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Singletary Rewards Jed’s Curious Devotion, and My Grudging Acceptance

Dec 15, 2009 at 5:35 PM

In the wake of the fiasco in Seattle, Gary Radnich had a question. It wasn't pleasant, but it had to be asked. And much to his credit, with Jed York on the line, he asked it.

"I'll ask you straight up," he said. "How committed is your family to Singletary?"

Now Radnich might never win a Pulitzer Prize, but he phrased the question brilliantly. It was open-ended, you see; it didn't define a level of commitment and ask for only a yes or no. It wasn't merely whether, say, the coach would be back next year. All its terms were up to Jed. He could commit big or small, or not at all.

The conventional wisdom is to answer a question like this without really saying anything. To show support but leave room to escape. Something like, "Coach Singletary has a four-year contract, and we intend to honor that contract." Or "We don't expect to make a coaching change in the foreseeable future." You know, something mushy. We don't "intend" or "expect" to make a move, but there's a thing about intentions and expectations. They change.

Jed, though, doesn't play that game. He likes to tell the truth, and tell it with flair. He likes to show both his honesty and his guts. So when it comes to commitment, he's got no interest in room to escape. Even if the house he's in is on fire.

So without hesitation, his answer was this:

"Mike's our coach, and he's gonna be our coach for a long time."

I know we've had our battles, dear readers. A few of you agreed with my position that Singletary should clear out his office by January 4th. More of you said—reasonably, I'll concede—he deserves at least 2010. But Jed's already way ahead of all of us. It doesn't matter how this year ends. It doesn't even matter how next year ends.

Jed's already seen enough. Mike Singletary is here to stay.

Okay, then. How 'bout Scot McCloughan? I mean, without an epic miracle we're about to miss the playoffs for the seventh straight year, and McCloughan's presided over five. Care to fire a warning shot, Jed? Nope; "I'm fully in Scot's corner."

Okay, then. How 'bout Mike Holmgren as a head of football operations? An exciting infusion of credibility, experience, and brains? Nope; that'd be something we "aren't considering."

So will anything happen if "our season ends in December" (or whatever)? Sure, but not to our new holy trinity. This is it, folks; "the three of us together need to find a way to make the decisions that we have to do to make sure that this team wins."

I think Jed's smart, and I know he sincerely wants to win. Still, this is just weird. We might disagree on how much rope these guys deserve, but no one would argue they've proven enough to justify all this devotion. And understand, devotion's the word. Mike Nolan is gone, but his trusted lieutenants are staying for good. I actually doubted they'd be here next year, but Jed said it all.

They'll be here next year, and they'll probably be here in 10 years.

After this interview, I promptly began the five stages of grief. The first four were mercifully quick: the denial ("No! He couldn't mean that!"), anger ("Argh! We will never return to the playoffs again!"), bargaining ("Okay, how 'bout they go if we see no playoffs by 2014?"), and depression ("Why, Eddie? Why did you ever need that riverboat gambling license?"). But Jed left no room to continue to fight.

I reached the acceptance stage. Over the next decade, we'll win with Singletary and McCloughan, or we won't win at all. So if I wanna win—and heaven knows I do—then I wanna win with Singletary and McCloughan.

There. I said it.

And so, with a newfound clarity of purpose, I watched us play the Cardinals. As recently as last week, we thought this game would mean so much more. But motivation wouldn't be tough. The Cards might win this division, and indeed they surely will, but not on this night. Not on our field.

And sure enough, at no time this year have we ever been better.

We simply demolished 'em. In his previous four games, Kurt Warner completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, 12 touchdowns, and no picks. That's a cartoonish rating of 133. Against our suddenly swarming defense—which sacked or hit him nine times (welcome aboard, Mr. Brooks)—he completed a season-low 55 percent for a season-low 178 yards and two picks, for a season-low rating of 45.

Oh, and did I mention the seven turnovers?

Granted, our offense was hardly a model of greatness. We wisely came out passing again, but New Alex took a disturbing step back; he threw some nice ones, particularly for his two scores, but after three solid games he was way out of sync. Looking slow and uncertain, he tossed two picks and hit his own season-lows of 54 percent, four yards per pass, and a rating of 60. We've gotta admit he's shown more than expected but still hasn't shown he's the guy. The good news was, when we shifted to run—again, wisely—it finally kicked in. Running hard behind a line that seemed to get its act together, Frank Gore had his strongest game, toting it 25 times for 167 and the clinching score. On his back, we held the ball for 37 minutes and never gave the Cards a chance to steal.

