Niners’ Draft Shows One Vision, Unfortunately It’s Singletary’s

Apr 27, 2010 at 5:34 AM


When asked the reason for Scot McCloughan's departure, only a month in front of the draft, Jed York wouldn't say. He WOULD say, though, what the reason was NOT. No, he said, McCloughan didn't lose a power struggle with Mike Singletary. "Mike's not going to move into a more significant role in personnel," he said. Of course "the coach is always going to have a say," but make no mistake, Trent Baalke "will be the point person for the draft."

"Mike is concentrating on coaching."

I for one believed it. I accepted the prevailing view that McCloughan was let go for some personal demon. And I expressed relief that Singletary would lack the power to build a roster in his own, outdated image.

What a fool I was.

It seems so obvious now. Last year, the Niners were about to use the 10th pick. On the board were McCloughan's choice, receiver Michael Crabtree, and Singletary's, right tackle Michael Oher. A flashy wideout and a road-grading mauler. The Niners went with Crabtree, who promptly began the most ludicrous holdout in the history of sports. Meanwhile, Singletary watched in horror as his offensive line, the key to his grind-it-out design, completely collapsed.

You know the force of Singletary's will. You can hear him in your head. And you can bet, as this year's draft approached, he solemnly swore: "I'm not gonna let McCloughan screw me again."

And only a month in front of the draft, McCloughan was gone.

Oh, there was a power struggle, all right. Predictably, Singletary won. And in THIS draft--no offense, Trent--nothing and no one would get in his way.

This draft proved it. Singletary's in total control. Ready or not.

Has any draft ever been so focused philosophically? Day one, two offensive linemen who will maul in run-blocking and struggle (at least at first) in pass-blocking. Day two, a safety who will hit like a truck but be lost in coverage, and a linebacker who racks up tackles but seems strictly 4-3 (which the Niners don't play). Day three, a running back who's tougher than he is fast (like every other back we've got), a pure blocking tight end, and a slow but physical corner. (It seems like the ONLY place we recognize the need for speed is in the return game, where Kyle Williams (and free agent LeRoy Vann?) should join Ted Ginn in making things interesting, or at least competent.)

"I made the final decisions," Baalke said afterward. "But [Singletary] certainly was involved in them."

Impressively, Baalke said this with a straight face.

Believe it or not, my point isn't that we had a bad draft; actually, like most analysts, I think we did well. (Not as well as Seattle, unfortunately, but well.) We had OTHER weaknesses, but the offensive line and the return game were the ones that were most embarrassing. The first-round focus on the line was impressive (though trading up was wholly unnecessary), and the commitment to returners (including Ginn, who remember was our fifth-round "pick") was a relief. When you're pretty confident that you've shored up your two biggest areas of concern, you've had yourself a pretty good draft. And when you've done it while being faithful to an overarching vision, you've had yourself a GREAT draft.

Depending on the vision, that is. And there's the rub.

It's never been a secret. Singletary wants tough and physical, and who could disagree? "Hit 'em in the mouth! Physical with an F!" This is what makes the masses drool. This is his singular vision (pardon the pun), and now he gets to build it himself.

But every singular vision, by definition, is a rejection of any other. And though Singletary's old-school approach appeals to our primal senses, what he's rejecting is the modern recipe for building a winner.

In today's game, you win by passing, not by running. You win vertically, not horizontally. You win outside the tackles, not between 'em. You win with speed, not with size.

You win with brains, not with brawn.

Of all the folks who oughta know, WE should know best. In the '70s, the Cowboys were everything Singletary loves. A big, strong bunch of brutes who'd run down your throat and then stomp on your neck. How could the '81 Niners, midgets by comparison, possibly hope to compete?

Up to that point, the game was toughness and physicality. Ever since--for 30 years now--the game's evolved exponentially. There's nothing wrong with being tough and physical. But if that's ALL you are, you just don't have a chance.

We took such pride in being so much more. But in his first draft--and sorry, Trent, this was HIS draft--Singletary began the process of making us nothing else.

Don't get me wrong. Singletary landed some excellent players. I really don't question a single pick, at least individually. What I question, instead, is the singularity of the collective. I question only the vision.

Singletary's gonna take these guys--already tough and physical--and make 'em even more so. He's gonna make 'em run the hill. He's gonna watch 'em sumo in nutcrackers. He's gonna drive 'em with fire and brimstone.

And then, with little else, he'll put 'em out on the field.

He'll run his big backs behind his big O-line, up the gut again and again. He'll pass only when strictly necessary, and sometimes not even then. He'll make our opponents beg for mercy. He'll hit 'em in the mouth all the way to the Super Bowl, conventional wisdom be damned straight to hell.

That's how the vision goes, anyway. I'm not sure I buy it, but what choice do I have?

Singletary's in charge, of everything now, and there's no one left to stop him.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


