Singletary’s strength? Definitely on third downs

The burden of proof was on Mike Singletary when he took the interim position on Oct. 20.

Many in the organization felt the 49ers had to hire an offensive-minded head coach at the end of the season, so the club would not run the risk of repeating one of the big problems from the Mike Nolan era.

So Singletary had to prove to the decision-makers why they should not hire someone with an offensive background.


The general consensus is that Singletary won the job. Sure enough, at this point it would be a very unpopular decision to hire anybody else.


Singletary is 4-4 in eight games. But let’s give him a mulligan for that first game when he took over as coach just six days before the Oct. 26 meeting with the Seahawks. So, for our purposes, we’ll say he has a 4-3 record as head coach. Is that good enough to be considered a slam dunk?


Let me go on record as saying Singletary should get the job. But there are still a lot of unknowns that will come with Singletary’s anticipated appointment to the permanent job.


Aside from all the intangible qualities he has brought to the 49ers, I’m trying to figure out where the 49ers are better significantly better statistically since he took over. I have come to the conclusion that the most important definable area in which Singletary’s teams have been better than Nolan’s team is on third downs:


Third-down offense

Under Nolan: 27.6 percent success

Under Singletary: 44.6 percent success


Third-down defense

Under Nolan: 40.6 percent failure

Under Singletary: 35.5 percent failure


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If you asked me where else the 49ers have improved, I’d point to turnovers, too. For these statistical purposes, let’s use the 7 ½ games with J.T. O’Sullivan at quarterback against the 7 ½ games with Singletary’s man, Shaun Hill, at QB.


But the actual difference was not as dramatic as I’d figured. The 49ers committed 20 turnovers with O’Sullivan, and 14 with Hill. On the giveaway-takeaway scale, the 49ers were minus-10 before the QB change, and minus-7 after the change. Either way, it’s not good.


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My good friend, Bee-rows, has reported Mike Martz will be fired and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will be retained under Singletary.


Parting ways with Martz doesn’t seem like such a slam dunk to me, but I’m also not sure anybody would think of him as a long-term answer. Martz is an incredible offensive mind, no doubt. But Singletary has a chance to make his own hire. And instead of constantly telling Martz what he wants, he can pick someone with whom he is already on the same page.


Singletary said he liked the offense the 49ers ran in 2006 under Norv Turner. And it makes a lot more sense to hire someone who has already proven himself as a coordinator.


By all reports, Turner will return as Chargers head coach. That’s why I think it’s a great idea to do the homework on Scott Linehan, a success as a coordinator but whose head-coaching stock is as low as it can get after his failed run as Rams head coach.


On the other side of the ball, Manusky was given the autonomy to streamline the 49ers’ defense. Justin Smith was asked to do less; Parys Haralson was given more playing time; and the 49ers have stayed with a 3-4 scheme on base downs. As a result, the 49ers’ defense has risen from 23rd in the league before the coaching change to 16th in total yards allowed.


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