Ratto: Firing exposes 49ers' broken chain of command

December 27, 2010, 7:03 am
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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com
Jed York will credit himself with being decisive and bold in firing Mike Singletary. He will say all the right things about Singletarys role in saving the franchise from creeping Nolanism, and thank Singletary for doing what he was capable of doing while he was capable of doing it.And then he will forget that the thing that most keeps the 49ers from being the best 49ers they can be is not the coach who got fired, but the fact that it was Jed who fired him, rather than the general manager who has the full and unfettered run of the football department.NEWS: 49ers fire head coach Mike Singletary
Singletary has been psychoanalyzed into a thin gray paste almost from the day he was hired. He was the motivator, the man with one hand in the glorious past and a child-frightening glare into the future, the man who believed in all the old verities of football when NFL Films were actually films.But this is not that football, and his persistent inability to show a second gear doomed him. And in a results-based world like the NFL, one can only conclude that it was richly merited. The last memory of him arguing with Troy Smith, and Smith having the temerity to argue back is the perfect summation of his 40 games. No more motivation, no more inspiration, no more This is what worked in the good old days and it must work now.The what comes next part, though, is all about Jed ending the Boy King portion of his regime and distancing himself from the day-to-day fretting about the coach. That Jed fired Singletary speaks not to The buck stops here, but to Theres nobody else to do this. It is the streamlined table of organization at its worst.RELATED: 49ers release statement from Jed York
While all the speculation of the next few weeks or months will surround the next coach, the million-pound elephant is at the other side of the desk, and it always has been.Singletary was a band-aid to get peoples minds off Mike Nolan, the new face of the franchise. But Singletarys job in a nutshell was to develop a new face of the franchise from the playing ranks, and he couldnt do it. Or, in some cases, wouldnt do it. He lurched between the humble supplicant and the omnipotent lawgiver, the stony-faced leader and the frantic delegator, and like most of his football decisions, nobody was ever quite sure what Singletary would be on the job at any given time.None of that would have been countenanced by an experienced general manager. A coach can be many things, but not all at the same time, and the general manager would have seen to it that Singletary picked a lane and stayed in it.
NEWS: York says 49ers will hire GM
But there was no such help for him, so he led with his face week in and week out, defenseless against a team that needed steady tactical leadership. Yes, he became a figure of fun, but he was as much victim as perpetrator, and if York doesnt see that, he will make the same mistake again, and the 49ers will extend their eight-year streak of laughable irrelevance into double digits.He has been told this before, many times, by smarter football people than any you will read here or anywhere else. And perhaps he sees this as the biggest impediment to succeeding where his father could not, and already considers that Job One. If so, good on him.If not, Mike Singletarys sacrifice, if youll pardon the quasi-religious allegory, will have been in vain. Singletary served by showing the organization its most persistent and serious flaw the brains behind the face of the franchise. If Jed York repairs that, he owes Singletary a debt that even the last two years of his contract cannot repay.And if he doesnt, hes no smarter than he was the day his dad kicked him upstairs to run the team the old man could no longer enjoy. Its really no more complicated than that, unless Jed wants it to be. And lets face it, nobody gets to be the Boy King forever. At some point, he becomes just another adult, and adults are graded not on potential but on results.

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