In the wake of the San Francisco 49ers' embarrassing gaffe in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks, two all-too-common cries have reemerged in earnest among Bay Area media and residents (and purported 49er "fans").
The first is the ever-present assertion that starting quarterback Alex Smith is not NFL material and that a change at quarterback would instantly improve the team.
The second is that head coach Mike Singletary lacks what it takes to get the job done, that his poor game management cost the 49ers a shot at the playoffs last year, and the 49ers ought to replace him now before they forfeit another shot at the postseason this year.
The complaints about Smith are expected, and not altogether unwarranted. After showing some progress last year, and putting together an impressive-enough offseason to ascend to the captaincy, Smith did little in the opener to help his team's cause. Still, he was far from the only (or even the biggest) issue for the 49ers offense in Seattle, and it is highly unlikely that going to David Carr would yield very different results.
The complaints about Coach Sing are much more perplexing, however.
Coach Sing is indeed inexperienced as head coaches go, and his decisions do sometimes border on the strange (from his motivational tool of dropping trou' during halftime in his interim debut to his decision to go for two red zone fourth downs on Sunday). However, the notion that he has abjectly cost the 49ers any particular game is a bit of a stretch.
Sports are funny in that 99 times out of 100, for any particular thing you point to saying, "This lost the team the game," there are probably a dozen other things that were equal contributors. You can blame Coach Sing's decisions for a few losses last season if you want to, but at some point in each game, there was likely a dropped ball or missed assignment that cost the team just as much.
Take a moment to consider what Coach Sing has done since taking over for Mike Nolan.
He inherited a team that was in a dismal nosedive in 2008 and righted the ship to lead them to a 5-4 record in their last nine games. Most interim coaches assume a team mid-season and cannot muster anything close to a winning record, but Coach Sing showed that the coach—not the talent level—was to blame for the 2-5 start.
Coach Sing has been right around .500 his entire time as head coach, and after going 8-8 in his first full season while transitioning to a new offensive system (again), he stands at 13-13 in 26 career games as a head coach.
Only two men since the DeBartolo Era have done better in their first 26 games with the 49ers, and both of them—George Seifert and Steve Mariucci—took control of bona fide Super Bowl-caliber teams. Dennis Erickson took over a roster at least close to as talented as the 2008 team in 2003 and stumbled to a 9-23 record in two seasons.
Legendary coach Bill Walsh won just eight games total in his first two years in charge. His team in 1979 was not as talented as the 2008 team, but had many of the same players that won a Super Bowl just three years later.
Coach Sing also had the moxie to defy the experts, the media, and the "fans" and bench Shaun Hill in favor of the vaunted Alex Smith. His charisma and command of respect are unquestioned.
Still, a good many "fans" want to believe that Coach Sing should have been fired after failing to make the playoffs last year (after just one full season, and holding a winning record). They claim had the 49ers replaced him with somebody from the college ranks—like rising Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh—the 49ers would be better off today.
What does reality say?
The 49ers still have a very good chance to make the playoffs this year, and a lot of that is due to the progress and continuity they have had under the Singletary regime. Had the 49ers went with a wholesale change of staff, they would be miles behind where they are now with virtually no shot at the postseason.
Sunday's opener proved that the 49ers still have some growing up to do as they try to live up to the expectations placed on them this year. However, a fresh look at the game plan and a good "pep talk" from the suddenly questioned Coach Sing could work wonders in righting the ship.
All the clamoring for Coach Sing's head proves that all too many fans have already hit the panic button, and once again are relying too heavily on wild speculation and shaky "expertise" from the Bay Area media's local yokels as they grasp blankly for potential scapegoats.
It is only reasonable to question whether every player and coach is worth his pay check, but in Coach Sing's case, you should need little time in determining that answer is a resounding YES. Should the 49ers again miss the postseason, it will be justified to explore new directions at head coach. Until then, Coach Sing's job should be 100 percent safe.
Anything else is completely unfair.
Keep the Faith!
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