With Alex’s Return, Singletarian Tragedy Goes Epic

Dec 7, 2010 at 2:26 PM

Please, somebody. I beg you.

This is supposed to be FUN, a pleasant diversion to spiff up my weekends. It's not supposed to be like THIS. A neverending roller coaster of brain-crushing madness. A locked-down prison of torture and pain.

Please, somebody. Tell me.

Tell me this is all a dream.

At last, Alex was gone for good. He'd had his last chance, and he'd blown it. He'd gone one-and-six--ONE-AND-SIX--while making a ton of the stupid mistakes that'd come to define his star-crossed career. Sure, Mike Singletary couldn't bench him, having gone out of his way to avoid a Plan B. But then we got lucky, INCREDIBLY lucky. Alex got hurt, Singletary went out on a limb with Troy, and all of a sudden the world opened up.

In his first two starts, Troy delivered two stirring wins, making plays and putting up numbers that Alex had only sniffed in six years. But Singletary just couldn't stay away. After he'd canned Jimmy Raye for having the gall to implement Singletary's run-first philosophy, Singletary had said he'd go with any philosophy that would get us some wins. This one did. But...well, did we really need to PASS so much?

So Singletary put the reins on Troy, who promptly started laying eggs. He was dazed and confused against Tampa, and he was just a handoff machine in the desert. And, after vowing that our O would be "not any more creative," despite the loss of bell-cow Frank Gore--that's Singletary for you, blithely uncreative--off we went to Packerland, where a thorough beatdown surely awaited.

Beaten we WERE, of course. But the funny thing was, Troy looked almost like his old self.

Somehow, Troy threw off his shackles and came out throwing deep. He hit with one, a 40-yarder to Michael Crabtree, and just like that we were up on the board. And, indeed, a big pass-play (to Vernon Davis) was key to each of three more scoring drives: a 20-yarder, a 25-yarder, a 66-yarder. That biggie went for a touchdown (and Davis later dropped what would've been a 73-yarder). The trouble, of course, was that everything else was a lowly three.

Where creativity--not to mention preparation and execution--really shows is down by the goal line, so it's not a shock that we struggle there. If you're good, you score TDs when you're inside the 10, especially when you've got the various options of our newfound "Thunder and Lightning." (Please, try not to laugh.) Thunder, you'd think, would pound up the gut, and Lightning would go to the edges. So, naturally, on first-and-goal at the two, we send Anthony Dixon (Thunder) off left tackle, for nothing, and then we try to pass--from the TWO--and Troy gets sacked. And, later, on second-and-goal at the five, we send Brian Westbrook (Lightning) up the middle, again for nothing, and then Troy misses Crabtree.

All told, Thunder and Lightning combine for 18 rushes and 64 yards. This just in: the Packers are better than Arizona.

They're particularly good at exposing your fraud of a defense.

Early on, Aaron Rodgers was clearly frustrated. On his opening drive, he dinked and dunked his way down the field, but after the missed field goal we harassed him into two three-and-outs, sacking him on each first down. But then he hit his first big play, a 57-yard touchdown pass on one of our countless offsides penalties. And, from there, as Takeo Spikes said, "it felt like the wheels fell off." A screen, which always seems to do us harm, went for 37. A soul-draining 60-yard catch-and-run where we must've missed a dozen tackles. And a 48-yarder deep down the middle. But the worst, of course, was at the end, when the D just couldn't get off the field. Starting at the 20, the Packers ran 17 plays for 74 yards, taking 8:35 off the fourth-quarter clock and essentially icing the game.

Rodgers finished with 10 yards per attempt and a rating of 135. A beleaguered running game racked up 136 yards and 11 first downs. The Packers gained more than 400 yards in 37 minutes. As Spikes put it, "To have a team pretty much impose their will, move the ball when they want to, it's embarrassing."

Still waiting. STILL WAITING, for this D to be good.

The point is, Troy didn't lose this game. Indeed, who knows? If our rushers had gotten into the end zone, and if Davis had caught that bomb he dropped--which, by the way, would've raised Troy's rating from 64 to 93--he might've found a way to win.

