December 27

49ers fans had been clearing their stockings of coal when the word came down the night after Christmas. Mike Singletary was sacked as head coach, and team President Jed York announced he would look for a new General Manager. The Faithful set about to make merry, some in public.

Indirectly, it was a belated present for KNBR. Coaching changes are always talk show gold, and this will be no exception. We’ll milk this all week, normally one of the dead spots of the year for a market that has no NFL playoff team.

I can hear you now: tsk, tsk. Celebrating a man losing his job. How dare he ?

It’s never fun to see someone get fired, but don’t feel sorry for Singletary. He’s leaving with several million parting gifts. How many of you get that kind of golden parachute when you ‘re canned ?

Singletary will be fine. He is a good man with a strong family, and he’ll find a place in football — perhaps the college game — someday soon. There was simply no reason to keep him around, because it would have been an ugly scene Sunday at Candlestick if he ran onto the field.

Jed York appeared to age a few years and took on a harder countenance with a swarthy look at Monday’s news conference. He was clearly pretty hot after Sunday’s loss in St. Louis, and it was clear Singletary would not finish the season.

Whether Jed’s look reflects a new maturity remains to be seen, but it seemed to confirm what many of us have been saying on the air — Jed takes this seriously, and really wants to win. Now we’ll see if he has learned from past mistakes.

The recognition that he needs to cede some control to a General Manager is an encouraging first step. The recognition that the GM should be in control of hiring the coach, and that the coach answer to the GM, would be an encouraging reverse from past practices.

There was also an admission that he thought about firing Singletary earlier, another way of saying a coaching change ( perhaps when they were 0-5 ) might have gotten them into the playoffs in the NFC Waste. The man some columnists snarkily call the “Boy King” is obviously in a very reflective mood — and obviously ready to lop heads after the team failed to make good on his playoff prediction.

This is not change for the sake of change. This is change for the sake of saving a team that could be the new NFL franchise from Bolivion if it doesn’t come correct, and right soon. The natives ( season ticket-holders ) are restless, and York knows this.

The first important steps have been taken, but even more important steps are on the way. And those moves could seal the fate of the franchise for the next five years, a critical time leading up to a potential new stadium in Santa Clara.

The next step York is taking, also very encouraging, is to consult his uncle Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. and other NFL people. He also didn’t set a timetable for hiring the GM, but it’s important to have someone in place fairly soon, regardless of the chances for a lockout.

York also emphasized the need to find people with experience — yet another learning moment. That doesn’t mean he’s going to hire a “name” GM or coach, although some of the candidates are well-known, but he understands now the importance of bringing in people with credibility who not only have the fans’ respect, but respect each other.

It’s a plan that sounds very nice on paper, but it means nothing if not executed properly. The jury is out on everyone, from Jed to Sourdough Sam.

Mike Holmgren’s name has been bandied about as the next Savior, although he might want to return as coach. If that’s the case he might stick around as Browns President to make sure his kind of team is in place.

Other names include Randy Mueller, Floyd Reese, and Trent Baalke, who capably handled the draft when Scot McCloughan departed last spring. The possible coaching candidates are no secret to anyone — everyone loves Jon Gruden, but it would be wise to look at his last five years as Bucs coach.

The 49ers are stuck in the NFL catch-basin with several other teams, but I don’t believe they’ll have trouble attracting quality people. Many will see it as a challenge to revive a once-great franchise and put their stamp on it, a chance to be the guy who pulled them out of the Donahue Dumps.

Whoever the coach is, that person needs to be able to communicate with a quarterback and should probably have an offensive background. It’s that important in the NFL. The next step is to get new quarterbacks — pick up Donovan McNabb for the next couple of years, then draft a Kellen Moore for the future, for example.

The Rams, who won a single game in 2009, are on the verge of winning the division with a rookie quarterback, a top-flight running back, and some good defensive talent. If the 49ers make a couple of smart moves, they could be in the same position next year.

One Response to “Sacked”

  1. obsessivegiantscompulsive Says:

    Great post Ray!

    Also, I love your work on KNBR, I always enjoy when you get the chance to repartee with the hosts or when you get the chance to host.

    Too bad Jed didn’t figure this out before Bill Walsh passed away. Bill should have never been kicked out in the first place.

    Speaking of Stanford coaches, I will put my vote for Jim Harbaugh as the new coach once the GM is settled upon. I like that he’s a local product, like Walsh was, and that he’s been successful coaching.

    I would love to see Mike Holmgren take the reins as GM, but I can see him wanting the coaching job more since he’s an SF native.

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