I just finished watching 49ers interim coach Mike Singletary’s debut Saturday, and I want to post the transcript from one of the most interesting and entertaining post-game coaching interviews I’ve ever heard.
Just a few thoughts before I get to Singletary’s quotes.
Singletary lost his debut 34-13 to the Seattle Seahawks, but man, did he make a strong impression in so many ways beyond that embarrassing final score.
He benched combustible tight end Vernon Davis late in the third quarter after Davis drew a costly personal foul. Then he sent Davis to the showers. Incredible. That’s something fired coach Mike Nolan should have done long ago.
I’m not a Davis basher. I actually like the guy. But he needs to know his limits. Now, hopefully, he does, although I’m not convinced considering that he pleaded innocent after the game, calling the penalty unwarranted.
Davis isn’t the only player Singletary benched. He yanked quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan from the game late in the first half after O’Sullivan threw a fourth-and-4 interception that Josh Wilson returned 75 yards for a crushing touchdown. Shaun Hill came on and did an admirable job in relief.
Singletary laid down the law during the game and after, in the locker room. Yeah, this game was about as ugly as you can imagine. Seattle fullback Leonard Weaver caught two touchdowns passes, the first one 43 yards and the second 62. O’Sullivan was wretched, again. The 49ers were outgained 388 yards to 261. The usual. But after watching and hearing Singletary in action, you know it won’t be business as usual this coming week during the 49ers’ bye.
Now for the Singletary post-game transcript. And yes, he delivered his opening statement and answered the questions with passion and conviction, just as you’d expect a former Hall of Fame player who played for Mike Ditka to do.
Singletary opening statement: “Before you ask any questions, I want to say this. No. 1, is I apologize. Apologize for the start. It’s like this, the day was good for me. It was good for me because sometimes you take a step back and you look at it and you think, ‘Hey, you know what? …We’re going to make it work. They’re working hard. They’re doing this, they’re doing that. We’re going to go out there, and it’s going to change right now.'
"It will change. ... I want you guys to understand where I’m coming from. It will change. And it will change because they want it to change. Not because of me. It will change because they want to be champions. But right now we’ve got to figure out the formula, our formula. Our formula is this. We go out and we hit people in the mouth, No. 1. No. 2, we are not a charity. We cannot give them the game. No. 3, we will execute from the very start to the very end of the game. That did not happen. I do not apologize about ... (At this point, Singletary cut off his opening statement and asked for questions)
Q: What happened between you and Vernon on the sidelines?
Singletary: “Vernon just. It was something I told everybody at the beginning of the week. I will not tolerate players that think it’s about them when it’s about the team. We cannot make decisions that cost the team and then come off the sidelines just nonchalant. You know what? This is how I believe. I’m from the old school. I believe this. I would rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we’ve got to do something else, rather than play with 11 when I know that right now that person has not sold out to a part of this team. It is more about them than it is about the team. Cannot play with them. Cannot win with them. Cannot coach with them. Can’t do it. I want winners. I want people that want to win.”
Q: Did you kick him off the field? Did you tell him to go to the locker room?
Singletary: “I told him that he would do a better job for us now taking a shower and coming back and watching the game than going out on the field. Simple as that.”
Q: Is he your starting tight end in two weeks?
Singletary: “Well, we’ve got to think about it.”
Q: Who’s your starting quarterback?
Singletary: “We’ve got to think about that too.”
Q: Who made the decision to change the quarterback? Did you decide to put Shaun Hill in or was Mike Martz involved in that?
Singletary: “It was my decision.”
Q: Did you get resistance from Mike Martz?
Singletary: “Well, I think Mike knows me enough right now, going through this week, that we didn’t have to talk about it.”
Q: Why did you do it? Why did you make that decision at that point in the game?
Singletary: “I thought that it was just one of those situations where you feel like you’re going in the game, and you want the best opportunity to win. You want the guy that, the quarterback is going in, he’s not playing well, he’s just not in that rhythm. After a while, his teammates can get frustrated and coaches can get frustrated. Rather than going there, just say, ‘You know what? Let’s make the change. We’ll revisit it later. But, I think right now, Shaun Hill today, in that situation, will give us a better chance of winning.’ ”
Q: Can you comment how Shaun Hill played?
Singletary: “One of the things that I asked the guys to do this week was manage the game. I talked to the quarterbacks early in the week and said, ‘All I’m asking you to do is manage the game. You don’t have to go out and win the game, just manage the game. We will win. We have special teams. We’ve got defense. We have other parts of the offense that can click and work. Give us a chance. Let’s just go out there and manage the game and let’s go.’ ”
Q: Is this an indication that it’s going to be a lot more difficult than you might have thought?
