GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 29: Head coach Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field following the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 29, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 27-6. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Maybe Mike Singletary needs to wear a bigger cross around his neck, because the economy-sized one he sported all season long wasn’t enough to save him from getting canned by the 49ers after what ESPN termed a “5-10 start.” I like that they used the word “start” in there. As if there was still time to salvage the flaming trainwreck that has been the 49ers’ season. Still a lot of game left to be played, folks!
The 49ers haven’t had a winning coach since Steve Mariucci was in charge back in 2002. This used to be the gold standard for NFL franchises, and now it’s been left out to rot like a chicken carcass outside a Denny’s. The 49ers are tentatively scheduled to move into a new stadium in Santa Clara in 2014. Ideally, the York family would probably like them to be something more than an afterthought when that happens. But how do they fix it? Who do they call in to restore the dignity of a once proud franchise that somehow ended up employing Dennis Erickson at one point?
Jason La Canfora at NFL.com is already reporting that the team is looking to hire an experienced GM, one who will not double as the head coach. Those candidates include Floyd Reese, Randy Mueller, and Terry Donohue (kidding!). So I think you can safely count out San Francisco as a destination for Bill Cowher and some of the bigger name coaches out there who will demand control over personnel. Who does that leave to take over for Singletary at the end of the season? Here are some names I drew out of a hat:
Jon Gruden (3/1): This seems to be the name everyone is dropping for the job. Gruden spent one year with the Niners back in 1990 as quality control coach and returned to the Bay Area in 1998 as head coach of the Raiders. He’s from a West Coast offense background, which makes him fit the tradition that Bill Walsh established for San Francisco three decades ago. Gruden has continually said he’s happy at ESPN and intends to remain an analyst on Monday Night Football. But honestly, no one can take that much time standing next to Ron Jaworski talking 450 decibels above comfortable speaking volume.
Jim Harbaugh (8/1): Also mentioned in La Canfora’s article, Harbaugh is a big name going around NFL circles right now due to his success at Stanford, his openness about being interested in other jobs, and the fact that his brother is already a pretty decent head coach himself for the Ravens. Someone will hire him. The question is, will he prefer to go somewhere other San Francisco, where he’d be under the watch of that dysfunctional York family?
Jeff Tedford (15/1): Because if you can’t get Harbaugh, why not snag the guy nearby?
Marty Schottenheimer (20/1): He’s still out there, baby! He can get the Niners to the playoffs. Sure, he can’t WIN once he gets there, but that’s still a nice improvement!
Marty Mornhinweg (50/1): Don’t forget: The Niners hired Dennis Erickson. I can’t emphasize that enough. With that in mind, I see no reason why they couldn’t take a chance on the guy who helped orchestrate Michael Vick’s resurgence, despite the fact that he might have been the worst coach in Detroit Lions’ history, which is an incredible accomplishment.
Whoever they hire, the new head coach will be tasked with making the Niners as good as they were back in the old days, when they had two Hall of Fame QBs, limitless resources, and a breathtaking disregard for the league’s salary cap restrictions. Good luck, you lucky fellow!