No doubt. Troy was still our greatest shot.

But Singletary once again just couldn't stay away.

For a guy who famously said he didn't think the position was particularly important, Singletary sure spends a lot of time pondering it. "The thing that I've said all along," he declared, "is I want to go with the quarterback that I feel gives us the best chance to win." Can someone please explain how that quarterback is Alex? Don't get me wrong; we're starting to learn of Troy's limitations, especially with his play from the pocket. But he's got two things that are maddeningly rare in a Niner QB: a winning record, and an explosive penchant for making plays. Certainly, Alex has neither. By now we know who Alex is.

He's one-and-six, a turnover machine. Who somehow gives us "the best chance to win." Who once again is back from the dead. Who like his coach just won't stay away.

The good news, I guess, is it just doesn't matter. Did you notice? We're four-and-eight. Eight. In all this ludicrous playoff talk, don't overlook what we've already clinched.

A non-winning season. Our EIGHTH STRAIGHT.

Eight straight non-winning years, and our QB still is Alex Smith.

Please, somebody. Tell me this is all a dream.
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.


  • Trisha
    I bow down humbly in the presence of such greatness.
    Jul 16, 2011 at 11:29 PM
  • Keith L
    Every time someone starts to attack, Singletary wants to hold back. Every time someone who isn't in the "chosen" makes a mistake being aggressive, Singletary eliminates them. Singletary's season-long refrain, "doesn't know the playbook," has proven itself old. Nate Davis was not given an opportunity because he didn't know the playbook. Westbrook languished on the sidelines because "he didn't know the playbook." Even his latest change in QB's came because he "didn't know the playbook." Eventually, Westbrook and Smith were forced into action by injury, and they proved that they actually knew the playbook pretty well. So, my question has become, what does Singletary expect in "knowledge of the playbook"? And, how did that affect Nate Davis trying to get past Coach Sing's prejudiced mindset on how a person should act and react?
    Dec 16, 2010 at 10:24 PM
  • louie
    Every/any victory this season will hurt the future of the 49ers.
    Dec 13, 2010 at 9:11 AM
  • fanster
    Can I get a steak too?
    Dec 12, 2010 at 5:13 PM
    Response: Well, I don't know if I'd call that the "spread offense"--it certainly wasn't Houston's shotgun bonanza--but at least it was pass-first, and Alex did well. And it's the holidays, so why mince words? Sure, steaks all around.
  • lencohen
    A famous writer wrote an entire book never using the vowel "e". I think every one of us would agree that in any writer's "playbook" the letter "e" is a very important part. For a coach of a professional football team to hide behind a QB's not knowing the entire playbook, when at most only 10% to 12% will be used in any single game, is the height of incompetence. Any team that can execute 20 plays very well has a very good chance of winning any ball game. Having 11 players at any one time that know the entire playbook is virtually impossible. Who is the coach trying to fool. Hiding your disdain for a QB behind the excuse of a full knowledge of a playbook is a sure sign of a clueless coach, not an inadequate QB. Be gone Sing and do not tarry.
    Dec 10, 2010 at 3:28 AM
  • Mikey
    By going back to Alex Smith as our starting Quarterback Coach Singletary is putting his job on the line. Unless a miracle occurs with Alex at the helm it looks like both Coach Singletary and Alex Smith will be looking for new jobs come next year. At least Troy Smith gave us hope for some more wins this season.
    Dec 10, 2010 at 2:19 AM
  • RogerCraig
    The organization begs and pleads for the 49ers faithful to purchase season tickets to watch an incredibly poorly coached, poorly staffed team. Yet, people are leaving in droves with good reason. I can't imagine spending 1000's of dollars of hard earned money to watch this team. I visited San Francisco as a youth, fell in love with the city, became attached to the team who represent the greatest city in the United States. The 49ers, unfortunately, are a mere shell of their former selves. The team seems to have absolutely no desire to present a better product. I can't imagine the level of disgust and opposition to the team in Dortmund, if management had the same attitude as does the 49ers' management. 80,000 rabid soccer fans fill the stadium for their home games. They deserve and rightly so, a well coached, well conditioned team. Many work their tails off in factories Monday through Friday and on Saturday they want to see a team that cares. Most players on our team either can't or do not have the desire to win. The present management and owners of the 49ers are undeserving of the support of the area's football supporters. Sad, but true.
    Dec 9, 2010 at 11:24 PM
  • Dallas Niner fan
    Jeff, I may hold you to that dancing in the street thing but I will be right there with you. As a footnote it seems that another member of the 49ers is leaving for "personal reasons." How weird is this thing going to get? Everyone resigning for personal reasons while Sing watches film.
    Dec 9, 2010 at 2:04 PM
  • Dan
    Jeff, Troy Smith is not the answer any more than Alex Smith is. I agree that Troy Smith is more likely to make a game-changing play than Alex at any point in the game. I also agree that Singletary probably coached Troy Smith's strengths out of him. Singletary doesn't want a gunslinger quarterback. Troy isn't any more accurate than Alex is however. He didn't lose the game against Green Bay, but he didn't win the game either. He had some chances, and he would have had to be perfect to do it. But he didn't. And any quarterback we put in there would have had to be perfect to win that game. Green Bay is a tough team. That said, I would rather fail with Troy Smith than fail with Alex Smith. At least Troy gives you a chance to make plays. Alex gets in consistent slumps that seem to age like a filet of raw sea bass. He stinks it up exponentially worse as the game progresses. I am now instead of bored with your writing, all the more sympathetic to your angst. I knew Singletary was going back to Alex the first chance he got, and here it is. Alex Smith's last stand. The end of the 2010-2011 NFL season. I don't think Alex or Troy makes THAT much difference, but I like Troy too.
    Dec 9, 2010 at 12:50 PM
  • louie
    The best thing that could happen for the 49ers and the fans is for the 49ers to lose all of their remaining games. I don't say that out of bitterness. It's just that a higher draft position, and no more excuses for the Yorks to ignore the obvious, is what's needed most.
    Dec 9, 2010 at 12:09 PM
  • Kerwin
    This article is 100% dead on!!!! At the end of the day Troy is 3-2, Alex is 1-6! I am not the best at math but I'd say Troy's winning percentage is higher. I look at this team the last 2 years and frankly, we have lost 7 games that were winnable. 4 last year, 3 this year. If 2 were won last year, we would have been in the playoffs, if 2 were won this year we'd be in first place. Coach Sing will probably end up a .500 coach, or maybe one game under .500, which means he isn't necessarily the worst coach, he just hasn't learned how to win as coach. Lastly, this defense has SEVERELY underperformed! New cornerbacks are truly needed! 1. New GM 2. New Coach 3. New QB (See Mike Vick) because this team has offensive weapons 4. 1 New Cornerback 5. 1 New Full Time Linebacker.
    Dec 9, 2010 at 11:14 AM
  • Bill Lee
    Alex went 1-5. And to say that he lost 5 games (e.g. the Saints game? really?) is speaking from ignorance. The problem is that you are so fed up with the 49ers losing, you'd rather start anyone else except for the guy who has been around for a while. Don't try to justify it. Don't defend Troy Smith, who has had 2 great quarters over 5 games and a TON of mediocre/bad quarters (did you forget what the first 3 of the Rams game looked like?). Just state the truth: You'd rather lose than have Alex back in the lineup. You'll have my respect.
    Dec 9, 2010 at 8:02 AM
  • Alonso
    DUDE, Alex sucks, but Troy sucks more. He SUCKS! He had his moment against the Rams and has been mediocre at best since. We gave AS six goddamn years, give him these games, what the hell is going to change? We know he's not gonna be in SF next year. And if AS is in SF next year, it could only be because Sing made the right move and AS finally made it happen and got SF in the playoffs. Since everyone thinks he sucks so much, it's no sweat. Won't happen and bye-bye AS.
    Dec 9, 2010 at 4:55 AM
  • jvangeystel