110 Comments

  • RamItOn
    Hey, Singletary has been criticized for not being an "Xs and Os guy." If that's the case, how did he become such a great player? Pure physical ability? I'm definitely not on the Singletary bandwagon, but this criticism of him (and other coaches that used to be good players) has always bothered me--how can a player be good without understanding the larger picture of the scheme he is operating in? And if he understands the scheme, does he not, to a large extent, understand the fundamentals of the game? I realize that even having an understanding of the fundamentals does not make a good coach (motivation, game planning, personnel management, etc. are other unrelated or semi-related aspects), but I have always wondered how good-players-turned-coaches can be criticized for not understanding the technicalities of at least the side of the ball that they played on. Thanks!
    Jun 17, 2010 at 11:37 AM
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    Response: Thanks, Ram, but I think you hit it on the head when you said "at least the side of the ball that they played on." Singletary was known as a very smart middle linebacker, and I tend to think he'd be a great defensive coordinator, for the very reasons you cite. But our problem is that he seems to think he understands how the modern game works on the OTHER side of the ball, and to me he's proving to be as good an offensive coach as he was an offensive player. He simply has no business there.
  • KG
    I think that this year's picks will be able to help in the passing game, if they are allowed to run passing plays. Assuming Iupati keeps up his college intensity, this is a guy that didn't allow a single sack in 4 years and only allowed a handful of guys to even pressure the QB. Considering the WAC schedule that level may not carry over, but at Idaho he did play against Boise each year, who have proven that they can run with the big teams. Bottom line, we got some great additions to our line. Unfortunately, until we can get another Steve Young or Joe Montana, we don't have the level of QB needed to win with a pass-heavy playbook.
    May 18, 2010 at 1:48 AM
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  • Dallas Niner Fan
    Ditto, on your great interview on the 2 minute drill. Great job. By the way, I can't wait for your next article.
    May 17, 2010 at 3:46 PM
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    Response: Thanks, Dallas.
  • TomT
    The only way to win in this league is by passing is untrue, that is the exception to the rule, not the rule itself, example Patriots, Colts. Playing strong defense and having a good run game will get you to the playoffs before teams having a weak defense and strong passing game! Singletary is our head coach and of course you draft towards his vision because if you don't draft the correct players for the way the head coach runs a team you end up like the raiders! I'm not saying singletary is our savior and this is the only way to do it but he is building the team starting with fundamentals and a team that is tough and fundamentally sound always has a chance. The way he conducted the draft is only going to help alex and the passing game and I guarantee we will be more balanced offensively than you believe! GO NINERS!!
    May 15, 2010 at 6:42 PM
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  • Randy S
    You're missing the big picture! While Sing might want a smashmouth run game, it obviously wasn't there! The 2 o-linemen will eventually help in the passing game as well. And how good can a team be if they can't run effectively? One-dimensional teams don't win SB's (Eagles, Colts)! The ability to run efficiently will help with clock-management and the pass game and open the play-action pass more. Sing has WR's now!!! And the reason for the shotgun last year was because the o-line sucked and the shotgun gave Alex more room to figure out where the pressure was coming from and have a place to run! Now if the 9ers come out this year with 90% run then I'll admit I'm wrong, but I don't believe they will convert to a 1-dimensional running team! I applaud Sing (Jimmy Raye) for opening up the offense, whatever it takes to get the "W"!
    May 15, 2010 at 1:53 AM
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  • Shaneo
    BTW, heard you on the 2 minute drill, good stuff man, backed your article 100% and all fair and legit concerns. to take a page outta Sing's own book, when it comes to coaching and winning..... Don't tell me Sing, SHOW ME!
    May 9, 2010 at 8:47 PM
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    Response: Thanks for checking out my audio debut, Shane. In case the rest of you missed it, you can hear it at http://www.lexy.com/feed?id=847
  • ShaneO
    Jeff, i was thinking the same thing about you, but i am back! Sing's stubbornness is also a major concern of mine. also just his lack of balance. last year it took him what 8-9 maybe ten games before he decides to throw the ball. then he does and ALL he does is play out of the gun. you're right our draft was nice but can this guy run a normal balanced offense or are we doomed to another year of up the gut, 3 and out football. cuz i don't care how big those linemen are, this isn't college, you're not going to just push people out of the way all game. it's a nice thought to say well it's a passing league so teams won't match up well against the 49ers. problem is, one it's a passing league cuz that's what the NFL wanted so they set the rules accordingly, and Ds know the best teams pass and still can't stop that. It's much easier in general to stop the run because you just stack the box. there is much more variety in the passing game especially with the coming out of the athletic TEs and RBs with receiver skills. It's a much more complex system and puts more pressure on the D. let's just hope we use both this year and this is all just reverse psychology of some kind on the NFL from Sing!
    May 8, 2010 at 10:27 PM
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  • UT JD Niner
    @ Terry B. - I understand what you're attempting to say, but you make my point and defeat yours when you acknowledge the fact that this article does NOT focus on the players picked, but rather the Singletary 'philosophy' or 'vision' that influenced the draft picks themselves (allegedly). If this was an article about the draft picks themselves, then your point would be valid, but it's not and therefore neither is yours. I won't even get into the fact that there are PLENTY of fans from EVERY team in the NFL that are upset about the players their respective teams select in the draft. So to say that 'fans immediately fall in love with their draft and become deaf to criticism' is wholly untrue. In fact, they are usually the harshest critics. @ Jeff Kaplan - Jeff you say that you set out to give your honest assessment of the 49ers. I believe you. What I think has happened here, is that the foundation of what you believe to be true is flawed. When Singletary took over this team, there was MUCH more talent on the defensive side of the ball than there was on the offensive side. If you are a defensive oriented team, your offense needs to be efficent, not flashy. Look back at NFL history.
    May 7, 2010 at 5:29 PM
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  • Chuck
