One Last Time, Singletary Ruins Everything

Nov 23, 2010 at 8:39 AM29

Well then. THAT'll teach us.

We should've known, of course. We went through this LAST year, remember? Alex Smith was unstoppable in that shotgun spread, yet Mike Singletary wouldn't buy it. No matter how quickly the losses mounted, this was HIS team, dammit, and it would run HIS offense. His stupid, pointless, run-first offense.

Okay, so Troy Smith was phenomenal in that aggressive, vertical-passing O. So great, in fact, he awakened a long-dead sense of excitement in fans and players alike. Even Jed emerged to note the "life" that Smith had injected, and he sensed we'd started to "turn a corner." And he credited Singletary, for "weathering the storm and keeping our team together."

Once again, Singletary's team had a reason to hope.

What made you think he'd buy it THIS time?

Sure, Mike Johnson thought that he had the green light. "The one thing I want to do is encourage [Smith's] daring," he said, speaking of Smith's explosive proclivities. "I want to encourage the stuff he has inside and allow that to come out without stifling it." But Singletary's take was slightly different: "It's just a matter of continuing to work with Troy right now and [to] try to weed out all the bad habits we can."

It didn't take a psychologist to see it. Johnson said "daring," and Singletary said "bad habits." But they were discussing the very same thing. Johnson wanted to encourage it. And though it was our last and only flickering light, Singletary wanted to stifle it.

And now, after Sunday, it's dead.

The change was apparent immediately. Our first play last week was a pass for 32 yards. This week? Frank Gore up the gut, for nothing. This week, our second drive was a three-and-out that sent Gore up the gut on second-and-12. Our third drive ended with run, run, pass, punt, and our fourth drive went and did it again. Our fifth drive went with Gore up the middle on third-and-four, and that was it for the opening half. A half where we gained only 64 yards. Twice what we gained on last week's opening play.

We passed more in the second half, but each pass was so short--so Alex-like--it was hard to notice. By the time that Troy threw his first pass deep, it was fourth-and-three in the FOURTH QUARTER, and Vernon Davis never saw it. Finally, on our next drive, Ronde Barber baited Troy into his first pick, and it was over.

The Bucs had allowed six rushers to top a hundred, but Gore could muster just 23. The Bucs had collected eight sacks all year, but they picked up six and hit Smith on six more occasions besides. Smith, who'd been a model of explosive efficiency--or efficient explosiveness--was 16 of 31 for 118 net yards and a rating of 52. (Needless to say, our abysmal offensive line, with two firsts and two seconds, was complicit in all the above.)

And after all of that pregame excitement: for the first time in 33 years--for the first time since before Walsh arrived--we were shut out at home, the gun echoing off thousands and thousands of empty seats.

No doubt, Smith wasn't good. In stark contrast to last week's boldness, now he looked simply confused, and he admitted as much, crediting the Bucs for not standing still like an X on a blackboard. But like everything else, this was Singletary's fault. He'd gotten to Johnson, who promptly dumbed the O back down. And, clearly, he'd gotten to Smith. No longer "daring," no longer showing "the stuff he has inside," Troy was just a copy of Alex, desperately scared to make a mistake.

Naturally, some players were frustrated, stunned at their coach's stubborn refusal to stick with what works. "I don't think we attacked them the way we should have," Davis said, for roughly the millionth time in the last two years. "I think we should have thrown more balls downfield." Others were simply in shock. "I can't believe it," said Delanie Walker. "With the playmakers that we have and the talent that we have, I can't believe that we didn't even get close." And again, with feeling: "I just can't believe it."

Asked to explain, Johnson was faced with a choice. The smart option, of course, was to tell the truth, to say he did what Singletary wanted. After all, Singletary's certainly on his way out; why would Johnson take a bullet for HIM? But in a move that'll haunt him, Johnson went the OTHER direction, defending the plan and blaming the players. Sure, last week he threw the ball deep from the start, but now he preached the run-first gospel: "I would've liked to have seen us run the ball better," he said. "That sets up more vertical opportunities." So the plan was great; it was up to the players to execute. "At the end of the day, you still have to run-block, you still have to catch, you still have to throw." And for some reason, the players didn't do those things. Johnson wasn't dodging responsibility, though. The players failed, but that "falls on me." (It shouldn't, of course, but that's just the way it goes.)

Bad move, Mike. You seemed like a smart, creative guy. You seemed like you might have a future with us. But now you've tied your fate to your boss, and now you can follow him straight down the drain.

Which brings us, at last, to the boss himself.

