HATING THE performance he had seen Sunday in his debut as 49ers head coach, Mike Singletary charged into the postgame news conference with a fury he once reserved for opposing running backs.
Singletary seized the podium and immediately apologized for the sorry effort put forth in a 34-13 loss to Seattle at Candlestick Park. The 49ers were bullied, they were careless and sloppy, and the Hall of Fame linebacker was here to promise to change.
"Our formula is this,'' Singletary boomed. "We go out, and we hit people in the mouth, No. 1. No. 2, we are not a charity; we cannot give (opponents) the game. That's No. 2. And No. 3 is we execute from the very start of the game to the very end of the game.
"That did not happen.''
His impassioned plea, words bouncing off the concrete walls of the interview room, reiterated that payment is due, and the lessons are coming.
Among the first to receive a lesson was quarterback J. T. O'Sullivan, who after losing a fumble and throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown, was replaced late in the first half by Shaun Hill.
"It was my decision,'' Singletary said, adding that he sought no input from offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
Next up was tight end Vernon Davis, who late in the third quarter caught a 7-yard pass from Hill, traded trash talk with Seahawks safety Brian Russell and couldn't resist flicking a hand to Russell's face mask, drawing a flag for unnecessary roughness.
Davis jogged off the field and directly into the wrath of Singletary, who immediately addressed the tight end.
"I will not tolerate players that think it's about them when it's about the team,'' the coach said. "And we cannot make decisions that cost the team and then come off to the sideline, and it's nonchalant.
"No. You know what? This is how I believe. I'm from the old school. I believe this: I would rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we have to do something else, rather than play with 11, when I know that person is not sold out to be part of the team. (If) it is more about them than it is about the team, cannot play with them. Cannot win with them. Cannot coach with them. Can't do it.''
Singletary initially told Davis he has to "be smart'' and avoid silly penalties, then punctuated his message by instructing Mr. Unrealized Potential to get out of his face and completely off the field.
"He asked me to come inside and cool down,'' Davis recalled.
"I told him,'' Singletary said, :he would do a better job for us right now taking a shower and coming back and watching the game.''
The new sheriff is a first-time head coach but longtime NFL alpha male. He's determined to clean up this team, and he's packing serious heat.
But Singletary has to proceed very skillfully. He is a perfectionist, as seen during his career as the leader of some highly skilled and imposing Chicago Bears defenses. And he's a firebrand, subject to strong emotions; he conceded he was too angry to engage in a one-on-one chat with Davis after the game.
In other words, Singletary's approach has elements of Bill Parcells' unfiltered candor, Mike Ditka's edgy impulsiveness, Jon Gruden's maniacal drive and Herm Edwards' fiery oration.
One game into his career as head coach, it is clear Singletary knows what he wants. Just the same, he could benefit from an injection of the studied nuance displayed by, say, Tony Dungy.
If Sunday is any indication, Singletary will demand more attention to detail, more accountability, more professionalism — and the promise of lessons.
But to whom shall these lessons be administered?
Will it be Singletary learning he can't inspire an average team to contender status, that intensity and sheer force of personality do not necessarily translate to victory?
Or will it be the mediocre roster conforming to the coach, learning how to summon the focus and desire required to reach its relatively modest peak?
With the bye week upon them, the 49ers have a full two weeks before their next game, Nov. 10 at Arizona. Singletary could use the time to recover from this eyesore. His players, now put on notice, should use the time to get their acts together.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.