Alex Smith

49ers’ frugality leads to dysfunction

Bill Walsh’s complaints that John York was worried about the cost of belt buckles and bottles of water struck a nerve years ago. How could the franchise that flaunted its generosity in the form of highly-publicized post-Super Bowl trips to Hawaii for the entire team (and their wives) be so cheap?

Those cries have quieted down after some high profile free agent signings (Nate Clements and Justin Smith) along with a couple huge contract extensions (Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis) made everyone realize that the 49ers will pay for talent. Well, at least when it comes to their players.

Mike Nolan came cheap. Mike Singletary, who was already on the payroll, came even cheaper and wasn’t allowed to clean house and hire all new assistants (also a cheap way out). Scot McCloughan was never among the highest paid general managers in the NFL, and when he left for “personal reasons” he was replaced by another guy already on the payroll (Trent Baalke) while Jed York said he wasn’t sure if they’d actually have a GM as part of their organizational structure.

Cheap, cheap, cheap. And Mike Sando of ESPN thinks the fact that Singletary wasn’t able to completely design his own staff is why the smell of rodents in Santa Clara has become so palpable:

Singletary is a principled man who seems genuinely perplexed when others do not uphold his standards for honesty and forthrightness. But the reality in San Francisco is that Singletary inherited his coaching staff, making it tougher to demand loyalty in difficult times. You can bet some assistant coaches felt disappointment when ownership passed over them by naming Singletary to replace Mike Nolan during the 2008 season. You can bet some assistant coaches thought they could do a better job.

That’s the way it is on every staff, in my experience, but the difference in San Francisco is that Singletary didn’t hire all his assistants. That makes a difference. Also, quite a few players and several staff members have left for other organizations.

Then there’s, who opines that the “rat” in question could actually QB coach Mike Johnson, who Singletary brought to the team.

Another source with knowledge of Johnson tells us that the “guy has been trying to get a coordinator job for years.”  And, of course, one way to get a coordinator job is the same way Singletary got his head-coaching job — to see the guy in front of him get fired.

The suspicion isn’t all that surprising, given that Jason Cole’s report on the matter explains that Johnson “couldn’t decipher what Raye was saying during tense moments when the Seattle crowd was making noise,” and that Singletary was seen yelling at Johnson when the plays were delayed in being sent to Smith.

In all, the situation in Santa Clara seems to be pretty messed up, to put it mildly. And most of the blame shouldn’t be pointed at Singletary, or Alex Smith, or even Jimmy Raye (even though Raye made himself sound like an 80-year-old with his “So whoever Yahoo is, maybe he should come call the plays,” quote). It’s the Yorks’ fault for fostering an environment where they’re believed to be making decisions based on money rather than wins when it comes to management and coaching. And if there are coaches who believe Singletary was promoted because he was the cheapest option, and if there are still coaches on the staff who Singletary was forced to keep on staff to save an extra $100-$300K, that’s even worse than counting Crystal Geyser bottles and belt buckles.

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