Thinking long and hard about Singletary’s actions

Mike Singletary is the 49ers’ interim head coach. But there was nothing “interim” about his actions during yesterday’s game.

One day later, I’m still trying to decide whether Singletary set an appropriate tone for his stay with the 49ers or whether he completely over-played his hand. The benching of quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan was appropriate, no doubt.


The other situation deserves a closer examination.


Certainly, on face value, Vernon Davis’ actions did not warrant such a dramatic action. He caught a pass, Seattle safety Brian Russell started jawing at him. And Davis, on his way to the huddle, reached out and tapped the bottom part of Russell’s facemask. (Russell’s head tilted back about 3 inches.)


Then, Russell immediately turned to the nearest official, as if to say, “Hey, did you see that?” That’s when the flag comes out for unnecessary roughness. Unnecessary roughness? For that?


On Davis‘ way off the field, he appeared to wave a hand dismissively at Singletary. That was not a good move, and that likely set off the next series of events. (Singletary said Davis’ reaction was to say, “What? What?”)


Singletary had some choice words for Davis and then sent him to the bench. That’s where Davis remained until Singletary came over to lay into Davis some more. Then, Singletary decided to send Davis to the locker room while the game was still in progress. (He made Davis return to the bench to take his helmet with him.)


Afterward, Davis wanted to speak with Singletary. But Singletary informed Davis that, no, Davis did not want to speak with Singletary at that time. Singletary was still seething.


Everybody is going to pile on Davis now. Singletary blasted Davis during his post-game comments. I’ve never heard a coach rip a player publicly quite like it, saying Davis is not a team player and he’s not a winner. To me, it seemed over-the-top. Don’t get me wrong, it made for some great material to write about.


Hey, Davis is immature. He’s a narcissist. He is not a great pass-catcher. But I do not question Davis‘ work ethic and his commitment. Is Davis selfish? Probably. A lot of great players – and, believe me, I’m not calling Davis “great” – are selfish.


Whatever happens for the remainder of Davis‘ career, Singletary’s words will follow Davis for the rest of his career.


I sat there transfixed — amazed — at Singletary’s press conference after the game. Today, I’m wondering if a coach can have any longevity with the approach he showed on Sunday. If he got so angry after something like that during a game, can he be counted upon to make rational decisions during the course of a heated game?


And what about the 49ers’ personnel department? After all, Davis was a first-round draft pick who nobody doubts has a lot of talent. He is signed through 2010. Is the interim coach making a long-term personnel decision with the way he handled Davis?


If you recall, Mike Nolan laid down the law when he came to the 49ers. But he had the final say on personnel, and he shaped the roster with players he wanted.


He took an immediate stand with Jamie Winborn, banishing him from the practice facility after an early season loss to the Cowboys. Winborn had to rebuild his career from scratch. Only recently has he found new life in the NFL with the Broncos.


Nolan took similar stands against Kevan Barlow, Brandon Lloyd and Ahmed Plummer. He agreed to sign Antonio Bryant, but then cut ties with him after one season. Heck, even earlier this season against the Saints, Nolan benched Davis for the final six minutes of the game when he got up pounding his chest after catching a pass in a blowout loss.


It is easy to support Singletary for his actions because it’s something different. It’s no-nonsense, and it’s something we all say from time-to-time. “If I were the coach, I would’ve told that player to go take a shower.”


But in today’s NFL, I just wonder if that sort of approach can be successful.

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