Over the course of a 16-game NFL schedule, lots of strange things can occur.
Every team has one game where everything goes right. Every team also has one game where everything goes wrong.
The 49ers hope that last week, they already experienced their one game.
Last week's game against the Seattle Seahawks, was perhaps the most disappointing loss since the Nolan/Singletary era began.
But if the 49ers did indeed experience a fluke last week against the Seahawks, then a miracle win against the defending Super Bowl champions on Monday Night Football can work magic.
This Monday night, all of the 49ers chips are in the middle of the table.
This happened because Singletary does not like to take criticism. Nor does he like to make excuses.
So he has called “all-in” in an effort to avoid having to answer the difficult questions.
Instead of answering the difficult questions about the abilities of his players and coaching staff, Singletary instead provided very matter-of-fact answers to a local TV reporter.
The mild-mannered reporter asked some relatively softball questions. But Singletary didn't want to even hear them asked. He interrupted the reporter in the middle of his questions.
To paraphrase Singletary:
“We WILL move the ball against New Orleans.”
“Alex Smith WILL move the ball and we WILL score.”
“We WILL defend and shut down Drew Brees.”
“Jimmy Raye has been in the league longer than you have been a reporter, so I don't understand how you can possibly question his ability as an offensive coordinator.”
There's that word again: “Will.”
It's a word that has a prominent place in Mike Singletary's vocabulary.
Singletary is still under the belief that an NFL team can impose their “will” against an opponent through sheer mental determination.
Unfortunately, when trying to accomplish any task in the real world, imposing one's will quickly runs into obstacles.
The game of poker provides a clear example.
Right now, Singletary is imposing his will by pushing all his chips into the middle of the poker table in an effort to portray strength.
This usually works.
Assuming a random assortment of hands, and depending upon how often you perform this trick, the other players at the table will likely fold.
Your show of strength can only be believable so many times.
Eventually, someone will call you on it. And when they do, the real strength of your hand will finally show itself.
If the 49ers lay another egg this Monday on national TV, the hard questions are going to be even harder to avoid.
If the 49ers repeat last week's performance, going all-in again will not fool anyone.
The Poker Brat
Singletary might actually be a genius.
He might be using all of this banter to motivate his players to even greater heights of mental acuity.
However, if you keep losing when the public eye is upon you, eventually your antics can no longer be taken seriously.
You become a comic showpiece, even if you are not fully aware of it.
Comments such as, “You play to WIN THE GAME,” or “PLAYOFFS?! Don't talk about PLAYOFFS?!” only serve to amuse and befuddle a relatively attentive football audience.
Not surprisingly, it is these types of comments which tend to precede the end of a football coach's tenure with the organization.
Right now, observers are comparing Singletary's actions with that of a broken, bewildered Mike Ditka during his time with the Saints.
These two football coaches believed in the idea of crushing the will of their opponent and increasing the mental toughness of their players
They were molded in a different era.
They found success at a time when players did not have the option to skip town and abandon ship. If you were on Mike Ditka's team, there was not a whole lot you could do about it. There was no free agency or salary cap.
He had you in his camp, at his practices, in his den, where you had better play by his rules and get his message in your head, or else find another profession.
Coach Ditka could push you around and you couldn't push back.
Mike Singletary embraced and excelled within this type of atmosphere.
Coach Singletary has tried to re-create some semblance of that era. He wants to challenge his players to their very core.
Next Monday night, if the 49ers can't compete with the Saints, the very core of his team WILL be tested.
Double or nothing
The Saints game happens to come at a very convenient time for the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers have lost a large chunk of their chip stack.
But because Singletary has gone “all-in,” the 49ers have a chance to not only get all of those lost chips back, but come out ahead from where they were before last week's game.
If the 49ers handily beat the Saints, nobody will care about what happened in the season opener way out in the Northwest Territories.
If the 49ers can beat the Saints in front of a national TV audience, and look good doing it, Singletary will look like the most brilliant head coach in football.
All of his antics will have served to refocus his players and shut up the media. His big hat will now have some cattle.
For one more week, at least, fans will admire and appreciate a coach who had the guts to talk the talk and walk the walk.
If they win the game.
If not. They're busted.
The 49ers players will have to decide whether or not to “buy in” again and stay for the long haul.
But what is there to believe in if the 49ers get blown out?
If this team gets blown out Monday night, the talk and banter will continue, but the chips will all be gone.
With less talent, this team competed with the Vikings and Colts on the road, and took those teams to the wire, only to lose at the very end.
At least fans would expect something on par with that. At least.
If not, questions will have to be asked. Hard questions.
Now that all the chips are in, this Monday night marks the march to greatness or destruction. There is no middle ground.
This team was already on the cusp. We have been there and done that.
Next week is the week to double up or bust.