Here We Go, Yet Again

Dec 14, 2010 at 8:18 AM

Funny thing, desperation.

A man of principles. A man of convictions. He'll stick to his guns, as long as he's not facing serious heat. But he's human, after all. And when he's up against it? When he knows it's all just slipping away? He changes.

His principles? His convictions?

He'll trade 'em all, to save his skin.

Oh, sure, Mike Singletary held out longer than most. I mean, how many times? In these wasted years, how many times did it seem at last he was ready to cave? How many times was it simply clear, at last he'd switch to a pass-first O?

It seemed pretty clear after Houston, when Alex Smith ran the spread to perfection. It seemed pretty clear after Jacksonville, when Singletary commended his players for begging for "more spread." Remember this year's training camp, when Alex swore we'd "evolved," we'd "play three wides, get guys in space, [and] throw it all over the field"? How 'bout after Kansas City, when Singletary fired the prehistoric Jimmy Raye--possibly even voluntarily--and replaced him with spread-enthusiast Mike Johnson? Or how 'bout after St. Louis, when Troy Smith, subbing for an injured Alex, racked up nearly 400 yards and Johnson vowed to "encourage his daring"?

At each point, it was simply clear: at last we'd scrap our running O--our embarrassing "keep it close" mentality--and run a modern, passing one. Yet at each point, Singletary wouldn't yield.

It was noble, in a way. STUPID, but noble.

So why would the loss of Frank Gore make a difference? Singletary nipped THAT thought in the bud, swearing we wouldn't be "any more creative." But after our running game stunk in Green Bay, Singletary was out of time. Next up was Seattle, and its #30 passing D. If we lost, we'd be done, and so would Singletary.

So, at last: bye-bye, principles. So long, convictions. Shockingly (at least to me), desperate measure #1: we'd pass.

Desperate measure #2, of course, was bringing Alex back.

Singletary's explanation, as usual, was exasperating. "At this time of the year with the games that we have left it's a matter of being able to use the entire playbook," he said. "I think right now we need everything that we can possibly have." I see. When you're, say, oh-and-five, there's no need for creative game-planning or play-calling. But when you're four-and-eight and facing elimination, NOW you need "the entire playbook."

Ah, Singletary. I just can't wait to be rid of you.

Look, I'm all for using the entire playbook. But just for the record I'll say it again: I'd have stuck with Troy. He might not know the entire playbook--though after three months I'm not sure why he wouldn't--but when Singletary lets him play, he knows enough to win. I'll admit it, though: in part, my support for Troy was borne of my fatigue with Alex. Six years now, of ups and downs. Of hopes raised and quickly dashed. Honestly, I'm just exhausted, and I simply didn't wanna go back.

But Singletary played a hunch, and, surprise (at least to me): it worked.

Oh, at first, it didn't look good. First down, incompletion. (Boo.) Second down, incompletion. (Boo!) Third down, and not a stretch to say the biggest down of Smith's career; go three-and-out, and the crowd might well have dragged him into the parking lot. But Smith hit Vernon Davis for 22 and, later, for 42 and the score.

True, our second drive was our umpteenth run, run, pass, punt--hey, we were desperate, not crazy--and Seattle answered by slicing through our D with ease. But then our field-goal try was blocked and went through anyway, and then Seattle simply imploded. A pick set us up in their end, and we added three; a fumble set us up in the RED ZONE, and Smith connected with Josh Morgan for the score; Seattle missed on fourth down, and Smith hit Brian Westbrook on a 62-yard catch-and-run (leaving Singletary mind-blowingly "thankful that we didn't use Brian very much early on"); a pick set us up in the red zone AGAIN, and we added another three; and Dashon Goldson's pick-six let us cruise to the end. With those huge assists from Seattle, we scored 30 for the first time all year, and 40 for the first time in SEVEN years.

