It has been decades since the San Francisco 49ers had a competent coach(Walsh) or a team that could overcome his flaws(Seifert, Mariucci) so perhaps the hiring of Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary seemed like a refreshing, no, intoxicatingly wonderful change. After all, the previous administration was led by a man who was the epitome of style over substance, more concerned with wearing a serious countenance and dapper suit than building a powerhouse football team.
It was easy to believe, because we wanted to, had to, for the sake of emotional sanity. Not that Singletary didn’t give us a reason to. When the hard nosed, glass chewing former linebacker turned Vernon Davis from bust with bronze hands to bronze busted superstar, the faithful rejoiced. When he spoke of discipline and accountability, the players nodded in agreement. When he wasn’t dropping his pants, he was kicking theirs, motivating the players to kick the pants off opponents. At last, we thought, here was a man who would run the 49ers like the proud franchise it once was, and not the clown college it had become.
Singletary preaches a military discipline. He has them walk out onto the field like soldiers. He does all his press conferences with the same steely glare he exhibited as a player. The man exudes confidence and commands respect. Again, this is all very similar to the perception Mike Nolan tried to sell us, only this time we were led to believe things would be different. This time it would be real.
Only the 49ers aren’t that. Real. They talk about discipline, but they play sloppy. They get into petty squabbles. They turn the ball over. They commit penalties. They run the wrong routes and throw to the wrong places. They have trouble getting plays in. Worse yet, when the plays don’t get in, the coordinator doesn’t absorb the blame. The coordinator is scared and insecure, afraid he’ll lose the job he doesn’t deserve. This from a team supposedly built upon a foundation of manly men and burly, troll-size offensive linemen. Yet it seems the only people getting trolled are the fans.
It all starts with the head coach(well, technically it starts with the owner, but the Yorks and their nepotistic hiring aren’t going anywhere). In his latest saliva-foamed rant, Singletary labels the player who leaked concerns about offensive coordinator and thrower-under-the busser Jimmy Raye a “rat.” A rat, in this case is not a medium-sized, long-tailed rodent of the superfamily Muroidea, but a dirty, cowardly man who doesn’t have the guts to talk to a man face to face.
The player he refers to, however, is none of these things. If the article is to believed, the player and many others went to Singletary in the offseason, man to man. The player showed concerns for how Raye liked to blame the team for his own shortcomings. The player was probably tired of the coaching staff constantly shifting the blame and decided the only way to speak the truth was to go to the media. The player did the very same thing Alex Smith did when Nolan stabbed him in the back a few years ago. What they had to. If Mike Singletary wants to talk about loyalty and family, he first needs to talk to the coordinator that shows so little of it.
And that is where the lines of past and present come together. The 49ers under Singletary are essentially the same team they have been for the past six years. A team of perception. They have a coach who announcers are conditioned to like and a team whose supposed prowess spreads like a word virus. They are overrated, overhyped, and overpaid. They are divas and gamblers and petulant children. They are led by a Rasputin-esque quarterback who has been given more chances and more lives than common and spider sense dictates. And they have a coaching staff who continues to preach one thing and practice another.