What we didn't know about Singletary's 49ers tenure


Editor's note: The video above is of Mike Singletary's successor, Jim Harbaugh, now with the Michigan Wolverines

Mike Singletary's tenure as 49ers head coach was short-lived, but it can be argued that there were some positive lasting effects.

The curtain on his stint in San Francisco, however, had not been fully pulled back until now.

The Chicago Bears Hall of Fame linebacker and pro coach had his 'A Football Life' air Thursday on NFL Network, and it revealed new details about his arrival in San Francisco, inevitable exit, and everything in between.

His most indelible moment, arguably, was the mid-game dismissal of tight end Vernon Davis after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in 2008.

"He was like, 'What's wrong, son? What are you doing?" Davis said, recalling his conversation with Singletary. "I was like, 'Sorry, coach.' He circled around, came back and told me to go take a shower.

"I was extremely surprised that he sent me to the locker room...After that day, I knew I had to change."

[RELATED: Davis: Crabtree complained about QB throws in 49ers huddle]

Today, both Davis and Singletary view the tense moment as an instance of growth—the catalyst that got the 49ers first-round pick over the maturation hump. 

"It was the beginning of something for him," Singletary commented. "He really began to develop into a guy that could truly be a great player."

"He would see everything," Davis added. "He would see whenever I would make a good play in practice or if I made a good play in the game. I know that everything Singletary did for me, it all helped."

How Singletary came into a position to make those types of coaching decisions was something else altogether.

Former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, who was dismissed midway through 2008 and later replaced by Singletary, had a 1-on-1 with his replacement and even pushed him to accept the 49ers vacancy.

"I want you to be the head coach," Nolan said, recalling a private conversation with Singletary. "He said, 'I'm not going to do it.' I said, 'That's why I brought you here.' He says, 'Not to take your job.' I said, 'Look over at that desk.' Mike does, he looks back. I said, 'Do you see anyone sitting at it?' He said, 'No.' I said, 'That's because they don't have a head coach.'"

[MAIOCCO: Midseason review: Best and worst of 49ers after nine games]

Singletary would inherit the 49ers, who were 2-5 through seven games in 2008. They won five of their last nine, and Singletary earned a full-time position as head coach.

He led the team to an 8-8 record in 2009. In 2010, the 49ers began with an 0-5 start. At 5-10 and out of postseason contention, Singletary was fired with one game left in the season and replaced by position coach Jim Tomsula, who returned to defensive line duties in 2011. 

Former colleague and Super Bowl winning head coach Brian Billick pointed to Singletary's intensity as a theme during his tenure, and noted it as the reason the 49ers both hired and fired him.

"At that time I thought I knew everything," Singletary said. "I really thought my leadership abilities was all that was necessary. I really thought that as a leader I could take any team anywhere."

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