49ers targeting Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh as their next head coach?

Jim Harbaugh continues to be one of the hottest names in football and if he wants to leave Stanford for a bigger job next season, he’ll likely have opportunities at both the college and pro level.

According to Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, the 49ers are interested in Harbaugh as head-coaching replacement for Mike Singletary (who was fired on Monday). The Niners view Harbaugh’s work with Josh Johnson and NFL prospect Andrew Luck as a sign that he can develop quarterbacks. And seeing as how that was one of Singletary’s downfalls, they would love to secure a head coach who knows how to manage signal callers.

Maiocco also confirms that Trent Baalke will be promoted from V.P. of Player Personnel to General Manager. The team wanted to have a GM in place before they sought a head coach and now that they have one, you can expect them to start interviewing coaches once their season wraps up this Sunday (if not sooner).

One name I keep throwing onto the table is Jon Gruden, and for the same reasons the Niners like Harbaugh: he can work with quarterbacks. Gruden had success in the NFL with Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson and Jeff Garcia, so if San Fran is looking for a coach who knows QBs then “Chucky” may be the perfect fit.

That said, who knows if Gruden wants to come out of the booth right now. He enjoys working with the Monday Night Football crew and he may not be ready to return to the sidelines yet. But if he does, I don’t see why the Niners wouldn’t at least pick up the phone and gauge his interest in returning to the Bay area. Harbaugh would be a fine choice, but if San Fran is looking for more pro experience, then you can’t beat Gruden’s resume, which includes hoisting a Lombardi Trophy.

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Who will the 49ers target as their next head coach after firing Singletary?

Mike Singletary’s tenure in San Francisco will inevitably serve as a lesson to all teams that just because a man can motivate doesn’t mean that he can be a head coach.

Towards the end, Singletary even had a tough time motivating, too. He was fired by the 49ers on Monday following yet another putrid offensive performance and a screaming match between him and one of his quarterbacks. During the second half of the team’s 25-17 loss to the Rams on Sunday, Singletary and Troy Smith went toe-to-toe after Singletary wanted to bench the QB in favor of Alex Smith. Ironically, Singletary also got into a sideline confrontation with Alex Smith in a game earlier this season against the Eagles.

Singletary ends his coaching career in San Fran with an 18-22 record over just two and a half seasons on the job. He’ll mostly be remembered for his fiery press conferences, his mismanagement of quarterbacks and his failure to make in-game adjustments. Obviously some of the blame falls on the players for not executing, but it’s up to the coaching staff to make adjustments when the original game plan isn’t working. Singletary failed to do that. In fact, I’ll venture to say that he and Jim Mora (the son, not the father) are the worst in-game coaches the league has ever had.

So where do the 49ers go from here? The Niners want to hire a general manager before they hire a head coach, which is fine. But once that GM is in place, the first phone call I’d make if I were him is to Jon Gruden. After the Singletary debacle, this team needs actual leadership and someone that the players can trust. This team needs someone who actually knows the X’s and O’s of the game and someone who can manage quarterbacks. Gruden has won with Brad Johnson, Rich Gannon and even Jeff Garcia. He can also finally provide some consistency on the offensive side of the ball, which is something the 49ers haven’t had for two and a half-plus years.

Gruden may not want to come out of the booth and down to the sidelines again but if he does, I’d make him an offer he couldn’t refuse if I were Jed York.

Once Niners fire Singletary, they should call Gruden

Here are five quick-hit observations from the Rams’ huge 25-17 victory over the 49ers on Sunday.

1. There’s no way Mike Singletary can retain his job.
This was a massive win for the Rams but I have to talk about Mike Singletary first. This man continues to prove that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a head coach at this point in his career. Once again, he got into another shouting match with his starting quarterback when he and Troy Smith went at it in the third quarter. Right before the altercation, Smith had thrown an interception and Singletary told Alex Smith to start warming up. That must have angered Smith, who had been brutal but the Niners were only trailing 22-14 at the time. Singletary decided to put Troy Smith back into the game, but benched wound up benching him for the fourth quarter. Singletary clearly doesn’t know how to manage NFL quarterbacks and if I’m the 49ers’ brass, I wouldn’t wait a millisecond before firing him at the conclusion of the season. He benched Troy Smith in favor of Alex Smith a couple of weeks ago, even though Troy Smith had posted a winning record in his five starts. Then, with the team’s season on the line this weekend in St. Louis, Singletary again makes a switch, only to bench Troy Smith in the fourth quarter anyway. Granted, it doesn’t matter. The 49ers weren’t going to make the playoffs and Troy Smith was awful. But this is the NFL. This isn’t a video game where you jostle between quarterbacks every quarter in attempt to strike lightening in a bottle. Too much preparation and planning goes into a game the week before for Singletary to keep going back-and-forth between quarterbacks. It’s freaking idiotic and seeing as how this wasn’t the first time one of his players has yelled at him on the sidelines, it’s also apparent that he doesn’t have control of his team. I wouldn’t trust him to run my car at this point, let alone my football team.

2. The Niners should call Chucky.
Once San Francisco cans Singletary, the first call the front office needs to make is to Jon Gruden. Assuming he wouldn’t mind leaving the booth and coming down to the sidelines again, Gruden would be a perfect fit for the Niners. After the debacle that is Mike Singletary, San Fran will need a head coach that knows how to manage quarterbacks. Chucky won a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson and won a division title with Jeff Garcia, so clearly the man knows how to do just that. Whether or not they stick with Alex Smith or Troy Smith is irrelevant. Gruden can figure that out once he comes aboard but the key is that the Niners need to hire an established coach that can help restore the order that has been lost under Singletary. The players need someone that they can follow and who they trust, not some windbag who likes to here himself talk but who doesn’t have the faintest idea about the X’s and O’s of the game.

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2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Will Happen

What do we think will happen in 2011? Ha! We’re glad you asked. As part of our 2010 Year End Sports Review, we see good things ahead for Duke, the Celtics and the Saints. We see cursed days ahead for the Phillies and Giants, and one Florida Gator-sized reunion in Denver. We also like Carmelo to play for the…hey, why are we telling you all this? Read for yourself below, lazy. (And have an open mind – we had some fun with this section.)

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

You think he’s gone? He’s not gone. He’s never gone!

Brett Favre has duped us before with his retirement talk, so why should we buy what he’s selling now? Lord Favre says 2010 will be his final season, but after spending a couple of months on his ranch next summer, he’ll get the itch to return. And some team will welcome him back. And the media will torture us with their 24-hour Favre watch. And the dreaded cycle of death will continue. So which lucky team will have No. 4 in uniform next season? While we wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Favre returning to the Vikings for one more year now that Brad Childress is gone, that’s not a very fun projection. Thus, what about Da Raaaaaaaiders? Huh? Can you see it now? Lord Favre and Al Davis at the podium holding up their pointer fingers and saying, “Just win baby.” No? Ah, you’re no fun.

Carmelo will be a Knickerbocker next year.

Book ‘em, Danno. The writing is on the wall. He hasn’t signed the three-year extension that the Nuggets offered last summer and has reportedly decided that the only team he’ll agree to be traded to is the New York Knicks. This means that if the Nuggets are hoping to get something substantial for him, they’ll have to move him before the February trade deadline. Since there appears to be only one team in the running, the deal isn’t going to be very good. We wouldn’t want to be Nugget fans right now — the rebuilding process is about to begin.
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