After looking like an idiot in yet another postgame presser--seriously, why not just leave the writers a note: "I won't have a clue 'til I look at the film"--he finally admitted the obvious. His players might not have executed, but they weren't prepared. (They WERE led and motivated, he said--cough, cough--but they weren't prepared.) And yes, that's HIS fault, as is this entire disaster. We're three-and-seven, and he "wouldn't even dare to say" he's doing a competent job. "Because it all ultimately comes back to me."

With that rare display of honesty, he was sending a message to Jed. A message in three parts. He was acknowledging his failure. He was accepting responsibility. And he was begging, to stay in his job.

It's only polite to send a reply. And Jed's reply should only be this: it's over, now.

Despite lauding Singletary for turning that corner (and running straight into a wall, it turned out), Jed issued a subtle but crucial warning. If his expectations weren't met--and rest assured, they were higher than three-and-seven--"you're certainly gonna see changes being made." He was loath, though, to make changes midseason. After all, as Singletary said, in the race for the least-deserved playoff spot ever, "we're still in it."

But Singletary now has forced Jed's hand. It's not just the losses, as historically awful as they've become. It's not just Singletary's admission that he's taking millions and isn't even doing his job.

It's worse than that, more basic than that. And it can't be allowed to continue, not even for another day.

EVERY TIME this team shows some life. EVERY TIME this team shows a spark. EVERY TIME this team shows some fire, Mike Singletary does the strangest, most destructive, most demoralizing thing.

He simply puts it out.
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.