Naturally, the raves rolled in for Smith, whose rating was a career-high 130. And, indeed, he made sound decisions and avoided his trademark "bonehead play." But...with Smith, it seems, there's always a "but." Smith threw not a single pass deep; of his 255 yards, 208 were after the catch. Plus, we didn't sustain offense as much as cash in on Seattle's gifts; as Smith put it, "we really let the game come to us," which was pretty easy when the 'Hawks were so willing to give it away.

Still, there was Davis, swearing that Smith--stop me if you've heard this one--was reborn. "It was like a totally different person out there," he said. Right. Totally different, just like always, until he shows he's still the same.

So here we go, yet again. No one does the meaningless late-season surge quite like Smith and the Niners. Oh, sure, there's "meaning" here, in the sense we could win this awful division. But it's just another illusion, like five-and-four and eight-and-eight, to make you think there's something there. To trick you into believing.

Enough. Please, God, enough already.

Congratulations, Coach; I'm glad your desperation knocked you out of your stupor. And nice game, Alex; to your credit, you made the 'Hawks look every bit as bad as they are.

But by now we know better.

This time, your illusions won't save you.
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.


  • shobbrobb
    Jeff it seems to me the 49ers would have everything to lose by making the playoffs. It's obvious they are a bad team and making the playoffs under such ridiculous conditions would deprive them of the benefits afforded. From what i'm hearing if they make the playoffs and lose, the best they draft would be 21st, while everyone else in the division drafts according to actual records.
    Dec 20, 2010 at 4:11 PM
  • louie
    Let's hope the Yorks' egos are getting what they deserve for ignoring the basic, honest way of owning and managing an NFL football team when you have no idea how to do it. Unfortunately they took a great franchise and all its fans down with them. For all we know they're just treading water until the franchise is worth another 200 million because of natural appreciation and then they'll dump it. Hopefully, they'll dump it asap. Think of the arrogance and stupidity of firing Mariucci (without a replacement) because he might want to see what other opportunities were out there that were better than working for a jerk like John York. Think of hiring Dennis Erickson. Think of hiring Mike Nolan, who had never been a head coach, and making him the total boss of the football side of the business. GM? We don't need no stinkin' GM. Think of promoting Mike Singletary, who had never even been a coordinator, and had been out of football for many years, to be the new head of everything/face of the franchise. Think of promoting a mediocre personnel guy, Scot McCloughan, as your GM. Think of firing your weak GM two weeks before the draft. Think of not being able to hire a top offensive coordinator.
    Dec 17, 2010 at 8:25 PM
  • Mike
    Oh, and another thing the Niners have ZERO of..... SWAGGER! Unless they get rewarded for bonehead plays. Matt Millen said it best last night, folks. "You can't make this stuff up."
    Dec 17, 2010 at 2:00 PM
  • Mike
    49ersswagger... Now you see why Geoff wasn't buying it? I would somewhat agree with your take on continuing to fire coaches and replacing them with the same garbage, but the bottom line is that Sing has lost this team. He also is not a good head coach. Do you really want to continue to have him learn on the job while we waste the prime years of Gore, Davis, Willis, etc.? Clearly this team does not play for him and if they do, then that should tell you all you need to know. It's pretty bad that a team this talented can't win a division that nobody else wants to win. It ALL falls on the coaching! Mike Singletary didn't learn last year and here we are at 5-9 and he still has not opened up the offense. And WTH calls a play that starts off going backwards when you only have 6 inches to get??? That was horrible!! Also, if there is ONE THING I would expect from a Mike Singletary-coached football team, it's discipline. This team has ZERO discipline. Probably couldn't beat Stanford.
    Dec 17, 2010 at 1:58 PM
  • Terry B.
    Boy, didn't we look great last night against the Chargers? I hope Jeff isn't too negative in his next column and only points out all of the positives to come out of that performance.
    Dec 17, 2010 at 8:13 AM
  • 49ersswagger
    I'm so tired of losing as well, we need to fire singletary, release Alex and get a real head coach with expertise in the west coast offense. Draft a real qb, after watching last night I'm sick of losing. I watched Steve Mariucci cut our balloon saying we would not make the playoffs and with the way our team is playing I wouldn't want to see us get whipped like that anymore. I can't wait until next year, Jed please listen we hate being the laughingstock of the entire NFL, we need a new staff, OC DC HC, everybody was outcoached so bad last game. Why play ten yards off wrs who aren't even that fast, Manusky's defense has no pass rush, soft zone coverage, he made philip rivers look like the next coming of joe montana and we could stop tolbert all night. The offense is pathetic, deion sanders said it after the game, how can you draw up a game plan where your best player vernon davis has no catches until the 4th qtr when the game is already a blowout. Mike Singletary's greatest failure is he knows nothing about offense and chose a rb coach jimmy raye as offensive coordinator, fired him and now we have mike johnson who is predictable & boring offensively. The offense is the worst in the NFL. Alex Smith is a huge bust, cut him asap.
    Dec 17, 2010 at 7:03 AM
    Response: I'm not sure I can stand all your negativity, Swag.... :)
  • 49ersswagger
    I agree that greatness is out there. I do acknowledge the need for the return of the WCO. I would love to have Mike Holmgren or Jon Gruden as the head coach if Singletary fails to make the playoffs. I'm not a fan of firing a coach that took his team to the playoffs and won a division under any circumstances. I know the NFC west is super weak but that is our division. If somehow we become the 1st team to go 0-5 and make the playoffs and win a division, I know you would even admit that's progress for a team that hasn't made the playoffs since Steve Mariucci left. I am not a blind supporter of Mike Singletary & if we can get a great coach in the offseason like J. Gruden or M. Holmgren I say go for it. But the last thing I wanna see is another D. Erickson or M. Nolan. If that's the case we would be better off keeping Mike Singletary and hiring an OC with knowledge of the west coast offense like Dennis Green or Brad Childress. I hated the years when we had M Nolan & D Erickson, we were not even competitive. I have watched every game this season & we almost beat ATL 14-13, if nate clements didn't fumble we win that game. We only lost by 3 points to the Saints, Eagles & Panthers. Tonight's game is must win, GO 49ers.
    Dec 16, 2010 at 10:06 AM
  • ruben
    I don't believe it is all Sing or Alex's fault for where we are now. The media (writers) tell us this is the year, the wait is over. Truth is, they don't really know. Dallas, Min, and even Ind are not playing to expectations. Instead of firing Sing, give him time to put his offense together. Alex is and always has been an option/spread QB and will only succeed in that type of offense. He will be a great backup to Peyton, Brady, or Matt Cassell. We are so quick to get rid of coaches because of the expectations brought on by the media. All he needs is his own choice QB, a CB, and a true pass-rush LB. Give Sing the time he deserves!!
    Dec 16, 2010 at 9:30 AM
    Response: Nah.
  • 49ersswagger
    Jeff, I appreciate the response to my comments. I read the article several times and you do give a little credit to Singletary and Alex. The thing that bothers me is no matter winning or losing it seems like the 49ers are dragged over hot coals on a weekly basis not just by you but by everyone in the media and some of the so-called 49er faithful. I am sick of watching my 49ers lose so I don't want to see them lose anymore. I watched as the Yorks ran Steve Mariucci outta town after we made the playoffs and won the game vs the giants. I'm tired of the constantly changing coaches and offensive coordinators and gm's. This is not the blueprint bill walsh laid down that won us 5 superbowls. Sometimes patience is a virtue. If Eddie D fired Bill Walsh based on his 1st two seasons as coach, his record was under .500, I think he was 2-14 and 6-10, we would have missed out on the glory years and the 5 rings. I am not comparing Singletary to Bill Walsh the Genius but what I am trying to say is sometimes you have to stay the course to find out where the path leads. The 49ers put up with d erickson & m nolan for at least 6 seasons combined and neither coach had a season over .500. Singletary isn't great but I've seen worse.
    Dec 16, 2010 at 6:46 AM
