Head coach Mike Singletary was known for 3 things—his love of the game, his intensity, and his knowledge of the game and everyone of his opponents. His team needs those qualities in order to change the culture of the team. The 49ers were once the team of the decade. But in the last few years it has become the team of decline.
One of the last things that the previous administration did was to use its 1st pick on QB Alex Smith. Smith has a history of injury and inconsistency that drove the previous coach mad and then into the unemployment line. Singletary allowed Smith to compete with Shaun Hill for the starting job. Hill won the job and Smith has had his last shot at winning over the team in SF. Hill has a below average arm but is more accurate and less injury prone than Smith. Singletary is a coach that will fit the system to the players that he has. The 49ers use a version of the West Coast offense that relies on timing of short and medium passes and a strong running game.
The running game is very strong with Frank Gore being the leading character in the offense. Gore is able to squirt through tiny holes and break long gains with a combination of great vision and quick feet. The knew that Gore has been overused in the last few seasons and drafted Alabama rookie Glen Coffee to carry some of the load. Both Gore and Coffee hit the hole quickly and are North South backs. Former Penn State QB Michael Robinson is also in the mix and has been used as a short yardage back and on 3rd downs.
The team has not given either QB much in terms of a reliable group of WRs and that has hurt their development. This year the team drafted WR Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech. But the combination of a broken bone in the foot and an extended holdout have reduced the chance he will be a factor this year. Isaac Bruce was the team’s leading receiver last year despite his age. Three younger players are contesting for playing time. Josh Morgan has the best shot to start. Brandon Jones and Jason Hill are right at his heals. The winner will be the one that produces yards after the catch and holds onto the ball the best. TE Vernon Davis has been inconsistent catching the ball as well but has speed and is a better blocker than people give him credit for supporting the running game.
The O line has been a problem for years. Things didn’t get better when former all pro Marvel Smith retired unexpectedly. They hope LT Joe Staley will prove his big new deal is money well spent. C Eric Heitmann is the best of the group. Journeyman Barry Sims has beaten out Adam Snyder to start at RT. That is not a good sign. LG David Baas has started at G and C but has not proven himself at either position. RG Chilo Rachal,a 2nd round pick as was Baas, looked better at USC than he has in SF. Both have to get it done this year to be around in 2010. There is quantity but not quality on the bench.
When Singletary took over, he changed the team to a 3-4. That improved their overall performance. RE Justin Smith plays the run and pass very well. The team does not have a true NT. Aubrayo Franklin does his best but gets washed out of the play too often. He is much more of a 1 gap player. LE Isaac Sopoaga is barely adequate at E and less than that at NT. Rookie Demetric Evans and vet Kentwan Balmer are in the rotation. This group needs to be better at keeping the LBs free to run to the ball.
The linebackers will be LOLB Manny Lawson, LILB Takeo Spikes, RILB Patrick Willis, ROLB Parys Haralson. Lawson was drafted to be the rush linebacker but has not produced yet. Willis is a pro bowl IB but Spikes starts because there just isn’t anyone else. He does help with leadership and keeping the D focused. Haralson is below average.
The only part of the D backfield that Singletary can count on is CB Nate Clements. The team signed well traveled Dre’ Bly to compete with Tarell Brown for the other CB spot. The competition is too close to call since Brown returned from a toe injury. The loser will become the nickel back and Shawntae Spencer will be the dime. The safety spots are in worse shape. SS Michael Lewis is solid against the run but can’t cover a grandmother with a walker. FS Dashon Goldson is the next in line to prove he can play the position. Former FS Mark Roman has proved he can’t. CB Marcus Hudson has had a few good moments but not enough to assure his inclusion in the 53 man roster.
OVERALL: The 49ers have to be better in the draft because Singletary will get the maximum out of the players he has. He deserves a better roster than he was given. The team should be better than the Rams and but has a way to go before they can challenge either the Cards or the Seahawks.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .