The San Francisco 49ers are suddenly looking like they may validate owner Jed York’s pledge that they would make the playoffs this year. If they beat the Rams (in St. Louis) and Cardinals (at home) in weeks 16 and 17 of the NFL season, they would finish the season with a 7-9 record and as winner of the NFC West, assuming other games go as they likely should. Contrary to the usual mindset though, such a finish would be a worst case scenario for the fans, although a boon to the owners. Here’s why…
Making the playoffs, as most prognosticators predicted pre-season, would likely ensure that Mike Singletary remains as head coach of the 49ers. While the 2010 season has been disappointing in almost every respect—offense, defense, and special teams—the Niners would be unlikely to fire their head coach after he got them to the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons. Why is this bad news for the fans? Because the 49ers are one of the worst coached teams in the league. They have been outscored by 56 points in the 3rd quarter of games this year, which shows that other teams have been making the adjustments at half time, while the 49ers have not. Their clock management has been horrible with the Niners having to burn many timeouts early in the halves. Several opponents have noted that they knew what plays the Niners were running because they did nothing to change their appearance. These are all signs of poorly-coached teams.
I was as big a Singletary supporter when the Niners promoted him to head coach as anyone. I liked his fiery attitude and his willingness to make players accountable. But Singletary has never been an Xs and Os man. For the Niners to succeed, they need strong coordinators, which they have never had under Singletary. Furthermore, Iron Mike, despite his defensive background, has dabbled too much in the offense, mandating the establishment of a running game at the expense of the pass. He should not be playing around with the offense when that is not his forte. Worse yet, the players seem to have tired of Singletary’s attitude and a number of simply quit on him this year. But for making the playoffs, this season has shown all the signs of ending Singletary’s tenure as head coach.
If the 49ers make the playoffs, the owners will be secretly pleased at not being forced to fire Singletary. Why? Because the 2011 labor issues are looking more likely than ever to result in a lockout or strike. If the 49ers had to can Coach Singletary, they would be paying him the rest of his contract (he’s in the 2nd year of a 4 year contract) while paying a new head coach to do nothing during a lockout or strike. 49er ownership would rather keep paying Singletary to do nothing during labor strife than to pay two head coaches during that time period. The result would be that if and when the 2011 season gets played, the Niners will stink up the joint again due to poor coaching and fans will not get the head coach they deserve until 2012.
There is one small blessing that may prevent all this. Strangely enough, it is a case of appendicitis. Currently Seattle and St. Louis are tied for first in the NFC West with 6-7 records. The Seahawks have games remaining vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay, and versus St. Louis. The Rams host Kansas City and San Francisco and then go to Seattle. For San Francisco to make the playoffs, they need to beat the Rams and Cardinals and have the Seahawks and Rams lose 2 of their remaining 3 games. The 49ers would win the tiebreakers if all 3 or 2 of the 3 finish tied at 7-9. Seattle seems very unlikely to beat Atlanta and Tampa Bay, so they should do their part to finish no better than 7-9. St. Louis, assuming the 49ers were to beat them, originally seemed unlikely to beat the AFC West leading Chiefs, but here’s where the appendicitis comes in.
Chiefs QB Matt Cassell, had surgery for appendicitis last week and missed last weekend’s game, a disheartening 31-0 thrashing at the hands of the Chargers. Without Cassell, the Chiefs are forced to turn to Brodie Croyle at QB, who has a lifetime 0-10 record as a starter. The usual recovery time for appendicitis is usually at least two weeks, so Cassell is doubtful for this weekend’s game against the Rams. If St. Louis beats Kansas City, as they are now favored to do, and beats the Seahawks in week 17, they can win the NFC West regardless of how they fare against the 49ers in week 16. Of course, if the Rams beat the 49ers in week 16, this is all academic anyway.
So 49er fans, root for the Rams against the Chiefs this weekend. The Niners cannot afford to make the playoffs this year thereby justifying retaining Mike Singletary as head coach.
– AM Woods