Mike Nolan looked the part of an ideal head coach. Generally liked by his players, he spoke articulately, and with a steady, candid demeanor. He paid homage to the organization's history (and his father's) by wearing a suit on the sidelines. All this while amassing talented players that didn't make headlines in the offseason.
Unfortunately for 49er fans, they didn't often make headlines during the season either.
Maybe Nolan thought a couple of rowdy guys would be a distraction in the locker room? Maybe owner John York sent down a mandate that no bad press would be tolerated while the team negotiates a stadium deal? Maybe GM Scot McCloughan doubted Nolan's ability to reign in strong personalities.
Wherever you place credit for the squeaky-clean image of Nolan's squad, this much is clear: Mike Singletary's 49ers have an edge to them.
Of the seven players the 49ers drafted this year, three have blemishes on their records that caused them to slip down NFL draft boards, and another was reportedly labeled a diva by an NFL head coach who had interviewed him. Added to this group were two free agents with first day talent whose off-field behavior caused them to fall out of the draft entirely.
Out of fairness to these young athletes, please note that we're not talking about the second coming of Lawrence Phillips or a recreation of the Cincinati Bengals by the Bay. It's important to recognize that none of these men are violent offenders and none have ongoing legal issues.
They've simply made some questionable decisions—the kind that recent 49er brass has shied away from.
That was all BS (Before Singletary).
Two weeks into his tenure as interim head coach, Singletary had handcuffed stubborn Offensive Coordinator (and coaching legend) Mike Martz, humbled resident ego-tripper Vernon Davis, dropped his pants in the middle of a three-minute locker room tirade, and hosted a post-game Q&A that left Bud Light executives salivating.
Singletary doesn't care if you or I (or even his players) like him. He's got enough friends. He'll answer any question a reporter asks, and somehow reveal nothing while speaking in a very direct manner. He's a champion, a perfectionist, and a tremendous competitor.
Above all else, he's a leader of men. To be a part of his team is to know without question that his direction will lead to success. Judging by the players' response to his jump-on-the-bandwagon-or-get-run-over approach, there's reason to believe things are turning around in San Francisco.
With that leadership in mind, here are some 49ers that would probably be somewhere else if Singletary wasn't in charge: