Stuck in the Grip of Our Own Stupidity

Oct 5, 2010 at 11:29 AM

When Matt Bryant put the exclamation point on the Niners' latest disaster--the most gut-wrenching yet in this season of torture--Mike Singletary at last was beaten.

Somehow, in the preceding weeks, he'd summoned the will to stay in role, projecting strength as his kingdom was crumbling. Now, though, he just couldn't go on. In what's sure to be the enduring image of this final season, he took a knee, doffed his cap, and bowed his head.

He looked so small, so weak.

He looked, in every way, defeated.

After all, these were desperate times, and he'd already taken his desperate measures. Jimmy Raye out, Mike Johnson in. Michael Lewis out--and soon to be a Seahawk, presumably--Taylor Mays in. But Singletary could only push so many buttons, before Jed would have to start pushing his own. These had to work.

And initially, they did.

First, Johnson orchestrated the Niners' best opening drive in eons. Of course, as required by his contract, he sent Frank Gore up the middle on the opening play. But after that, he constantly shuffled his formations, keeping the defense off balance, and got his top weapons involved in the action. With Alex Smith off to another hot start, we ran 10 plays for 88 yards. And in his very first game, Johnson did what Raye never could: deliver an opening touchdown.

And after the Falcons went three-and-out on their next series, Dominique Zeigler blocked the punt, and Taylor Mays did his best WILLIE Mays, catching the ball with his back to the field and his toes just barely in bounds.

And just like that, it was 14-zip. If you didn't know better--and Singletary certainly didn't--you'd have sworn we were going to win.

But of course, with this team, as with any bad team, it's never that simple.

After the Falcons got within seven, we had chance after chance to put it away. And as against Seattle, and as against New Orleans--and as we do again and again and AGAIN--we stupidly threw those chances away.

At the Atlanta 31: still woefully panicky facing the rush, Smith throws a goofy jump-pass that's too high for Gore, producing his umpteeth tipped interception. 14-10.

At the Atlanta 33: baited by the coverage, Smith takes the bait like a typical rookie, throwing a SECOND pick. 14-13.

And at the Atlanta 34: pressured again, Smith braincramps again, taking a flag for intentional grounding.

We punted the ball back to the Falcons, who took over on the eight with 3:40 to go. You knew, of course. Sure, the D had played exceptionally well. Just as it had against Minnesota last year, and New Orleans this year. But you knew what happened at the end of those games, and you knew this team just doesn't improve.

And so, you knew, we were going to lose.

Of course, the soul-crusher this time wasn't a last-second touchdown pass or a field goal deflected through. Instead it was a Nate Clements interception, caught with just over a minute to go. Take a knee so the O can just run out the clock? "Some players think like that," Singletary said. "Some don't." And some, like Clements, don't think at all. They run toward the end zone, carrying the ball "like a loaf of bread," never suspecting that Roddy White might poke it out from behind, even though he got us with that same trick last year. "And I'm gonna keep getting 'em," White said, joyously mocking our stupidity. "Because they don't know better." The Falcons recover, and so they win in a whole new way.

By completing an 18-play, 106-yard drive for the winning field goal in the waning seconds.

Seriously. You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.

After he struggled to get to his feet, Singletary was simply befuddled. Barely able to link subjects and verbs, he acknowledged we did some "dumb stuff." He insisted, though, we didn't make any "mental errors." (Well. THAT'S a relief.) But the truth, as they say, was out there, and Singletary couldn't escape it: his team is stupid, and there isn't a thing he can do to fix it.

A day later, though, Singletary seemed to regain his delusions. He said that Smith was "pretty decent." (Season rating: 66.1.) He said that Clements did "a great job." (Is there ANY accountability here?) He was "very encouraged" by our play (not "very disgusted," as YOU might've been); we merely had to "eliminate the mistakes" (as if we'll just wake up one morning and do it). He said he was "thankful [he's got] problems to deal with." (How's THIS for a billboard: "I Want Problems!") And then he closed with that old stand-by, Empty Promise #73: "We're going to turn that corner at some time real soon and we're going to get where we want to go."

He must think you're stupid too.

And of all the ways that Singletary's destroyed the Niners you grew up with, THIS is the way that hurts the most. When Bill Walsh died, one writer remembered: "Walsh's teams were disarmingly intelligent and curious, from Hall of Famers such as Young and Lott to lesser-knowns such as guard Guy McIntyre and tight end Jamie Williams. The Niners surely had a dope here and knucklehead there, but they were obscured by the scores of players who reflected their coach's intellect and reason. Intelligence characterized every single thing the 49ers did, especially on offense, to the point that it was intimidating."

