Mike Singletary is a Hall of Fame linebacker, who played the game with incredible passion and toughness. But does his background as a player make him a quality head coach? Not unless he has put the time in to learn the game as it is played today.
The technical side of football changes every three years, therefore a coach who doesn't keep up with the constant change will allow the game to pass him by. Singletary has always wanted to be a NFL head coach, in part based on his career, but he had never been a coordinator before becoming head coach of the 49ers. His preparation for the job was based on being a motivator, based on his playing career and based on his passion for the game.
Henry Kissinger writes in his memoirs, "When you enter public life in Washington you borrow on the intellectual power you bring to the job, and you can't renew it once you are there." Public life in Washington is similar to the NFL. Singletary is in a job that requires complete knowledge of the game. And to best influence players the coach must stimulate them mentally.
Mental stimulation, not Knute Rockne speeches, is the single most effective tool a coach has in his arsenal. Players must believe the coach has the knowledge to help him perform better, to enhance his game and to help the team win. Yelling, screaming and stare-downs have their place, but over time they lose their effectiveness. Unless there is a connection mentally, the players won't listen.
It is important to separate Singletary the player, from Singletary the coach. Singletary the coach has based his beliefs on how he played the game, not how he has learned the game as he prepared to be a coach. For example, Dick LeBeau, the Hall of Fame player and current defensive coordinator of the Steelers, studied the game, first becoming a special teams coach back in 1973, then moving over to defense. LeBeau was always learning football from the technical side and eventually was the first to develop the zone blitz package. He paid his dues in the coaching profession before he became a coordinator, whereas Singletary retired in 1992, did not enter the coaching profession until 2003 and then became a head coach some five years later.
From my viewpoint, Singletary's decision to fire offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is rather perplexing. Yes, the 49ers' offense has been struggling, but before Raye was hired, Singletary was clear in the kind of offense he envisioned for his Niners. Raye is the ultimate solder; he will do what is asked and understands the chain of command better than any coach I've had the pleasure to be around. Raye is always going to follow the company line to the best of his ability and will never have his own agenda.
When Singletary became the full time head coach, he fired Mike Martz because Martz was too carefree with the football, because the Martz offense wanted to throw more than pass, and clearly Martz was not going to employ a power run game. Singletary got his vision of the offense when he hired Raye. He has been around Raye for two years, therefore if he didn't like the offensive plan for the Chiefs game, then he easily could have changed the plan on Wednesday or Thursday before the game.
Staying up all night after the defeat in Kansas City -- as Singletary indicated he did -- to evaluate the 49ers offense, most specifically Raye, seems like he is making Raye the scapegoat. The time to evaluate Raye was during the mini camps, during the official team activities, and before any game. If Singletary didn't like the offense all he had to do was tell Raye to make the changes.
If Singletary did not like what Raye was doing he should have said something in March or April and made the changes accordingly. Waiting until the season starts clearly makes Raye the scapegoat, and now puts Singletary next in the line of fire.
The Script: My first 15
- The 49ers travel to Atlanta, which is always a tough place for the visitors, and unless your offensive communication is precise, the crowd can disrupt the continuity. The 49ers want to run the ball, which is always hard on the road in loud stadiums, and new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will have to handle the quickness of the Falcons' front. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan has been great on third downs this year, posting a 132 rating on the hardest down to convert in football.
- The Jets are playing much better on offense than defense right now. For two weeks in a row, the Jets' offense has carried the team, (did ever think you can say that?) and the last two opponents have blocked the defense's pressure packages. Not sure that it will be three teams in a row, as the Bills struggle to pick up blitzes and remain consistent on offense.
- Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is struggling, therefore the Bengals' offense is struggling, which makes them vulnerable in Cleveland this weekend. The Browns are slow on defense, slow on offense, but with running back Peyton Hillis showing excellent run skills, they will move the ball on the Bengals. This intrastate rivalry is always a good game, and if Jake Delhomme comes back and does not make critical mistakes, the Browns have a good chance to win.
- Don't be fooled if the Packers run the ball on the Lions, because everyone can run the ball on the Lions. The Packers need a runner -- badly -- or they run the risk of becoming an all pass team. I love it when a team throws the ball, but on those critical downs there has to be someone on the roster who can convert short yardage. The Packers do not have that kind of back on the team right now.
- The Panthers always play the Saints well, even in New Orleans, as they have won seven of the last nine games. But this year the Panthers have not been able to run the ball as well as they have in the past, which kills any chance they have on offense. The Saints miss Reggie Bush, especially when they spread the formation and run their check-with-me packages at the line, which they had an entire Bush element built in. The Saints' formula for success on defense is to get the lead early in the game, and this year they have not been able to build that early lead, ranking 16th in first half point-differential.
