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.
Date: January 3, 2011 at 2:27 AM
Comment: Jeff, you deserve credit for being a true 49er fan who never gave up hope that ownership would finally do the right thing and fire Mike Singletary. He never had any business being a head coach in the NFL! Your articles this season were right-on week after week. I'm a native San Franciscan that loves this team and always will, but I too cracked and knew that I had to wish for more losses than wins at the end of the season, because things had to change, starting with the Head Coach. This has to be THE most agonizing season EVER and I've seen all the bad with all the GREAT seasons since 1956. Had Singletary remained I was done, I could no longer watch this team being derailed by a delusional head coach. The 49ers will most likely continue to struggle in an effort to gain respectability, but if young York somehow manages to find the right GM - Head Coach combination, there just might be a glimmer of hope for everyone who cares about the San Francisco 49ers. There are no easy answers, but whoever takes over needs to right the ship quickly, before the talent we have now fades with age and we're left re-building for another decade.
Date: January 2, 2011 at 11:35 PM
Comment: I think that the 49ers need to hire Eddie DeBartolo as their new GM... I think that he has what we need to take this team back to the years of excellence... I am glad that Jed York is consulting with Eddie D. but I think York needs to just give full control to Eddie D....
By: Anonymous Niner
Date: December 30, 2010 at 3:05 PM
Comment: Being a current Niner that has played through the Singletary Era. Coach has been unfairly criticized and ridiculed for some of the things he has done. At halftime of the home game against Seattle two years ago Coach dropped his pants. He wasn't ridiculing his team, he was making a point. At the time his pants were down around his ankles he said "We are down in this game, but we can come back from behind, hard and strong. I need you to be men and give me 100%. Now who wants to be a part of this?" It was one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever witnessed. When have you ever seen a coach staring at you between his own two legs with that crazy Mike Singletary stare? Yelling at you below his own two nuts "Give it to me, I want 100% or nothing." It was a moment that inspired all of us football players and we will miss you Coach.
By: Nate the Great
Date: December 30, 2010 at 12:04 PM
Comment: Why Nate Davis will be our next QB. 1. Doesn't know the playbook. Our playbook sucks. That's a plus. 2. Has "learning disabilities." He is a mental midget. Great, our ex-coach is mentally unstable. And our "Bell Cow" is .... 3. He has a good arm. 4. He has a helmet that fits. 5. Looks good in tight pants. 6. Can tie his shoe and chew gum at the same time. 7. The Savior!
By: Lucky Phil.
Date: December 30, 2010 at 11:06 AM
Comment: Breaking News! Jed York has hired his new HC. Says he couldn't wait until GM hire. Jed says "Went with my gut, this guy was in demand and couldn't wait until next week." The guy York hired is Dave Letterman's "Mike Singletary." Jed says "Had this guy in for an interview Monday, told him to drop his pants and bend over. I like what I see. And hired him on the spot. This guy has what it takes to lead this team. I have been following this guy on Letterman for two yrs. I can't understand a word he is talking about. But that's ok, he watches a lot of film."
By: Lucky Phil
Date: December 30, 2010 at 10:47 AM
Comment: Looking Back. . .The Highlights Of the Singletary Era. 1. Coach's first halftime speech. Drops his pants to his ankles and bends over. Players and coaches say after this speech "Coach is for real. He is all Balls and no Brains." 2. After 1st game against Seattle Coach says "I want to thank Seattle for kicking our tails." Players and fans are confused. Our Coach is happy we got our a$$ kicked all over the place? And is thanking the guy that did it? 3. After 2nd game Niners lose 25-22 to Saints. Coach and players feel great. "We lose another one but by only three pts. to the Super Bowl Champions. That's something to build on." 4. Game 3. A close one! 31-10 loss to Chiefs. Coach does not thank Chiefs for kicking his A$$. Coach not happy. QB not happy. QB not getting plays through headset. Says he hears someone singing Gospel music in the background. Doesn't remember Hail Mary being a 4th-and-one play. 5. Game 4. Niners lose 16-14 against the Falcons. Coach not happy. Refuses to shake hand of Falcons coach and thank him for kicking his A$$.
