San Francisco's Slippery Slope: Is Week 4 the Final Chance for Mike Singletary?

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2010

ST. LOUIS - JANUARY 3: Head coach Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sidelines against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on January 3, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The 49ers beat the Rams 28-6.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The player-turned-head-coach species is becoming rare in today's NFL.  Gone are the days of the ex-athlete developing into a well-conditioned leading man, and now we take a look at the new generation of coaches, equipped with a diploma, a flash Motorola headset, and a hard head for football.

In terms of disappointment, this new generation of coaching perhaps isn't all that bad.  Not only has it gifted us with great coaches such as Bill Belichick in the past years, it also allows for any football fan to study their passion, and one day make it to the big dance if things go their way.

But when it comes to the dying species that is the ex-athlete, head coach Mike Singeltary isn't doing his own species any favors right now, considering that his tenure so far this season in San Francisco has gone haywire from the very beginning.

Upon entering the 2010 NFL season, things looked up for the 49ers.  Alex Smith had gained two impressive henchmen in Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis, and for once, tight end Vernon Davis had been recognized after being awarded the honors of becoming the highest-paid tight end in the league.

Yet somewhere between the end of preseason Week 4 and Week 1 of the regular season, the San Francisco 49ers fell into a formidable slump, that has seen just about everybody in the Bay Area hang their heads in dismay at the sight of what was supposed to be a very significant season.

Aside from what has unfolded on the field, the San Francisco head coaching role now shines brightly beneath the spotlight. 

In a time that sees many head coaches facing controversy four weeks into the year, lovable leading man Mike Singletary is under the gun as of now, seeing as though his very promising team is facing an 0-4 hole that looks to be close to impossible to climb out of.

To reflect on Singletary's career as a player, he was always very outspoken.  Anyone that is a regular viewer of NFL Films Presents would be familiar with Singletary's Ray Lewis-like ways when it comes to verbal discussion, and although Singletary may not be as fondly remembered as Lewis will be in years to come, his achievements have been up there with the best and brightest in the league.

Just for a walk down memory lane, Singletary is a Hall of Fame linebacker, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and better yet, a Super Bowl champion during his years with the Chicago Bears.

Unfortunately though for all of Singletary's memorable moments on the field, his sideline days haven't been all that glorified.  Given that he has managed to turn the 49ers into a contender in the past two years as head coach, Singletary has often felt the pressure of coaching such a high profile team, even though he hasn't been listed as a "hot seat" favorite up until now.

So the question must be asked, what has gone wrong for Singletary in such a short period of time?

Looking at the 49ers on paper, it is fair to say that Singletary hasn't had a great deal of issues to face when it comes to player management.  Although the Shaun Hill vs. Alex Smith war was significant last season, nowadays the team has only one main quarterback that they are focused on, even though Alex Smith still faces questioning at this point in his career.

No, the player development hasn't been an issue.  Instead, the issue for Singletary is that he hasn't learned quick enough, or better said, he has struggled to grasp the reigns entirely as the head coach, and really lead the 49ers to what their heart desires - a playoff spot.

At first glance, Singletary seems to be a well-rounded head coach.  He isn't quiet on the sidelines, he is all about motivation, and at the same time is one of the kindest men in the entire league, especially when it comes to his own players.

However, what lets Singletary down is his inability to get truly fired up about a situation.  Sure he had a rather fiery interview several days ago, but he comes off as the type of character that prefers to mentally stimulate his players through the use of man-made hills on the practice field, or quotes used for inspiration.

As much as this technique isn't unheard of, it is slowly becoming a dying breed particuarly in the NFL.  Today's hardened coach is expected to get riled up, and if you take a look at Rex Ryan in New York, you'll instantly see the future of the coaching position in professional football.

With all of this in mind, none of it is to say that Singletary is a bad coach.  Heck, here is a guy that has challenged a fairly mediocre side, to not only perform at their very best, but to also go on and draft a handful of talented guys in the 2010 NFL Draft.

At the end of the day, tough tests still lie ahead for Singletary, and none is more tough than the San Francisco 49ers' visit to Atlanta this Sunday, as Singletary's crew takes on the Falcons in a hot and rocking Georgia Dome atmosphhere.

Chances are the 49ers are going to be in for a very long day.  Not only are the Falcons red-hot right now thanks to the brilliance of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Michael Turner, the 49ers rank 27th in rush yards on defense, a stat that isn't overly favorable against the strong and quick rushing that Atlanta offers.

If a test has ever awaited Singletary before, this one would definitely top it.  A trip to the Georgia Dome is no easy task for any team, let alone a side that is 0-4 and really struggling at the present time.

In terms of Singletary, this week may be his final chance to really save his career in San Francisco.  Luckily for Singletary, 49er fans are still keeping the faith, and chances are he will never be a hated man in Candlestick Park.

Still, this type of issue can't keep on, and for a playoff bound team to slip to 0-5, Mike Singletary will need to pray for a miracle in the coming weeks, otherwise it may be lights out in San Francisco.


Ryan Cook is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also an NFL columnist for Real Sports Net and a Green Bay Packers writer for Fan Huddle and PackerChatters. Ryan is also a contributing writer for Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Generation Y Sports.  Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.