    Where were you when we really needed you? When nolan and mcclueless were running this organization into the ground? Thank GOD Singletary is in control, maybe we might make a playoff run. He is the only coach who could have coached us to an 8-8 season with the talent we have, that is amazing! Get off him and jump on board, you were once rolling with nolan and we know where that train went, off the deep end. Why not get on Singletary's train when he has already taken us where nolan and mcclueless hadn't and that's a non-losing season! Think about it, it might hurt at first but go ahead and think.
    May 7, 2010 at 3:17 PM
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  • Dan
    It is so much more likely for a player to fail to reach his full potential when he is on an underperforming team. The 49ers are not in any way an underperforming team, anymore. Who would you credit that to? I can think of quite a few people, coach Singletary being one of them. Our draft choices are more likely to surprise than disappoint in light of this misguided analysis.
    May 7, 2010 at 9:58 AM
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  • Terry B.
    UT JD Niner, let me see if I can better connect the dots. My point was that, after following the draft for many years, I've noticed that fans immediately fall in love with their draft and become deaf to criticism. Who among us has not cheered the selections of Mike Rumph, Rashaun Woods, Kwame Harris, or J.J. Stokes? Anthony Davis is an example of this phenomenon. See my comments to Dan. A pick that should be generating intense debate is generating none. We all love the pick. Thus, Jeff's article, which is only partly negative toward the draft in that it criticizes "the vision thing" instead of the picks, generates 100 comments. You can't say ANYTHING negative about a team's draft without causing mass hysteria. I think if we could have had this debate before--and outside the context of--the draft, there would have been more difference of opinion. Surely in a league dominated by teams like the Colts and Saints, and in which all rule changes benefit the passing game, more fans would have argued that a return to a 1970s offense is not the answer. As to whether or not that is Singletary's vision, one of his choices for OC was Dan Reeves. That tells you everything.
    May 7, 2010 at 7:37 AM
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  • Terry B.
    Dan, re: National Football Post, check out their article today entitled "Rookies who won't live up to the hype." Half of the 49ers' draft class--Anthony Davis, Taylor Mays, and Navorro Bowman--made the list. Their concern about Davis is that his immaturity and lack of passion will prevent him from reaching his potential. Your post kind of proves my point--yes, you're right that there are conflicting opinions on Davis. But not on this board. Before the draft, there would have been intense debate over Davis, with some people arguing that left tackle is too important, and the top of the first round is too high, to take a chance on an immature, overweight, underachieving player who refused to weigh in at his own pro day. But now that we spent the pick, all you hear is unbridled love and enthusiasm. Reasonable doubts should not disappear simply because we drafted him.
    May 7, 2010 at 7:17 AM
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  • Izzy
    The new league rules promote the passing game and most teams have a pass-oriented offense and as a result, NFL defenses are focused on the pass. Remember when the 49ers and Chargers were the only teams using the West Coast Offense in the 80s and everybody else had a vertical passing game with a big power back. I truly believe that the 49ers won so many games in the 80s because most defenses in the NFL did not match up well with the 49ers. LBs in the 80s were big and they did not have the skill set to cover in the passing game. Defenses in the 80s did not have enough preparation time to match up with the West Coast Offense because they rarely played against it. That is why the 49er RBs killed them in the short passing game. The West Coast also had so many crossing patterns for the WRs because those LBs just could not cover. The same effect can happen with Singletary's vision of an imposing running game. There will be a number of teams that will have difficulty matching up with the 49ers. Maybe Singletary understands where most NFL defenses are putting their resources and he is taking the percentages of the match-up game to his favor. Maybe he is a lot smarter than you think.
    May 6, 2010 at 11:52 PM
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    Response: So, in essence, Singletary's so far behind that he's actually ahead. Maybe indeed, Izzy.
  • Dan
    The National Football Post's scouting report has nothing bad to say about Anthony Davis. The report even goes as far as to say, "Overall, he looks like the nation's premier left tackle prospect." I wouldn't fault Baalke too much for cutting in line to get the player he believes in. The point is, conflicting opinions can cloud public perception of any particular player. This really is just a great example of this effect in action. The National Football Post even seems to conflict with itself here.
    May 6, 2010 at 1:59 PM
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  • UT JD Niner
    @ Terry B.- This article and a vast majority of the comments below are about Singletary and Singletary's influence on the 49ers offensive philosophy. What are YOU talking about? You must have read a different article and mistakenly commented in this space. @ Jeff Kaplan - I know who Holmgren, Shanahan, and Parcells are, there is no need for ME to google them. However, there is the need for YOU to google them since you, in your response to my post, seem to think that Singletary's position within this organization is synonymous to theirs. Therefore, you either a) Do not have a clear understanding of what positions and functions any of these individuals hold for their respective teams, or b) Chose to use the word 'Czar' for the classical connotation it imparts (unjust, closed-minded, iron-fisted tyrannical dictatorship). So, which is it?
    May 6, 2010 at 1:18 PM
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    Response: I used "czar" because I think that Singletary, like those other "czars," now has control of both the personnel and the coaching aspects of this team. (No offense to Trent Baalke.) You can disagree with me on that if you like. But your theory that I used "czar" to compare him not to Holmgren et al., but rather to Ivan IV, is absolutely ridiculous.
  • Terry B.
    The number of comments seems to be a reflection of something I've long noticed: fans immediately fall in love with all of their draft picks. Anthony Davis is a perfect example. One of the scouting reports says: "Terrible work ethic --- Is Unreliable --- Immature." National Football Post, in reporting on his immense bust potential, described him as "an immature individual who simply doesn't seem to 'get it' at this stage." The same article said that he "seems like a real passive kid who doesn't have the type of killer instinct needed to consistently finish blocks in either the run or pass game. On tape, he isn't technically sound and seems content to just get by, giving up way too much pressure in pass protection for someone with his size and athleticism." He also refused to weigh in at his own pro day! And this is a guy we traded up to get and are going to give tens of millions of dollars to. My point is not to debate the merits of Davis, but simply to point out that we would be laughing at the Cowboys if they did this. Since it's our team, we become apologists and argue that Sing's immense motivational skills (hopefully with pants on) will work magic on Davis.
