Finally, there was nothing.

One by one, our preseason hopes had vanished. A great season? Gone. A WINNING season? Gone. Still, by sheer, dumb luck, Jed's wacky promise remained intact. At oh-and-five, he'd guaranteed the division title, and he'd been labeled delusional. Yet here we were, our fate in our hands. Beating Arizona wouldn't be hard (or at least it SHOULDN'T be). So, really, it came down to this.

Beat St. Louis, win the West.

Sure, we'd debated what winning the West would MEAN, particularly what it would mean for the coach's future. And sure, some of us were scared to death of how Jed himself might resolve that debate. But the fact remained: winning the West, the last (and least) of our preseason hopes, was still alive.

And thus, so was Mike Singletary.

Certainly, he had no excuse. He'd never lost to the Rams. He'd had extra time to "prepare" (whatever he thinks THAT means). And, of course, there was that bill of goods he'd sold us. That will of his. That power to imbue his team with his focus and discipline. That ability to wring every last drop of effort, every last bit of talent, out of every last player. All those magical spells for which we'd made him our coach in the first place. For most of us, those spells had worn off long ago. But this was the ultimate moment of truth.

If he couldn't do it now, then, clearly, he never could.

And, of course, he couldn't.

It started with his quarterback mess. In December, we'd played three games. Against the Packers, Singletary went with Troy, for his "leadership." Against the Seahawks and the Chargers, he went with Alex, for his knowledge of "the entire playbook." Now, against the Rams, he'd go back to Troy, but he cautioned that BOTH might play.

We'd had some intriguing discussions of which QB was the better choice. But Singletary's waffling mooted the issue. In conditions like these, neither had a chance.

The game itself was the perfect ending, showcasing the grand scale of Singletary's impotence. On the Rams' opening drive, Nate Clements gift-wrapped a touchdown with a brainless penalty, the first of eight we'd commit in little more than a quarter. Meanwhile, OUR first two drives ended with run, run, pass, punt...or they WOULD'VE, if we hadn't botched the snap on each third down, the second of which produced a safety. After Troy air-mailed a pick, Singletary engaged him in yet another sideline shoutfest. And when, as promised, Alex went in, he fumbled away our last real gasp.

Finally, there was nothing.

And then, finally, Jed had seen enough.

Even when the masses were calling for Singletary's head, Jed's support never wavered. As LAST year came to a disappointing end, he assured us that "Mike's our coach, and he's gonna be our coach for a long time." THIS year, at oh-and-five, he said his faith was completely intact. Some of us wondered whether he'd EVER see the need for change. And whether he'd have the guts to make it.

But he did. He really did.

Oozing genuine disgust, he virtually fired Singletary on the spot. Formally, he waited until they got back to Santa Clara. But fantastically, he denied Singletary even the courtesy of coaching the team in the season finale. Though he should've conveyed it much, much sooner, his message was clear, and perfect: You failed. Now get out.

But he didn't stop there.

When general manager Scot McCloughan disappeared under mysterious circumstances, Jed declined to replace him, expressing what seemed like an aversion to bringing in a strong, experienced front-office authority. He lamely asserted that there weren't 32 qualified GMs on earth, and he stated his preference for a mushy structure with everyone just "working together." The natural inference was that Jed saw HIMSELF as the front-office authority, and didn't want to dilute his own power, no matter how unqualified he was.

Well, no more. Jed declared he would search for a general manager, and sources said he would look for experience. And the general manager, not Jed, will "have the ability to hire whoever he wants as the head coach." And, importantly: "Money is no object. ... We're going to make sure we get this right."

It was as if he'd learned all his lessons at once. Instead of continuing those cheap and easy internal promotions, instead of protecting his own stretch of turf, he'd do what competent owners do. He'd pay for a proven football man, and then he'd get out of the way.

Oh, sure, there are signs of danger. Despite Jed's plan for a "search," he'll consider Trent Baalke, otherwise known as the cheap and easy internal promotion. Despite Jed's stated deference to his future GM, he expressed a strange commitment to the coaches on staff, especially head-coach-for-a-week Jim Tomsula. Many of us are desperate for a return to our West Coast roots, but Jed might've already blown his shot at Mike Holmgren, the perfect GM to restore 'em. And we're equally desperate for a proven coach--my list ends after Gruden and Harbaugh--but a proven coach might want to hire (or even be) his OWN front-office guy, not be hired by somebody else's.

But those are concerns for another day. Today, let's just celebrate the greatest event in recent memory.

The end of the reign of the worst coach in franchise history.

Over the course of these wasted years, we've detailed all his particular failures. His stubborn adherence to his antiquated offensive philosophy. His refusal to put his players' strengths above his own identity. His replacement of thoughtful preparation with brainless physicality. His lack of any kind of Plan B. His inability to teach execution and composure. His unwillingness to demand accountability. His mismanagement of the game and his players. His incapacity for postgame analysis. And, frankly, his serious mental instability.

Yeah, he was bad.

But what REALLY made him the worst of all, at least to me, was what he made me do.

Like you, I've spent a lifetime loving the Niners. I've seen good teams and bad, good coaches and bad. And I've cheered for each and every one.

But in that Rams game, I couldn't face it. I couldn't handle the possibility that we'd win this dreadful division, get lucky in a playoff game, and be stuck with Singletary for another year.

And THAT'S how awful Singletary was. He was bad enough to make me root AGAINST the Niners. I'll never forgive him for that, and I'm just so grateful he's gone.

Thanks, Jed. Now go make us the Niners again.