And that's the true essence of Singletary's failure. We can debate the merits of offensive philosophy. We can talk about drafting and roster decisions. But really, none of that stuff even gets off the ground. 'Cause no matter what you might think of THAT stuff, Singletary's failure is so much more basic, and tragic, and it just can't be brought to an end soon enough.

We're just dumb.
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.


  • Kairi
    Didn't know the forum rules allowed such brilliant posts.
    Jun 5, 2011 at 3:39 AM
  • rjberrryx
    Getting a new coach is a great idea Jeff! Maybe in a month we can get someone in here that will know our schemes, staff and "will" the offense not to make mistakes. Of course if he also loved you media types - so much the better. Great plan Jeff! Why wait? Why not just get rid of Sing before the game? After all, no coach that doesn't know X's and O's can possibly be the leader the team needs right? Why not find a youthful coach that could run on to the field and play one of the skill positions during the game in case the ball is intercepted twice in one game? After all, Jeff, a good HC should be able to cover that contingency as well. And while we are at it, why not find a coach who brings his own Pro-Bowl credentialed QB WITH him - just in case he doesn't want to inherit Smith the way Sing did. But let's only give the new HC two seasons at most - just in case our media gets restless - we do want to keep guys like YOU happy, don't we?
    Oct 10, 2010 at 12:41 PM
  • rjberrryx
    Truth of the matter Jeff is we are about 6 bad plays away from being 2 wins and 2 losses or 3 wins and 1 loss. Further, this team has been competitive in 3 of the 4 games. You have built your whole case against Sing - and by extension our team - on 6 plays. Quit harping - oh I forgot, that is your job Jeff - and start offering solutions.
    Oct 9, 2010 at 5:14 PM
    Response: Please, RJ, just spare me. I don't give a damn how "competitive" we've been; this isn't Pop Warner, for God's sake. And whether we've been stupid on 6 plays, 60 plays, or 600 plays, all that matters is that we've been stupid enough to be oh-and-four. OH-AND-FOUR. If "harping" means being pissed off at THAT, I promise you I'll never quit, no matter how many excuses you make. And seriously, you say you want me to "start" offering solutions? RJ, I've been all but screaming the same solution for the better part of a year now. But since you're apparently unable to grasp it, I'll say it nice and slow. NEW. COACH.
  • NinerFan in NY
    Great article, and thank you for telling it like it is. As much as I'd love for Sing and AS to succeed, it appears it just will not happen. Perhaps the Yorks will finally see the error of their ways, if things become bad enough. Perhaps they will finally hire real football folks, with real experience, and the ability to innovate. Meanwhile, I'm sure Sing has his place in the NFL; just not as a HC. And Alex may never pan out as a pro QB, but he's a nice, rich young man and I'm sure he will find something else to do with his life. (The sooner the better, for all concerned.) Meanwhile, I'll track what happens with the Niners (can't watch live and it would be too painful anyway) and enjoy watching real football, as played by one of the local teams (NY Jets) with a young QB that IS making the MOST of his talent...and be thankful I still have the SF Giants to root for in the postseason - Go Giants!
    Oct 9, 2010 at 7:10 AM
  • Dirty
    Great article - It says what us fans are thinking and it's nice to know that we are not alone... God knows the organization isn't listening to the fan base!!! And I agree 100% that Sing has totally destroyed anything that was left twitching of the 9ers' legacy! Sure, Erickson played a part but he was JUST a bad coach (he had no power). And sure Nolan was a farce but at least he built the foundation of a defense (while toxifying everything else)... But Sing is a whole; nutha; animal - he brought Rah Rah, a pair of blinders and nothing else! He is a dope, a moron, a buffoon and at this point it may be conceivable that he is still holding a grudge from 1984 and he now, today is extracting his revenge!!!! Also (been saying it loud, proud and consistently since 2005) "Smith sucks!!!!"
    Oct 8, 2010 at 5:46 AM
  • Down in The City
    Nice article Jeff. I think you hit it right on the head (pun intended). Plus, I like your short sentences :) unlike another webzone writer who confuses sentences with paragraphs (hint initials "S.M.") Agree with ninerdawg's comment. I'd go for a new coach but PLEASE, get a new QB!!! I don't know what kind of Kool Aid people are drinking but get rid of Alex now! It's actually pretty amazing how people keep making excuses for him and he does just enough to give people hope. But it's been 6 years! A real QB would handle all the adversity, injuries and host of OCs and play at a level way beyond where Alex is now. The kid is a BUST! Some people have "IT" (the intangibles or whatever you want to call it... and Alex definitely does not have "IT". It's time to wake up and move on!
