Will Mike Singletary become the next Monte Clark of the 49er franchise?
For those of you who may not remember, Clark was appointed the head coach of the 49ers in 1976. Clark succeeded Dick Nolan and Mike Singletary has succeeded Mike Nolan—Dick Nolan's son.
At the time Clark was appointed head coach of the 49ers, he was the youngest head coach in the league. Clark served as head coach for only one season and it was, by all measures a success even though the 49ers missed the playoffs that year.
With Clark at the helm, the 49ers won six of their first seven games in the 1976 season. However, a 23-20 overtime loss to the St. Louis Cardinals started a losing streak and the 49ers finished the season at 8-6 and out of the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
Despite the fall-off the last half of the season, many 49ers fans at the time perceived the 1976 season to be an overwhelming success. This is understandable given the 49ers had finished 5-9, 6-8, and 5-9 respectively over the preceding three seasons under head coach Dick Nolan.
Clark was an old school type of coach—a former offensive lineman in the NFL and he brought a smash mouth approach to the 49ers. Sound familiar?
In the offseason, the 49ers were sold and a young and inexperienced owner—Eddie DeBartolo took over the team. When Clark refused to reduce his responsibilities in favor of the new General Manager Joe Thomas, Monte Clark was fired after only one season has head coach.
Now that Jed York has been promoted to team president, his power has grown immensely. York's favorite Uncle, Eddie DeBartolo, surely must serve as an inspiration and role model to him.
York fully realizes that DeBartolo's success came about largely as a result of his willingness to take a chance on a local and highly successful head college coach in the Bay Area—none other than Bill Walsh from Stanford.
The question is: will York be willing to see what develops with Singletary, or will he grow impatient and seek out a modern day equivalent of the next Bill Walsh?
There is one very intriguing possibility that looms large right here in the Bay Area—the eventual promotion of Cal's head coach Jeff Tedford to the 49er head coaching position.
For sure, Tedford does not by any measure have the equivalent NFL assistant coaching experience that Bill Walsh brought to the table.
However, no one can deny the fact that Tedford took over a moribund program at Cal and in short order has brought national recognition to a program that was once the laughing stock of the PAC-10.
Tedford has proven himself in his ability to bring quality assistant coaches together and to pull together a winning program year in and year out at Cal.
Tedford also knows how to develop young quarterbacks - something recent 49er head coaches seem to have been unable to do. Lost in the genius label attached to Bill Walsh was his ability to work with the mechanics and footwork of his young quarterback Joe Montana. Tedford has similar abilities.
I believe the only thing which stands in the way of an NFL head coaching position for Tedford is a Rose Bowl appearance or other BCS caliber bowl game for his California Golden Bears.
Tedford has allegedly already had overtures from NFL teams and other colleges. For now, Tedford has remained steadfastly loyal to Cal—perhaps his most compelling reason being his having unfinished business at Cal—the aforementioned Rose Bowl.
It will be interesting to watch what happens with the 49ers under new team president York, an ambitious young man who watched in admiration as his favorite Uncle Eddie DeBartolo Jr. led the 49ers to greatness.
York knows it will take a very special coach to bring back the glory that was once the 49ers. It just may be Singletary—an impressive former NFL player and an impressive man.
If not, the next Bill Walsh may already be coaching right here in the San Francisco Bay Area—Tedford of Cal.