Mike Singletary Fired: Why Now and What Comes Next for the San Francisco 49ers?

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 29:  Head coach Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 29, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 27-6.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Late Sunday night, it was announced that Mike Singletary had been removed from his post as head football coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He was given the opportunity to resign, but declined, forcing the team to relieve him of his duties.

Singletary and the 49ers had a must-win game against the Rams on Sunday. A win not only kept their playoff hopes alive, but also guaranteed them a birth with a win over the Cardinals next week and a Seattle loss (which Seattle obtained with their defeat on Sunday against Tampa Bay).

The 49ers looked undisciplined, accruing costly penalties and coverage break downs consistently throughout the game. The big storyline was not in the costly errors, but rather in the way in which the 49ers conducted themselves.

In a somewhat surprising move, Singletary made the choice to go back to Troy Smith at quarterback. Troy Smith had already taken out the Rams earlier in the season and Singletary gave him an opportunity to enter back into the starting lineup.

Troy Smith could be seen engaging in a shouting match with Singletary on the sideline, with Ted Ginn attempting to mediate the conversation and calm his former college teammate down. It was evident that the team was no longer responding to Singletary's style.

The way the 49ers were performing on the field was painful to the fan base, but the manner in which the 49ers were behaving on the sideline had to scream to management that swift action was required.

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Why Now?

Team owner Jed York promised that the 49ers would win the West, even after getting off to a humiliating start. Despite having only five wins on the season, the 49ers could have still made good on that promise until they lost to St. Louis last week.

The 49ers could have fired Singletary after an 0-5 start. It appeared that York was somewhat gun shy to make that call, given that he seemingly prematurely gave Singletary the nod as the interim head coach when Mike Nolan faltered mid-season.

The 49ers hung in there with Singletary, probably because York saw they had the potential to take hold of a week division even with Singletary and a change could wait until the off-season. The second the 49ers were eliminated from the playoffs, it was a perfectly logical time to make the change.

Change is in order and the 49er fan base had to know that moving forward. By letting Singletary go before the season ended, it gives 49er fans the feeling that ownership has some sort of control over the historic franchise that has been held out of the playoffs since 2002.

By waiting until after the 2010 season, management would be simply prolonging the inevitable. It is clear the 49ers wanted to send a message. They are not going to be humiliated.

Jed York grew up around the 49ers organization during their glory days. It is hard to imagine Bill Walsh coming off on the sideline and engaging in a heated exchange with Joe Montana like the one we saw between Singletary and Smith on Sunday. The decision was well timed and well executed.

Why Would they Give Jim Tomsula the Interim Tag?

Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula bypassed the most logical candidate for the interim job, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, when he was given the designation on Sunday. He has experience coaching at a high level in NFL Europe, but do the 49ers really believe that Tomsula could be the next head coach of the 49ers?

Absolutely not.

That is the whole point of taking the high road and passing on Manusky. The 49ers were letting everyone know the fan base that not only were they not going to hire internally—which was evident with the Manusky non hire—but they were going after a big name head coach.

By hiring Manusky as the interim head coach, the public may be under the impression that the 49ers are making the change to transition to their defensive coordinator full time in the future. By hiring a head coach like Tomsula, there is no "coach in waiting" to speak of.

What's Next?


The 49ers are cleaning house.

They announced soon after the Singletary firing that they are going to hire a GM. Former GM Scott McCloughan unexpectedly left the organization weeks before the draft, forcing Trent Baalke to run the draft. He did an admirable job, but it is evident that the 49ers want someone who is going to be able to land a big fish.

The GM Head Coach marriage is crucial in running a successful football team. By having the general manager be in charge of hiring the head coach, a certain trust is formed from the very beginning. Whoever the GM may be, he will need to collaborate with the head coach and decide what personnel the team needs to go after and where the needs are.

This off-season could make or break the next decade for the 49ers. Hiring the right GM, to hire the right head coach, to groom the next franchise quarterback can lead to salvation or squalor. One thing is clear, the 49ers are not going to settle on their head coach.

At this point, if your name is not Jim Harbaugh, and you don't have a Super Bowl ring, you are likely out of the running entirely. The 49ers have been bitten three times in a row for hiring a coach who they thought had upside. It is time to hire a guy who has been there and done that.

Singletary left graciously and he actually left the team better than it was when he first arrived. They may be cleaning house at the top and a quarterback change is in order, but there probably won't be a tremendous amount of turnover heading into next season.

The 49ers are going to encounter change in areas of critical importance. For the sake of their franchise and the success of their new stadium, they have to get each and every hire spot on.