Tough Task for Singletary: Remove “Interim” From Title

2-5 Niners Try to Reverse Course

It was at least eight months too late according to some experts but the 49ers cut the cord with head coach Mike Nolan Monday night and replaced him with assistant head coach/defensive coach Mike Singletary.

Nolan was given the keys to what was once the best franchise in the NFL and has driven it into the ground.

It does not help that owner John York has been at the top to help erode the foundation of a team that was a powerhouse throughout the 1980's and 1990's.

Since 2002 when Steve Mariucci was inexplicably terminated after San Francisco reached the second round of the playoffs, the 49ers are 27-60.

Ironically, Mariucci was fired because he wanted more power within the organization.  So the 49ers along with Terry Donahue who was the general manager at the time hired Dennis Erickson.   Erickson had a great pedigree at the college level but was slightly better than mediocre when he previously coached the Seattle Seahawks.

As it turned out, Erickson was a complete disaster.  In two years at the helm, the 49ers went 9-23 and became the laughing stock of the league.

So after two years of Erickson/Donahue, both were fired and York signaled a new day in the franchise when Nolan was hired in January 2005.

Nolan has probably done equally as bad a job as Erickson did.  He was given complete control of the organization, far beyond the power struggle that was a criticism of Mariucci. 

Having the first pick of the 2005 draft, the 49ers went all in on Alex Smith from Utah.  Despite the fact that Smith played in an unconventional offense and with Aaron Rodgers from Berkeley in the 49ers backyard, San Francisco elected to sign Smith to an outrageously high contract of $ 49.5 million, 24 of which was guaranteed.

In just 3 1/2 seasons, Nolan was 18-37 and had the worst winning percentage .(327) of any coach that lasted more than one season with the team.  In the process, Smith never emerged as a number one quarterback and is arguably one of the worst draft picks in the history of the NFL.

Now, Singletary who was a hall of fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1981-92, is already rumored to have a successor before he coaches his first game.

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren's name has been speculated as the next general manager when his contract expires this season.   Holmgren vociferously denied that rumor and stated he intends to take a sabbatical to spend more time with his family.

Many think that Holmgren could help turn the team around. 

Singletary is a big question mark.  While he began his coaching career with Balitmore in 2003 and has been on the 49ers staff since 2005, he has never been a head coach at any level.   The positives though are that Singletary was a former player and one of the best at his position so the players have his respect.

He is also a noted motivational speaker and it was his passion and intensity that made him the favorite choice over offensive coordinator Mike Martz who was the head coach for the St. Louis Rams from 2000-2005.

The 49ers (2-5) have lost four straight.   With nine games left in 2008, hopefully Singletary finishes with a winning record and can remove the interim label from his title.

Ryan Leong is a special contributor to and a correspondent for Sirius NFL Radio and ESPN Radio.

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