    I don't understand what the hell these people are thinking. By these people I mean Mike Singletary, Johnson and whoever else is on our coaching staff. It looked to me like at the beginning of the game against Greenbay they were trying to send a message that we weren't afraid to pass. That's why they set up in I formations on 3rd and 1 and play-action passed. This resulted in a 3 and out. Then on 3rd and long they run the damn ball. You can't trick a team into thinking you aren't scared to pass by running on 3rd and long. It's like they know exactly what it takes to win and do the opposite. Please explain to me what the hell this was about. What about when we were up against the goal line and they pass instead of pounding it in.
    Dec 8, 2010 at 6:30 PM
  • Dallas Niner Fan
    It's very clear that Singletary has no clue about qb's. He has absolutely no clue what he is doing. Not only is watching the Niners play painful but it is like watching paint dry. I am torn between do I want them to win or lose so that they change the coaching and Gm structure. Their drafting has been horrendous over the years. Look at how many offensive linemen they have drafted yet the offensive line still sucks. Jeff, who do you think would be the best coach for the Niners? I think I would like Gruden or Holmgren. Do you think if by some miracle Sing pulls himself out of this and wins 1 playoff game that the Dorks will still fire him?
    Dec 8, 2010 at 4:59 PM
    Response: In my perfect world, Holmgren is GM/HOFO and Gruden is coach. But if Holmgren (or Harbaugh) were coach, trust me, I'd dance in the streets (no matter what we do with the front office). And no, Dallas; if Singletary wins a playoff game this year, he's here to stay. Fortunately, the chance of that happening is zero.
  • Team York
    Sing says the "49ers are at the point of the season where they need the entire playbook at their disposal". Yeah Coach, this is the time of the season we need the entire playbook at our command. LOL, we got 4 games left! The guy that just replaced the guy who can recite the telephone book just won 3 out of 5. Let me explain this to you. Number #1. Your playbook is S$%T! We don't need the QB that runs more S#$T in the game because you guys can get more creative with running your S$#T. Just put Troy back there and tell him: run for your life, keep running until the WR's finish the pass routes, WR's start running for the endzone, Troy throw ball downfield. This is what has been working for the 49ers, since Troy got in the game, let him keep doing it. Just remember Coach, You can put on your best clothes, wear your biggest smile, but if you have S#@T in your pants, you still stink.
    Dec 8, 2010 at 4:40 PM
  • Team York
    The inside story on why Johnny Lynn quit. Sing this morning told Johnny, you know our offense better than anyone on this team, you are our QB sunday. Johnny's reply was "Go F#$% Yourself". And that's the story behind the story.
    Dec 8, 2010 at 4:16 PM
  • Luciano
    I feel the pain. Why are they saying Troy Smith doesn't know enough of the playbook? Troy has been here for what, 3 or 4 months now? Even though it might not be possible to know the "whole playbook", how long does it take to know enough plays to beat Seattle? Also how does it look within the clubhouse, if the message is, the guy who wins will be benched, and the guy who loses starts. We truly don't deserve to be in the playoffs, but if the miracle happens, the organization must still realize that Singletary and Alex must go.
    Dec 8, 2010 at 11:46 AM
    Response: I'm with you, Luce. Troy should have enough of the playbook by now. But even if he doesn't, shouldn't performance matter more? Aren't Troy's leadership and playmaking (even at 75% of the playbook) more valuable than Alex's meekness and mistakes (at 100%)? And if Alex's knowledge of the playbook is so important (especially with Gore out, as some have asserted), why didn't he play in Green Bay?
  • LudwigIII
    I was so proud of Mike Singletary being the 49ers' first African American Coach. That was then, I'm a 49ers fan first, coach Singletary no longer needs to be our head coach, this Bull S**t with Alex Smith and the lackluster offense has been a disaster. I stopped buying season tickets last year. As long as the 49ers keep Alex Smith as the starting quarterback, I'll keep my money and my family's money in our pockets and not the so-called 49er organization's. Fire coach Singletary; bring Mike Holmgren home, so we can get back to 49er football. This year as a 49er faithful has been a waste of my time!
    Dec 8, 2010 at 11:42 AM
  • arson
    Jeff, you cite how great Troy Smith was in the Rams game, but the niners didn't manage ONE 3rd down conversion that entire game. I believe Alex Smith would at least have been 3-2 in the same games Troy played, perhaps even making the Tampa game competitive. Do you think Troy would have fared better if he had started the 1st part of the season? I don't.
    Dec 8, 2010 at 10:56 AM
    Response: Arson, I'm not saying that Troy is some kind of Superman. All I'm saying is, he's got a knack for making plays that Alex doesn't, a knack that makes up for his inexperience and gives us, now, the best chance to win. After what Alex has shown us, particularly this year, it seems crazy to argue that he increases our chances of winning.
  • 49ersswagger
    With gore outta the lineup we needed to do something to open up the passing game. for all troy's strengths (mobility and big plays) he is wildly inaccurate and takes too many sacks, he missed crabtree on a sure td late in the Packers game. Ever since his 1st two games troy smith's qb rating has been declining like our playoff chances. I was personally ready for alex after the 21-0 shutout vs tampa bay. This was the 1st home shutout in 33 years. I know Alex has a good grasp of the entire playbook, we have to throw and I know he can throw the ball to davis our best playmaker, who went from the probowl and leading the nfl in td receptions to 5 tds this year with troy under center. I'm glad singletary made the switch before it's too late, we can still make the playoffs with 4 wins, 3 vs the sad nfc west, and no team left on our schedule has a record better than 6-6.
    Dec 8, 2010 at 10:25 AM
    Response: Swagger, if Davis had caught that bomb he dropped, he would've finished the day with 5 receptions for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns. Are you SURE that Troy can't "open up the passing game" and "throw the ball to davis our best playmaker"?
  • Nick S.
    Jeff, Troy Smith had success against the Rams because there was little-to-no film on him. The Rams had little to go on, and that's why Troy was able to roll out of the pocket with so much ease (unlike against TB). Now that we DON'T have Gore, we need to throw... a lot. Alex has a deeper understanding of the playbook. Troy joined the 49ers right before the season started (I think, I know it was extremely late...). It's not that big of a mystery.
    Dec 8, 2010 at 1:47 AM
  • Mike
    It pains me to have to crucify the Samurai because of the absolute respect I have for him as a player. Iron Mike was a stud terror of a MLB. All fans had to admire his style of play .....but as a HC he's so way in over his head it's pure comedy now & agonizing seeing him putting our team to its knees & stalling to a crawl. Alex Smith back again?? Are you freakin' kidding me??????!! The kid is done & over with in San Fran PERIOD!! It's been since 2005 man. A high school coach could see the obvious choice is Troy & to step out of the way of ANY credible OC & LET HIM DO HIS JOB since the HC SHOULD KNOW which side of the ball he knows nothing about. Sing has just stepped into the "clueless" zone with this decision along with his meddling with Troy's ego when he was off to a solid start WINNING ball games. He paralyzed Alex's chances for success & has done the same with Troy. It's painful & sad to see Sing turn out to be Mike Nolan #2 who plays so rigid, safe, & "not to lose". Hey Jed...eyes are on you now in making the next OBVIOUS decision. Numero Uno Sing has to go ASAP!! Then get us a Franchise QB. (All via hiring a legit premier GM as many here have been clamoring for.)
    Dec 8, 2010 at 1:24 AM
  • louie
    Jeff is on the money as to why Singletary would play Alex Smith instead of Troy Smith; he doesn't like the fact that today's NFL is a QB-focused, strategic game, as opposed to over-powering great defense and smash-mouth ball-control running. He's stubborn, dogmatic, macho, anti-creative (the opposite of Bill Walsh), who would rather go down doing it his way (and take the whole team down with him). He's a fraud that's been lucky to have the unearned opportunity that the Yorks gave him. He sees Alex Smith as the kind of QB who can manage a game and not be the star that outshines the running game and the defense. He knows he's done and he wants to go out doing it his way. If Troy Smith blossomed and won the last few games it would just rub salt in Singletary's wounded pride. He never deserved to be a Head Coach of this franchise, but then, neither did Erickson or Nolan. And could there have been a worse GM than McCloughan? He wasn't even successful as head of personnel when you realize how high the 49ers have been picking in the draft all these years. The franchise is a disaster and it falls on ownership. Now that rock bottom is obvious will the Yorks wake up?
