 9:11 PM
Comment: shane, we are all bitter. as far as writers are concerned i do admire a realistic opinion, but not one who is full of slander and babyish jabs like jeff kaplan posts. Maiocco and Barrows are at least professionals. I do not think Matt M and Matt Barrows have a harmful agenda when i read them, so i take that back. They have improved and grown up a bit it seems. not kaplan. he's a complainer. so calm down, don't be such a kaplan crony. we all hate losing but don't have to take it so badly and believe 'it's now time to push the panic button.' pessimistic ass. look up that word.
Date: September 29, 2010 at 6:17 PM
Comment: Singletary is the person in charge who gives direction to all his subordinates which has resulted in the team's poor performance both defensively and offensively. So why is this? Singletary's lack of positive coaching outcomes is a sign of a neophyte thinker whose thought process is best described as developed sequentially from the obvious without in-depth understanding. This is called linear thinking. In Malcolm Gladwell's book "The Tipping Point" it is estimated it takes about five years at doing something fulltime to be considered having reached a professional level. I am hopeful Singletary, with his background, will significantly amplify his learning curve by mid-season from a minimally acceptable head coach to a competent one. Watching film is a tremendous help in this regard and from what he says publicly Singletary must be a visual learner. Watching film for Singletary is akin to someone who prefers reading about offensive and defensive schemes. However, being able to translate what he sees into something useful is another matter. Good luck this week 49ers.
Date: September 29, 2010 at 4:31 PM
Comment: Anyway, on a better note, jeff thank you for the feedback. I agree it will be too soon for MJ to make playbook changes (i hope he can break out his glasses and read some of that fine print!) i just hope the changes he does have the ability to make such as personnel will be significant. again less or even NO norris, more walker and westbrook, things like that. even if they can work on 1-2 new plays a week and start the game with gore and westbrook in the backfield, run a screen, or one 4WR play. just something to get ATL off guard for the rest of the game.
Date: September 29, 2010 at 4:26 PM
Comment: mr nesbit: that is without a doubt the dumbest post of all time. I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion but to call everyone on here "wimpy pathetic crybabies" shows you're not as much of a fan as us, or an idiot. What the hell is Jeff, Matt M, Matt B, etc supposed to write about? How awesome it is we are 0-3, how great it is we haven't seen the playoffs in 8 years. about the yr we were 2 lucky FGs away from being 0-16, that was a party right? our O coord that has made every offense he went to worse than when he found it. OHH maybe a head coach that can't manage a barbie daydream motel never mind a football team. Just because a bunch of guys get together to vent because their fav football team has been awful for the majority of the decade doesn't mean we are "crybabies," it's called watching the games. Guys like Jeff and the Matts write about what's going on and give us an honest opinion on it, it's called integrity, look it up. If Mike Johnson can turn this thing around, that will give these guys something positive to write about and we can talk about how awesome a job he is doing, until then if you want sunshine blown up your ass check out 49ers.com, always good news there!
Date: September 29, 2010 at 12:07 PM
Comment: At least for the next few games we have the element of mystery on our side. No one knows what the 49ers can do besides dives and draws. I wonder if this is going to count as continuity since they didn't bring in an outsider for J.R.'s job. Nice hate Singletary piece by the way, I wonder what you're going to write about when he's not around anymore. You'll have the element of mystery on your side too, Jeff.
By: Dallas Niner Fan
Date: September 29, 2010 at 6:11 AM
Comment: Hey Nesbit, you can't fool us, you're really Jed York, right?
By: Dallas Niner Fan
Date: September 29, 2010 at 6:03 AM
Comment: Well Jeff the worst has happened. We were right. As much as we wanted to be proven wrong.
By: mister nesbit
Date: September 29, 2010 at 12:06 AM
Comment: my god. i guess we are all bitter now that we are zip and three on the season, but I have to honestly admit that with fans and writers like the 49ers have, from Jeff Kaplan to Maiocco to all of the other unimportant crybabies who lead the angry little cries of FIRE HIM NOW to the readers, we don't deserve to have a winning team. give it a damn rest. we see it, we know what is going on, we see that there needs to be a change and hopefully will, whether it be us winning a lot of games to make the crybabies happy or whether it be to have a great head coach burst from the clouds and save the organization. any given sunday, it could happen. winning could happen. with this coaching staff for all we know. only time will tell how it goes, but this seriously has been without a doubt the hardest time i've ever had viewing all of the nonsense from little blog writers and beat press whiners. the team's performance and coaching staff does not make me ashamed to be a 49er fan... but the other fans and the writers of 'articles' like this surely do. i hope to never meet any of you and am glad not to know any of you because from my view, i have to say, you are wimpy pathetic crybabies.
By: Randy G
Date: September 28, 2010 at 9:35 PM
Comment: Great article as always Jeff. Your brutal honesty is needed for those of us who have swallowed the Yorks' kool-aid all these years. Raye got the job simply because he needed the work and nobody else would take it. The fact that he now says he "was just following orders" pretty much proves what you said about Sing being a charlatan. One thing I will take issue with is the implication that Martz was somehow the right man for the job. While his credentials are infinitely better than Raye's, the man's offense simply does not work if you don't have a Hall of Famer at QB and pretty much every other offensive position. Yeah you could say the same thing about Walsh's WCO, but Martz-ball resulted in tons of sacks and turnovers. Furthermore he was even more stubborn in his philosophy and clueless how to utilize his talent than Raye (remember VD's numbers in '08?). There's a reason why he was not employed in the NFL last year. And don't mention Chicago as a defense for him either. Their 3-0 start is as much of a mirage as Shaun Hill's record as a starter and he and crybaby Cutler will feud in a way that makes Alex Smith and Mike Nolan look like best buddies.