Singletary: “You know what? I’ll put it this way. I think if something like this is going to happen, happen now and not on national television. We’ve got between now and that time when we play Arizona to correct some things. And it’s not so much the play. It’s more the mindset and still having a chance to find out who wants to win, who really wants to win. Sometimes, you have guys that, it’s been so long that we’ve been unsuccessful, sometimes it’s like a bad relationship. You don’t know when it’s going to turn again. And after a while you become a part of the problem rather than the solution. I want guys that are solution-oriented, starting with myself. I’m not going to try to make something work when it doesn’t fit. And that’s really the bottom line with me.”
Q: Why did you take the quarterback out with 24 seconds left in the half as opposed to (after the half)?
Singletary: “Because Mike Martz said, ‘Mike, if we’re going to take him out, instead of waiting ’til the second half, why don’t we allow him to get in, get in a rhythm, get a feel for it, so that in the second half he gets that pressure off of him.”
Q: Is there anything specific that you can correct?
Singletary; “Got to look at the film. I was trying to keep up with it on the sidelines, and for a while I was. I think more so than anything else, we just have to look at the film. Right now, I don’t really want to talk about the things I want to correct. I know there are some things in the back of my mind.”
Q: So you do have a specific plan now?
Singletary: “In terms of what?”
Q: In terms of, because you have a bye week next week, so there has to be something that you really have to lay out. The defense is really (struggling). … There were too many fumbles in the beginning. It died down the whole crowd.
Singletary: “One thing I’ll say about that is this. I think sometimes when you have a loss like you had today. When I look at the defense. When you look at the pad that I had on the sideline, it says we got off the field a lot of times, particularly at the beginning. Then, all of a sudden, boom, they come out with a split backfield. One of the linebackers missed a guy underneath. FULLBACK, runs for a touchdown. It happens again. Quarterback scrambles around. Fullback, touchdown. You know what? We won’t play like that. We cannot play like that. I just talked to the player. He said, ‘Coach, I promise you it will never happen again.’ I know that. We will get it. We’ll deal with it.”
Q: Late in the first half, you had fourth-and-4, about a 47-yard field goal, decided to go for it instead and got a pick six. Why now go for the field goal at that point?
Singletary: “I turned to Mike and said, ‘Mike, what do you think.’ He said, ‘I’d like to go for it.’ Of course I knew he’d say I’d like to go for it.’ But, he said, ‘I’d like to go for it.’ I looked in his eyes and said, ‘Let’s go. Let’s go.’ I don’t want to take anything … We’ve got our coordinators and they’re doing a good job. Greg (Manusky’s) over there, busting his tail, racking his brain, trying to find the right call. And sometimes it’s not the call, it’s the way it’s executed. Mike Martz, I’m very blessed to have him as a coordinator, a guy that you can turn to, been there, done that. And when he tells me, ‘Mike, I want to go for it,’ sometimes I’m going to say no. Probably most of the time. But at that time I felt, you know what, I want to support what he feels. So let’s go.”
Q: Were you at all influenced by the fourth-and-6 conversion by Seattle earlier?
Singletary: “Not at all. That had nothing to do with it.”
Q: What was your message in the locker room?
Singletary: “I’m going to say this, about that. I’m always been a firm believer, and it’s nothing like it was anything magical, and in all honesty you probably do not want to hear it. But, it was just sharing my heart with them. It’s as simple as that. I just believe that things that we talk about in the locker room should stay there.”
Q: Does Vernon Davis face any more disciplinary action?
Singletary: “I don’t know. I don’t even want to think about that right now.”
Q: Did you get a chance to talk to him after the game?
Singletary: “He wanted to talk, and I just told him he did not want to talk to me. I said, ‘I assure you, you do not want to talk to me right now.’ ”
Q: Was he arguing with you on the sideline?
Singletary: “He just said, ‘What? What?’ ”
Q: About being benched?
Singletary: “No, when he was coming off the sideline, he said, ‘Coach, what? What?’ ”
Q: When you first came in here, the first thing you said was I apologize. What specifically did you apologize for?
Singletary: “We did not play anywhere near to where I felt we could have played. And rather than going to the, ‘Well, this happened here, and that guy was outplayed,’ I’m not going there. I’m just going to apologize and … say, just keep watching. That’s all I can say. Just keep watching, and we’ll go from there.”