When word got out that Mike Singletary had dropped his pants during a halftime speach to his players last season, people laughed it off as a wildly unconventional ploy to inspire his faltering team.
Well, folks... It happened again this weekend in Seattle. Only nobody's laughing about it this time.
Listen, I love what Coach Mike Singletary can do in terms of motivating players. He sure has gotten more out of Alex Smith and Vernon Davis than the last coach did.
However, Singletary makes very poor decisions and is a lousy game manager. It was he who cost the 49ers their game against the lowly Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday, not his players.
The truth is, despite his contagious brand of passion, coach Sing is all fire and no ice. He just can't think his way through a football game.
The 49ers needed a leader on Sunday in Seattle. They needed a captain to steer their ship. Instead, they again lost their way at the hands of the blind guide-dog.
The 49ers certainly weren't outplayed on Sunday afternoon; they were simply out-coached.
The way I figure it, Singletary made four major gaffes this weekend, each more egregious than the last. The final blunder was the dagger, and it literally cost the 49ers the game.
The folly began right away, when the 49ers had to use a time-out on the first play from scrimmage.
When have you EVER seen that happen?
Singletary's team was not alert and ready to go at the opening bell. That blame lies squarely with the head coach.
Then, after forcing Seattle to go three-and-out, The Niners offense took the field and marched all the way down to the Hawks' one-yard line. After failing to punch it in on third down, a disappointed coach Sing settled for the field goal and the early lead, right?
Noooo, because that would have been the right call. And this article is all about the wrong calls.
Instead of taking the sure points, Singletary decided to go for it on 4th-and-1. Of course, the Niners didn't convert, and they came away with nothing.
True, the replay showed that Delanie Walker was tackled before he touched the ball. But a missed pass interference call does not justify Singetary's bone-headed decision to go for it on fourth down so early in a scoreless game.
You gotta take the field goal in that situation, every time. Those three points were the difference in the game.
After stuffing the Seahawks again to force a three-and-out, the Niners took advantage of great field position and scored a touchdown.
Following a kick-off to the Hawks, the defense came up big again, and forced another punt. The momentum was clearly with the 49ers. They were shutting down Seattle's offense, and had shut up their rowdy fans.
Unfortunately, the momentum didn't stay with the 49ers for very long.
Instead of giving his offense a chance to continue their early dominance, Singletary decided to call a razzle-dazzle reverse play on the ensuing punt return.
Without sounding angry, I really have to say...What an idiotic call.
Alex Smith and company had moved the ball easily on both offensive possessions at that point in the game. There was absolutely NO REASON to take a chance on a silly gadget play in that situation.
A reverse hand-off on a punt return is a very risky play. The defense is usually bearing down on a punt returner when he catches the ball, giving him little time or space to execute such a complicated maneuver.
The result was a fumble, which gave the Hawks the ball on the 49er 13. This put the defense in a no-win situation. It brought the crowd to life, and gave Seattle's offense confidence.
Worst of all, it handed the Hawks the momentum, which they rode to another touchdown on their next possession.
In another dingbat move, Singletary used all three 49er time-outs in the first quarter of the game. This left the team with no chance to challenge any calls for the remainder of the first half.
Didn’t Mike learn his lesson this season in Houston, when Delanie Walker’s fumble couldn’t be reviewed because the 49ers were without a time-out?
The fact is, the final time-out used by Singletary was completely unnecessary.
Still in the first quarter, the team was facing a 3rd-and-long. Alex Smith completed a pass to Michael Crabtree, who had run past the first down marker and then back toward Smith to catch the ball.
The referees marked the ball one yard short. However, replays showed that Crabtree's knee was down with the ball beyond the marker. Due to the bad spot, the 49ers were looking at fourth down.
Instead of challenging the spot, which would serve as a time-out and allow the team to discuss their options for the next play, Singletary simply called time-out.
Had he challenged the call, he would likely have won (according to the replay), and thus would have conserved the team's final time-out.
Mercifully, despite Singletary's woeful coaching in the first half, the Niners managed to get into the locker room at the half with a 14-14 tie.
They would not be so lucky in the second half.
Singletary's worst blunder was his total failure to manage the clock at the end of the game.
The Niners got the ball back with 51 seconds left in regulation. They were at their own 11-yard line. The score was tied at 17.
After a first-down gain of seven yards, San Francisco took a shot down field with an incomplete pass to Jason Hill.
So now Singletary's team had a 3rd-and-3 from their own 18. Instead of a short pass or a run to get the first down, Singletary's offensive coordinator called for a 35-yard pass down field into triple coverage. Luckily, the pass was dropped by the safety.
But the 49ers' fate was already sealed. Two incompletions had each stopped the clock. San Francisco was forced to punt, giving Seattle the ball on their own 45-yard line with 30 seconds left in the game and two time-outs.
All Matt Hasselbeck needed was 20 yards to get into field goal range. That proved to be an easy assignment for the Pro Bowl caliber QB.
He marched the Hawks right down the field, and Seattle kicked the game winning field goal as time expired.
Now, I have heard many fans and even some reporters blame the 49er players for the loss of this "must-win" game. Let me assure you all; such blame is misplaced.
Did the 49ers leave some plays out on the field in Seattle? Sure they did. But players drop passes (even touchdown passes) all the time. They fumble the ball and throw interceptions. They miss tackles, too.
Mistakes happen every game, because players are talented, but they’re not perfect.
I’m not excusing the scoring opportunities wasted by Vernon Davis (two drops in the end zone) or Frank Gore. If those plays were made, the 49ers may well have won the game.
But Seattle dropped passes and had turnovers too. The difference in this game is that Jim Mora didn’t destroy his team’s chance to win by making horrible decisions.
Coach Singletary did.
The time has come to hold coach Sing accountable for his shortcomings. This is the second year in a row that "Mad Mike" has made coaching mistakes that cost the 49ers a must-win game with playoff implications.
Or maybe you've all forgotten the meltdown in Arizona last season....