Filed under: Editorial | Tags: 49ers, alex smith, mike martz, mike nolan, mike singletary
Karma, specifically Football Karma, is a very real thing. It’s not something you can explain, but it is real nonetheless. The old adage says, “What goes around, comes around.” The Bible says, “What a man sows, so shall he reap. Since there is perhaps no better metaphor for life than football, it is no wonder that the principles of life work in this world.
The character of Mike Nolan began to be revealed somewhere in the middle of 2007, and came to a head one Monday Night after a particularly embarrasing loss to Seattle. Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle broke it down:
Behind the scenes, Smith was livid at the 49ers strength staff, who took his immobilized arm and subjected it to heavy weight training.
Smith went to Nolan. He told him he felt he was no longer helping the team, and he said he was going to say the strength staff ruined his rehab. Nolan told Smith he couldn’t say that. Smith agreed, but he wanted Nolan to say what he had just told him that his injuries were making him ineffective, which seemed evident to even the casual fan.
But Nolan never held up his end. Instead he insisted that Smith was medically cleared to play and his bad quarterbacking had nothing to do with his injuries. Smith was stunned and he didn’t know what to do. He finally told the press he was frustrated that Nolan kept saying he was healthy when he wasn’t.
There were some who said Alex Smith said what needed to be said. There were others who said he should’ve kept his mouth shut. That he shouldn’t “air the dirty laundry.” But there was ample evidence that Nolan had lost his way when dealing with players. Witness the accounts of Jamie Winborn and Jonas Jennings. There are other players who had issue with Mike Nolan at this point. From Mike Silver of Yahoo Sports:
Nolan, several Niners players say, lost the team last season, which began with high expectations following a 7-9 campaign in ‘06. Midway through a year in which San Francisco would lose eight consecutive games and finish 5-11, Nolan gave a speech to the team on the Monday after a defeat in which he announced an end to his lenient ways. It soon became known derisively in the locker room as the “Warm and Fuzzy” speech.
“He got up there and said, ‘I’m done with the warm and fuzzies,’ ” recalled one player who witnessed the talk. “He said, ‘I’ve made it too warm and fuzzy around here for too long. No more (expletive) warm and fuzzy.’ It was comical. He was up there ranting and raving and clearly trying to be something he wasn’t.”
Added another Niners player: “It was a total front. I had a comeback waiting for him if he ever said it again: ‘It’s real warm and fuzzy on the sidelines, (expletive).’”
It should come as no surprise that we were all fooled into thinking the locker room was together, that there was no dissent about Mike Nolan’s ability as a coach. The players were flat-out intimidated into keeping their mouths shut. It all fits together. The fact that Nolan took that conversation with Alex Smith and betrayed his trust to the media speaks [i]volumes[/i]. It goes to everything I’ve ever said about the man.
It gets better.
With Martz orchestrating what amounted to a fixed quarterback competition that predictably swung in favor of O’Sullivan, a journeyman whose stint as a backup with the Detroit Lions made him the only candidate familiar with Martz’s system, Nolan appeared indecisive and disingenuous in his public comments. Hill, another career backup who signed a two-year contract with the team after performing well in the final two games of last season, was held out of training camp practices with what Nolan and Martz claimed was a tired arm; sources close to Hill say the assertion was totally fictional.
We know this competition was a farce. I and many others said it from the beginning, and lo and behold it was! Here we have Mike Martz, the supposed offensive genius (so touted by myself), and his handpicked quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan. Hailed as an “unusual” player with “unique” qualities, O’Sullivan was seen initially as the dark horse, and then the apparent favorite. Seven games later, we have our answer on O’Sullivan, and it isn’t good. I had predicted even though Smith didn’t “win” the competition, he would eventually replace O’Sullivan.
We knew, from Scot McCloughan, that Smith had to show he deserved to be the starter next season. We thought if O’Sullivan struggled, Smith would get another chance. O’Sullivan has been replaced, but unfortunately we don’t get to see if Smith is better having sat the bench. So I was half right. O’Sullivan still stinks, but it’s Hill who gets another shot.
My first big, bold, dumb prediction is quite simple. Mike Martz will not be hired as the Head Coach, nor will he be retained on Mike Singletary’s staff. The horrible performance of his protege, mixed with his questionable 4th-quarter playcalling, mixed with his league-wide reputation, will lead McCloughan and Singletary to go a different direction.
Which leads me to my second big, bold, dumb prediction: Mike Singletary will be hired as the Head Coach going forward. It is my feeling the Yorks simply do not want to engage in another league-wide, nationwide search for a new head coach. They don’t want to hit the giant reset button. For all of Tim Kawakami’s assertions that the Yorks are at fault, they’ve done nothing but yield the reins to Mike Nolan, and now Scot McCloughan. Singletary also has the character and credibility that Mike Nolan lacks. He is enormously prepared for this, and will inspire loyalty in his staff. Will he get a huge deal? Not likely. The control and money paid to Mike Nolan is another mistake the Yorks don’t want to repeat. Singletary has the ear of the players, who the 49ers brass think are talented enough to be a winning team. I happen to agree, but they need better offensive line play first! They’re not quite ready to give up on this core yet.
Singletary has the fire, the passion, and the will to tell people like it is. is critical. It goes straight to the issue behind big, bold, dumb predicion number three.
Which you’ll get next time.
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