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January 25, 2011
Confident Singletary defends his coaching bona fides

Mike Singletary goes from one team, the 49ers, that was talented overall but unsettled at the quarterback position, to another team, the Vikings, that is strong overall but unsettled at the quarterback position. It's a parallel that's not lost on the former 49ers head coach. "That's no secret," Singletary said today following a morning practice at the Senior Bowl. "I know we're going to do everything we can to find one."

Singletary begins his tenure with Vikings with the same title, linebackers coach/assistant head coach, he had when he began with the 49ers in 2005. Singletary seemed happy and confidant and decidedly unbowed by his experience with the 49ers. He said he not only wants to be a head coach again, but still feels he can become one of the greatest head coaches in league history.

He also was talkative. He said he had no resentment for team president Jed York, who dismissed him with a week remaining in the regular season. "They really do want to win, but some of the dynamics are maybe not in place to really bring that forward," Singletary said. "But I can honestly say that the Yorks really do want to win. And that's a positive."

The main missing dynamic that Singletary was referring to is the quarterback situation. Knowing what he knows know, I asked Singletary, does he still see the quarterback as merely one of 22 other starting positions?

MS: "I think what I have learned is, particularly when you talk about the quarterback. I still feel the same way to a degree. It's one of 22 (positions) in the way that I would coach it and approach it. I think the quarterback needs to be in that group, but they need to somehow look at him differently. But I don't think the coaches and everyone else can look at him differently. And I think that's the thing I was saying more than anything else. He's one of those 11. But he's part of that offense where they have to look at him and they have to believe in him, and I just think that's one of the biggest things."

You don't have to read too far between the lines to see that Singletary wishes that his main quarterback with the 49ers, Alex Smith, had better leadership skills. In fact, Singletary said as much last season when praising Troy Smith.

I asked Singletary whether he thought he would be a better head coach the next time around if he spent time as a coordinator, a step he missed before becoming the 49ers head coach. He bristled at that suggestion and defended his Xs and Os ability.

MS: I look at it like this: There are a number of coaches in the league that have not been a coordinator, and if they have been a coordinator, maybe it's one year. Let's put it this way: You look at some of the teams around the league, and they may run one or two defenses. It's personnel driven. If you've got players, the better coach you're going to be. Coordinator, to me, is blown a bit out of the water. Certainly I think it's important. But (Xs and Os) are something I continue to work on. It's not something that - I've been a linebacker coach and that's all I know. I've always studied both sides of the ball."

"I'd be willing to sit down with anybody and talk Xs and Os on both sides of the ball. As a matter of fact, I've talked to a number of coordinators, and kind of helped them in some areas. In terms of criticisms and all those other things, it doesn't matter. People can say what they want to say. I just think it's important to move forward in the journey that I'm on. And in the meantime, someone should study the coaches in the league that aren't coordinators, haven't been coordinators. I think some of them have done pretty well."

Finally I asked him about his new job in which he'll work for former teammate and good friend Leslie Frazier:

MS: "I think it was an opportunity to give him something that maybe I didn't have. When you're the interim head coach, it's different than being the guy who comes in, and you get to change everything. You're kind of put in a situation and it's, 'Ok, let's see how you do.' When he and I talked, he said, 'Mike, tell me the steps I need to take. Tell me the things I need to do. I know I can trust you.' And he's one of my best friends, so the trust level is through the roof."

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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