    May 6, 2010 at 5:49 AM
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  • Izzy
    Were you one of the few invited to Trent Baalke's film review of drafted players? (If yes) Were there any comments about Anthony Dixon, Nate Byham, and Kyle Williams regarding possible formations, downs & distance, blocking schemes that they might be used. This can give a good indication of what the 49ers offense will look like for 2010 and you might have just missed the hints. I will act in good faith and apologize for calling out your integrity by assuming that you wrote such a negative article about Singletary for shock value only. However, it is hard to overlook the fact that you claim that Tim Kawakami is copying you. Tim's article has very little valuable information and he does not offer any insight, I don't visit the Mercury News site. I always visit 49ersWebzone and recommend it to others; it will be "unfortunate" if future articles are written with intent of shock value.
    May 6, 2010 at 12:42 AM
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    Response: I was kidding about Kawakami, Izzy. I doubt he's ever even SEEN an article of mine. Your apology was nice, and I'll accept it, but it wasn't strictly necessary--you can infer from my writing whatever you want; I'm just glad that you read it. I'll just say it again, for the record: I always write what I honestly feel, and I honestly feel that Mike Singletary's vision of winning football is woefully out of date. Any "shock value" in that position is purely coincidental.
  • Izzy
    In response to your challenge for my honest opinion and to put my integrity on the line... It is no secret that Singletary wants to have an imposing running game to force the defense to load up the box and this will open up the passing game, creating balance. The running game struggled last year with a combination of defensive scheme (safeties playing shallow) and player injuries. The 49ers could not capitalize on the compressed defensive alignment because they did not have a deep threat (lid lifter) that will get downfield before the pass-protection collapse. I truly believe that Singletary was faced with real constraints in changing offensive philosophy in the middle of the season and it was not his stubbornness as you claim (a lip service). When the 49ers were able to install enough spread plays, they overcompensated. The last two games were more representative of the balance that Singletary wants. Singletary still wants an imposing running game but he has also added the necessary skillsets and he has the off-season to bolster the passing game. It is obvious that we do not see eye-to-eye so I will leave it to other readers to be the judge if I have been biased.
    May 6, 2010 at 12:39 AM
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  • Dan
    I don't consider it a debate whether or not Singletary wanted to draft Willis, Jeff. It doesn't even matter who drafts who. Singletary is coaching these guys extremely well and getting the absolute best out of them. Everyone (except you) seems to know this. There are so many things I find wrong about the way you view football it is impossible to make a list. As far as I can tell, you are more worried that there is no passing game than you are about the holes in our offensive line. Fortunately you and Mike Martz are not the coach. That guy refused to run the ball. I think that's why running the ball was so important last year. This is a whole new year man, things are different now. If you can't see a potential passing attack developing you have to be mentally challenged. I have to question why anyone would hate Singletary so much to repeatedly attack his credibility on his own team's so-called "fan" site. I AM a fan of this team and I also have expectations. However, since I see improvement every year, even every decision made, I'm not going to go and launch a ridiculously misguided campaign against the coach just because I don't like him, or the owners or whomever.
    May 5, 2010 at 1:24 PM
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  • UT JD Niner
    First the negative article about Singletary's influence on the 49ers' vision. Then, in the ShaneO comment (approx. 4 comments down) you refer to Singletary as a 'czar.' I cannot imagine that any writer that puts forth sentiments in an article like yours and chooses the words that you do (again, as a writer) when referring to Singletary can be anything other than a person who has an axe to grind. When someone questions your integrity (like Izzy, about 8 comments down) you respond by claiming that you 'prove' your integrity by providing your 'honest assessment of what's going on.' Really? Referring to someone as a 'czar' (a writer would surely understand the connotation) is your 'honest assessment'? So what's the REAL reason you have a problem with Singletary? THAT would be worth reading.
    May 5, 2010 at 11:58 AM
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    Response: My goodness, UT. When I say "czar," I mean "FOOTBALL czar," a term that's been applied to Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Bill Parcells, and many others. (Google it for yourself.) And yeah, my honest assessment is that Singletary is now our czar in that sense. So please, just calm down.
  • Goyin
    While I agree that posts shouldn't just be to praise the team, and criticism should, and will, always be given, I find this read to be much ado about nothing. Just 2 seasons ago we were scraping at the bottom of the NFL. No matter whose vision we decide to go with it's hopefully a departure from the losing culture that's been here since 2003. Fact is, we don't know why McC left and using that situation to paint your argument just isn't a good way of going about making a point.
    May 5, 2010 at 11:11 AM
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  • RamItOn
    Oh, and by the way, welcome back. We missed your writing.
    May 5, 2010 at 8:46 AM
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    Response: Thanks, Ram. I told you I wouldn't be TOO far away.
  • RamItOn
    Geez, Jeff, 87 comments. It's too bad no one reads your stuff :) You know, it'd be different if Singletary had some sort of track record as a visionary, and this return to an offensive scheme that emphasizes the run exploited some naturally-occurring weakness in defenses that were built to defend the pass--but Singletary has no such record as an innovator, and just because defenses defend the pass well doesn't mean that they can't stop the run, too. This draft does appear to have Singletary's fingerprints on it, and I give his coaching one more year, like I've decided to give Alex Smith. For Singletary: stop burning all of your team's timeouts in the first quarter, start being a little more creative with the offensive playcalling. For Smith, you get injured for multiple games, you have durability issues, and you're out; you can't convert on 3rd-and-4 passes, you're out (but hey, we'll be able to get 4 yards per carry with this O-line!!!); and if you throw picks at critical times in games, you're done. Finally, why the social experimentation? Are talent and character mutually exclusive? There weren't any talented and clean guys in the draft, so he burns a 1st round pick on a guy with motivation problems, and two other picks on guys who have slipped due to character concerns. I am growing weary of this crap. Like I said, this is it for Singletary and Smith. It's playoffs or both of these guys are out on their keisters.
