Thursday, October 23, 2008

Giving a team something to visualize

Mike Singletary, the Hall of Fame LB for the Bears and former NFL assistant who I blogged about here earlier this month, has taken over for Mike Nolan as head coach of the 2-5 49ers.

Coach Singletary has said he expected to become a head coach sooner, but his five years as an assistant with Baltimore and San Francisco have better prepared him for the challenges:

"Preparation-wise, there are so many things a head coach has to think about. A head coach, in my mind, has to have great peripheral vision. It's not just you. If you don't have great people around you, you will fail."

A strong communicator and excellent public speaker, Coach Singletary held a meeting with his coaching staff less than 24 hours after he was named head coach to discuss "the vision of where we are right now and where we need to go." The next morning, he had the same meeting with his players.

Said one 49er player:

“He motivates you, yet it’s not like, ‘Win one for the Gipper.' He’ll say, to be successful, this is what it looks like. He gives you something to visualize, which is unique.”

Coach Singletary gave Mike Nolan, his predecessor, full credit for helping the team take the first steps in turning things around:

"I don't think they really, truly understand what Mike had to do when he came here and what he's built. To me, the next step is not as hard as the first. What he had to do was very difficult. He set the foundation. All I'm going to do is build upon that foundation.

I'm not going to come in and make a lot of changes and do a lot of this and do a lot of that. I'm just going to be myself. ... I'm going to be very, very diligent in terms of whatever it is, finding whatever it is, I will find it. And somehow, some way, it will show itself."

In a statement, outgoing Niners Coach Mike Nolan, who still had the support of most of his players despite the team's 2-5 record this season, said something insightful:

"It is the responsibility of the head coach to build a foundation and an environment for success. In many areas we were, although it is winning that ultimately determines success.

I also want to thank our players for their dedication and willingness to work hard. Even during the toughest of times, they remained strong and fought through it. It is difficult to put into words my respect for guys who played for the 49ers over the past 3 1/2 seasons. They have my complete respect and admiration. I am forever indebted to them."