The San Francisco 49ers will end their season next Sunday in a meaningless game against the Arizona Cardinals, two last-place teams scuffling on the final day of the regular season.
At some point after that – it could be one day, one week or one month, perhaps even sooner – team president Jed York will have to make a decision about the future of head coach Mike Singletary. It shouldn’t be too difficult given their 25-17 loss to the Rams that officially ended their playoff hopes.
York promised the 49ers would win the NFC West, a vow he made after the team’s 0-5 start, but that looks like so much bluster right now. It was, in effect, an ultimatum to his head coach, who failed to meet expectations and is likely to be fired after the season ends, if not this week.
Could there be any clearer example of Singletary’s loss of control than his sideline shouting match with starting quarterback Troy Smith in the third quarter after Smith threw an interception with his team leading 14-12? It was obvious Singletary intended to pull Troy Smith for Alex Smith, which he indicated was a possibility last week.
Troy would have none of it. They went back and forth, with receiver Ted Ginn Jr., Troy Smith’s boyhood friend, trying to intervene. Smith brushed him off.
Troy Smith stayed in the game but went three-and-out. With 9:30 left in the game, he was on the sideline and Alex Smith was under center.
“It’s frustrating,” Alex said of his demotion to backup. “But part of being a part of this team means being ready for that.”
A comparison: Troy Smith was 7 of 19 passing for 153 yards, one touchdown (a 60-yarder to Michael Crabtree that made it 14-12) and one interception. Alex Smith was 10 of 15 for 120 yards.
But quarterbacking was just part of the problem. The 49ers had bad snaps, too many penalties (six alone in the first quarter), poor secondary coverage and an inability to sustain drives.
“The opportunity was there again and we let it go,” said linebacker Takeo Spikes. “Ain’t much you can do, ain’t much you can say. Everything we could’ve done, we should’ve done on the field. … To lay an egg like we did is unacceptable.”
After the game, York said the 49ers would pursue the hiring of a general manager, an indication that changes are already in the planning stages. He also refused to commit to Singletary coaching next Sunday’s game.
That’s what happens when a team loses – especially one that loses after the boss promises it will win.