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San Francisco 49ers Need Less Tell Me, More Show Me

Michael ErlerCorrespondent INovember 12, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 08: Head coach Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers looks on against the Tennessee Titans during an NFL game on November 8, 2009 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Those of you who follow the 49ers with the fervor one usually reserves for teams that are, uh, you know, good, probably watched, or at least heard about, 49ers coach Mike Singletary's lengthy exchange last Monday with a local reporter.

Was the scribe grandstanding and trying to make himself a part of the story?

Absolutely.

Did Singletary take his monologue a bit too far, regardless?

There's no doubt.

It's ironic, for a man who's got posters and billboards of himself plastered all across town next to his trademark quote "Don't tell me, show me," that lately all Singletary and the rest of his under-performing team are doing is talking, not acting.

Not to say Singletary's tactical acumen has been questioned or anything, but in the media trailer these days you can hear the scuttlebutt of Wizard of Oz comparisons when "Coach Sing" is brought up, and it's not because he wears ruby red-colored sneakers.

After all, this is a man who, between his Hall-of-Fame playing career and his current gig as "a leader of men," dabbled in motivational speaking. Fortune 500 companies would hire him to give pep talks to cubicle dwellers.

It's impossible to argue that "do what I say because I knocked the crap out of Phil Simms" is a bit more inspiring than "I live in a van down by the river," but the Singletary clan decided to move on into coaching anyway.

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The man is good for two or three compelling quotes per week, but there is a growing concern that he's better at filling up our notebooks than he is at actually giving his players something of substance in the games.

Weeks ago, Singletary declared that he doesn't care what people write about him or what adjectives were describing him, as long as we don't call him a losing coach.

Well, his career record is now 8-9 and the team is on a downward spiral.

The coach keeps insisting to anyone who will listen that he's got a good group of players who have the potential to do great things. But until they do it, it's just talk.

And it's not just the coach who's been more bark than bite this week, either.

Tight end Vernon Davis, hardly the bashful type himself, took the opportunity on Tuesday to rip Chicago's front seven, particularly the defensive line, and predicted that he and his teammates would "destroy them" when the Niners square off against the equally free-falling Bears Thursday night.

Davis went on to say that he doesn't respect anyone on the defensive line besides end Adewale Ogunleye, and that his guys should be able to "handle" Chicago's linebackers.

Even in the best of times, giving opponents bulletin board material is a bad idea, but when you're in the midst of a four-game losing streak and you toss around statements like that, you sound delusional at best, and flat-out dumb at worst.

Davis has played at a Pro-Bowl level this season, but he's made a career of saying and doing foolish things. Every time you think to yourself that the light bulb finally switched on for him and he's grown up, he goes out and does something like this.

It's disappointing to see, particularly from a team captain.

Finally there's the case of Alex Smith, whose career resurgence hit a speed bump with a miserable four-turnover game versus a bad Tennessee team.

Smith defended his play on Tuesday and said his reads and decision-making were sound. He said the two deflected interceptions he threw were unfortunate job hazards.

Both Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye were complimentary of Smith and of the offense in general, with the former saying that it was "one of the best offensive performances we've had since I've been here," and the latter claiming that, "without the turnovers, it would have been a different outcome."

Yeah, and if my aunt could count to 21 she'd be my uncle.

If this is the best they can expect from Smith and the best he expects for himself, then they might as well warm up rookie Nate Davis and see what he's got. Throwing three interceptions to the 32nd-ranked pass defense in the NFL is inexcusable, period.

For Smith or his coaches to pretend that such an outing is acceptable—or even worse, encouraging—is a bad omen for this franchise. Basically, it's a lot of moral victory nonsense, and we all know that Mike Singletary is not a moral victory kind of guy.

The signs on the bus told me so.

The Good Ship 49er seems to be surrounded on all sides by icebergs. They haven't shown any signs of being able to navigate their way out of this mess, but theoretically, it's still possible.

Doing it on the podium is one thing; doing it on the field is quite another.

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