By: 9er Rob
Date: December 29, 2010 at 2:42 PM
Comment: Although I must say I have a lot of respect for Singletary, I do agree with your analysis, he was a horrible coach. There is no reason why we should not be in the playoffs this year, I think his old-school mindset for the offense killed our season... but here's a thought, why not hire another Mike, MIKE SHERMAN, as our new head coach?? I think his West Coast offensive mindset and his proven NFL record would fit perfectly in SF... THOUGHTS???
Date: December 29, 2010 at 11:05 AM
Comment: Well, it looks like this article turns out to be a little premature, now that the wires are all hot with the news about Baalke most likely becoming the new GM. With the front-office personnel we have had, the Niners have been lousy, so why change anything, right? Looks like Jed's talk was once again nothing but window dressing. No change in the front office...no change in the Niners. If Baalke becomes the GM, it will be the last straw for me also. I will no longer support the Niners until they have new ownership, which will probably not be in my lifetime. I hate to abandon a ship I've sailed on for so long, but when you see it's definitely going down, it's time to leave the Leakin' Lena. Why hang around where there is no future?
By: J Ho
Date: December 29, 2010 at 10:54 AM
Comment: Good column, man. Erickson/Donahue was bad. Nolan was bad. But like you said, Singletary was truly awful. At least Erickson was lauded in part for his offensive mind. Nolan was an accomplished coordinator. Singletary, although a Hall of Famer, ended up confirming his "serious mental instability" with his over-the-top proclamations that he should at least be taking over-the-counter meds for. Over the past few years, and this includes my family, friends, coworkers, even my boss. . .NOBODY has frustrated me more than Singletary. Thanks for the article. Great stuff!
By: Don Newson
Date: December 29, 2010 at 9:47 AM
Comment: As bad as Sing turned out to be, he was nowhere near as atrocious as the Erickson/Donahue combo...
By: Dallas Niner Fan
Date: December 29, 2010 at 6:17 AM
Comment: I just heard today that Trent Baalke is a lock for the Niners GM job. Will this nightmare ever end? If this is true then it looks like Jed York has learned nothing and will continue to make the same mistake he made when he hired Sing - a low-cost internal person with no experience or in-depth NFL knowledge. If Baalke is hired then what does that do to change the front office? Absolutely nothing. Will a high-profile coach go to work for these bozos? Please Jeff tell me I am wrong, where is the silver lining here?
By: Lucky Phil
Date: December 28, 2010 at 9:22 PM
Comment: Loved the column Jeff. But the real christmas present comes with a new GM and HC. Sing was more of a lousy gift Jed took back with a promise of better things next year. I don't want to burst anyone's bubble but I am pessimistic. This team needs a major overhaul. New quarterback, new CB's, and a pass rusher. I hope the Niners follow the formula Jimmy Johnson took in Dallas. Trade one of your best players (Frank Gore = Herschel Walker) and get draft picks or an impact defensive player such as Haynesworth. Get a proven QB (McNabb or Palmer) and draft Kaepernick (round 2) for the future. Switch to the 4-3 with Smith, Haynesworth, Kenrick Ellis and Robert Quinn. Spend money to get Champ Bailey and Richard Marshall as CB's. Add Torrey Smith and Greg Little in rounds 2 & 3. I look forward to seeing the new team next yr. and hopefully Jed will bring in a GM, HC and QB that already have a successful resume in the NFL.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 8:59 PM
Comment: Watch Lucky Sperm Jed's interview with Mindi Bach. What a joke, they make a comparison with Theo Epstein. Theo Epstein was a scout and worked his way up because he was qualified. He was not handed a toy by mommy and daddy. Lucky Sperm Jed is NOT qualified to pick a GM. If the Yorks were serious, and money was no object, they would give Bill Parcells 5 million to pick a GM and head coach, or someone of his stature. But with the Yorks, money is the object, and they have turned the 49ers into the west coast version of the Bengals (2 winning seasons in the last 20 years). 49er fans, DO NOT RENEW SEASON TICKETS! DO NOT FALL FOR ANOTHER York pep rally of delusion! DRIVE THE YORKS OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Date: December 28, 2010 at 7:16 PM
