When 49ers head coach Mike Singletary took over as interim head coach midway through last season, he wasted no time getting the 49ers faithful on his side. In just his first game, he switched from an awful quarterback in J.T. O'Sullivan to fan-favorite Shaun Hill, whipped Vernon Davis into shape, and gave a powerful postgame press conference.
The demeanor, intensity, and winning attitude of the Hall-of-Fame linebacker-turned-head coach was a drastic difference from the regime led by Mike Nolan, who seemed to have zero ability to create chemistry among his players.
Going into this season, expectations were high for Singletary when he was given the full-time head coaching position. Fans expected this team to continue their winning ways.
However, after a promising 3-1 start to begin the season that was very nearly 4-0, the 49ers have dropped three games in a row and currently find themselves a game back of the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West.
Granted, injuries, poor performances on the field, and an unlucky tough portion of the schedule have contributed for the current losing streak, but the head coach hasn't done much to help his team, either.
There are two specific instances that have been eerily frustrating the past couple of weeks in particular. Both the return game and clock management have been major concerns that haven't been run properly.
First of all, ignoring his current injury with the Dallas Cowboys, former 49ers return man Allen Rossum should never have been cut.
GM Scot Mcloughan handles player management, but Singletary benched Rossum for two straight games before his release. It sounds like "Samuri Mike" had the issue with Rossum, not Mcloughan.
Furthermore, the 49ers don't have a quality replacement for Rossum in the return game. Unless Singletary convinced Mcloughan Rossum should be cut, why would the 9ers GM let his best return man walk?
To be fair, Rossum did have a bad game in his last contest with the 49ers. He muffed a couple of balls against the Rams in week four, but that hardly put his team at a disadvantage. San Francisco still won the game, 35-0.
Since being benched, his replacements have been excruciatingly terrible. Both backup tight end Delanie Walker and Arnaz Battle have given up costly turnovers, not just muffed punts—which Rossum got back for his team in his one sub-par performance.
However, the fumbles aren't even the full story. Without Rossum, the kick return game is now extremely slow. Michael Robinson is best known for his special teams in blocking and making tackles, not returning kicks.
Even if he catches a kickoff outsid the end zone, he can still barely make it beyond the 20-yard line. There is no explosiveness whatsoever with Robinson returning kicks. But that can be expected when the only other option to return kicks is the aforementioned Walker, who is just as slow if not slower than Robinson. But at least the backup running back can secure the football.
All of these miscues were developed in the past two games prior to Sunday's matchup against the Colts. But the biggest miscue of them all came against Indianapolis when Singletary elected to put his No. 1 corner on special teams as his punt returner.
Even though Clements has superb return skills, putting an $80 million defensive player on special teams is the most idiotic coaching decision I have seen in years.
Why would a coach subject his top cornerback to injury? It only takes one play for a season-ending collision, and it appears that may have been what happened on Sunday. Reports are not official, but word is Clements might be gone for the season with a fractured shoulder blade.
Can you say, "Good-bye, playoffs," for the 49ers?
All because the 49ers cut their top return man for no other known reason but to make a roster spot for Michael Crabtree? Surely a backup linebacker or defensive lineman could have been an easier pill to swallow.
Instead, the 49ers outright released a returner who had one of his best seasons last year, and is still easily a top-five return man in the NFL.
What could he possibly have done to irritate "Samuri Mike" to warrant his release?
Things just don't add up, and the 49ers are suffering because of that.
However, the return game is not the only issue that is starting to get fans scratching their heads. The second complaint is what in the world is Singletary saving his timeouts for?
Two games in a row, first at Houston and second today at Indianapolis, the 49ers were down to their last 10 yards. One more first down by their opponent and the game would be over.
With under three minutes left in both games, Singletary let the time run down to the two-minute mark and used the two-minute warning as his first timeout instead of his last.
Remember, his team is losing the game by one score. He is letting time dwindle away with timeouts in his pockets?
The 49ers offense needs all the time it can get, and if the defense gives them a stop, it would be much more beneficial to use the two-minute warning as the last timeout instead of the first.
Getting the ball back with 1:55 and no timeouts is much more beneficial then getting the ball back with 1:35-1:40 and no timeouts. That 15-20 seconds that you lose by calling your timeouts after the two-minute warning is what could cost your team the game.
Poor return game and poor timeout usage are both troubling, but at least one of them can be fixed. Although the 49ers can't magically get Rossum back onto their roster, they can start to improve their time management.
However, with issues like these—which clearly should not be problems—perhaps Singletary isn't the mastermind coach we all hoped he would be after last season.
Will he be able to realize his clock management failures? Considering he is a coach who benches his best return man, perhaps the best moves aren't clear. Calling your timeouts at the right time may seem easy, but when the coach shows he may not have the brightest wits about him, maybe it's not that easy—for him.
I mean, why was Singletary benching his best return man?
Why does he continue to hand cuff his own offense with poor timeout usage?
Just what in the world is he doing?
Hopefully he is just making rookie coaching mistakes, but they appear to be simple issues that shouldn't be complicated.
Don"t bench/cut your immensely talented return man, and use your timeouts before the two-minute warning, it shouldn't be that difficult.