As a member of the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears, linebacker Mike Singletary was practically unstoppable. His tenacious, hyper-focused attack on opposing offenses and loud, unhesitating leadership in the clubhouse are the stuff of legend. He was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year that year (and again three years later in 1988) and joined the NFL Hall of Fame in 1998. Sadly, the head coaching career of "Samurai Mike" has come to an abrupt halt -- at least for the time being.â†µ
Last night, Jed York, owner of the San Francisco 49ers, fired Singletary. It had never been a particularly easy ride for Mike in San Francisco. Although he did battle to a winning record in 2008 (after being named head coach beginning with Week 8) and a .500 season last year, 2010 was an unmitigated disaster from the get-go. The 49ers lost their first five games before finally beating the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 17. It was up and down after that -- literally -- with the team alternating wins and losses every game until they lost back-to-back games to the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 16 and the St. Louis Rams just yesterday. Impatient with the team's inconsistency, York sent Singletary (who had been signed through 2012) packing. And you'll likely find precious few 49ers fans protesting the move.â†µ
For Bears fans, the plight of "Samurai Mike" serves as a bittersweet lesson in the danger of appearances. Very early in the 2010-11 season, Singletary's fiery persona may have seemed the perfect tonic for Lovie Smith's dry, lackadaisical public image. But, for all of Singletary's blustery interviews and in-yo'-face player "consultations" on the sidelines, he could do little to salvage the 49ers' season or his own job. Meanwhile, Smith has quietly guided our Bears to a stellar 11-4 record and a playoff berth by making nearly all the right adjustments -- perhaps not as quickly as many of us fans would've liked, but making them nonetheless. I guess slow and steady wins the race, after all.