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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Frank Gore suffers fractured hip, is done for the season

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (C) finds the hole and runs for a first down in the first quarter of the 49ers game against the Arizona Cardinals San Francisco 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ November 29,2010. UPI/Art Foxall Photo via Newscom

The 49ers better hope that Brian Westbrook has found the fountain of youth because their chances of making the playoffs just took a major hit.

NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora reports that Frank Gore will miss the remainder of the season with a fractured right hip. He suffered the injury in the first half of the Niners’ 27-6 victory over the Cardinals on Monday night, although what’s interesting is that he returned to the game after initially heading to the locker room for treatment. He did not receive X-rays during that time, however, and he eventually carried the ball once more before leaving the game for good.

While the team has yet to make an official announcement on his timetable to return, it’s probably safe to assume that his season is over. Westbrook and rookie Anthony Dixon will now split carries in the Niners’ backfield.

It came against the Cardinals’ shoddy front seven, but Westbrook looked great on Monday night. He rushed for a season-high 136 yards on 23 carries with one touchdown and showed some of the cutting ability that made him popular in Philadelphia. Considering how well he ran, it makes you wonder why Mike Singletary and his coaching staff didn’t get him more involved until now. (He had just five carries coming into the game.)

With the win, the 49ers find themselves back in contention in the worst division in football. And seeing as how they play the Rams and Seahawks (two teams with one more win than San Fran) in December, it’s not unrealistic to think that Troy Smith and Co. can win the NFC West. But losing Gore was a major blow and it puts even more emphasis on Smith getting up to speed with the offense so that the Niners can open things up in the passing game.

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.

Eagles have options if they eventually decide to dump Michael Vick

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 9: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on from the sideline in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at Cowboys Stadium on January 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that the Eagles were seriously considering dumping Michael Vick, although the rumor was quickly denied by reputable NFL insiders Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN, as well as the team itself.

But what if the Eagles decided to part ways with Vick in wake of his latest off-field situation? Would they be comfortable releasing him with no veteran to backup the inexperienced Kevin Kolb next season?

Considering Vick was mostly used out of the Wildcat formation last year, the answer to that question is easy. Jeff Garcia, the veteran QB who has history with the Eagles, would be the most logical option if Vick were released. Garcia is already well versed in Andy Reid’s offense and despite his weak arm strength, he’s a better passing quarterback than Vick, who may have a rocket attached to his left shoulder but whose accuracy remains a major issue.

Another option the Eagles might have is one that was brought up by ESPN and that’s Troy Smith, who probably could be had for the right price. The former Heisman Trophy winner is rotting behind Joe Flacco in Baltimore and would like the opportunity to start somewhere else. Kolb is entrenched as the starter right now in Philly, but that doesn’t mean Smith wouldn’t have the opportunity to unseat him if he starts to struggle at any point during the season.

The point is that Vick isn’t worth the trouble for the Eagles. Reid’s experiment with him in the Wildcat last year often produced poor results and at 30 year’s old, it’s not like the former No. 1 overall pick has regained his lightening-quick speed. (He’s reportedly in better shape than he was last year, but that doesn’t mean he’s the athlete he once was.)

I would stop short of calling Vick expendable, but he’s certainly not worth the headache if he gets into even an ounce of trouble with the league over the Quanis Phillips shooting. And truth be told, the Eagles missed out on a golden opportunity to trade him this offseason by asking for a second round pick (which was way too high) in exchange for his services.

Browns sign Fujita, Pashos – is Troy Smith on the way?

The Browns signed a pair of free agents over the weekend, inking deals with linebacker Scott Fujita (three years, $16 million) and right tackle Tony Pashos (three years, $10.3 million).

The signing of Fujita probably signals the end of Eric Barton’s short tenure in Cleveland. The former New Orleans outside linebacker will play inside in Eric Mangini’s 3-4 defense and should do well at that position. While he’s an unspectacular player (i.e. he’s not going to make a ton of highlight reel plays), Fujita is fundamentally sound and plays the run extremely well.

Pashos will replace John St. Clair, who struggled mightily last year. With the Browns ready to transition to a power running game under Mike Holmgren, Pashos is a good fit because he’s a mauler in the run game. He is coming off an injury-plagued 2009 season, but has been durable over his career and should be healthy by the time camp opens.

Another interesting Browns-related nugget is that Troy Smith’s agent said on Monday that his client “would crawl from Baltimore right now to be able to play in Cleveland.” The Browns are looking for quarterbacks and Smith was tendered at the low level, which means he could be had for a fifth round pick. But is he a fit for the West Coast offense? It might be worth it for Holmgren to part with a fifth rounder to find out.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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