Comment: Yes Jeff you got your wish and hopefully 3 quarterbacks will follow Sing. We don't always agree but one thing Jeff is at least you write an honest column. Got any ideas on a new coach that would fit the Niners? By the way you could've rooted for the Niners to win out and rooted for Seattle to win out also and the Hawks would've gone to the playoffs. I too didn't want the niners to go to the playoffs as we might be getting another high draft pick.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 6:46 PM
Comment: Terry B. you can join my fan club at www.getalifeterryb.wtf. There is a great area where you can leave comments about people who comment on the comments left by your favorite bloggers. Unfortunately you may be disappointed to know that Singletary has never been featured on my greatest coaches of the 49ers page, and neither has anyone else because I could care less. While I am a fan of the 49ers, I don't think we should live in the past or cry about the recent failures of the team. Have fun being a Flanders or whatever the opposite of a homer is. I hope you have a wonderful new year full of exciting e-vents or whatever it is you like to do. I will have to ask you to limit your correspondence with me to the above website from now on due to I don't really care what you think. Maybe you will someday get over me, but I have to tell you we're over Terry, sorry but it's time to move on. Just like coach Singletary... You have to find something else to do now. Goodbye.
By: Terry B.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 6:06 PM
Comment: Even now, with the franchise disgraced and in shambles and Singletary kicked to the curb, Dan just doesn't understand what all the "lame" Singletary bashing was all about. Maybe instead of Jeff moving on to another website, Dan can move on to the website of whatever Division III college team Singletary catches on with. Or maybe Dan could just do the one thing that would make him truly happy and start his own Mike Singletary fan site. "It's me, Mike, your #1 fan!"
Date: December 28, 2010 at 4:31 PM
Comment: Jeff i'm very appreciative of the honest articles you write. None of that sugarcoat crap that these other guys do, and none of the i'm-a-fan-so-i-can't-critique-the-team pieces. You've been right from the start. what i can't understand is the fans who get upset with you for reporting the truth about the team. they are too ignorant to know that you can be a fan and be critical of the team you love. Now that Singletary is gone it's time to focus on the Yorks and let them know that this fanbase is watching them closely and won't cheer every move they make just because we're fans of the team.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 4:30 PM
Comment: Some good points and comments in here. I think every fan of the 9ers has every right to be frustrated if not disgusted with the mismanagement and performance of the team over the past 8 years or so. That being said, my honest opinion is that you might be getting a little overexcited in your relentless Singletary bashing. Yes, it was time for a change, whether this week or next. No, Singletary was not the man for the job, and is not ready to be a head coach in this league. Yes, Singletary has some fairly obvious shortcomings as a head coach at this point. What Singletary is however is a good man, who I believe set out to do his best. That does not make him a good head coach, but neither does it justify or warrant such spite or personal attacks. He was WAY over his head, and that cost this team greatly. Let's leave it at that however, and move on to hopefully much better times.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 4:02 PM
Comment: Nice work, Jeff. I must say that as badly as I wanted Sing fired, I was definitely a little sad once it became official. I know he meant well, in his own stubborn way. Bottom line, he was a 49er and I wanted him to succeed for this team. He didn't purposely run this team into the ground, so I am not going to continue to pile on. Great guy, lousy coach! I wish him well in whatever he decides to do next. To The_Real_Randy!! Jed HAD to make this move!! The QB carousel, the sideline antics, etc.. If it weren't for all the inept, horrible decision-making and lack of preparation then MAYBE Mike might have finished the season. It would've been a very UGLY scene at the stick on Sunday if he were still standing on the sidelines, IMO. When you have had enough, you've had enough. To quote Jeff: "you failed now get out." The fans had seen enough, and obviously Jed did also. Coaching SHENANIGANS!!! That's all it was.... Very embarrassing also! Yes, Jed! PLEASE make us the Niners again! Jeff, I never realized you were a lifelong niner fan. I've piled on about your negativity in the past, but now I get it. We fans deserve better but more importantly, so do the players.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 3:24 PM
