Does going back to Alex mean the 49ers are tanking? They probably don’t think so (unless Singletary was forced to go back to him by the front office), but from the outside it’s hard to presume otherwise.
You can talk about experience and completion percentages and anything else you want, but Alex Smith is 1-6 this year while Troy Smith is 3-2. Alex lost 31-6 to the team the 49ers are playing on Sunday, with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Alex has been healthy for a while but wasn’t good enough to play until now, after a loss against the Green Bay Packers that proved this team doesn’t just need a new quarterback, they need to be fully revamped at most positions.
But enough about the 2010 San Francisco 49ers. This team is simply ineffectual. They don’t matter. The NFL has plenty of storylines, and the 49ers don’t really figure into any of them right now. They’ve lost twice as many games as they’ve won, their offense is boring and simplistic and their defense can’t cover or tackle. But other than that, they’re a freaking awesome team.
Everyone knows the 49ers need a new quarterback. (Hey, did you also know the Niners could have drafted Aaron Rodgers instead of Alex Smith? FOR REALS!) But that’s pretty much out of the team’s control at the moment since they don’t know their draft position or even who’ll be available. You never know, Andrew Luck might pull a Jake Locker and go back to school. It would be incredibly stupid for him to do so, but crazier things have happened.
However, just as they should be scouting every single college QB, NFL backup QB or soon-to-be free agent NFL QB, the 49ers must put together a list of qualified coaching candidates. David Fucillo of Niners Nation threw out a list of big names that pretty much covered the current Niners-fan wish list: Jim Harbaugh, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren, Bill Cowher, Jeff Fisher and Rob Ryan. And I think you could probably add another other big name: Tony Dungy. Might as well, since there’s probably very little chance that they’ll get any of these guys anyway with the 49ers’ organizational structure a mystery, no new revenue streams and no idea who’ll play QB next season.
The talk — among fans, anyway — has centered on the first two names on that list, Harbaugh and Gruden. Harbaugh would be a great choice, but he’s in a position where he can pretty much name his price and the amount of power he’ll wield. That will probably scare Jed York off.
Gruden got his first break with the 49ers when he was hired as a quality control coach by Holmgren (who isn’t leaving Cleveland anytime soon, so just stop with that). Gruden’s known as an offensive mind, but that’s not exactly the case. In Tampa Bay he rode Dungy’s defense to a Super Bowl, but in seven years his teams never finished in the top half of the league in points scored (highest finish: 18th, three times). It can be argued that the Buccaneers gave up too many draft picks to acquire Gruden, and that’s why he was never able to build on the 2002 Super Bowl win, but any team that hired Gruden would have to hope he could become the first coach to win Super Bowls with two different franchises. And with so many Super Bowl-winning coaches moving onto other NFL teams, it would seem like there’s a reason why nobody could do it in two locations … right?
Okay, I’ll just come out and say it. I don’t want Gruden. At all. Total retread, but because he’s got a made-for-TV personality he’s a fun retread. Sort of like Bill Parcells or Mike Ditka. And yes, it would be better to have a fun retread than a retread like Wade Phillips or Dick Jauron, but I’m still not interested. Better press conferences aren’t that important.
Plus, Gruden’s going to go to Cleveland and work for Holmgren anyway, so it’s a moot point.
The perfect coaching candidate
Here’s the wishlist:
1. An offensive mind (or at least a defensive-minded coach who knows offense like Bill Belichick or has a great offensive coordinator in his hip pocket)
2. Can work with quarterbacks and perhaps even make them better (49ers haven’t had a coach who could do this since Steve Mariucci)
3. Comes from a winning organization (which is why the 49ers used to have all their assistants stolen by other teams … you might have noticed this doesn’t happen anymore)
4. Prior head coaching experience (the biggest problem with Mike Singletary)
Since handling the head coaching duties along with personnel is nearly impossible these days (and the 49ers wouldn’t pay for a guy to do both anyway, even if they were comfortable giving anyone that much power after the Mike Nolan disaster), we’re pretty much going to have to hope the 49ers either find a great football guy or that Trent Baalke becomes that guy.
I know, I know, but bear with me. I have a guy the 49ers can and SHOULD hire to become their next head coach. A realistic candidate who not only would be in the team’s price range, but would actually help matters.
I’ll admit that Mornhinweg isn’t the name we’ve all been dreaming of. And with all the “Giants should sign Carl Crawford” and “The Warriors need a superstar” craziness you’ve become used to on BASG, asking the 49ers to hire a coach who’s last name only 0.001% of us could spell correctly without checking Google is a bit out of character. Blame lower expectations, or an extreme dislike/distrust of Gruden, but this is a hire I’d be extremely happy with.
Think I’m crazy? Let’s check the wishlist (you’ll probably still think I’m crazy, but you’ve made it this far):
1. An offensive mind: Mornhinweg has coached offense for the better part of three decades in college and the NFL, getting his first pro offensive coordinator position with the 49ers under Mooch.
2. Can work with quarterbacks and perhaps even make them better: he’s been a QB coach with the Packers and 49ers, working with Brett Favre and Steve Young. He also has a lot of experience working with mobile quarterbacks other than Young, including Jeff Garcia and the dogfighter.
3. Comes from a winning organization: Mornhinweg’s worked for the Eagles as a senior assistant (2003), assistant head coach (2004-05) and offensive coordinator (2006-now) for seven years. A lot of us may have mentally checked out on the NFL to a certain extent since the 49ers have been so pathetic, but those have been some pretty good years for the Eagles, complete with quality quarterbacking throughout. This year, the Eagles are the No. 1 offense in terms of yards per game and No. 2 in points scored (behind the Patriots).
4. Prior head coaching experience: this is where it gets dicey…
Mornhinweg coached the Detroit Lions in 2001 and 2002. The good news is that he didn’t win a Super Bowl, so he wouldn’t be going against history. The bad news is the Lions went 5-27 during his tenure, including the game where he kicked off after winning the coin toss before overtime against the Bears.
But you can’t blame Mornhinweg for failing in Detroit, for one reason. His first year as coach coincided with the first year for Matt Millen as general manager. Enough said, but let’s check out the offense. His best running back: James Stewart. His best wide receivers were Johnnie Morton in ’01 (meh) and Az Hakim and Bill Schroeder in ’02 (hold on while I vomit). And in Mornhinweg’s first year as head coach his quarterbacks were Charlie Batch, Ty Detmer and Mike McMahon. The next year, he had to work with rookie Joey Harrington.
Steve Marriucci replaced Mornhinweg and in the next three years the Lions went 5-11, 6-10 and 5-11 (with Jauron replacing Mariucci midseason in the last year). Mornhinweg wasn’t the problem in Detroit. The problem was always Millen.
However, Mornhinweg has always expected he’d get another chance to coach, and after years in Philadelphia the Lions stench is finally gone. As other assistants have passed him by on the prospective head coach totem pole, there’s no doubt Mornhinweg would agree to come to San Francisco for a reasonable salary. And if the Eagles are planning to trade Kevin Kolb, the 49ers would suddenly have a solid QB and a coach who knows what he’s capable of — which would be a lot easier (and cheaper in terms of salary and possibly draft picks) than betting the farm on Luck.
We might as well be realists, here. The Yorks aren’t going to sell the team. They aren’t going to hire a football celebrity like Cowher and give him carte blanche to hire and fire whom he pleases. The best we can hope for is a smart coach with knowledge of how to manage a MODERN offense who isn’t learning on the job. And if the 49ers have limitations as to who they can hire (and they do), I’d rather they hire Mornhinweg than Marty Schottenheimer’s son.