    Oct 6, 2010 at 6:50 PM
  • DB9er
    All I can say is that back in the day a 49er loss would make me ill for a few days. Could hardly function. Now I guess I have seen so much of this it doesn't even faze me. It's sad to admit but it's true. I'm still a big time 9er fan and watch the entire game no matter what but this is just not right. Why would you own an NFL team and not care if you look like a bunch of fools? I will still watch games when they are on but I will not buy anything that makes the yorks money. My family and I had season tickets from 1980 to 2000 when we moved out of state. All I can say is thank God for Eddie D! That man knew how to run a football organization. I sure miss him.
    Oct 6, 2010 at 4:52 PM
  • Sig
    Can we give Bill Cowher a phone call?!!!
    Oct 6, 2010 at 9:15 AM
    Response: He'd certainly be a step up, but like I said last week, I'm interested in returning not only to competence but also to our West Coast identity. Gruden and Harbaugh are at the top of the list for THAT movement.
  • shobbrobb
    Jeff maybe you should've said that the Yorks have destroyed the niners we grew up with and Mike Singletary is just keeping up the tradition of losing that the Yorks have set. ...I think your next article should be "The Yorks' Tradition Of Losing"...
    Oct 6, 2010 at 9:10 AM
    Response: Of course I'm not trying to minimize the Yorks' role in this mess. This is their franchise, and in the end they're responsible for their decisions. But I can't crack down too hard on their decision to hire Singletary; at the time, I supported it. What happened, though, is that Singletary then went out of his way to construct a big, dumb team like the '80s Bears, and it's a team like THAT, infinitely more so than Erickson's or Nolan's, that's so thoroughly unrecognizable next to the ones we remember.
  • louie
    The 49ers will probably get better when they get a real head coach and QB, and OC, but as I've said from the beginning of the York regime, if they continue to refuse to bring in talented, successful, experienced NFL football people to run this franchise (instead of "Prince" Jed, "I was the only one left in the building" Baalke, and "big-mouth neanderthal" Singletary) THEY WILL NEVER AGAIN BE A TEAM THAT CAN WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP.
    Oct 6, 2010 at 9:07 AM
  • charlie
    get gruden or mooch!!!!!
    Oct 6, 2010 at 8:18 AM
  • 49erfanatic
    Hey Jeff. Great article. I couldn't have said it better myself. The lack of intelligence and mental preparation on this team is staggering! Singletary wants this team to play physical with an "F", but that doesn't make up for playing dumb with a "D".
    Oct 6, 2010 at 7:28 AM
  • GiantSF49er
    As an English fan I started watching the 9ers at the end of the Steve Mariucci era. So all I have known is Erickson, Nolan and Singletary. Bad years. But this season so much was promised. Pre-season (and I know it's to be taken with a pinch of salt) at least hinted at a better than .500 season. But what we get is a season, so far, of high school mistakes, blown routes, poor management and not a lot on the positive side. I was shocked when someone said Alex Smith is in his 6th season. Has it really been that long? He is making rookie mistakes, but he isn't alone. Nate Clements, what was he thinking. With the interception the game was ours. Instead he goes on the headless chicken route. But why did he slow up? Watch the play back, he visibly slowed. What for? A block? A perceived tackle? Half the time the O line looks like playing football is 2nd on their list of things to do on a Sunday! They can't maintain a pocket. They can't open a hole for Gore when he needs one. And all the while Mike is in the press conference praising the players. It's a joke. The 49ers are a joke. It's time for another change. New blood. New faces. Anyone know what Al Pacino is up to?
    Oct 6, 2010 at 7:20 AM
  • Ron
    Jeff, I would have to agree with Dan regarding your statement that Mike Singletary is destroying the Niners we grew up with. Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't we horrible long before Singletary had anything to do with our beloved franchise? I understand your frustration with Singletary, but I now believe you have a personal vendetta against Singletary. His essentially destroying the Niners' legacy is beyond ludicrous. Maybe you forgot the 9-23 record of Dennis Erickson or the 18-37 record of Mike Nolan. Sorry for delivering this groundbreaking news to your world, but the Niners haven't gotten it quite right for a while now.
    Oct 6, 2010 at 5:00 AM
    Response: I certainly wouldn't defend the record of the Erickson and Nolan regimes, but when I talk of destruction I'm going beyond mere wins and losses. Erickson and Nolan failed, but they at least purported to be thoughtful and innovative. Singletary is just a void, and that's a whole 'nother thing.
  • sscl
    Sing doesn't have a clue, but then the Yorks by their silence obviously don't care. NO future...
    Oct 5, 2010 at 6:24 PM
