On KNBR yesterday, a Bay Area sports radio station, former 49ers quarterback Steve Young said Mike Singletary deserves credit for the team’s success this season. There are a lot of people who deserve credit for the 49ers success this season with Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke at the top of the list but I am not sure one of those is Singletary. Normally when Young talks about football he is insightful and shows his knowledge of the game. Which makes his statement that Singletary deserves credit for the 49ers success so off the wall. Is Young correct, does Singletary any deserve credit for the 49ers success this season?
The reason for Young saying Singletary deserves credit is because many of the same players on last season’s roster remain this season and are integral parts of the team. Yes, many of the same players are on the team that Singletary tried leading but doesn’t that show how bad of a head coach Singletary was, and how good of a head coach Harbaugh is? Harbaugh took the same roster and coached them up to levels that Singletary could never come close to. I think Singletary will one day be a head coach again in the NFL, however he needs to learn how to be a head coach to not only inspire players but to coach them up to levels they did not know were possible. This is something Harbaugh has accomplished greatly this season.
Even with the many of the same players Harbaugh has that Singletary had last season does not mean he deserves credit. It was not Singletary that drafted Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, NaVarro Bowman and Aldon Smith, but Baalke did. In fact the few times Singletary had offered his advice on draft picks were not very good. In 2007 when Singletary was the assistant head coach/linebackers coach he admitted he was disappointed in watching film of Patrick Willis but then GM Scot McCloughan insisted on drafting him. As head coach in 2010 Singletary wanted to draft safety Taylor Mays which Baalke did not, but they ended selecting him in the second round. Mays showed he did not have the work ethic to become a successful safety and he was traded this season to the Bengals for a seventh round pick in 2012.
There are many players this season that are playing at a high level because of Harbaugh’s coaching and the system he has installed. One of those players is QB Alex Smith. Harbaugh has turned Smith into an “elite quarterback”, his words not mine. While I would not go so far to give Smith elite status he is playing far better under Harbaugh than he had under Singletary and Mike Nolan. Harbaugh has given Smith the swagger of an elite quarterback and the confidence to be a difference-maker on the field. Singletary never did this. Instead he toyed with Smith making him compete with the likes of Shaun Hill, David Carr and Troy Smith. Singletary never trusted Smith and felt he was stuck with him. It showed in Singletary taking Smith out of the lineup one week and reinserting him in the future.
Much to the disgust of Niner fans, Harbaugh named Smith the number one quarterback the day he took over as head coach. This gave Smith a head coach who believed in him and had the capabilities to make him a better quarterback. Nolan and Singletary were defense minded coaches and did not believe in Smith.
Being offense minded Harbaugh is having Smith pass early in games to set up the run later making defenses not wanting to put eight men in the box to stop the run. See the game against the Giants. Harbaugh is smart enough to tailor the playbook to Smith’s best qualities with formation shifts, play-actions and moving him out of the pocket on passing plays. Singletary never did this. Most importantly Harbaugh has gotten Smith to not cause turnovers unlike Singletary.
This is one of the few times you will hear Steve Young speak and the reaction by Niners will be negative. Here is the full audio of Young on KNBR. Click on the third one from the top titled “11/20- Razor and Mr T: 49ers HOF QB Steve Young :
Honorable Mention: If anything former GM Scot McCloughan deserves more credit over Singletary for the team’s success this season because he drafted Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Joe Stately, Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis among others.
What do you think 49ers Faithful, is Steve Young right? Answer in the poll below and send in your comments.