Comment: Good news Jeff, I will leave it all in the past as well. I hope Jed gets a winner. No reference to Singletary's 'we want winners' intended.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 3:09 PM
Comment: What are you going to write about now? I'm at the edge of my seat. Seriously, I can't wait. Maybe we can find out if you can write an optimistic or a positive piece. What if the 49ers succeed from here on out? Will you still revisit the Singletary seasons? I guess you can compare the upcoming seasons to Singletary and point out how horrible he was as a coach. That would be an interesting read. I wouldn't want to have to go a week without some good hard Singletary bashing. Maybe he'll get hired on to another team and you can write for their lame fansite about how much he sucks. I don't suppose you would just like to put it all behind us and move on? Please don't resort to more Jed bashing, that would be just as lame as all this Singletary bashing has been.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 3:03 PM
Comment: Dennis Erickson was a much worse coach.
By: Paul A.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 2:52 PM
Comment: Jeff, Through all of this, the York years, I have felt like a scorned lover, but somehow now there is the glimmer of hope that all of that will change. Thanks for the effort that you have put forth to express what is in my heart. Paul.
Date: December 28, 2010 at 2:26 PM
Comment: Hate to burst your bubble or imply that Sing shouldn't have been fired, but the way Jed handled this proves that he has learned nothing. First, everyone knew that Sing was gone anyway so what does having Tomsula coach one meaningless game accomplish other than stir up confusion about who on the staff stays and goes when the correct course of action is to fire ALL of them? Then there's the GM situation. The fact that Baalke's even in the running is a clear indicator that Jed will continue to run the team with his hand firmly up the rectum of somebody else, making their lips move while he talks. And if Eddie D is involved in the selection as per reports, who's to say he won't deliberately try to sabotage the team from within just to get back at sis and her douchebag husband (this is also precisely why I don't want the vengeful little nutcase known as Mike Holmgren employed by the team either). An experienced GM (or understudy to one like Scott Pioli) who's won elsewhere and has not swimmed in the ocean of bad blood generated by this organization should be brought in so he can draft HIS QB and hire HIS coach. Gruden? Puleez. Why not hire Barry Switzer since the resume is about the same?
Date: December 28, 2010 at 2:18 PM
Comment: I haven't always agreed with your comments or analysis, but in this case you've nailed it and thoroughly encapsulated my thoughts. I just hope that Jed has been working quietly towards rebuilding the organization for the past several months. That he has already held meetings with potential GMs. That he didn't just wake up with this wild notion on Sunday morning. There will be many teams looking for new coaches come this monday and I would hate to get stuck with another Nolan because Jed got caught flat-footed. Something tells me it will be different this time, or at least I hope it will be different. Go Niners!!
Date: December 28, 2010 at 2:15 PM
Comment: A very strong lesson learned I hope. Head Coaches, like everyone else, should pay their dues. I seriously doubt Singletary can land a HC or DC job anywhere else. He is, at best, a line coach.
By: Pete, Sunnyvale
Date: December 28, 2010 at 2:05 PM
Comment: Excellent read! Could not have stated it better myself!
Date: December 28, 2010 at 1:28 PM
Comment: Jeff Kaplan, I enjoy reading your posts and this may be the best one of all.