  • George
    When Coach Dingleberry thanked the Seahawks for kicking our tails was he being a Dumb A$$? Or does he want every team in the NFL to kick our butts in? Has anyone asked him this? Maybe he doesn't understand the reason we play these silly games is to WIN THE FRIGGING GAME!
    Oct 5, 2010 at 5:04 PM
  • Paul
    Most guys put their pants on one leg at a time. Coach Sing is better than this. He puts them on head first.
    Oct 5, 2010 at 4:46 PM
  • Johnny
    I'm absolutely disgusted with this season as I'm sure everyone else is. How many teams out there can honestly say they have as much pure talent as we do? In my opinion not many teams can hold a candle to the raw talent on this team. Unfortunately due to bad coaching and managing, this talent is getting wasted. I have been a singletary supporter since day one. I loved the man, but he's not getting it done. Will a new coach get wins out of this team? maybe a couple. We have a QB who isn't good enough. That's the bottom line. I'm not in love with david carr but he's all we got and I say let him give it a shot. He really can't do any worse. We are not only in the worst division in the NFL this year, but when was the last time there was an entire division this bad? It's not crazy to think if the right changes are made soon, that we could win this division with an 8-8 record. One thing on our side is that we play almost all of our divisional games in the last 8 games of the season. But if we get to the playoffs I expect a blowout for sure haha. this team is absolutely pathetic right now. I'm embarrassed to be a fan. Pretty soon we'll know what it's like to be Cubs fans!!
    Oct 5, 2010 at 4:10 PM
  • Dan
    Jeff, I'm not wrongly accusing you of hating Singletary. I'm accusing you of lacking originality. I'm not even accusing you of being wrong anymore Jeff. I'm just asking you to live up to your potential. I know you can do better than this. Bashing Singletary is like "beating a dead horse" at this point. It's been done over and over and over...and over. You're underachieving here. I think you should take all the creative energy you've been using to make a case against the man, and give us something informative. Or give us something entertaining. Or give us something creative, I don't even care if it's positive at this point. I'm rooting for you Jeff. Be inspired. Jimmy Raye is gone now so it's OK to think outside the box. Let's get this thing done, write something we can all be proud of Jeff. Hold yourself accountable. That's where it starts after all. Coach has people in his face daily, he is held accountable enough. Maybe not enough for you, but he certainly has his critics. I won't even try to defend the man. As far as I'm concerned Singletary owes us a 4-game winning streak. Four brutal devastating wins. Or his job. And you, Jeff, need to move on to bigger and better things.
    Oct 5, 2010 at 2:42 PM
  • bret
    Sad, but true. Personally, I can no longer even vent - I'm just numb....
    Oct 5, 2010 at 1:29 PM
  • ninerdawg
    I have said it time and time again. The problem is Alex Smith, he is a COACH KILLER!! I was a loyal Singletary supporter, but I can't take this anymore. To have to listen to him say that Alex Smith played decent is infuriating. For me, the reason Singletary has to go is bc he totally mismanaged the QB situation. We didn't have a reliable backup to take over, just in case (and we all saw this coming) Alex Smith wasn't the answer. He put everything into this guy, who still looks like a rookie, after 6 seasons in the league! He used to say competition breeds success, and now I read in another article that he didn't want anyone competing against Alex I no longer believe what he says. I definitely don't TRUST his assessment of Nate Davis. Nate clearly should have been coached up to be the number 2 guy. Then he publicly humiliated the guy, by saying he has a poor work ethic. Who can Singletary say has a poor work ethic? He is 0-4, and on his way out, with his boy Alex. That's the reason nobody picked up Nate yet, but other teams will figure this out, that Singletary wouldn't know a good QB if he slapped him in the face. Bye Iron Mike!!
    Oct 5, 2010 at 1:25 PM
  • Dan
    Hopefully next week we won't make the Eagles look like a superbowl team. I would like to give ninersush his expected flame for saying he wants the 49ers to lose. I would be outraged but I pretty much just expect that kind of attitude from Jeff's readers. Keep rooting against the 49ers guys, Woot, Woot. The thing we need is another 1st overall QB, never can have too many of those. Anyway to wrap it up, I would like to suggest a piece maybe on how to make Singletary a better coach Jeff, what would you suggest he do differently? Do you have any good ideas? Jimmy Raye is gone now, so there's one of your wishes. What do you suggest we do now though? What I'm trying to say is - I would prefer to hear about solving our problems instead of a commentary on how much you hate the coach and how "stupid" the team is. Let's hear what you have, man. Write something thoughtful and informative for goodness sake. You've been writing versions of the same article for months now. Who am I fooling, you'll just keep writing the same old stuff. Well good luck with that Fire Singletary campaign. A couple more ugly games like the last four and you just might get your wish.
