Will Mike Singletary last the season as 49ers coach or be fired during it?
Logic points to the second alternative. The preseason choice to win the weak NFC West, the Niners are 0-3 and heading to Atlanta to face a team which beat them resoundingly at home last year.
Moreover, nothing really changed with Jimmy Raye’s firing. The 49ers will be running the same dismal offense that Singletary dictated. He’s lost the players. Players want to know they’ve got a solid plan to win, and Singletary doesn’t give them that. Angry outbursts don’t replace sound planning.
If the 49ers make an inseason change, Jon Gruden is available. Gruden made that obvious when, during the Jerry Rice tribute at halftime of the New Orleans game, he alluded to Eddie DeBartolo as the “architect of the 49ers success.” He knows better. Bill Walsh was the architect, but Gruden was clearly angling for the coaching job.
He’d be a good choice. Gruden is a successful coach, having built the Raiders into a Super Bowl team and then beating them with his new team, the Tampa Bay Bucs.
His offensive schemes are rooted in the Walsh system, though both Gruden and Walsh pointed out the differences to me in the ’90s. The most obvious difference: Walsh believed in split backs, either one of whom could run, catch or block. Think Roger Craig and Tom Rathman.
Gruden’s energy would inspire the players, too. He doesn’t give motivational speeches. He just works nonstop, especially with his quarterbacks; Alex Smith would love him. He gives his team a chance to win.
Perhaps the 49ers will play just well enough to keep Singletary for the rest of the season, though it’s hard to imagine they’ll be able to get into the playoff picture.
In that case, they might look at Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh after both their season and Stanford’s have concluded.
Harbaugh might prefer college ball, but, if the Niners offered him the job, it would be hard to turn down. It would be for much more money than he’s getting at Stanford and he’d stay in the area he loves, having grown up in Palo Alto.
Harbaugh knows what it takes to succeed in the NFL, having played there. He knows how to put a staff together, which is the chief prerequisite for a head coach. He communicates with players; he doesn’t try inspirational speeches, which don’t work.
That’s not the only change the 49ers need to make. Their front office also needs help.
I’m impressed with Jed York but he needs more experienced NFL help, especially because he’s spending so much time on the new stadium issue. Trent Baalke, the GM in function if not name, is very competent, but he, too, could use more experienced NFL help. Even Walsh, operating in a much simpler era, didn’t do it alone; John McVay made the phone calls to the people he knew around the league.
This is a critical time for the 49ers. If they are to build support for a new stadium and lure back disenchanted fans, they have to make positive moves. The first is to fire the coach and get the right replacement.