After years of looking, the 49ers may have stumbled upon a leader
The one about today's athletes. About the need to protect and coddle their multi-million dollar bodies, their fragile mindsets, their short attention spans.
In his first training camp as the 49ers head coach, Singletary is running two-a-day practices -- in pads. He's adopted old-fashioned tackling drills, like the aptly named "nutcracker." He's giving fire and brimstone speeches -- and it's barely August. He's stopping practice whenever he doesn't like what he sees -- to deliver a tutorial.
Does Singletary think it's 1985? Clearly this is the wrong way to handle an NFL team in 2009. But Singletary's approach just might work.
Singletary is the latest in a series of designated saviors of the forlorn 49ers. The five-time Super Bowl champions haven't had a winning season since 2002. And, on the outside, Singletary is an unlikely candidate to turn things around.
A career as a Hall of Fame linebacker isn't exactly prime grooming ground for a head coach. Singletary has never even been a coordinator at any level. He's a defensive-minded rookie leader, just like the 49ers last unsuccessful coach: Singletary's predecessor
Singletary has claimed he wants the franchise -- famous for revolutionizing the passing game -- to be "physical with an F." That would be a change. For the past six years, the 49ers have simply received an F. Not for "physical."
Back in the 1980s, Singletary was an undersized linebacker for the Chicago Bears who turned himself into one of the most fearsome defensive forces in the league. Now he says he wants to become the greatest NFL coach ever. Such comments are met with snickers. After all, how many great players become great coaches?
But Singletary has something in common with the man who turned the 49ers franchise around three decades ago. Despite coming from the other side of the ball Singletary, like the late
That serves him well in a league in which frauds are sniffed out quickly and tuned out even faster.
After years of missteps under the York ownership -- the awkward firing of
Elevated to replace Nolan on an interim basis last October, Singletary changed the mindset and the rhythm of the 49ers in their last nine games. They finished 5-4 (one bungled final drive in Arizona away from 6-3), making Singletary the team's first winning coach since Mariucci.
So back in December, the Yorks didn't hesitate. Giddy with unaccustomed success, they hastily hired Singletary on a permanent basis.
Within weeks, the move was second-guessed. Proven coaches like
Yet, it was hard to downplay the transformation that had taken place. It went beyond more than simply trying hard for the new guy. The team was infused with a new energy and new belief.
Even Singletary's early missteps weren't fatal. When word leaked that he had dropped his pants in a halftime tirade to the team, he shrugged off the embarrassment. As his wife observed, Singletary simply said "Note to self: Don't do that again," and moved on.
When he banished tight end
It played through the end of the season. And it's still playing. Davis may be Singletary's most devoted follower.
"Main thing I like about Singletary is that he gets on you," Davis said a few days ago. "He'll stay on you"
Veterans, like defensive end
Singletary's interesting tactics are still in play. He's allowing a quarterback competition between
The old-school coach doesn't even seem to mind that top draft pick
Singletary might not have gotten the memo about modern athletes. But maybe he knows that things haven't really changed all that much.