    May 5, 2010 at 8:44 AM
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  • ShaneO
    Hey Jeff, very excited about the season, i believe there is a lot to be optimistic about this year. As i look at our roster it seems much of the success is squarely on the shoulders of Alex Smith, the pass rush and the secondary... wow what else is new. However this year there are a lot of weapons, youth, and some speed. so i feel good. However, my point today on Sing, or my worry, is that he is too much of a wanna-be father. i read an article by Maiocco 2day saying Sing wasn't impressed with Willis till he heard his story. he didn't think he would be special but became more interested when he learned of Willis' past. How is that possible? Did anyone NOT know Willis would be a beast!? Sing at the time was supposed to coach LBs! I'm fine with takin on a guy with a shaky past but i feel Sing goes overboard with trying to help the "troubled youth" (as long as you're big) rather than evaluating talent. I hope it works out but i was just shocked by that article. Lookin forward to the year. Thanks Jeff!
    May 4, 2010 at 9:05 PM
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    Response: Hey, Shane, where ya been? Yeah, way below, Dan and I debated the Singletary/Willis issue; it's pretty scary that our new czar--a Hall of Fame linebacker, no less--had to be talked into drafting Willis. I agree with you that he places a strange emphasis on backgrounds; I take it as another sign that he thinks his motivational skills will make up for his tactical deficiencies. But in THIS draft, at least, despite that emphasis, he ended up with some serious talent. Now he's just gotta USE it right, and that's why, at least for now, I'm far more worried about his coaching chops.
  • Steve
    Obvious glaring need was the o-line. So no questions there. I saw the %'s of last year's offense and the niners passed more than they ran. If all you do is one or the other you will fail, no matter who you are. Niners draft this year: You say no speed. Two o-linemen, ok no real speed there. 2nd round pick, Taylor Mays=possibly the fastest guy on the team. 3rd round pick Navorro Bowman=fast linebacker (not the fastest but has good speed. Then they chose Dixon=not much speed but it was stated they needed a goal line back, and gore has plenty of breakaway speed. Would have been nice to get spiller but the need for o-line was much greater. 5th round was Ted Ginn...Plenty of speed. The tight end is slow but it was stated last year they wanted a powerful blocking tight end. Leroy Vann=plenty of speed. I would say overall they got lots of speed along with filling some glaring needs. You cannot fill all your holes at once, but they came damn close.
    May 4, 2010 at 9:17 AM
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  • ninergoose
    I know everyone longs for the days of old when we were pitching the ball all over with Montana and Young, but we don't have Montana or Young. And forsaking the offensive line to grab a QB in the 1st round wasn't/isn't the answer. We'd be right back where we were last year. No O-line, no ability to pass or run block and no ability to control the clock. We HAD to upgrade our O-line... and show me a free agent o-lineman that we could have gotten (that would have made a difference) that we wouldn't have had to break the bank to grab and we still wouldn't know if he wasn't a Jonas Jennings in waiting. I have no problem with the two o-linemen in the 1st round. Once they get acclimated we should be set on the o-line for several years to come. Show me a good playoff team with a bad o-line. I can't think of one. It may take a little time for these guys to gel and get rolling but we basically went from poor offensive line to better-than-average (or better) in 30 minutes. I like it.
    May 4, 2010 at 8:35 AM
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    Response: Just so we're clear, Goose, I completely agree with you.
  • overthemiddle
    I have read Jeff's stuff for some time now. Sometimes I agree with him - not in this case though - sometimes I don't. What Jeff does is write his views as he truly sees them. His integrity is just fine, never had a question about it before. He might be mistaken as he often is and yet his arguments and defenses are hard to find fault with. Jeff I appreciate your writings, keep up the good work. If I felt you didn't have integrity I would not read your stuff.
    May 4, 2010 at 7:50 AM
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    Response: Thanks, OTM.
  • Izzy
    Yeah, this year's draft has Singletary's fingerprints all over it and I think it is great that the 49ers have an Alpha Dog running the show. Numerous organizations fail because of the in-house disagreement and not having a direction (maybe the reason why McCloughan had to go). You cannot deny that Singletary has amazing leadership and everybody in the organization is rowing the boat in the same direction. Integrity is one key component of leadership, if you do not have integrity no one will follow, so when Singletary stated a balanced offensive attack, I believe he intends to have a balanced attack..... (To Jeff) I am sure that you have heard Singletary preaching for a balanced offensive attack. This might be the reason your article is getting such a heated reaction, your article is insinuating that Singletary is LYING. The worst part of it is you did it on purpose just to get a good response to your article. So Jeff, is it worth putting your integrity on the line to get a good response to your article?
    May 4, 2010 at 1:23 AM
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    Response: Izzy, I prove my integrity by giving my honest assessment of what's going on, no matter how negative the response. (Indeed, if I had no integrity, I imagine I'd just lead cheers and bask in the POSITIVE response.) And my honest assessment is that Singletary merely pays lip service to balance. I don't think he's "lying"--that is, I don't think he's saying what he knows to be false--but we've been down this road before. Last year, he likewise said he wanted balance, but he also admitted his "traditional" run-first philosophy. You can't have both a "balanced" offense and a "running" offense, so which was it gonna be? It was the latter, which he stubbornly stuck with no matter how the losses mounted. Even when he was finally dragged into the spread, THAT wasn't balanced either. So tell me, Izzy, since you seem to put so much stock in integrity: can you look at last year and, with your OWN integrity intact, say that Singletary REALLY believes in a balanced offense?
  • EVBeezee
    Wow...So everyone in the entire world with any football intellect knows that the 9ers needed to upgrade the O-line and add some defensive depth and they did that and it's a problem for you? This write-up sucks ass! Did you just write this to be different? Did you just want to be the oddball? Maybe pee pee on the parade of all these happy 9er fans who now believe that we just might have an O-line that will give Alex Smith a chance to be more successful. Maybe you wanted to keep loading up on playmakers who can't make plays because the QB is flat on his back or because there are no holes to run through. Maybe you know more than Ronnie Lott, a HOF DB who thinks the pick of Taylor Mays will turn out to be a steal. Maybe you should interview for the GM job Smart Guy! Maybe you and Dan B. could team up! Maybe the 9ers can just move to the arena league with all of our "playmakers"! Who needs protection anyway, right? What is this 7 on 7 passing league? You say you don't question the picks yet you question the vision? That doesn't even make sense. The picks are in line with the vision. We haven't seen them play a down and you go here? Wow! Try this again in week three or later.
    May 3, 2010 at 2:42 PM
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  • UT JD Niner
    Op-Ed piece, I get it. However, there are several things here you probably should consider. First, the reason McCloughan was let go has now 'come to light'/been confirmed, so you should consider changing your 'power struggle' argument. Second, taking Crabtree over Oher was more likely a value related decision than a 'screw Coach Sing' strategy. Third, everyone and their mother listed O-Line as the #1 need for us going into the draft, so drafting O-Linemen hardly seems like 'proving' that Singletary is 'in total control,' as you so eloquently put it. Fourth, you remind readers about Singletary wanting a tough and physical team, which is true (just like every other FB coach on the planet). Where you go off the tracks though, in my opinion, is where you try to draw a parallel to or equate that mindset to a 1970's Woody Hayes '3 yards and a cloud of dust' Ohio State offense. Go listen to what Singletary says. He says he wants a balanced attack, but wants to be able to run the ball when he needs to. (See Saints vs. Colts SB in the 4th Qtr.) Fifth, you wrote an Op-Ed piece. I get it.
    May 2, 2010 at 12:14 AM
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  • Dan B.
    I don't know how much you need someone telling you that you're awesome. But you're freakin awesome. I love reading your articles and it makes me want to be better on term papers. Disagree with you or not (I don't), you're a great writer. I just read your whole article to my girlfriend to make her see the point that I feel but cannot so eloquently say. I think the majority of people posting the negative stuff are defending an ideal that is not their own. But they adopt it just because it is their team's! Like the misguided patriot who screams we're #1, when in reality they're far from it. There's many examples of teams that win S.B.'s by being a predominant passing team but very few that did so being a predominant running team. And all the teams that had any amount of success doing so ALWAYS had a great defense that allowed them to take their time with the ball and not have to play from behind. We are setting ourselves up to go big...or go home. If Frank or P. Willy goes down, so does our season!
    May 1, 2010 at 2:28 AM
    0
    Response: Well, Dan, I don't know whether I NEED such effusive praise, but I sure do LIKE it. Thanks so much for your support.
  • Nate
    Hey, bro... if you disagree with the team's newfound philosophy, you're more than welcome to tune in to the Raydaz team across the bay. I, personally, am happy that we finally have a system that we're sticking with and a coach that will see his vision through till the end (or 'his' end... whichever comes first). As far as the last 10 years are concerned... I don't see anything worth comparing. Quite a few teams have won it all using the same philosophy. I guess I just don't get the complaining lately.
    Apr 30, 2010 at 2:45 PM
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  • Richard Coto
    In response to my earlier post you stated: "I get it, Rich. 'Real' 49er fans just accept that whoever is running the team is making the right decisions. Um, during the last decade, have you been paying ANY attention to how this team's been run?" You know what Jeff, this is a democracy we live in here in the U.S., so however we feel about our sports teams is fine, but in reality, there is nothing as fans that we can do to determine the outcome of what the front office and the coaching does. If you do not like what Baalke did, and do not agree with what Singletary wants to do, including moving on with Alex Smith, then simply don't watch. Football is entertainment, and if you do not like what the Niners are doing, go watch some other team and complain about them. Seems like fans, such as yourself, have nothing better to do than complain. For you Alex Smith haters, keep hating, because there is nothing you can do about it. Go watch some other team and leave the real fans to continue to be optimistic and believe that 'things can change for the better.' For you haters and whiners, get a life, or accept things how they are. It's easy, it really is!!!!
    Apr 30, 2010 at 1:24 PM
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    Response: I appreciate the passion, Rich. Thanks for reading.
  • mister Nesbit
    there will always be differences in opinion, and there will always be different kinds of fans. some believe in the coach and sit back and watch in hopes that their beliefs won't be in vain, and some do not believe at all and bitch and moan about everything the coach says or does. Jeff Kaplan is a complainer. A bitcher and a moaner. You write as if you are being forced at gunpoint to be a fan of the 49ers or write about them. there are 31 other teams in the NFL and I'm sure one of them has a fair percentile of things you agree with. So other than whining about everything that mean ole dad, I mean Singletary, has done against you, why not just jump on a different bandwagon? Or would you rather have that little way of trying to feel important for pointing out all the negative guesses you have about how things will not work out. you're a cancerous blogger who hopes that people will either get angry at you or agree with you and suck up to you (nothing better) and who should just make it easier for yourself and cheer on the saints instead of griping all the time about the 49ers head coach when you don't have a leg to stand on other than 'it didn't work last year.'
    Apr 30, 2010 at 1:09 PM
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  • Dony
    You sound like Tim Kawakami... are you imitating him? I disagree with you.
    Apr 30, 2010 at 12:43 PM
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    Response: No, Dony. Maybe HE'S imitating ME!
  • Richard Coto