    Dec 7, 2010 at 9:18 PM
  • vaden
    The "reins" were never off Troy Smith. He averaged 23.5 passes in his first two games, 26.3 in his last 3, 28.0 in his two losses, which came against the only quality opponents he faced. The game plan for Troy from the very beginning has been far more conservative than it was for Alex, because the coaches know Troy is much more limited and horribly inaccurate. What happened was not a "reining in" of Troy but simply him having to face the type of competition Alex had been playing against in his first six games. In the six games Alex completed this year, his combined competition has a record of 47-25 versus 27-33 for the five teams Troy has faced. Troy's 3 wins came against teams with a combined record of 12-24, and he had the support of an actual running game, something Alex rarely had, with Gore gaining a dreadful 210 yards on 71 carries in 4 of their first 5 games. Of course, Gore was facing much tougher defenses. I'm glad you mentioned our defensive shortcomings, because that has been by far this team's biggest problem all year. Team was built on a shutdown D and smashmouth OL, and both continue to fail epically. Only a truly elite QB could succeed here.
    Dec 7, 2010 at 6:10 PM
    Response: I like the research, Vaden. My only caution would be that I wouldn't judge the "openness" of a game-plan by the mere number of passes thrown. The bigger questions are (1) whether the offense is pass-first or run-first; and (2) whether the passes are vertical or horizontal. Against the Rams, that was clearly a vertical, pass-first O (i.e., not at all conservative); against Tampa and Arizona, that wasn't, hence my reference to "reins." And given how Troy looked against the Rams, I don't quite see why you argue that those reins went on because Troy was "limited and horribly inaccurate." What seems more likely to me is that the reins went on Troy for the same reason they went on Alex last year, despite his success in the spread: Singletary hates a passing offense. No QB would look good in such shackles, but in my view, Troy looked better than Alex will.
  • Marco
    Jeff, who cares! What 49er fans should be hoping for is four more losses to end the Singletary era! But alas, as long as the cancer that is Jed "Lucky Sperm" York and Daddy Clueless York own and run the team, 6-10 type seasons will be the RULE and NOT the exception. 49er fans hold the KEY: DO NOT RENEW SEASON TICKETS; ORGANIZE, e-mail and write the CEO of Oracle, Larry Ellison, and beg him to make another attempt at buying the team! The GOAL should be to drive the Yorks OUT! STOP eating up the slop that the Yorks will CONTINUE to feed you.
    Dec 7, 2010 at 3:53 PM
  • Paul
    Jeff, Sorry, I am living the same nightmare....Lord have mercy!
    Dec 7, 2010 at 3:33 PM
  • Team York
    In the words of our great leader, Coach Singletary, "Thank You Seattle for kicking our A$$". These inspiring words to the Seattle Seahawks have thrust them to the top of the NFC West. Coach Sing's inspiring A$$ after he dropped his pants during the first halftime as coach has willed this team to greatness. Coach Sing Wants Winners! So do we coach, when are you going to start winning? Phillips, Childress, McDaniels, and Singletary. You're next Buddy! After you thank Seattle for kicking your A$$ again this week. Also do me the favor of thanking them for taking your job. This is your last game of the season, coach.
    Dec 7, 2010 at 3:14 PM
  • Randy
    Sorry. It's not a dream. A nightmare... yes, a dream... no. Good thing is, you can wake up soon and it will all be over. No more Alex, no more Singletary and sadly again, no more playoffs.
    Dec 7, 2010 at 3:08 PM
  • Team York
    Some people put their pants on one leg at a time. Sing is better than that. Sing puts them on Head First. Some people repeat themselves to emphasize a specific point. Sing is better than that. Sing repeats the first sentence and stops there. Some people go to church on Sunday. Sing wears his cross to the toilet on Sunday. The 49ers still have a shot at the playoffs. Sing still has a hole in his head the size of a double cheeseburger.
    Dec 7, 2010 at 2:59 PM

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