And, just like that, it's over.

He was so sure. So sure he'd succeed. His goal, he said, was "to be one of the greatest coaches of all time." And he knew how he'd get there. When he got his own team, he knew what he'd do. Yeah, he'd made his name on the side of the D, but the heart of the Vision would lie with the O.

He'd "run it, run it and run it some more."

Inevitably, by the force of his will, he got his own team, and it came with some perks. A roster of young and talented players. A good and creative defensive coordinator.

And, perhaps, the most important offensive mind of the decade.

There was just one thing wrong. The offensive mind liked to pass, not run. That philosophy might've been proven to win, but it didn't comport with the Vision at all. So the offensive mind had to go, you see. The Vision simply wouldn't bend.

All he needed was a man who would buy it. Of course, in a pass-happy league, there wouldn't be too many takers around. But all he needed was one. Someone--ANYONE--who'd do as the Vision instructed. And after a long and painful search, he found one. Not much of a reputation, but that didn't matter. Nothing ever would stop the Vision.

And so it was that Mike Singletary hitched everything--his identity, his essence, the entirety of his being--to Jimmy Raye.

Last year the Vision failed, but of course that wasn't the Vision's fault. Singletary spoke of the value of continuity, of having Raye for a SECOND year. But also, the team just had to get tougher. Sure, five O-linemen against eight defenders might seem like a mismatch in any event, and Alex Smith swore we'd evolved to the spread. Nah. Smith just needed his Vision checked.

Fast-forward to Sunday, at Kansas City.

The Chiefs executed a brilliant strategy, spreading our D and getting the ball to their speedsters in space. Meanwhile, though the Chiefs' D was weakest going down the deep middle--and though their "whole focus was stopping the run"--we wouldn't dare depart from the Vision. For the second straight week, our first two plays were Frank Gore up the gut. But though last week we loosened things up with the pass, this week our throws were as tight as our runs.

Once again, we couldn't run. And we couldn't run 'cause there wasn't space. And there wasn't space 'cause the field wasn't stretched. And it wasn't stretched, 'cause we simply do not stretch it first.

So, down 10-3 at halftime, Singletary knew what he had to do. He simply had to run the ball BETTER. The Vision simply wouldn't bend.

And thus, even now down 24-3, Frank Gore up the gut on three straight plays. The spread that Smith had promised before? It showed up late, as it always does, just in time to get Josh Morgan hurt.

Afterward, his season lying already in ruins, Singletary bristled at the foolish mortals who questioned the Vision. Down three scores, "the thing we did not want to do is go strictly into the pass. If you can't really execute [it], then you're talking about your three-and-out." (The Vision, of course, would NEVER produce a three-and-out.) And no, we weren't outcoached. And no, Raye wouldn't be leaving. Again it wasn't the Vision's fault; the players just had to execute better.

One day later--ONE DAY LATER--Raye was gone. Gone for "carrying out the head coach's wishes." Gone for following the "philosophy he wanted installed."

Gone for trying to win with the Vision.

Trying to explain, Singletary looked like an empty shell. Sure, he'd given Raye that vote of confidence, but that was yesterday, before he'd looked at his magical film. (Yeah, right.) And yes, this was HIS decision. (Oh, no question.) And no, there'd be no shift in offensive philosophy. (The spread just happens to be Mike Johnson's specialty, but naturally that's just a coincidence.)

And after all those dubious assertions, at last he revealed the desperate truth: "The most important thing to me is winning. How we do it, I really don't care. Yes, we can talk philosophy, we can talk opening up, closing it up, whatever it is. But the bottom line is winning. I want to do what we need to do to win football games. That's the philosophy that I want to become very familiar with."

In light of all this, I'll go out on a limb. When Singletary got back to Santa Clara, the Yorks were waiting. They're usually patient, perfectly willing to put up with losses. But they're trying to build a stadium/gold-mine, and Singletary's starting to get in the way. So they told him, this ends now. Sure, the power to fire your coaches is yours. But if you want YOUR job, Raye must lose his, and then you need to start winning some games.

So Raye is gone. The continuity that the Niners stupidly thought would save us--gone. And the Vision--"run it, run it and run it some more"--is now "How we do it, I really don't care."

Along with his 'mates, Smith danced on the Vision's grave. "You're not going to shove the ball down anyone's throat," he said, stating what 31 other teams knew. "You've got to be able to isolate your playmakers, find mismatches in the defense." Though Johnson's unproven--he's a Niner, after all--I'm sure he'll do that. But we can't expect too much too soon. As Smith observed, we can't expect an overhaul with the season already begun. And though I'm sure he's grateful for the opportunity, we can't expect Johnson to show all he's got after taking the job in conditions like these.

In three short weeks, we've gone from dark-horse contender to national joke. We could turn it around. But we can't expect it.

And if this season is like all the rest, lost in the haze of our awful decisions, the bright side is this. The Vision is dead. Like so many visionaries who've come and gone, Singletary held on 'til the heat got too hot, then traded his Vision to save his own skin. In time, that'll help. But make no mistake. Though he vowed to be one of the best of all time, Singletary's been reduced to zero. He's just waking up in the mess he's made, and he's looking to Johnson to come clean it up. All he's got is a desperate hope. A desperate hope, and nothing else.

No matter how much success we achieve, Mike Singletary has already failed.

Jimmy Raye has paid for the Vision. The Visionary himself must be next.