A ball-hawking D and a clock-chewing running game, eh? Just like the coach drew it up.

In the end, it always comes back to Mike Singletary. You've driven me nuts this year, Coach. But I love this franchise, and you're not going anywhere. So let's not fight. Let's just win.

So far, so good.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • kevin despain
    i just read a few of your articles. you have no business writing on this website. clueless. i assume you are a Niner fan, but just because you're a fan that doesn't mean you understand the game of football and its history. Coach Singletary is the real deal, and if you can't see this, that's ok, amusing, but ok. BUT you spouting nonsense on a website that is meant to inform and entertain 49er fans is offensive. FACT: the players would run through a wall for Singletary. FACT: the niners were a few points away from winning 3 games. I don't feel the need to get into specifics about the negatives and positives of the 2009 season. this year was frustrating, but Bill Walsh didn't turn around the franchise in one season. Coach Singletary may not be the genius Bill Walsh was, but YES, i see Coach Singletary bringing back the glory. but then again, what Niner fan or someone who follows and understands the NFL wouldn't see how blessed, yes blessed, we are that Singletary is our coach. the admin on 49erswebzone needs to make some off season changes.
    Dec 21, 2009 at 10:13 AM
  • craig
    It's about time you got on board!!!!
    Dec 18, 2009 at 7:03 AM
  • Dan
    The 49ers have been handling Arizona for a while now. The team just doesn't match up well with us for some reason. Either the coach or Alex was trying to force one in to Delanie for some reason. Stubborn is a pretty accurate description for this team. Also I notice Alex is trying to get the ball out on Crabtree's fingertips, seems that's where he wants it. When those start connecting consistently they're going to break for a lot of yards. One thing I don't like to see is the one-dimensional Vernon Davis. He needs to add a couple extra moves to his routes he can mix up to get a better position on that pass route of his. I know I'm watching a team progress at a very healthy rate, and I like the learning curve. As far as I'm concerned the 49ers are leaving their critics in the dust. I still hear the same old comments about Alex Smith, the running game and the O.C. Raye, while none of them are doing even remotely the same things they were 5 weeks ago. So as I said last week, next year there will be no excuses. I am also loving the panthers right now, maybe we can get some pass blockers.
    Dec 16, 2009 at 5:46 PM
  • Dallas Fan
    I agree with you. I think there's nothing wrong with Singletary and he will be good down the road, but we need to win now. I think we should hire Shanahan as head coach after the season. He knows the 49er culture, a west coast offense guy coming from the Bill Walsh tree. He has been here before and knows offense. If you want to win down the road, who knows when, then stick with Singletary as he learns on the job and tries to develop a Ravens West. If you want to win now hire Shanahan.
    Dec 16, 2009 at 3:14 PM
    Response: In all these weeks that I was calling for Singletary's head, Shanahan was my lead guy, for all the reasons you mention. I truly wonder whether Jed had second thoughts about having hired Singletary when Shanahan came available so shortly after. But my point here is, we might as well give up. As fantastic as it would've been to reconnect to our glory years with Shanahan (or Holmgren or Gruden), it's not gonna happen. Jed's forced us to move on; we don't have to like it, but it's pointless to resist it.
  • Bill Bird (billbird2111)
    Mr. Kaplan, you're watching a 49er offense that is slowly evolving. Yes -- Alex Smith did not have the best game. We all saw that (my seats were on the 50!). But he hit just enough passes to loosen up that Cards defense -- and that opened up some huge holes for Frank Gore. I mean giant, gaping holes that you could have driven a truck through. Why were they so big? Because the Cards couldn't stack eight or nine in the box -- not with Alex hitting Crabtree for a score and Davis for another. This was the best indication yet I have seen of a balanced offense. I still think Alex has some home jitters that he just can't let go of yet -- or perhaps he's just too amped up -- or gets down on himself too much after missing one or two open passes. Whatever kid -- get over it. He does it on the road. He'll eventually do it here. If the emergence of Brooks wasn't a mirage in the Sahara (and I'm hoping it wasn't) Donovan McNabb is in for a huge shock this Sunday. I've been waiting for this team to jump up and beat a team they have no business beating. This Sunday? This Sunday just might be that game. Confidence. It's a beautiful thing.
    Dec 16, 2009 at 10:44 AM
