The two biggest questions surrounding the 49ers

After the 49ers’ thrashed the Rams with one half of good football, there are two questions on the mind of every 49ers’ fan. 1) Is Mike Singletary going to be the head coach in 2009. And 2) Why wasn’t Shaun Hill starting from Day 1?

1) Is Mike Singletary going to be the head coach in 2009?

 

For the first time in the locker room today, I sensed a true appreciation of Singletary from the players. You can tell when guys are saying something because they feel they have to say it. But what I got today in speaking with a handful of players went far beyond the typical support for a coach.

 

There is genuine respect for Singletary in the locker room. But that kind of support alone is not going to secure him the job in 2009.

 

Singletary is not known as an X’s and O’s guru. Therefore, he is going to be very reliant on his coordinators. He has done a good job of reigning in offensive coordinator Mike Martz, making sure Mad Mike plays it more conservatively with the offensive approach.

 

It will be imperative that Singletary present a detailed plan for the 2009 season to Jed York and GM Scot McCloughan. Who would be his offensive coordinator? Does Singletary want Martz running his offense in the future? Heck, does Martz want to return? Those are questions we can’t answer at this point. But those are important parts of the equation.

 

The thing that works against Singletary is that the 49ers might be in danger of repeating the mistake that was made under Mike Nolan. Because Nolan was a defensive coach, he was at the mercy of his offensive coordinators. Therefore, the system was constantly in flux as the 49ers were forced to employ four different offensive coordinators during Nolan’s tenure.

 

The 49ers would like to avoid that problem with the hiring of an offensive-minded head coach. But they’re created an atmosphere in which Singletary almost has to retain the job on a permanent basis if he manages to get the team playing good football over the final six weeks of the season.

 

2) Why wasn’t Shaun Hill starting from Day 1?

 

If you watch Hill in practice, you probably won’t come away impressed. In fact, in the week leading up to the Arizona game, he threw some of the absolute worst passes I’ve ever seen on the practice field.

 

But Hill has the “it” factor. In games, he has an incredible ability to compete, as evidenced by his wild, helmetless run against the Cardinals. The guy is a leader, too. Only in a real game are you able to see all the stuff he can do for a team. In that sense, he reminds me of Jeff Garcia – not exactly a practice-field wonder, either.

 

So it’s only natural that Martz was not impressed with Hill in training camp. Hill was the first one to be eliminated from the quarterback competition. It was Martz’s decision all the way, and Hill was a clear No. 3.

 

Hill is the starter today only because J.T. O’Sullivan committed 17 turnovers in 7 ½ games and Alex Smith is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

 

Singletary was asked after the game why Hill wasn’t starting from Week 1. Of course, it wasn’t Singletary’s call until Week 8, but Singletary said Hill was still learning the offense through the first part of the season.

 

Martz could only go off of what he saw in practices and the exhibition games. And from that standpoint, O’Sullivan clearly won the job over Smith and Hill. But Hill put himself in the position to succeed by devoting his full attention to learning the offense while being O’Sullivan’s backup. That way, Hill was ready to play when called upon.

 

So, at least in this corner, there is no second-guessing Martz’s decision to start O’Sullivan at the beginning of the season.

 

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Here’s the game story from the 49ers’ 35-16 victory over the Rams.

 

and

 

here’s the 49ers Notebook, leading off with the team’s ability to rebound from the tough loss to Arizona.

 

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