|Added another Niners player: “It was a total front. I had a comeback waiting for him if he ever said it again: ‘It’s real warm and fuzzy on the sidelines, (expletive).’ ”
After last season, owners John and Denise DeBartolo York promoted McCloughan from vice president of player personnel to general manager with the intention of firing Nolan, sources close to the situation said. McCloughan’s first act as GM was to talk his bosses out of making a coaching change, persuading them that the team had enough talent to make a playoff run in ‘08 and that Nolan gave them the best chance to pull it off.
Though he was now Nolan’s superior, McCloughan went out of his way not to appear overbearing, even removing his tie for the press conference announcing the revised power structure when he saw that the coach wasn’t wearing one. But Nolan, whose penchant for reminding players of his authority had become a running joke in the locker room, insisted at the press conference that “I will remain the one voice in this organization, and the face. I don’t believe it will change at all.” McCloughan chafed privately; the new GM also refrained from overruling Nolan when the coach hired Martz to run the team’s offense, which soon created additional internal tension.
With Martz orchestrating what amounted to a fixed quarterback competition that predictably swung in favor of O’Sullivan, a journeyman whose stint as a backup with the Detroit Lions made him the only candidate familiar with Martz’s system, Nolan appeared indecisive and disingenuous in his public comments. Hill, another career backup who signed a two-year contract with the team after performing well in the final two games of last season, was held out of training camp practices with what Nolan and Martz claimed was a tired arm; sources close to Hill say the a.ssertion was totally fictional.
Not known for his people skills, Martz baffled his players after their 33-30 comeback victory over the Seahawks last month when, at a team meeting the following day, he told them, “You shouldn’t be satisfied, because it’s not just about winning. It’s about trying to be the best offense in the league … the best offense in history.”
Greatly hampering Martz’s grand plans were O’Sullivan’s penchant for taking sacks and coughing up the football. His 11 fumbles this season are more than any NFL player, and he began Sunday’s game as though he were literally trying to hand it to the Seahawks: On the second play from scrimmage, O’Sullivan tried to scramble and had the ball knocked out from behind him by defensive end Patrick Kerney. Defensive end Darryl Tapp had a line on the ball and could have fallen on it, but he tried to pick it up in stride and kicked it all the way to the 49ers’ 5-yard line, where San Francisco center Eric Heitman recovered it.
After the Seahawks went up 3-0 on an Olindo Mare field goal, O’Sullivan drove the Niners to the Seattle 6. But on second-and-5 the quarterback rolled out after a play-fake and fumbled after being hit by former 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson. Kerney picked up the ball and returned it 50 yards, setting up another Mare field goal.
It was 13-3 Seattle with 44 seconds left in the first half when, facing a fourth-and-4 from the Seattle 29, Singletary blew off a field-goal attempt and entrusted O’Sullivan to make a throw. Looking for wideout Arnaz Battle in the flat, O’Sullivan served up a tasty offering that cornerback Josh Wilson intercepted in stride, racing 75 yards for a door-slamming touchdown.
At that point, Singletary told Martz he was benching O’Sullivan, a move likely to carry over to the 49ers’ next game (they play the Cardinals in Arizona following a bye week) given Hill’s reasonably proficient effort in the second half.
Despite Sunday’s brutality, the 49ers players believe there is cause for optimism. With Nolan’s departure, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will have greater freedom to run a scheme similar to the one he coached under then-Chargers coordinator Wade Phillips in 2006; on Sunday the 49ers confused the Seahawks at times by employing defensive end Justin Smith as a de facto outside linebacker in a hybrid scheme with 3-4 sensibilities. They also believe Singletary may implore the pass-happy Martz to make halfback Frank Gore and a physical running attack the focal point of the offense, though many are skeptical that it will actually happen.
If nothing else, after Sunday, the 49ers know they have a coach who’s willing to wield his authority – interim or otherwise – in a very forceful, sincere and conspicuous manner. Whereas Nolan annoyed them by talking about how powerful he was, Singletary seems intent on prodding them into doing things his way.
If not, as the Niners now know, there’s a warm shower and a harsh locker-room speech waiting for them.
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Thinking long and hard about Singletary's actions
|Mike Singletary is the 49ers' interim head coach. But there was nothing "interim" about his actions during yesterday's game.
One day later, I'm still trying to decide whether Singletary set an appropriate tone for his stay with the 49ers or whether he completely over-played his hand. The benching of quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan was appropriate, no doubt.
The other situation deserves a closer examination.
Certainly, on face value, Vernon Davis' actions did not warrant such a dramatic action. He caught a pass, Seattle safety Brian Russell started jawing at him. And Davis, on his way to the huddle, reached out and tapped the bottom part of Russell's facemask. (Russell's head tilted back about 3 inches.)
Then, Russell immediately turned to the nearest official, as if to say, "Hey, did you see that?" That's when the flag comes out for unnecessary roughness. Unnecessary roughness? For that?
On Davis' way off the field, he appeared to wave a hand dismissively at Singletary. That was not a good move, and that likely set off the next series of events. (Singletary said Davis' reaction was to say, "What? What?")
Singletary had some choice words for Davis and then sent him to the bench. That's where Davis remained until Singletary came over to lay into Davis some more. Then, Singletary decided to send Davis to the locker room while the game was still in progress. (He made Davis return to the bench to take his helmet with him.)
Afterward, Davis wanted to speak with Singletary. But Singletary informed Davis that, no, Davis did not want to speak with Singletary at that time. Singletary was still seething.
Everybody is going to pile on Davis now. Singletary blasted Davis during his post-game comments. I've never heard a coach rip a player publicly quite like it, saying Davis is not a team player and he's not a winner. To me, it seemed over-the-top. Don't get me wrong, it made for some great material to write about.
Hey, Davis is immature. He's a narcissist. He is not a great pass-catcher. But I do not question Davis' work ethic and his commitment. Is Davis selfish? Probably. A lot of great players - and, believe me, I'm not calling Davis "great" - are selfish.
Whatever happens for the remainder of Davis' career, Singletary's words will follow Davis for the rest of his career.
I sat there transfixed -- amazed -- at Singletary's press conference after the game. Today, I'm wondering if a coach can have any longevity with the approach he showed on Sunday. If he got so angry after something like that during a game, can he be counted upon to make rational decisions during the course of a heated game?
And what about the 49ers' personnel department? After all, Davis was a first-round draft pick who nobody doubts has a lot of talent. He is signed through 2010. Is the interim coach making a long-term personnel decision with the way he handled Davis?
If you recall, Mike Nolan laid down the law when he came to the 49ers. But he had the final say on personnel, and he shaped the roster with players he wanted.
He took an immediate stand with Jamie Winborn, banishing him from the practice facility after an early season loss to the Cowboys. Winborn had to rebuild his career from scratch. Only recently has he found new life in the NFL with the Broncos.
Nolan took similar stands against Kevan Barlow, Brandon Lloyd and Ahmed Plummer. He agreed to sign Antonio Bryant, but then cut ties with him after one season. Heck, even earlier this season against the Saints, Nolan benched Davis for the final six minutes of the game when he got up pounding his chest after catching a pass in a blowout loss.
It is easy to support Singletary for his actions because it's something different. It's no-nonsense, and it's something we all say from time-to-time. "If I were the coach, I would've told that player to go take a shower."
But in today's NFL, I just wonder if that sort of approach can be successful.
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Last edited by iCON216; 10-27-2008 at 06:43 PM..