The 49ers may not be winning games this year, but they sure are making news. While the news might be fascinating to the national media and fans of other teams, it is not the kind of news any Niner fan wanted to be hearing this year.
In three short weeks, the Niners have gone from consensus best team in the NFC West to division doormat and laughingstock. Mike Singletary has gone from leader of men to follower of orders. His all powerful position in the 49er organization has been rudely and suddenly demolished. He is no longer The Man.
The firing Monday of OC Jimmy Raye was resoundingly cheered throughout the blogosphere. Instead of a vicious and surly mob howling at the gates of 4949 Centennial Blvd., there was dancing in the streets. And, most tellingly, in the 49er locker room. Most pointedly from Singletary’s Captain, Vernon Davis.
The team and the fans were one step away from quitting on this season. And a very small step indeed. Actually, the step had probably been taken, but has been retracted for the moment. There is now a desperate hope that Mike Johnson, the new OC, will put together an offense that resembles an NFL commodity and is somewhat pleasing to watch.
But this honeymoon will be a short one if the team continues to lose. Nobody will be blaming the OC for our troubles then, however. The blame will fall on the players and most specifically on Singletary himself. I imagine a loss to Atlanta this Sunday will be grudgingly accepted by the fan base, but that is it. That is how short this honeymoon will be.
Singletary is in a lose, lose situation in terms of his credibility as the 49er HC. If the team does not improve under Johnson, Singletary will get the entirety of blame and will be fired at season’s end. If, however, the team responds to Johnson’s game plans and leadership and begins winning, the praise will go to Johnson and it will be openly wondered why Singletary, the great reader of pulses, could not see, until ordered to look, what every fan has long seen and was the primary topic of concern during the off season. In addition, if leadership is coming from the OC, what value does Singletary provide to the Niners?
It is almost impossible to envision this team’s players continuing to hold Singletary in the god-like awe they have previously had for him. They know he has lost his power. His motivational speeches will be harder by far for them to buy into. He no longer has total control. He no longer has willing disciples.
If the players genuinely like Singletary, they can bring him along for the ride, enjoy having him for an HC, and even fight hard to help him keep his job. But he is no longer the one doing the driving. At Monday’s press conference, Singletary had the subdued, nearly resigned look that coaches get when they have no more answers, no more BS explanations, and know that only a miracle can save them.
For the moment, however, there is a rekindling of hope and excitement. Since this flame could be a quick fizzle out, best to enjoy it while it’s here. In that light, we will resume football operations and move along to some film review of Sunday’s debacle in Kansas City. The featured look is at the play that broke the 49ers back and opened the flood gates.
NoFear’s Somewhat Instant Replay