    Oct 5, 2010 at 1:13 PM
    Response: Dan, it's too late to make Singletary a better coach. He is who he is. I was fooled like everyone else into thinking his speechmaking could make up for his lack of qualifications, but time has shown otherwise. Still, not that it'd make enough difference to matter, he could do a few things right now, all of which I hinted at in this article. How about, instead of patting his players on the back when they do "dumb stuff," showing that famous "intensity" and telling 'em it isn't acceptable? He had no trouble embarrassing Nate Davis in the preseason; how about lighting a fire to "motivate" Smith when he's throwing away the games that count? How about doing some COACHING: getting his players to play smart, not stupid, and holding 'em accountable when they don't? That's just it, Dan. We knew he wasn't an X's and O's guy, but he was supposed to make up for it by getting his team to live up to its full potential, and he's not even doing THAT. But keep it up, Dan. Keep accusing me--wrongly--of "hating" Singletary, and keep bashing me for demanding that even he be held accountable for this mess he's made.
  • Colfax Fan
    At this point, Mike has lost all credibility. I don't believe what he is saying, so I can only imagine what the players must think. I had so hoped that Gruden would not be on the air for last night's game. The Singletary experiment is over. It needs to be. There is no reason to wait but good reasons not to. The players need to be invested in the team. More disinterest leads to more defections. Not good when you're trying to get a stadium passed. Give me Gruden and Garcia or Nate Davis. Alex Smith is actually something this team has to overcome to compete. The time for decisive change is now.
    Oct 5, 2010 at 12:53 PM
  • Dan
    Another nice hate piece Jeff, I never get tired of these. I especially like the hanging head and the Singletary destroyed the 49ers of the 80's and 90's bit. Doesn't Mike Nolan get any credit for his efforts? It was his watch when things started going really bad after all. You actually managed to call the whole 49ers team stupid, nice touch. I just don't understand why you despise my team so much that you would write this stuff. What did they ever do to you? They lost 4 games. The coach is really, really bad with the press. The players are young and talented. The owner is young and privileged. We can't seem to straighten out our O.C. situation. The defense is a raw promising force when they are at their best. The best I can tell, Alex Smith has just not put it all together enough to win. He was the difference between winning and losing every game so far this season. Alex Smith, not Mike Singletary, is the defining flaw of our team. One thing I can criticize the coach for at this point is having the back of every guy under his wing. I hate to criticize a guy for being loyal to his men, and I wouldn't ask him to change that quality, but Alex isn't getting it done.
    Oct 5, 2010 at 12:50 PM
  • Chistoso
    If I had a dollar for every fan who said "I knew Singletary was no good." What a bunch of CRAP! We ALL cheered as he started winning games with Hill as QB and he stated "I want winners." Any fan that wants to purposely lose to get a high draft pick should put on a Lions jersey and get out!
    Oct 5, 2010 at 12:45 PM
  • ninersush
    these losses are becoming so "routine" that i'm growing numb. ok well not really. but i'm not expecting a win. at this point in the season i don't see how anything can be turned around. save for a miracle 180 by alex smith. and even then i'd b unsure. my only fear at this point is that we put a string of wins together and go like 7-9 or 8-8 and retain sing. i really want us to tank and get that high pick and try to get a top QB. i know a lot of people will flame me for saying we should lose but that is the only real solution. it makes sure that the stink is so strong that those who left the stench are gone. i mean look at what bradford is doing with 1/10 the talent that we have. it's obvious that the problem lies in the QB. and looking at how the rest of the west is doing, they all have more wins than we do with again 1/10 of the talent. so that shows the obvious problem at head coach. they just need to blow this up and start new. bring in a head coach that is offensive-minded (preferably WCO) and hire a dick lebeau type. i can't imagine that wade phillips will retain his job after this year so there is our DC. he can be hired and left to run the defense. with NO fear of him leaving.
    Oct 5, 2010 at 11:44 AM
  • Terry B.
    I just have one thing to say to all those homers who kept insisting that Singletary is a good coach: I TOLD YOU SO!!!!
    Oct 5, 2010 at 11:42 AM

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