Welcome changes coming for San Francisco 49ers

Many 49ers walking around the facility looked shell-shocked following the firing of Mike Singletary. They like Mike.

Vernon Davis called him a father figure who cared about his players as people first. Too bad Singletary’s coaching skills never matched his noble personal character. That’s because he led like he played: Explosive, uncompromising and stubbornly determined to out-muscle anything in his path.

Initially it worked. Although, ultimately the bombast and hubris were his undoing.

Sure, after being named interim coach in October 2008, the 49ers rallied around Mike the motivator. In fact, the Hall of Fame linebacker’s inspirational impact on the 49ers so enamored new team president and CEO Jed York he not only gave Singletary a four-year contract, but he virtually anointed him team savior.

The coach was making calls on draft picks and free-agent signings. Thankfully, a more savvy and experienced York realized his drill sergeant masquerading as a coach couldn’t match gamesmanship with accomplished NFL field generals.

No need to run down the countless missteps Singletary made. More importantly, the 49ers are finally moving on.

The owner’s son is also wise enough to know what he doesn’t know and will allow the new general manager to select the next head coach.

Of course, Jim Harbaugh, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher are the popular picks. There are other worthy potential candidates like the Houston Texans’ Gary Kubiak, who faces the axe after a disappointing (5-10) season in Houston. Kubiak played and coached in six Super Bowls, including 1994 as the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach when Steve Young went on to be Super Bowl MVP.

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy told me he thinks Jeff Fisher would be a great hire if he gets bounced by the Titans (6-9). Fisher, in his 17th season at Tennessee, is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL and was also San Francisco’s defensive backs coach in 1992 and ’93. Interestingly, Fisher played with Singletary on the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears and was a teammate of Ronnie Lott’s at USC.

Although known primarily as a defensive-minded coach, Fisher is a bright and innovative leader, who helped develop Steve McNair and Vince Young into winning NFL QBs.

Speaking of quarterbacks, now that the entire football world knows Alex Smith is more Joey Harrington than Joe Montana, it’s time to move on. If Troy Smith stays, it’s only as an emergency fill-in. Maybe the 49ers can pull off a draft-day deal and move up from say No. 7 overall to No. 2 and grab Andrew Luck if he chooses to leave Stanford early.

If not, the next best move would be to go after the Redskins’ Donovan McNabb. Unhappy and apparently unwanted in Washington, the six-time Pro Bowler will be eager to prove his critics wrong. Playing in the West Coast offense his entire 12-year NFL career, McNabb, 34, could resurrect his career and the 49ers’ franchise in one fell swoop.  

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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