The San Francisco 49ers head into the 2010 season as the front runners to win the NFC West. With Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner retiring this offseason, the 49ers have become the default choice to win the division in the upcoming season.
Even before San Francisco selects two potential impact players in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft, they have already had these playoff expectations thrust upon them by fans and analysts around the league.
Without question, the 49ers will have the on-field talent to reach these expectations. The 49ers already have play-makers on both sides of the ball with Dashon Goldson, Justin Smith, and Patrick Willis on defense and Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree on offense.
Add in the draft choices and free agent pickups and the 49ers will clearly have enough talent between the white lines.
But what about the talent standing on the white lines?
Does Mike Singletary have what it takes to be an elite head coach? Or is he just a phenomenal motivator?
Now all of the 49er players will praise Singletary as their head coach and the majority of them will be telling the truth. But a handful of them, as well as the die-hard fan like you and I, will be questioning his true game managing abilities.
Can Singletary manage a game even half as well as Bill Walsh or George Seifert?
So far in Singletary’s year-and-a-half tenure, we have seen a rookie head coach with zero coordinator background look……well….like a rookie head coach with zero coordinator background.
The on field fiascos under Singletary’s direction began back in 2008 when neither Singletary nor offensive coordinator Mike Martz knew on what yard line the referees had placed the ball on the game’s final play in Arizona late in the season.
With a full two and half yards needed to score a winning touchdown as time expired, the 49ers ran a fullback dive with Michael Robinson. The carry didn’t even get within a yard of the endzone and the 49ers lost a heart-breaker.
Last season, more of the same coaching gaffs continued. Singletary elected to run three straight times and punt the ball back to Brett Favre in the final minute of the game in Minnesota instead of throwing for a game winning first down pass. Tight end Vernon Davis was having a career game, and one more reception would have sealed a victory.
Furthermore, throughout the season, Singletary failed to utilize his timeouts properly. Quite often he would wait until after the two minute warning to call his timeouts when the 49ers needed to get the ball back.
Managing a game in such fashion is quite puzzling when you consider that time is of the essence when a team is down by one score with their defense on the field. Using the two minute warning as the last timeout in a sequence of three stoppages (two timeouts, two minute warning) saves the most time on the clock.
Not only did Singletary misuse timeouts in crucial moments but he gave one away before the first play from scrimmage against the Seahawks. For most NFL fans, that was the first time we had ever seen that happen before.
Combine the poor timeout usage with the fact that Singletary benched and subsequently cut his only decent return man on the roster just five games into the season.
San Francisco went on to rank amongst the bottom of the league in both punt and kick return averages. With Arnaz Battle, Brandon Jones, and Delanie Walker fumbling the ball away in the return game, the 49ers shot themselves in the foot time and time again on special teams.
In fact, with momentum on the 49ers side late in the season during a pivotal game in Seattle, the 49ers ran a reverse punt that Battle and Jones combined to fumble on the exchange.
A situation when San Francisco had no adequate return men and were dominating the game in the opening quarter is not the time for a reverse punt.
Now can these poor coaching moves be chalked up as coaching inexperience? Hopefully.
But so far the only positive coaching stories about Singletary are those discussing the various motivation tactics he has used to whip certain players into shape.
However, being able to motivate the troops is only one of the numerous attributes needed to be a successful head coach. Managing the clock, challenging poor calls and coming up with the right play at the right time are all just as important if not more so than being a talented motivator.
In the most recent Super Bowl, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was claimed by many to deserve the MVP award for electing to onside kick to begin the second half. Would the defensive minded Singletary even consider making that play call if he were in the same situation?
I don’t know think he would have.
However, great coaches never take a particular play-call off the table.
If Singletary wants to become a great coach like Sean Payton, he is going to have to keep an open mind on week to week game plans, as well as make smart play calls and manage the clock effectively.
And in order to keep his job in 2011, Singletary will have to start making tremendous strides in those areas this season.
The 49ers are expected to make the postseason this year and anything less will be viewed as a major disappointment.
If Singletary continues to make questionable decisions this year and the 49ers miss the playoffs for the eighth straight season, it is a good bet San Francisco will look elsewhere for a new head coach.
This article was originally published on nfltouchdown.com: http://www.nfltouchdown.com/why-mike-singletarys-job-will-be-on-the-line-in-2010