    Response: I hear you, Swag. We all want the same thing, and that's for the losing to stop. And you're right: in general, changing coaches every couple of years is no recipe for success. But I think we've seen enough of Singletary to know that mediocrity (regardless of whether it's enough to make the playoffs) is the best he can do; philosophically, he's just an albatross. And just look at the coaching talent that's out there, particularly the talent that's part of the Walsh tree. GREATNESS is out there, Swag. Let's go get some.
  • Terry B.
    You people are unbelievable. Do you really think this is a good team? Are you seriously talking about the playoffs with a straight face? As George W. Bush once said, "There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again."
    Dec 15, 2010 at 1:58 PM
  • Bill Lee
    Nice follow-up to your last foolish article on how much of a mistake it was to go to Alex Smith. I wonder what you'll write next if we somehow beat the Chargers.
    Dec 15, 2010 at 12:25 PM
  • 49ersswagger
    I cannot stand to read your articles, you are the most negative writer i have ever read. I was sure after a blowout win you would have something positive to say about my 49ers. It seems like you hate Singletary, Alex Smith and everything from ownership down to the players. I am a diehard 49ers fan, we are one game back in the NFC west. We have a chance to win the west and host a playoff game. Your last article blasted Singletary for putting Alex Smith back into the lineup as starter. One week later you refuse to admit you were wrong about Alex Smith and Singletary's decision to play him. Why can you not give Mike Singletary credit for a good coaching decision to start Alex Smith who had the best game of his career last week. Alex Smith's qb rating 130 was the best in the NFL, better than tom brady and peyton manning. I thought this was a 49ers website but all this negative talk about my 49ers after a win just makes me sick to my stomach. Be a man, admit you were wrong and for God's sake please write a positive article about my 49ers once in a while.
    Dec 15, 2010 at 11:12 AM
    Response: Swag, if you can stand it, please read the article again. I admitted that Singletary's switch to Alex worked (at least against Seattle). And I admitted that I was surprised, i.e., that my prediction for what would happen (at least against Seattle) with Alex back was wrong. And I commended Alex for how he played (though I pointed out how his numbers were a bit inflated by all the yards after the catch). But I'm done with elevating these late-season surges into some indication of a quality team. And I'm certainly not gonna celebrate the fact that we're still in the running for the least-deserved playoff spot in the history of time, especially if winning that spot will result in keeping Singletary. If that's the case, I pray to God we don't win it. And if that's being negative, then negative I'll be.
  • CanadianFaithful
    Jeff, I think you were looking for style points last Sunday. There are no style points in football. You, as I, were spoiled by the great 9er teams that made every opponent look foolish and gave us something to crow about. That is not today's NFL. There is way too much parity. I know... you are saying Tom Brady/Patriots. As I mentioned to you a few weeks ago Alex will become a serviceable QB on another team next year. If I was his agent I would advise him to get as far away from this bad situation as possible. He has not been put in a position to succeed. I think that is the best storyline you have here. Singletary has not played to Alex's or his own team's strengths. I am positive Ditka once said you play to the strengths of your best offensive player not players! He had Payton, Sing had Gore. Alex was not the focus. Now with Gore out he is. Alex will have some solid games and then get the hell out of SF. Next year when he starts to succeed we will be left asking why he could not do it here. Just like I am doing watching other former 9ers right now. Pascoe/Hill. They need to look inside. Front office/coaching. Not at Alex's lack of being Montana/Young. There are no style points Jeff!
    Dec 15, 2010 at 8:00 AM
  • charles
    Dec 15, 2010 at 7:53 AM
  • niner
    Stupid is as stupid does. Sing had Martz. He knew the offense was pitiful with the exception of when Turner was here. Instead of getting a top flight OC he went to the caveman approach. Last year he did the same thing, his D isn't dominant, his run game isn't fysical and they had to win by passing. He is ignorant, and until he realizes his BS doesn't work on the pro level, he will continue this circle of mediocrity. But who cares anyway. If the owners are willing to put up with it what can the fans do but bend over?
