Monday, October 20, 2008

Swapping out Mikes

The long-overdue shoe finally drops.

The San Francisco 49ers have fired head coach Mike Nolan, replacing him with legendary Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, who has been serving as the Niners' assistant head coach since 2004.

No sports fan in the Bay Area — indeed, in the nation — will be surprised by this. The hapless 49ers, off to a 2-5 start thus far (they've lost their last four games), nearly dumped Nolan at the end of last season before offering him a tepid "win or else" reprieve.

Nolan, who came to San Francisco three and a half seasons ago, has displayed little ability to resuscitate the floundering franchise that his late father, Dick Nolan, coached in the late 1960s and early '70s. A good-looking guy, a smooth talker, and a snappy dresser, Nolan the Sequel proved to be all hat and no cattle when it came to both drafting talent — he was responsible for saddling the team with clueless quarterback Alex Smith — and winning football games. The erstwhile Team of the Eighties limped to an 18-37 record under Nolan's leadership. And I'm using that word accommodatively.

Hall of Famer Singletary has no head coaching experience, but has been a perennial candidate for top jobs around the league since joining the Niners as Nolan's second banana and linebacking coach. Known for his intensity on defense during his playing days, "Samurai Mike" will have his hands full guiding a football squad with no direction and precious little talent beyond star linebacker Patrick Willis — a Singletary protégé, ironically enough.

If only Singletary had the authority to fire the 49ers' inept owner, Dr. John York, he might actually be able to take the team somewhere.

Other than the cellar of the NFC West, that is.

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