San Francisco Should Remove 'Interim' Tag From Mike Singletary's Title

Jeff DickinsonCorrespondent IDecember 4, 2008

It all started with the eyes. No one can forget the intensity of those eyes. Even casual football fans have probably seen Mike Singletary’s penetrating eyes on old NFL highlight shows.


Who can forget Singletary roaming the field as a middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears? No matter what the score of the game was, Singletary always had that look in his eyes...the one that struck fear into quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers throughout the league.


Now that Singletary has traded in his football pads for coaching slacks with the San Francisco 49ers, one thing has remained the same: the passion he brings to his job. In Singletary’s first game after San Francisco fired former coach Mike Nolan, he wasted no time in putting his intense stamp on the 49ers.


Singletary benched former All-Pro tight end Vernon Davis and then ordered him off the field and into the locker room.


He also tried to motivate his players at halftime of a 34-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks by pulling down his pants and showing his backside to illustrate how his team was getting spanked.


Singletary was criticized by experts everywhere about his halftime antics in that first game as interim coach. And, while he probably went too far in trying to shake his players out of their funk against the Seahawks, Singletary didn’t lack passion. Singletary said that the point he made by benching Davis was that no player is above the rules.


As Singletary enters his sixth week at the helm of the 49ers, he has definitely made some mistakes. In addition to the pants-dropping incident, Singletary mismanaged the clock in the closing minute of San Francisco’s 29-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 10. His inability to manage the final 46 seconds of the game cost his team the chance to upset the Cardinals.


The 49ers are 4-8 overall this season. Since Singletary took over from Nolan, the team is 2-3, an improvement on the 2-5 mark under Nolan’s leadership. Records aside, San Francisco seems to be heading in a much different direction under Singletary.


Nolan never seemed to have the respect of the players. He looked good on the sidelines dressed in his expensive suits. Nolan looked like a football coach with his chiseled chin.


But players like Davis did what they wanted under Nolan without facing the kind of repercussions that they do with Singletary running the show.


Nolan seemed like a coach who didn’t want to make any waves, for fear he would lose his job. Singletary has been making waves since he was laying out defenders as a member of the Bears. Singletary is his own man and he doesn’t need anyone’s approval in order to look in the mirror and feel good about himself.


Last week, Singletary led his 49ers up to frigid Buffalo to play the Bills, who were in playoff contention with a 6-5 record. Behind Singletary’s example, the 49ers shut down Buffalo’s offense and scored just enough points to come away with a 10-3 road victory.


While that win probably won’t be enough to propel San Francisco to a late-season winning streak that will bring about a playoff berth, it still went a long way in building character in the 49ers.


It helped inexperienced players like quarterback Shaun Hill, wide receiver Josh Morgan, and San Francisco’s young defense to see what it takes to beat a favored opponent on the road.


Singletary will probably make some more first-year mistakes between now and the end of the season. But one thing that he will also do is to learn from those mistakes. Singletary deserves to have the interim tag removed from his title before the end of the season.


San Francisco could do a lot worse than having a man like Singletary leading the franchise. The 49ers could go after a veteran retread that has more polish. But that doesn’t always work out in the long run; just ask the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs how that’s going for them.