  • Deandre
    Kewl you should come up with that. Excellent!
    Jul 16, 2011 at 10:45 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Jeff, you hit that nail on the head. Sing you hit that head on the wall. One of these days that wall will come down. And behind that wall you will find Jesus. Sing, keep pounding that head into the wall. Behind that wall is Jesus. Sing meet Jesus. Jesus meet Sing. Christ Almighty AHHHHHALLEEEUYAAAH geeeedup cowboy! Seriously, Sing you need to stop banging that wall, dammit. Your head ain't bringing that wall down. Have Joe Staley read this to you, there is some hidden symbolism here. JOE SHOW.....! Everyone watch the Joe show. love it. And Joe make some videos, what the hell are you doing? Long romantic walks? Come on Joe.
    Nov 29, 2010 at 1:24 PM
  • Team York
    Just a few things i have noticed this year. And a few more things i wish to see before the holiday season is over. 1) Our coach wears the biggest cross in the NFL. Can we get an extra point for that? 2) "I need to watch the film". Our coach has watched Jesus of Nazareth and Miracle of Marcelino twenty times this week. 3) Our coach repeats himself constantly. . .why do i still not understand what he is saying. 4) Our coach does not know anything about offensive or defensive coordination. Neither do I. Can I get the job next, Mr. York? 5) Our coach screams the loudest and runs the fastest when he calls a Time Out. He learned that in Coaching 101. 6) Our coach collapses on the field after every loss from mental exhaustion. 7) Our coach is prepared this week. . .To shoot himself in the face with a squirt gun if we lose. 8) Our coach wears a belt. "don't drop those pants, don't drop those pants, I can't win with a man that can't hold his pants." 9) Our coach wants to thank the Arizona Cardinals for kicking our A$$ tonight! 10) Our coach is leaving the team to become a comedian on Letterman.
    Nov 29, 2010 at 12:24 PM
  • Team York
    Coach Sing said at his press conference this week that he will no longer say "I need to look at the film". He has been getting stupified in the press and by fans for his lack of intelligent answers after games. This week he will answer all questions by saying "I need to look at the x-ray". "Of my brain, I don't know what the heck I'm talking about. I don't know what the heck I'm talking about".
    Nov 29, 2010 at 10:48 AM
  • Roy in San Jose
    Excellent column. Unfortunately, EVERY TIME Jed York has had a legitimate reason come up to fire Singletary (and Nolan before that), York did "the strangest, most destructive, most demoralizing thing." He kept the idiot coach.
    Nov 27, 2010 at 5:20 PM
  • mister nesbit
    i am not a fan of negativity, but after the 0-5 start to begin the season, and the awful inconsistency that the 49ers have displayed, i have thrown in the towel on coach Singletary along with mister kaplan here. it took me a season longer, but enough is enough. good men don't always make good coaches, and it is long overdue that we have a head coach who actually IS an x's and o's guy, who can teach the game of football and not depend on inexperienced coordinators to do the job for him. this season is a major disappointment and for all of us (49ers fans) the worst thing that could happen is for this good man to continue to be our head coach for another year. too much young talent on our team is going to waste and needs their morale and confidence restored. it's a damn shame. winning needs to find its way back to San Francisco, but it looks like it will have to wait until next season. hopefully. one final note from the past (eagles loss): i have never been so disappointed and disgusted in a home crowd than i was on that evening, hearing the chants from the stands of 'we want carr'. i can honestly say that i think that Alex Smith deserves better, and i hope it is in SF.
    Nov 27, 2010 at 12:43 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Two years ago i was in Spain and took part in an event called Running With The Bulls. What made this race unusual is i had a 1200 lb. bull running like hell behind me, trying to mount me from behind with horns, hoofs and plenty of unbridled enthusiasm. There were no winners in this race, just a lucky party of participants that lived and three or four losers that didn't. The reason i am sharing this story, it is a good representation of the 49ers' season. That 1200 lb. bull is Mike Singletary and the group of participants is Team 49ers. Now we all know that Ironhead Mike is driving this team hard, but where exactly are they heading. I don't see any finish line, i don't see any winners. I just see a group of men that are happy they still have their balls to play with. And when i say balls i mean footballs. So let's be happy for the Niners and enjoy watching the Niners run up and down the field playing with their balls on Sunday.
    Nov 26, 2010 at 5:17 PM
  • nevek
    Dear Mr. Kaplan, I once asked if Singletary proved you wrong, would u nut up and say you were wrong. Well it is I that must say I was wrong and I still pull the crow feathers from between my teeth every week. I am still of the opinion that there is a clan of fans that simply prayed at night for Sing's failure, but the only way to counter this is success. I was never big on Sing, or any other non-X & O coach. The sad fact is I think erickson could have coached this team to 8+ wins. The point is you were absolutely correct, I just pray that most are not correct about the Yorks, I am pleading for a strong GM, Harbaugh, no more wins so we get a shot @ Luck. This offseason will tell me everything I need to know about ownership as well.
    Nov 26, 2010 at 4:42 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Last week i was watching the discovery channel and i see this big chimp sitting in a tree. He is standing on a branch looking at the camera. He takes one hand and pats his buttocks. Takes this hand to his face and smells his fingers. Falls out of the tree, because his fingers smell like turd. Don't worry Niner Fans, Sing is a fast learner.
    Nov 26, 2010 at 4:37 PM
  • Team York
    Take a look around the locker room Sing, when the team has lost confidence in their coach, the coach has lost his team. You may still be HC in name, you are still getting an outstanding paycheck every week but you are no longer the HC. You know as well as anyone you are going through the motions. You have no clue how to turn this team around, you are repeating yourself every week, babbling about nonsense. How do you expect anyone to listen to you anymore, it's painful just watching you on the sidelines. I can't imagine how embarrassing it is for you standing there. It's like watching a guy stand on railroad tracks screaming and yelling at a 100-ton train barrelling down at him because he doesn't understand why it won't stop. For God sake, step off the tracks and quit.
    Nov 26, 2010 at 10:09 AM
  • Barry M
    Thank you for writing this article, Jeff. I feel absolutely heartsick with what one man is doing to this team, and to so many talented athletes. I like you feel certain that Singletary got into Troy Smith's head and shook his confidence which was at least partially responsible for his performance. He accomplished the rest by getting into Johnson's head and getting him to dumb down the gameplan so that Troy and the team would most certainly fail. After the second game when Troy performed like nothing we have seen since Young or Garcia, instead of giving him plaudits his comments were all negative. In essence, he projected the dark cloud of his moronic, conservative, fearful, "play not to lose" mindset over T. Smith and the spark he brought to the team. This was the final straw for me. Singletary is a metastasizing malignancy that is destroying the life of this team. Why can't Jed see this, or if he does why does he not want to deal with this now. We are all coming to the point where this torture is becoming unbearable to watch. For the first time in more than two decades I am contemplating not watching on sunday. This ownership is disastrously incompetent. Time for a total change.
    Nov 26, 2010 at 8:37 AM
  • Gill
    Granted Singletary isn't the best headcoach, nor the most experienced. He tried to win the game with a good game plan. Run the ball on Tampa's horrible run defense. But when your offensive line is hurting real bad it's hard to run or pass. We have two rookies, and two backup linemen playing. One of the hardest positions, center, has an inexperienced player playing in it. It's easy to point the finger at the coach, but I think he's doing an OK job for now, and I think he should be able to grow with the team. Let's not jump to conclusions. Let's be one of those respectful teams that let their coaches mature with the team.
    Nov 26, 2010 at 12:24 AM
    Response: Sorry, Gill. I'm not nearly as "respectful" as you are.
  • Team York
    Happy Thanksgiving 49er Faithful and F$%& You Mike Singletary.
    Nov 25, 2010 at 12:56 PM
  • louie
    The blame clearly lies with ownership since their style of ownership is to have no one in the building who has proven success at managing and coaching an NFL team. The reason is obvious: successful NFL GMs and coaches want money and control, and like the owners of most of the other failing franchises the Yorks don't want to give up either to non-players. It's no fun for Jed and John if someone else gets to run the show and get the credit. Winning in professional sports is much more difficult than novice, rich owners can understand since their past life experience has been filled with getting their way and having everything they want. The best thing that could happen for the fans, short of new ownership, would be for the 49ers to lose every game the rest of the season to force the Yorks to pay attention to the possibility of a billion-dollar meltdown.
    Nov 25, 2010 at 12:23 PM
  • Dr_Gonzo
    Crow tastes bitter. I'm still not your biggest fan Jeff. I used to find your stark outlook and downright pessimism to be laughable. Now I see: Singletary sucks on leprous donkey balls and calls it an offense. All he has is a philosophy, not a game plan. The man is way over his head, lost, unprepared, and self-righteously stubborn about it. We have to wait until this painful season is over. Then he better be kicked to the curb. The Yorks have to replace him with an experienced, successful, top-tier, offensive-minded coach--I don't care what it takes to get one.
    Nov 24, 2010 at 10:08 PM
  • AKfanster
    Good read. You hit the nail on the head in regards to Singletary and the offense. Singletary refuses to believe that his "vision" of what a team should be is wrong.
    Nov 24, 2010 at 4:27 PM
  • Andrew
    I agree with you Jeff, Singletary's offense is so laughable that after the game one of Tampa's LBs said they knew what offensive plays the niners were going to run. His offense is so predictable that before a snap any one of us could ask our girls what play he's going to run and they could tell us. The 49ers have too much talent on the offensive side of the ball to be this bad. John and Jed York, please do the right thing and fire Singletary at year's end and bring in a real football mind as GM that will hire the head coach we need so we can see our beloved 49ers start to win again!!!
    Nov 24, 2010 at 10:49 AM
  • Gary Mialocq
    Nice article, Jeff, but Alex was NEVER unstoppable. You must be hallucinating. Crank up the video of the final game of the season and you'll see Alex turn in one of the most hideous performances in Niner history. 52 total yards of offense. I also blame Singletary but he should have pulled Alex long ago.
    Nov 24, 2010 at 9:32 AM
    Response: Careful, Gary. I said that Alex was unstoppable in "that shotgun spread," such as in the second halves at Houston, Green Bay, and yes, St. Louis. In that final game against the Rams, those 52 yards were our total in the FIRST half only, and we struggled so much because--as we did in the FIRST halves at Houston and Green Bay--we were running Singletary's run-first O. In the SECOND half of that game, we went back to the spread, and we blew the game open. Don't get me wrong; Alex failed. But Singletary refused to stick with the O in which he'd succeeded, and the same thing happened to Troy on Sunday. Singletary is simply incorrigible.
  • tlo
    Mr. Jeff I wrote a comment before the season started and asked you why were you hating on Mike Singletary, and Alex Smith. I told you that the 49ers had more talent than they have had in a long time and that Mike had them playing hard. I also said when they do well this year don't change and become a fan. Your reply was that you don't believe in Singletary's vision or playcalling and you doubted that it would succeed. Well I had supported Coach Singletary and Alex and I will admit that I was wrong about them. Coach should have been fired and I am rooting for the 49ers to bring back Jon Gruden with the west coast offense.
    Nov 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM
  • Niner Rich