    Dec 15, 2010 at 7:47 AM
  • Marco
    49er fans, take a look at the Bengals; TWO winning seasons in the last 20 years. That is what 49er fans have to look forward to. The Yorks have turned the 49ers into the west coast version of the Bengals. It all starts at the top, as long as the 49ers are led by Jed "Lucky Sperm" York and Daddy Clueless York, 6-10 type seasons will be the norm and futility and frustration will be the rule! 49er fans: DO NOT RENEW SEASON TICKETS! DO NOT be FOOLED by the Yorks trotting out another coach and pep rally at the end of the season. The Yorks are a CANCER, drive them out, or just start watching the Bengals!!!
    Dec 15, 2010 at 6:56 AM
  • 49erlifer
    Before the year started I was thinking I mean I wanted 10 wins. That at the time seemed logical. I was so far off base! Jeff please I understand your rants, I feel for you but please CHANGE IT UP DUDE! I mean every week you say the same thing! Look I agree, I have been a 9er fan for 37 years! I have been patient and still we are going noplace! We could have had Colt McCoy in the 2nd round but we take Taylor Mays. Now Mays can play and he will be a stud in years to come. I believe when you rebuild a franchise you start with a QB and not with Alex Smith for any reason, he should have been gone 2 years ago! Look at guys like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford and yes this one stings and just guts me every time I watch this kid play is Aaron Rodgers. How and why did we let this guy get away? We have guys like Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford, Cam Newton, QB, Auburn, Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas and Jake Locker, QB, Washington. One of these kids will be available when we pick and in a perfect world we will draft one of them. I am hoping Singletary will be gone. I would love to see Gruden coaching this team and he will not. Jim Harbaugh would be the perfect fit and I think he's ready for the NFL.
    Dec 15, 2010 at 12:17 AM
  • Josef
    Jeff, Alex is simply an overall better qb than Troy. That is what Sing sees. Troy is more or less a gunslinger with above average run ability (very similar to Nate Davis). That clarified, Alex is not good enough to take a team to the playoffs. "Good enough to get beat". It seems to me every Niners game Billick does he brings up his "accuracy issue". And he's right. Troy is not accurate at all and Alex often misses his receivers or his throws are behind or at least not at the spot the throws should be. We need a new one but make sure the accuracy thing is there.
    Dec 14, 2010 at 10:42 PM
  • Team York
    Enjoy the articles every week Jeff. Sounds like some readers are tired of the same theme every week. Let's not kill the messenger, Sing is incompetent and I think Jeff is just expressing how he needs to be replaced. Jeff, keep pounding on that drum. There is no way in hell I'm watching this team next year if he is still the coach. By the way has anyone noticed that Sing is wearing shades during the game? Congratulations Coach! You have learned to sleep standing upright. Progress, definite progress! Remember, the less input in the team, the more time you have repeating nonsense.
    Dec 14, 2010 at 9:36 PM
  • Dan
    Well Jeff, you're begging for some hate mail. I'll humor you. This week Singletary wins, at least he did something new. Two things even. He passed first, and he won a game decisively. However, you Jeff have replied with the same crappy, whiny dribble that you shovel out on us week after week. It's sad that between you and Singletary, the one who insists he has no need for creativity is the one who shows us something new.
    Dec 14, 2010 at 9:34 PM
  • Johnny
    Great article, Jeff. I agree with every word of it. Of course it was nice to see us put up a very crooked number on the scoreboard against a divisional foe. However, we should have scored 60. Without our defensive takeaways and Seattle leaving Davis WIDE OPEN on the first drive we would have lost and looked like the same old team. I don't expect our defense to be able to come alive like that on Thursday against SD and I see our offense once again showing its true colors. We might start out aggressively and maybe even put together a sexy opening scoring drive but after that I predict the offense to stall like always with the RUN-RUN-INCOMPLETE PASS mentality. SD is still fighting for their season and will be very tough to beat IMO. One last thing about A. Smith, I wasn't impressed with him a whole lot, the Davis TD was busted coverage. What I did like was the TD to Westbrook. He had a HUGE rush in his face and instead of rolling out and throwing it away he found his hot receiver and good things happened. More of THAT kind of QB play would do a lot for this offense.