Date: September 28, 2010 at 9:25 PM
Comment: The best thing that could happen this season is to lose all the games. That's the only way Jed might be forced to hire a real big-time GM and get the hell out of the way. There are very few prospects at GM, Head Coach, OC, and DC who would turn down the opportunity to take over a good, young roster, the #1 pick in every round next year, and becoming part of 49er history in one of the greatest places to live in the world. Of course, it all depends on if Prince Jed is willing to do the (obvious) right thing. Some owners never do.
Date: September 28, 2010 at 8:55 PM
Comment: Walsh made caveman football obsolete. The only exception was the 2000 Ravens who had a historically great defense and were run by a Walsh disciple. (even Billick admits you can't win SBs like that anymore.) Most nfl people will tell you at best Sing is a college coach. At worst a clown. He fired Martz and now rehired Hostler who changed his name to Mike Johnson. Imagine, it takes his butt being kicked (his befuddled look reminds me of the 49er Bear games after they were annihilated) 2-3 games to figure out his offense is bad. Raye was a scapegoat and Sing wasn't even smart enough to elevate Solari. Ex Eddie D players don't do well for the Yorks. They are too bright and want to win too much for the most pathetic owners in the NFL. Under this ownership we are doomed.
Date: September 28, 2010 at 7:43 PM
Comment: Great Job Jeff, I couldn't help but to feel like this is a blessing! When I first read the news about Raye, I was overjoyed, now we have a real chance to succeed. Is Mike Johnson the answer? No one knows, but it can't get any worse. We have heard good things and reason to be excited. Mostly I feel like "the vision" IS dead and Sing will let this guy coach. We will stretch the field. We'll play like a real NFL offense; maybe even score TDs on the road! Why? Because not one person on this site believes dumping Raye was Sing's decision. Management is obviously in his ear and he doesn't want to lose his job. So "I just want to win" = Here you go Mikey J, save my job. Do what you have to do. Question is Jeff, how quickly do you think this guy can change things? How much can he do in a week? I think a major immediate difference can be the use of Westbrook. The way we have wasted him has been inexcusable! Better mix of run and pass, more shots downfield. Much less Norris (thank god), more Walker. Those are all positives. I just don't think we are going to see his creativity we keep hearing about in a week. Ex: no 4 WRs yet. All I know is for the 1st time since week 1 (pregame) I'm excited!
Date: September 28, 2010 at 5:15 PM
Comment: Well said, P. However, replicating success by emulating another's is elusive. So many things need to happen to put this talented bunch in the playoffs, and it starts with the Yorks. If the grip were loosened a bit...coaches could breathe, players would stay, and memories would be short. I hate the idea of Smith seeing a new OC, once again. The Alex experiment must end. We need a seasoned reliable playcaller NOW!! This season isn't out of reach yet...
Date: September 28, 2010 at 4:01 PM
Comment: Well Jeff, I am usually on here backing Sing. You and I have gotten into it before, but unlike coach Sing, I can change my philosophy. I am a die hard Niner fan, and all I want to do is WIN! I no longer trust Iron Mike as our head coach. This love for Alex Smith and his ability to lead this team is simply absurd. As the head coach, that should have been his 1st move, get rid of Smith. I really don't blame Raye now, as much as I do Singletary, for not knowing exactly what to do as a head coach. I mean I believed in Sing, only to be let down, now I'm hearing all this trash talk from my friends on how sorry we are. Jeff, it's hard for me to argue back when we're 0-3. I have to admit, I disagreed with some of your earlier articles, but right now, at this very moment, you were right about a lot of things, and I was wrong. Sing may very well be on his way out the door, and you know what? I'll hold it open for him. JUST PLEASE NOT GRUDEN!! Jed call Bill Cowher.
By: Terry B.
Date: September 28, 2010 at 3:30 PM
Comment: I just have one thing to say to all of those homers who kept insisting that Singletary is a good coach: I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!
By: P. in Hawaii
Date: September 28, 2010 at 3:17 PM
Comment: Jeff, Nice piece, now all we have to do is get the Yorks to hire a "Qualified" General Manager, step out of the way and let football people run this team. The ten year experiment the Yorks have tried is a failure. They need not reinvent the wheel, there are many successful football organizations, just copy one and let's get going with winning football games.
By: Steve King
Date: September 28, 2010 at 3:08 PM
Comment: I hate to say it, but everything you wrote is true. The extent of our offense is run Gore between the guards and then throw it on 3rd down. Last season we led the NFL running between the guards and were last running off the tackles. That's not a running scheme, it's suicide. I think you are right too that Sing will not change and our new O.C. might look a lot like Raye. I hope Sing wakes up and lets the new O.C. do his job!
By: Nick S.
Date: September 28, 2010 at 3:04 PM
Comment: Well written as usual Jeff. I agree that Jed probably prompted the change. Singletary isn't a knee-jerk decision maker.