Singletary cool after booting Davis off the field
SANTA CLARA, Calif. ” Mike Singletary realizes a public apology for his team’s poor play and his postgame trashing of tight end Vernon Davis were the most memorable highlights of the San Francisco 49ers’ sorry season.
Just don’t expect the interim coach’s next postgame news conference to be as entertaining as his animated debut.
“Maybe I’ll drink a little more water,” Singletary said Monday. “Maybe I’ll breathe a little bit.”
After a day to cool down from the 49ers’ 34-13 loss to Seattle, Singletary was ready to have a calm discussion with Davis, whose reaction to a personal-foul penalty drove Singletary to banish the tight end from the field.
“Vernon is not a problem guy,” Singletary said. “Vernon just forgets sometimes that the team is more important.”
Singletary also made a bold move late Monday, naming Shaun Hill his starting quarterback for the Niners’ next game at Arizona on Nov. 10. The new coach benched struggling starter J.T. O’Sullivan shortly before halftime Sunday in favor of Hill, who will have two full weeks to prepare for his third career start.
But Singletary won’t attack San Francisco’s myriad problems by changing his style, which got wide public attention Sunday for the first time since the Hall of Fame linebacker retired after the 1992 season.
That’s good news for 49ers fans who thought Singletary’s frank, creative assessments of the 49ers’ shortcomings were a welcome change for a franchise that’s been among the NFL’s dullest outposts for the last half-decade under Dennis Erickson and Mike Nolan.
“I don’t talk a whole lot, but when I am talking, I do know what I feel, and I do know what I want to say,” Singletary said. “I don’t ever want to come in there and be a philosopher, an analytical (person). That’s not who I am. What you see now is what I am, and that’s not going to change any time soon.”
While his predecessor usually wore expensive dress shirts and tailored pants to his Monday television appearances, Singletary showed up in khaki cargo pants and a T-shirt, looking less like a hedge fund manager and more like a drill sergeant on his day off.
Although fans still don’t know whether Nolan’s coaching protege can fix the 49ers (2-6) on the field, compliments for Singletary’s passion and straightforward style poured in from talk radio, the blogosphere and even the Candlestick Park fans who got Singletary’s firsthand apology after the game.
Singletary won’t lose the fervor that made him a well-paid motivational speaker before he got into coaching, but he hopes his team will give him much less reason to be furious when they return from their bye week.
He got an early jump on fixing those problems by yanking O’Sullivan, who has thrown 11 interceptions and fumbled 11 times in his 7 1/2 games as the 49ers’ starter. His familiarity with Martz’s offense didn’t trump Hill’s steady ball security and game management any longer.
“When you look at J.T.’s capabilities and the arm strength and all of those things, you’d say, ‘Hey, maybe that guy gives us the best chance to win,”‘ Singletary said. “But if you look around the league, there are guys that are very talented, very smart … but they can’t play quarterback. J.T. has done a good job. He’s just been inconsistent.”
Singletary hasn’t decided whether Davis will be back in his starting lineup after their sideline blowup. Davis got a questionable personal-foul penalty for tapping Seattle’s Brian Russell on the facemask after a third-quarter catch, but Singletary got really steamed after Davis feigned indifference at Singletary when he was yanked off the field.
“He’s not the kind of guy that is a distraction on the team,” Singletary added. “(Sunday) was somewhat of a distraction, but everybody knows Vernon. They know full well who Vernon is, and I did what I had to do so that he wouldn’t be so much of a distraction.”
Davis is a well-known hothead who frequently gets into scraps with teammates during practice, yet he’s usually calm and repentant the moment he removes his helmet. Singletary didn’t care, ordering Davis to sit on the bench and then sending him to the showers at the next timeout.
“I didn’t expect him to come at me the way he did,” Davis said Monday. “I guess that’s his way of coaching.”
Davis and Singletary finally had a talk Monday afternoon, although Davis said he mostly listened. Davis said he also didn’t talk back on the field to Singletary, who suggested Davis wasn’t a team player during his news conference.
“I know that I’m a team guy,” Davis said. “I asked him about the comment he made. He basically said he didn’t mean that. … I’d never do anything to hurt my teammates or put them in trouble. It’s about the team, and when you’re playing this game, we’ve really got to lean on each other.”
Singletary knows Davis possesses a measure of passion the Niners coach showed during his playing days with the Chicago Bears, but without the mental awareness that made Singletary among the best to ever play his position.
“Vernon is not a guy who doesn’t come to practice,” Singletary said. “You have to tell Vernon, ‘That’s enough. Don’t hurt the guy. That’s your teammate.’ He works his tail off. You don’t have a problem with Vernon that way. What you have a problem with is with some of the decisions he makes at crucial times.”