    I disagree with your whole article, as whose vision should it be? Some coach in the waiting, perhaps, for some fans cannot wait to hear Singletary's name in the 'Fired Section.' You should have written this article after getting more facts, like after the media spoke with Baalke and he reiterated that he is in agreement with Singletary's vision of getting players that fit their criteria. For your information, and everyone else's, Singletary is the coach and the front office should get players that will best fit the headcoach and the front office's vision of building their team. If every year a team drafted in favor of what the fans wanted, then we probably would not win one game in the upcoming season. Some fans, such as yourself, are self-centered and full of ego to think that you know what is best for the team. Like it or not, Singletary coaches the team, and not anyone else, and the real 49er fans probably realize that since pro football is after all, just entertainment, they can accept that whoever runs those teams are making the right decisions! And for you Alex Smith haters, get a life! Unfounded stupidity in your opinions about why he cannot quarterback.
    Apr 30, 2010 at 12:21 PM
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    Response: I get it, Rich. "Real" 49er fans just accept that whoever is running the team is making the right decisions. Um, during the last decade, have you been paying ANY attention to how this team's been run?
  • 49er FAITHFUL
    After we (49ers) beat the jets in the superbowl this year, this article is going to make you look like an idiot. If you were a true NFL fan you'd know that the game is won on a combination of being physical and being smart. The 49ers had tough, gritty offensive linemen that were undersized but physical as well as smart. Why don't you ask Randy Cross how physical his offensive line was. They would literally punch people in the mouth. Why do you think Dan Marino never won a superbowl? Because his team wasn't physical enough. They definitely got down the field in a hurry, but it didn't matter because they couldn't punch it in or stop the opposing team. Your point was that singletary was so focused on being a smashmouth football team, but give me a break, it was his first full season of being a head coach. And if you were a true 49er fan you would've seen the adjustments he made at the end of the season to become more balanced. In conclusion the 49ers had the best offseason this year. They addressed the biggest need areas which were the offensive line, special teams returns, and a safety/linebacker to replace the vets. Next year we'll get a corner, then a rb/wr or a qb if smith blows.
    Apr 30, 2010 at 12:17 PM
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    Response: I DO know that "the game is won on a combination of being physical and being smart." What I DON'T know--and what I doubt--is whether Singletary is concerned with the latter. His offense last year (notwithstanding the success of the spread, which Singletary could barely stand) was certifiably dumb.
  • Julian Hall
    It's so nice to finally hear someone point this out. Everyone i know is blindly behind Singletary 1000%. While i like the improvement he has brought to the team, i can't see the Niners going all the way with a philosophy that the NFL has totally evolved past. Either Jimmy Raye is an idiot, or Singletary isn't letting him call more creative plays (i suspect the latter). The one thing in the draft that really pissed me off was the trade up. WHY? There's no way anyone wanted to take Davis, especially since Bulaga was of higher value on most other teams' draft boards. Anyways, nice article. Good to hear some thoughtful, intelligent criticism. Go Niners!
    Apr 30, 2010 at 11:24 AM
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    Response: Thanks, Jule. It's interesting you mention the issue of whether the core problem is Raye or Singletary. I agree with your suspicion; in fact, I think I was at my most prophetic when I wrote "The Strange Repackaging of Jimmy Raye" last summer. Check it out if you'd like. http://www.49erswebzone.com/content/commentary/view.php?id=736
  • Ryan Hensley
    Singletary is great and the Niners are going to kick ass. That's my knuckleheaded Neanderthalic but true statement! GO NINERS!
    Apr 30, 2010 at 1:26 AM
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  • Montana Mike
    Sing is building a dual-dimensional line. I think he got the point last year when our spread offense led to points and our pointless ineffective running game didn't. The run is no good without a respected passing game and vice versa. By land or by air we will conquer!
    Apr 29, 2010 at 9:10 PM
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  • Dan B.
    I wanted to hate on you bud. I really did. But I never can because even when you doubt my personal deity you still make sense. I respect your opinion and I only ask that you write more articles 'cause they're too few and far between. Man I would hate to argue with you 'cause I don't think I'd ever win....
    Apr 29, 2010 at 7:04 PM
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    Response: Thanks, Dan.
  • Rico
    I would agree that it appears that Singletary had a strong influence on this year's draft, as in my mind any true coach should. If the season is a bust then who gets the blame... the coach. If you look at the history of the 9ers they give those who are not doing so good too long before they make changes... Look at Mike Nolan. But in light of this year's draft overall I loved it. First round addresses our biggest weakness, second round you get Taylor Mays who would have been last year's top safety but Pete asked him to stay behind because the rest of the defensive starters left USC leaving him to make up for lack of experience. The only thing I really was heartbroken about was not taking Colt McCoy or Joe McKnight in the third round to add depth to the QB or RB position. I think this would have been a great time to have a solid plan if Smith lets us down instead of waiting another year and having limited options, and well I love Gore but Joe would have given us a "One-Two punch." The rest of the picks would have been strictly for special teams and it would have been the best draft hands down.
    Apr 29, 2010 at 6:04 PM
    0
  • Joe Gomez
    No matter what happens with our draft picks it doesn't matter because Alex Smith is still our QB. So though I agree with your article that teams that win have a strong passing game, the reason for the passing game is due to their talented QB. Our QB has no talent. He's there because we have invested millions in him so we feel we should wait and wait and wait and wait for a miracle to happen which will never come. In the end, we would've wasted 6 years on this bum. I give Oakland credit for recognizing the problem and addressing the problem. Jamarcus couldn't produce so he is history. NFL stands for NOT FOR LONG unless you're Alex Smith. Some idiots would continue to make excuses for him even when he stinks it up yet again for another wasted season. Colt McCoy was there in the 3rd round but management is banking the whole season on Alex. They will regret not taking Colt. If and when Alex struggles our other options aren't too promising. Jake Locker will be picked so fast next year we don't stand a chance of landing a legit QB. So what do we do if the Alex Smith experiment blows up? Carr? Davis? Garcia? Who knows, but Colt would've been a nice pick.
    Apr 29, 2010 at 5:10 PM
    0
    Response: Although I've sort of accepted the idea that Smith should get this last chance, I do think that Singletary's acceptance of Smith stems not from his belief in Smith but from his belief that the QB--no matter who he is--doesn't much matter. Seriously, folks. All the rules have been changed to allow for explosive passing games. Last year a third of all teams had 4,000-yard passers. And Singletary tells us he doesn't think the QB is most important. What more proof do you need before you realize that Singletary's a run-first guy?
  • Melz
    I don't know why Singletary's vision is "unfortunate." A good O-line and powerful run game will often yield consistent winning. The author is clueless here and the argument is weak. So Pittsburgh doesn't win with good defense and a strong run game? Philly doesn't win with a good run game? Go through the list of teams that consistently win and you'll see good O-lines. What Singletary wants is balance and a good OL enhances both passing and running. A good run game makes a vertical passing game more possible. The author lacks any real understanding of football and apparently has not paid attention to teams that win.
    Apr 29, 2010 at 2:44 PM
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    Response: I'll just say, once again, that I'm not disputing the virtues of a "good run game." I'm disputing the virtues of a RUN-FIRST OFFENSE. And I'll add, once again, that Singletary is a run-first coach, despite his lip service to "balance." And I'll again invite anyone who wants to pay "attention to teams that win" to consult these articles, which demonstrate statistically that the teams that win are the ones that pass. (1) http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Articles/11_2899_49ers,_filthy_hippies_&_pigskin_passology.html AND (2) http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Articles/11_1750_Troll_Report:_More_bad_news_for_Merril_Hoge_&_Co..html
  • spiritofthe9ers
    This article is two minutes of my life I'll never get back. Absolutely horrible. 9ers go 10-6, win the division and give hundreds of concussions on the way. Oh, and you can teach pass blocking and defense schemes, however you can never teach toughness, or how to have real swag, the kind of swag that wins games even before you step on the field...
    Apr 29, 2010 at 1:44 PM
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    Response: Spirit, you are the essence of a Mike Singletary kind of fan. LOVED the "hundreds of concussions" part. Classic.
  • Kevin Burns
    I don't think Singletary is all crazy like we're just gonna run, run, run. He saw Smith having some success in the shotgun last year, he knows we have to pass. I mean we had needs and we addressed them. No matter what style of offense u r running, u need an o-line. We definitely could have used some speed in areas though. I'm excited about what the Niners are doing and for the upcoming season.
    Apr 29, 2010 at 1:44 PM
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    Response: Yes, Kevin, Singletary saw Smith do well in the spread. He saw that after being dragged kicking and screaming into running the spread, and he saw that before reverting in the last two weeks to the run-run-pass O that had failed so miserably. Singletary is a run-first guy, and that will never change.
  • Chris K.
    I think it's safe to say that Singletary's key focus is to have a run-based offense. Unlike you though I think it's a great strategy that we're going for. Use Gore on two downs to try and force a big gain, then on 3rd we only have to depend on Smith to complete a pass to one of our 3 (quite talented) key targets. Yeah it's a little one-dimensional but throw some curveballs in the play-calling and i think we will have other coaches guessing. Plus Singletary depends a lot more on his defense than offense. His view is that if you can stop a team from moving on offense you force a team's defense to stop our run, which in turn wears a defense down and eventually opens up holes for us to score. Now in theory it sounds great, we'll just have to see.
    Apr 29, 2010 at 12:26 PM
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    Response: Chris, that's what we spent so much of last season doing--running on first and second downs and throwing on third. Worked like a lead balloon. Granted, we'll have better talent this year, but if you think the talent (even with a few curveballs) will add enough to that scheme to keep other coaches guessing anything other than how long Singletary will keep his job, I've gotta say, I don't agree.
  • nevek
    If this offence shows balance, as most reasonable people expect it to, I wonder if we will see an article of praise. This isn't even predicated upon winning, because your article is not about winning, it is about philosophy. You fear a predominant run attack. It is your right to feel that way, but if the offence runs a balanced scheme (win or lose) will you be man enough to say, I was wrong at least in that regard. You can then submit your resume to 49ers/jobs.org as the next coach since you seem to have all the answers. Side note: To those who covet Shanahan... Ummm, he was fired for lack of production. So what happened if he is such a great coach?
    Apr 29, 2010 at 12:26 PM
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    Response: Yes, Nevek. If Singletary runs something other than a run-first scheme, I will so acknowledge.
  • Dan
    To continue: Hold the coach accountable but don't write the man off, he has a lot of rare qualities that are going to make the guys who play for him great. If you don't like the way he's going to win games, like by running the ball effectively, that's fine. Let's shift our offensive thinking to what's going on with today's defenses. Everyone picked up rookie defensive ends, we know that. Do you think defenses will be concentrating on the pass or the run next year? Note that the Cardinals all but stuffed the box with 11 and couldn't stop us last year. So you can see why a coach in our division might want to cultivate a strong running game. This year I think you will see some passing in the mix. But the run game is what will set us apart from other teams, Jeff. I think it will work well. Our division opponents were 15, 17 and 27 against the run last year. Only three games this year are against teams that succeeded against the run last year. The Chargers, Saints and Panthers were 20, 21, 22, while the Broncos ranked 26 against the run. The way I see it the coach is right. Our schedule screams... RUN THE BALL!!
    Apr 29, 2010 at 11:05 AM
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  • nevek
    I find it very strange that some people expect perfection out of Singletary (only in his 2nd year). Pete Carroll was a mediocre coach in his 1st NFL tour, to be polite. PC comes back and is being hailed as a genius. Funny how some people must be perfect... not simply show improvement... NO PERFECT... to be accepted by some. At the same time I wonder how patient some will be if the Seattle genius struggles... again.
    Apr 29, 2010 at 11:02 AM
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    Response: Never would I demand that Singletary be perfect; he's a human being after all. But I do demand that he do his job the way anyone should do any job: by being a creative, innovative thinker. I don't see that in him.

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