    Dec 14, 2010 at 2:43 PM
  • Paul A.
    Jeff, I have taken a few steps back from the 9ers this year for a couple of reasons, the first being this year has played out pretty much as I anticipated, won/loss wise. The second being the only way to enjoy the "DRAMA" which surrounds this team is to be somewhat unattached. Man and has there been drama with them these last few years. Jeff, by being able to watch and comment on this team, you have given me endless hours of entertainment. Thanks and do keep up the great work... I am hopeful that the next year will give me a reason to go back and watch and cheer these guys on!!!
    Dec 14, 2010 at 12:49 PM
    Response: Thanks, Paul. I truly appreciate your support.
  • Ron
    Smith "good enough to break your heart" is probably accurate. Good fortune rolled into Candlestick last weekend and the Niners capitalized. It's happened before when we've played bad teams. Smith's first completion easily could have been dropped, high and behind, but Davis, in this case, made the catch. Some other passes were good, but they were sprinkled in with balls that were typically high or off just didn't cost us...this time. Considering how the game played out, plugging in Alex was a good call. I'm not sure how good it would have been against a quality team. I'm not sure if Troy would have been the answer against a quality team. I am sure that Troy would have won this Seattle game. They gave it to us. I don't know what to expect from the San Diego game, but I think it will be close. It's likely that we won't be able to keep up in the 2nd half, but we'll see. Alex may make the signature bonehead play that costs us, but I really don't see Troy pulling it out either...not with the offense we're willing to call with him behind center. Whether we complete the run or not, SF is not a very good football team...not even that fun to watch.
    Dec 14, 2010 at 11:08 AM
  • Ed
    Jeff, you speak the painfully obvious. Yet there are fans that will stand by Alex to the death, to forgive anything, to put this putz on a pedestal every time he completes a pass? I just don't get it! Even against Seattle he looked like a marginal QB. I watched the game twice. Almost ALL of his throws are marginal whether they are caught or not. I feel awful, I want the 49ers to win... but not if that means keeping Alex & Sing.
    Dec 14, 2010 at 11:02 AM
  • Mike
    Oh, Geoff!! We all get it!! Why don't you offer up some suggestions or insight instead of the same boring garbage every week. I'm not sure you can beat this thing into the ground any further. Any realistic head-coaching candidates? Any realistic QB trades? ANYTHING of substance?? I'm guessing you have none. So, since dingleberry has illusions, are the players supposed to give up? You want the team to roll over? I'm not doing cartwheels over a possible 7-9 playoff berth, but it is what it is... The Niners are 1 game out, and it at least gives the team something to play for after a very disappointing season. That's all that matters! Ding sucks, Alex sucks, ownership sucks... WE GET IT!! I'm sure you already have your outline together for next week's thrashing. Can't wait to see what "creative" analysis you come up with next. I don't disagree with your article, but you are beating a dead horse here. Changes aren't going to come with 3 games left. So, why don't YOU go and make some changes, and offer us 49er fans some suggestions for next year that we can all debate on. I'm tired of your Ding ranting, give us something else to read or go away already.
    Dec 14, 2010 at 10:28 AM
  • The_Real_Randy
    Question: Has Alex really been a good (if not great) QB this whole time and idiots running our offense since Norv Turner left are just too dumb to know how to use him properly? I feel it's time to move on and cut him loose, but I can't help but get the feeling that he'll blossom in an organization that knows what it's doing.
    Dec 14, 2010 at 8:23 AM
    Response: As usual, Randy, the truth is probably somewhere in between. Smith's been cursed with woeful coaching, but he also just doesn't seem to have those uncoachable instincts that the really good ones seem to have. I think, at his core, he IS good, but only good enough to break your heart.

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