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.

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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 Learned

Years from now, when people look back on 2010, what will they remember as the defining sports moment? Uh, they can only pick one? We discovered that Tiger Woods likes to play the field and that Brett Favre doesn’t mind sending pictures of his anatomy to hot sideline reporters via text message. We found out that LeBron listens to his friends a little too much and that Ben Roethlisberger needed a serious lesson in humility. But we also learned that athletes such as Michael Vick and Josh Hamilton haven’t blown second chance opportunities (or third and fourth chances in the case of Hamilton). It was also nice to see a certain pitcher turn down bigger money so that he can play in a city that he loves.

We’ve done our best to recap the year’s biggest sports stories, staying true to tradition by breaking our Year End Sports Review into three sections: What We Learned, What We Already Knew, and What We Think Might Happen. Up first are the things we learned in 2010, a list that’s littered with scandal, beasts, a Decision and yes, even a little Jenn Sterger.

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

Tiger Woods gets around.

We hesitate to put this under “golf” because the only clubs involved were his wife’s nine-iron hitting the window of his SUV and the various establishments where Tiger wined and dined all of his mistresses…over a dozen in all. This was the biggest story of the early part of the year, but it got to the point that whenever a new alleged mistress came forward, the general public was like, “Yeah, we get it. Tiger screwed around on his wife. A lot.” He has spent the rest of the year attempting to rebuild his once-squeaky clean image, but it’s safe to say, we’ll never look at Tiger the same way.

LeBron wilts when his team needs him most.

Say the words “LeBron” and “Game 5” in the same sentence and NBA fans everywhere know exactly what you’re talking about. In the biggest game of the season, LeBron looked disinterested, going 3-of-14 from the field en route to a 120-88 blowout at home at the hands of the Celtics. There were rumors swirling about a possible relationship between LeBron’s mom and his teammate, Delonte West, and there’s speculation that LeBron got that news before tipoff and that’s why he played so poorly. Regardless of the cause, LeBron played awful in that game, and it turned out to be his swan song in Cleveland as a member of the Cavaliers. Talk about leaving a bitter taste.

You can auction off your talented son’s athletic abilities and get away with it.

The NCAA set a strange precedent this season while dealing with the Newton family. The always inconsistent and completely morally uncorrupt NCAA decided in its infinite wisdom that despite discovering that Cecil Newton shopped his son Cam to Mississippi State for $180,000, and that is a violation of NCAA rules, that Cam would still be eligible because it couldn’t be proven that he knew about it. Conference commissioners and athletic directors around the country spoke out about the decision, while agent-wannabes and greedy fathers everywhere had a light bulb go off in their own heads: As long as we say the player doesn’t know about it, it could go off without a hitch. What was Cecil’s punishment in this whole thing? Limited access to Auburn for the last two games of the season. Easy with that hammer there, NCAA. Read the rest of this entry »

Why not Troy Smith?

HERTFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 27: Troy Smith (L) and David Carr of San Francisco 49ers in a training session at The Grove Hotel on October 27, 2010 in Hertford, England. The San Francisco 49ers will meet the Denver Broncos in the NFL International Series regular-season match at Wembley Stadium on October 31. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Mike Singletary has come to the same conclusion that coaches in Houston, Carolina and New York came to before him: that he’s seen enough of David Carr to know that he can’t be counted on as a starter.

Alex Smith is expected to miss 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury and while some 49er fans want to see Carr take the snaps this Sunday in London, Singletary has already named Troy Smith the starter.

Hey, why not?

Look, Carr is nothing more than a backup and will be nothing more than a backup. The same could be said about Smith, but the former Heisman Trophy winner has one thing Carr doesn’t: upside.

Smith’s height is a major issue, but his athletic ability makes him intriguing and he has a strong enough arm to make all the throws at this level. Seeing as how he’s been running the scout team offense in practice, it would be wise if offensive coordinator Mike Johnson built his game plan around Frank Gore this week and limited Smith’s throws to screens, roll outs and three-step drops. That said, once Smith gets more comfortable with the offense, there’s no reason to think Johnson can’t expand the playbook.

There’s an argument to be made that Singletary didn’t give Carr a fair look, but what more does he need to see? What more does anyone need to see out of Carr to know that he can’t run an offense? When the Texans finally released him, everyone thought that with a good offensive line he would turn his career around. But he had a decent O-line in Carolina and he struggled. The Giants, who have had been searching for a backup for Eli Manning before trading for Sage Rosenfels, also didn’t see the need to keep Carr around.

He is what he is, which is why Smith is worth the risk for the 49ers. Will it ultimately be the right decision by Singletary? Who knows – time will only tell. But at least Smith’s ceiling hasn’t been met, unlike Carr’s.

49ers owner John York commits to Mike Singletary for rest of season

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers watches on against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 24, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Fans that were hoping Mike Singletary would get the boot during the season won’t have their prayers (for lack of a better word) answered anytime soon.

49ers owner John York says that he’s committed to Singletary through the duration of the season despite the team’s 1-6 start. The Niners were the preseason favorites to win the NFC West but despite all their talent they can’t get it together on Sundays.

Barring a miracle second half, Singletary is likely out at the end of the year. His rah-rah style was great when the Niners showed steady improvements but it has obviously started to wear on players. And if the players don’t want to fight for their head coach in good or bad times, then there’s no sense keeping him employed.

What’s really interesting is the idea that Singletary may not get another head coaching job after bombing so badly in San Francisco. That might be premature of me to write, but he’s shown an inability to make in-game adjustments and is turning into a P.R. nightmare. This isn’t a movie – you can’t give the “halftime speech” every week and then get your ass handed to you on the field. Winning is the only thing that matters in the NFL.

Even if he’s fired by the 49ers, Singletary needs to use these last nine games as an audition for other teams. Because unless he wants to go back to being a linebackers coach, he needs to prove that he can outmatch other coaches in the league.

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