Before the 2010 season started, it was presented as a fait accompli that the San Francisco 49ers would win the NFC West. A dominant defense, the theory went, would propel an up-and-coming offense to the upper tiers of the league, and head coach Mike Singletary's motivational style would be the glue that held it all together. Of course, there was some concern about quarterback Alex Smith's development, but under the right circumstances, maybe this 49ers team could be a Super Bowl contender like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and the 2007 New York Giants -- the defense and run game would lead the way, and the "game manager" quarterback would follow.
Needless to say, the 49ers have flipped the script. Their 1-6 record is the NFC's worst, and they have only themselves to blame -- the formerly winless Carolina Panthers got off the schneid against Singletary's team with a 23-20 win on Sunday. And that allegedly great defense was upended by the quarterback/receiver combo of Matt Moore(notes) and David Gettis(notes).
Singletary, who's always been about the big soundbite, tried to stay positive after the loss. "There's no doubt in my mind that somehow, someway, we will regroup and keep fighting," he said. "We will make a season of it. And I still believe we can go to the playoffs. I still believe we can get those things done. We just have to get the right things in place, and go from there."
That echoes the recent proclamation by team president/owner Jed York that the 49ers still had what it took to make a playoff run. But now, it's coming out that there are serious rumblings and grumblings about the job Singletary's doing. Team sources told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com that York and his father, John, have expressed displeasure about the coaching to their "inner circle."
Singletary was signed to a four-year contract after his interim performance in the 2008 season, but the 49ers are in a bit of a pickle here. It was thought that this season would finally erase the effects of years of bad hiring and personnel decisions, and the franchise is still trying to work out the logistics of a new stadium. Alex Smith is a free agent after this season, and it's quite possible that Singletary's tough-guy shtick has worn thin with his players. Having fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and engaged in multiple sideline confrontations with Smith in the last few weeks, Singletary seems to be losing his grip on the team.
The 49ers travel to London this week; they're facing the Denver Broncos on Halloween night at Wembley Stadium. If they lose to the Broncos, who were just poleaxed by a Raiders team that provided San Francisco's only win this season, the subsequent bye week would give the Yorks the time they need to put a suitable replacement plan in place. And at 1-7, what else should they be doing?