Mike Singletary, Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree Must Prove It Wasn't All Hype

Ted SillanpaaAnalyst ISeptember 14, 2010

Alex Smith had a rough day, as did the rest of the 49ers, on Sunday.
Alex Smith had a rough day, as did the rest of the 49ers, on Sunday.

No reason to remain calm when what appears to be panic seems appropriate.

The 49ers were the prohibitive favorite to win the NFC West as one of the "it" teams of the 2010 season.

Unfortunately, the club had to go to Seattle and show the Seahawks that all the experts were right -- that the 49ers were back, baby!

The 49ers were a playoff team on paper. On the field, they were a paper tiger and the Seahawks absolutely destroyed them, 31-6.

No reason to remain calm.

Just take a deep breath and panic.

Head coach Mike Singletary held a team meeting -- after the opening game of the season. It's hard to remember any playoff-type team needing a get-focused pep talk after Week One.

Then, Singletary criticized quarterback Alex Smith, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and insisted that, really, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye would still be calling plays in Week Two. Not many head coaches feel compelled to give their OC a vote of confidence before Week Two. (Of course, few OCs who call plays so slowly that the game is delayed, the team is penalized and timeouts are wasted.)

Singletary thanked Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll for his team embarrassing the Niners, as though San Francisco had believed the hype and headed for Seattle like a team coming off a Super Bowl season, rather than playing like one that hadn't proven anything yet.



The offense, and Smith, are getting the bulk of the criticism. Smith wasn't great. He wasn't consistently good, but NFL analyst Chris Collinsworth said he only need to be "average" for the 49ers to win the NFC West. He wasn't that far from being just your run o' the mill NFL quarterback.

However, Singletary committed to Smith as the No. 1 quarterback after last season and didn't waver -- refused to waver. He was, apparently, the only person to have followed Smith's career who didn't have some concern about the quarterback's ability to win.

The result? Smith was average, slightly below average, and the 49ers got pounded. There were many 49ers fans who saw that short pass to a wide open Moran Norris, one step from the end zone, fly out of bounds and immediately began giving up on Smith -- again.

Crabtree didn't do much in the preseason. It was no big deal when Vernon Davis, likely, considered crushing the second-year receiver's spleen in a practice field dust-up. Surprise! Crabtree looked out of sorts on Sunday and, really, it did seem like he wasn't totally sold on the idea of going after passes over the middle.

Raye, at one point, had 49ers' offensive assistants shaking their head sets and shouting at Singletary on the sidelines. The initial thought was that the communication device had failed. Raye was just slow making calls, maybe he was hard to here. Singletary said play-calling has to be better, but that Raye won't be on the sidelines this week.



Having the head coach reconsider who calls plays, how they're called and where they're called from after the opening game of the regular season sets off an alarm that drowns out the experts who so loved the 49ers as recently as Saturday night.

Oh, Singletary knocked the offensive line, too. Good thinking. It was the line's poor play that set the new, calmer, more confident Smith back to looking a little antsy in the pocket. Wasn't Singletary supremely confident that the O-line with two first-round draft picks would be just grand?

The most alarming thing of all is that it was shoddy play by a supposedly impenetrable defense that lost the 49ers the game. Yep, that's right ... the defense that was supposed to enable the offense to win scoring 15, 16 points got pounded.

Which brings to mind the fact that Singletary build the 49ers to win with defense, then passed up two field goal attempts to go for it on fourth down in the first half. The Niners failed both times and, when two DBs got tangled up, the Seahawks scored and led 7-6. (Two field goals...six extra points...the 49ers would've been in the lead if Singletary hadn't opted to put the game on his offense's shoulders early.

It was a total breakdown. Chaos. The preseason hype will be hard to live up to if it takes a team meeting, a talk with the offensive coordinator and a come-to-Jesus session with the bulk of an unproven offense.


Singletary is a fine man, but lots of fine men who wanted to lead and had the ability to lead often lead teams in the wrong direction. Being as sure as he was about Smith and the offensive line and that defense, only to have everything implode immediately, leaves open the possibility that the problem might be Singletary.

There are many weeks ahead to see if the hype was based in fact -- and whether or not Singletary is a leader who just can't lead in the right direction.

Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnists. Reach Ted at tsillanpaa1956@gmail.com