    I have not been defending Singletary, just saying that it will not do us any good to fire him now without a strong replacement. After this game I have completely changed my mind! I keep hoping and praying that I will see it pop up that he was canned, but no luck so far. Your article is right on the money. I was watching the game with my head in my hands (again!) and thinking that Singletary has killed us. Love these articles, keep them coming!
    Nov 23, 2010 at 8:58 PM
  • The_Real_Randy
    Oh Jeff, I used to dread your doom and gloom but this season has shown that you're the only 49er columnist willing to face reality, a reality that this franchise will suck @ss until the Yorks sell it. Obviously, Sing has to go. But I don't like the idea of a mid-season firing. Let him play out the rest of this lost season and force him to resign at the end of the year. I say this because I don't want to play the game of interim-footsie that got us into this mess in the first place. The ENTIRE staff needs to go. Period. No carryover. No continuity. I want no evidence remaining that this staff was ever even here. If Jed axes Sing, you know exactly what will happen. The interim coach (whoever that may be; the main reason why Sing hasn't been fired yet is because there is nobody to assume the mantle) will win a couple meaningless games (amazing how well we play when it doesn't matter) and the cycle continues. No sir. Blow it all up. I want the whole staff gone and I could count the number of players I want to see remain on one hand.
    Nov 23, 2010 at 8:26 PM
  • Canadian Faithful
    I am half a continent away and am forever sitting down on Sunday hoping and praying today will be the day that all changes for the team I have cheered for over 30 years....but even a blind man could listen to the telecast on Sunday and see midway through the first quarter that your hypothesis presented here was occurring!! Singletary does nothing but muzzle all the exciting talent he has at his disposal. This defense is not the '85 Bears' 46 defense of Buddy Ryan. He is trying to pattern everything he does on what he knows. He is not Ditka. The 2010 49ers need to win in their own vision not be a carbon copy of a team and organisation that won a championship 25 years ago or even one that won 10 years ago as the Baltimore Ravens. That is all Singletary knows and he is having a real hard time realizing the team he has can score 35 every game and outscore the opponent to win. Sometimes in life you need to fail to understand what it takes to succeed. Singletary is on the road to his first failure and building block to his coaching foundation.....I wish he would realize, sooner rather than later, that everything that has been written in the last few weeks could be truthful and real!
    Nov 23, 2010 at 5:43 PM
  • Paul A.
    Jeff, As always very nice article. We all need to keep the objective in view and that is to rid this team of the Yorks. Neither John nor Jed runs this organization, it is Denise DeBartolo York. She is shy and retiring but she is also a business powerhouse. When they, the Yorks, received the 49ers from Eddie, she installed John as the front man and when she realized that she was still seen as one of the principals in the organization she installed Jed as president of the 49ers. She needed a firewall from the public. This lady has history, she owned the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL, won a couple of championships and sold them when it became a pain in the butt dealing with the public. We need to involve this person. This is how we do it. Write her, send her copies of the articles in the papers with the comments of the readers. She needs to know how we feel about this team and the owners. Believe it, when a letter shows up in a corporation headquarters, the owners react. Denise DeBartolo York, Chairman, DeBartolo Corporation, 7620 Market St, Youngstown Ohio, 44512-6076.
    Nov 23, 2010 at 5:14 PM
  • Team York
    Coach Sing, do what's right and quit. It's the most honorable thing to do. You are a hall of fame football player, but you are not a Head Coach. Leave the game with dignity before you get fired. The players have shown you a lot of respect by keeping quiet, but you know better than the fans they have no confidence in you. And it doesn't matter how many games you win or lose, their opinion of you won't change. This is a team that works hard, but you have broken their spirit because you are not a HC. You may have a vision for the 49ers to be the Bears of the 80's, but a HC knows how to design it. You have a lot of respect for the game of football, respect this team and leave on your terms.
    Nov 23, 2010 at 4:58 PM
  • Johnny
    Nice article, Jeff. Singletary is in over his head. I think if he didn't have so much pride he would have resigned. Jed needs to let him go now. But then again Jed doesn't care. Our front office is a mess. No one in the front office or on the coaching staff has what it takes to put together a championship team. Big disappointments are in the future until we have new owners.
    Nov 23, 2010 at 2:02 PM
  • Marco
    Excellent points Jeff, but it is not Singletary's fault, it is the fans' fault. 49er fans continue to lap up the slop that the Yorks continue to feed them. We have all seen teams with BAD ownership live through decade after decade of futility. As long as Jed "Lucky Sperm" York and Daddy Clueless York own the team, futility and incompetence will be the rule and not the exception! 49er fans: organize, BOYCOTT the stadium, DO NOT renew season tickets, and start the process of forcing the Yorks out!!!!!!!!!!!
    Nov 23, 2010 at 1:15 PM
  • Terry B.
    What happened to all of those homers who kept insisting that Singletary was a great coach?
    Nov 23, 2010 at 11:57 AM
  • kevin despain
    you are 100% right.... on everything and the fact that due to our weak division we still could've had a shot (or still can) at the playoffs.... fire Singletary TODAY.
    Nov 23, 2010 at 10:13 AM
  • Michael Lambert
    I have been a fan since 1960. I believe your analysis is right on. The truth is that Michael Singletary wasn't ready to be an NFL head coach. He is in way over his head. He was a great linebacker and good linebacker coach, but he wasn't qualified to jump all the way to head coach. At this point I don't even know if he would make a good defensive coach. He is stuck in the mindset of how the Chicago Bears played in his era as a Hall of Fame linebacker. The game has totally evolved past his mindset and the rules favor the offense.
    Nov 23, 2010 at 9:51 AM

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