Mike Singletary and Shaun Hill save their (2009) seasons

The 49ers’ disgusting, sloppy, utterly uninspired play throughout the first 55 minutes of today’s game against the Rams didn’t threaten to ruin their season. Mike Nolan pretty much did that over the first seven games.

For Shaun Hill and Mike Singletary, losing to the Rams might have ruined next year.

Maybe Singletary would have kept his job anyway. Even if the 49ers hadn’t scored 14 points in those last 5 minutes to steal a game against the Rams, Singletary is already beloved by fans and players alike, and would certainly come cheaper than Mike Holmgren or Bill Cowher, the only two coaches would could conceivably replace Singletary who wouldn’t initiate a full-scale riot on KNBR.

Still, losing 16-3 to the Rams, who are commonly referred to as the second-worst team in football (although Cleveland probably took that distinction away when they were shut out 14-0 by the Bengals today in what should be Ken Dorsey’s last game in the NFL), would look pretty bad if it were followed by a loss next week at home to the Redskins. Then the team would be 5-11, ending the season with three straight losses.

But now Singletary and the 49ers stand just one win away from the record I predicted for San Francisco before the season started: SEVEN … AND … NINE!!!!!!

(There’s a joke about that record, which is why it’s in all-caps. When the 49ers won their last game in 2006 to finish 7-9, we were all so excited about the improvement seen under Nolan that at a postgame party all of us walked around shouting SEVEN … AND … NINE and laughing, yet feeling waaaayyyyy too optimistic at the same time. The Mike Nolan Era: feel the misplaced optimism.)

Singletary may have kept his job anyway, but the first three and a half quarters from Hill included some of the worst quarterbacking since J.T. O’Sullivan totally lost it. It wasn’t just the 3 interceptions, either. Tipped passes, wounded-ducks and just plain errant throws marked his afternoon, and without Frank Gore the 49ers were so inept offensively that I kept checking the sidelines to see if Mike Martz had been replaced by Jim Hostler.

Thanks to Isaac Bruce, and an extremely fortuitous touchdown catch by Josh Morgan to take the lead, Hill, Singletary and his cross look pretty certain to play prominent roles next year. And if the team wins next week to go SEVEN … AND … NINE, Niner fans will be feeling pretty optimistic.

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