- It's a must-win for the Ravens this week in Pittsburgh, in part because Ben Roethlisherger is not playing, but mostly because the Steelers are undefeated and have a one game lead over the Ravens. Losing puts the Ravens two games behind and even though the season is young, that lead might be hard to overcome. Joe Flacco has to step up this week. Flacco is 1-4 vs the Steelers and never has played well against them, but he will need to have his best game and must throw the ball down the field successfully to win the game.
- The Seahawks have been finding ways to win, but so far only at home. Now they have to travel to face the Rams, who are coming off their first win of the season over the Redskins. Sam Bradford has been sensational, and this week the burden of winning will fall on his young shoulders. Bradford must be able to make plays in the passing game, as the only thing the Seahawks do really well is defend the run. And without Steven Jackson, the Rams will be hard pressed to run.
- Phil Simms said on "Inside the NFL" on Showtime the other night that the Broncos might have the best receiving group in the league, and I agree with him. They have depth, talent and big playmakers, and now all the Broncos need is to find a runner who can make explosive plays. This game against Tennessee will be entertaining, and the key will be if the Broncos can force Vince Young to throw the ball more than 25 times.
- Peyton Manning may not have been sacked against the Broncos last week, but he took several hits. Each week, he has taken some serious hits, which is very unlike the Colts. The Jags must get running back Maurice Jones-Drew going if they want to be able to consistently move the ball. Jags are slow on offense, slower on defense, which will make slowing down Mr. Manning a huge challenge.
- Do you realize the Texans have allowed the second most passing yards in the first three games of the season since 1950 -- only the 2005 49ers were worse. This game against the Raiders is huge for the Texans, a game in which they must control the ball, featuring one of the best runners I've seen, Arian Foster. The Raiders will move the ball if they can block Mario Williams. This one will be a shoot out.
- Welcome home, Donovan. I'm sure the first reaction from the home crowd will be positive, but all bets are off after that. After watching the Redskins try to run the 3-4 defense, I am convinced they do not have the talent to make the system work. Last year they finished 10th overall in defense running a 4-3, and this year they are ranked No. 32. It is not just Albert Haynesworth playing out of position, the same goes for London Fletcher and Andre Carter.
You're seeing a much improved Michael Vick at quarterback largely because of his work ethic and playing in Andy Reid's West Coast offense, writes Steve Wyche. **More ...**
- The Eagles with Michael Vick are back to being an explosive offensive team with big-play ability. This week they have every matchup in their favor, especially since the Redskins will struggle to match the speed of Vick, the pass-catching ability of Brent Celek and the down-the-field ability of both Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson.
- Memo to hold-out wide receiver Vincent Jackson: Phillip Rivers is tied for first in pass plays of over 20 yards and leads the league in passing yards, so even though he misses you, the Chargers seem to be able to move the ball effectively without you. Now, maybe if Jackson could cover kicks, the Chargers might be inclined to give in, as their special teams is the reason their September swoon continues.
- The Patriots might have their troubles on defense, but on offense they are really good. They can move the ball up and down the field and with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, (a Marion Barber look alike); they can run with power, which opens up their down-field passing game. The Dolphins execute well, and at times I wish they would junk the Wildcat and just keep running their offense.
Second and long
» Atlanta leads the league in total number of rushes and completions, averaging 62 per game, which is amazing since normally anything over 51 will win games. Arizona is last in the league with 37.
» When an offensive lineman gets called for holding on a pass play, the player he is holding should get credit. There should be a statistic kept for times being held, and Julius Peppers might lead the league.
» Congratulations to my friend and colleague Phil Simms on his selection to the Giants Ring of Honor this week at halftime. Phil has such great passion for the game of football, and there is nothing better than spending time with him and talking about the game. He was the ultimate team player, as he sacrificed his own game for the good of the team. Congratulations, Phil.
»Anquan Boldin looks fresher and faster than at anytime last year playing for the Cards. His toughness and sensational hands are obvious, but he also makes clutch catches to keep the chains moving like he did last week against the Browns.
» I am not sure why the Skins cut Ryan Torain, and I am not sure why some teams in need of a running back did not claim him, but he looks like he can really help the Redskins get their running game on track.
» The 49ers are 31st in points scored, which cost offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye his job, but they are also 28th in defensive points allowed. Their 0-3 start is not just one person's fault, but rather an entire team effort.
See you at the game...
Doubleheader this weekend, as I first travel to Nashville to see the Broncos face the Titans and then off to Miami to watch the Patriots play the Dolphins on Monday night. These will be two great games, probably both coming down to the wire and decided by which team has the ball last. If you are at either game, make sure to say hello. Have a great weekend.