    Response: No doubt, Bill; even a moderately successful passing game will soften the D for the run. It's worth noting, though, that in the previous few games we were unable to run even after passing much more effectively. What made the difference in THIS game was the line play; Baas and Rachal were way, WAY better. If they keep it up, and if Singletary doesn't use this game as an excuse to go run-first again, you might just get that upset you seek.
  • ninerdawg
    Yeah Jeff, I knew you were messing with AJ, I love when you guys debate the 49ers, I also read his comment on this article, I was just eggin it on!
    Dec 16, 2009 at 8:16 AM
  • Omar Garcia
    Well, i sure hope they all get their act together, and not just get a great game for the Cards and it's over (like Kansas City did this year). I still have hope, I mean Pittsburgh lost I do not know how many seasons by trying the Kordell Stewart experiment, and then they got Roethlisberger and get the championship back. So there is still hope, but do you think Jed will have enough patience to wait, even if things go wrong and the fans start calling for heads?
    Dec 16, 2009 at 7:34 AM
    Response: If things don't improve, I think Jed, if anything, will have TOO MUCH patience. What I wonder is the opposite, whether he'll have the guts to make a change if we unanimously agree that a change must be made.
  • ninerdawg
    Well Jeff, I am so glad Jed is running this team, if it were up to you, we would be rebuilding every year. But I am glad that you don't want to fight you want to win, and I am with you 100%! Sing/Raye definitely deserves more time. It seemed you never took any positives from what Sing and co. has done, like the emergence of Vernon Davis, who people wrote off as a bust, and Alex Smith, who is playing better out of the gun, but he is not the BEST out of the gun. I never understood your bashing of Sing, especially since you wrote that brilliant article on Nate Davis, and how the season was going to unfold, and for the most part you were right. My point is, you can't say to a coach, this is your QB, now go to the playoffs, you need a playoff caliber QB. Since 05, we have been waiting for Alex Smith to "arrive," me, I am still waiting, but to be fair, he is getting better, but I'm not ready to crown him the Franchise QB yet. It's not Sing's fault the offense was in neutral, when you have to tailor everything to Alex Smith, we need him to step up big bc if he doesn't I will refer everybody to that brilliant article on Nate, and by the way, I think that was AJ that said we needed balance....
    Dec 16, 2009 at 7:01 AM
    Response: When I wrote that piece on Davis (, I did think we'd struggle, but I didn't anticipate how much Singletary's own decisions would contribute to those struggles. I never said that Singletary was doing NOTHING right; but I'll always wonder what might have been this season if he hadn't waited so long to open up the offense and if he hadn't made so many gameday mistakes. Like I say here, though, I'm ready to accept him and move on. Let's hope it works out. Oh, and AJ knows I'm just messing with him....
  • GrizzlyAdams
    Jeff, it's nice to see you coming around. Welcome to the dark side!
    Dec 16, 2009 at 6:32 AM
  • Nick S.
    Jeff, I think Jed's just a realist. He saw the evolution of the offense after The Phoenix Known As Alex Smith took over for the Shaun Hill Starship. He is seeing how Jimmy Raye is just now establishing a new style of 49er run-and-spread offense with Crabs, Gore, & VD as the main targets. He is seeing how the current team is now very much different than the team that was playing in September. It is without a doubt frustrating to have to watch a team grow DURING a regular NFL season, but that is simply what has happened in 2009. The good news, however, is that there was indeed a ton of growth, and we know a lot more about every player on the roster heading into the offseason. Now if Singletary can just cut down on the gameday errors, we'll be in good shape.
    Dec 16, 2009 at 3:17 AM
  • shobbrobb
    The Yorks have turned the Niners into the Warriors. No expectations, they are just entertainment now. As a matter of fact the Warriors have been to the playoffs more recently than the Niners........WOW
    Dec 15, 2009 at 11:49 PM
  • AJ Bolino
    Jeff, you know I've been in Sing's corner for a while, and I'll be staying there for the duration. He's forging the team identity (no, we don't want to be like Arizona), and the players are buying in. As far as Alex goes, I think he'll be here for a while, too. He made throws when he had to...especially at the end of the game, and Jimmy Raye's offense featured balance, controlled the clock, and kept the Cardinals on their heels. (Hmm...I remember someone saying that this team would need balance to win games. Who was that guy?)
    Dec 15, 2009 at 6:00 PM
    Response: Wasn't that Terry B.? No wait....

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