Head Coach Mike Singletary took the podium Thursday morning inside the confines of Lucas Oil Stadium at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. Here are some of the highlights from Singletary's press conference.
Q: You haven't yet said Alex Smith will definitively be the starting QB in 2010. Can you say that now?A: I feel very good about saying that Alex Smith is our starter going into the next football season. The thing for me is I'm always going to use words like 'probably' and all those other things because I like competition. I like guys knowing that they're always going to compete. But I feel very comfortable in saying Alex Smith is our starting quarterback going forward.
Q: Is it good to have competition at QB or to have a player who'll take all the reps on the offseason?A: I think it's different for each team. For the situation we were in last year, it was right for the 49ers. It was the only way to do it – to let those guys compete because of the circumstances there. We came out of it with Shaun (Hill) being the quarterback and Alex coming on top of that thing as the season progressed.
Q: What was it about Alex that made you comfortable working him in as the starter?A: I think, first of all, when we drafted Alex with the first pick several years ago, there was something there. There was a reason we did that. I just feel going into last season, looking at all the things he had to face, it was his attitude that stuck out through the whole thing, whether he was hurt, whether he was learning, whether he was the backup. Whatever the situation was, he was always very steady. And I felt that talking to him, having a relationship with him going into last season, sitting down and talking to him and feeling the fire that was in him, and just needing to know if he was wanted after everything he'd gone through, the players in the locker room not really sure where he was, but just being steady. And so it's the maturity factor and the attitude factor and at some point in time, the opportunity presented itself and he stepped in and (I) was very pleasantly surprised.
Q: How much of Smith's problems were a result of the adjustment in coming from a spread offense?A: The thing that hurt Alex Smith more than anything, he really didn't have a surrounding cast. When he came in, he came into a tough situation. He had an offensive line we were building, and trying to put an offensive line together. Trying to put a receiving corps together. I think there were a number of things there. Just the inconsistency of the coordinator – I mean, there were a lot of things that were not in place. I don't think it was just the spread situation, but I think that could've been a small factor, but I don't know because of all the other things that were not in place.
Q: Has the team settled on an offensive philosophy for 2010 after moving from power-running to spread throughout the season?A: The consistency of coming out of last season and stepping into this season and knowing there would be a balance. Yes, I think more important, Alex will feel comfortable about that. For the first time, it's amazing to think that this is the first time there will be consistency at the offensive coordinator position going into that next season for him after five years. That's a pretty amazing thing to say this the first time the offensive coordinator is there. So I'm excited about that alone.
Q: Have you reached a consensus on what is best: power running or spread?**A: I think this offseason, as we continue to go through it, there will continue to be a balance. It's smart for us to look at the things that we evaluate on film, and looking at the things Alex did well, and looking at the things our offense did well, looking at the things Frank Gore did well, and making sure we build on that. That's very important going forward.
Q: What are your thoughts on adding Mike Solari as offensive line coach, and Ray Brown as his assistant.A: I'm very excited with the way things worked out. Chris Foerster is in a good situation in Washington. He felt he wanted to be closer to his family, so that worked out for him. Fortunately, a coach like Mike Solari was available and there, and I'm very excited about Coach Solari for a number of reasons: simply because of his philosophy on the offensive line. The pedigree from which he learned from Bobb McKittrick, the former San Francisco offensive line coach. He did a lot with the offensive line with San Francisco. They were always tough and always physical and always finished. So I'm very excited about Coach Solari. The fact that Coach Solari and Jimmy Raye worked together before and knew each other. That was also something that was very exciting, created more of a comfort zone for Coach Raye – just one more thing in the offensive line being one of the more important positions to fill on your staff. That was really a good fit.
Ray Brown, we interviewed him and about 10 or 15 minutes later, you knew he was the guy and he was a fit. Coach Solari felt very good about him. When I asked coach about his comfort zone and who might be that guy to come in and assist him with the offensive line, immediately Ray Brown came to mind for him. So it was a really good fit all the way around. And I'm very excited to get started.
Q: Where does upgrading offensive line rank on your list of priorities?A: I think upgrading the entire team. For us, when Scot (McCloughan) and I sit down, the most important thing this offseason when we look at that board is to make sure that board is right, in terms of getting the best player for us. Yes, we want to add a player that the offensive line, but at the same time we don't want to reach at any position. So it's very important for us to evaluate and have everybody involved – not just personnel, but coaches and staff, assistant coaches, myself, Scot, everybody – and make sure we take the best player going forward and go there.
Q: What do you look for during the combine?A: During this combine, the thing I'm looking for is all of the intangibles that you really can't see on film. You look at film and that's the determining factor. If you have a pie chart, and what is the most important thing? It's the film. But when you come here, you get a chance to see how the guy is wired up. You have a chance to interview a guy. You have a chance to kind of get a feel for what he's like, if he fits the identity of the 49ers. That's really important coming out of this thing with the limited time that you have with them personally, and trying to fit some of the pieces together if you look at the weight lifting, if you look at the height and the measurements and all of those things. You just try to put it all together coming out.
Q: How is the combine different for a coach, as opposed to when you were a player?A: I think the combine is more for the fan, to me, than anything else. When we sit down as coaches, I know when I sit down, I'm looking at the film. I think a huge part of what this is all about is being able to look and say, the guy is 6-10, he's 400, he's all of these things, he can run like the wind. But if you put on the film and he's not hitting people and he's not getting it done, then I have to look somewhere else. Because I want football players. So when you come here, you just have to make sure that you don't lose sight of what you saw on film. I think when I was a player coming out, it was more on the film. Now, sometimes because of the intangibles involved, depending on the offense you're running, depending on the defense you're running, I think it's a lot more specialized now.
Q: What does Kurt Warner's retirement mean to the 49ers?A: It doesn't change anything for us. If Kurt Warner is still there, if he's gone, it doesn't matter. I talk to our team all the time about focusing on us. It's not about any other team in the NFL, because the most important thing for us is to look at the things we need to do to get better. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.
Q: How do you feel about the feeling that with everything that has happened in the NFC West, the 49ers should win the division?A: I think it is a grave mistake for us, as a football team, to think just because you take Kurt Warner out of the mix, to think it's our division. The thing we have to do in San Francisco is to make sure that we are not looking at Seattle, we are not looking at what happened in Seattle, we are not looking at what happened in Arizona. I don't care about those things. I'm thinking it's our division before we get Kurt Warner out. I was hoping we were thinking that way last year. I'm thinking that way this year. I want to think that way every year. I'm sure the other teams are going to think the same thing, and that's what makes it an exciting game.
Q: With Chris Foerster leaving does that make re-signing Tony Pashos more difficult?A: I don't think so. I talked with Tony. I think Tony had some familiarity with Chris Foerster. But I talked with Tony, and Tony feels comfortable about what we're doing. He feels good about what we're doing in San Francisco. Certainly, they had a good relationship, but hopefully things work out where Tony is back with us. But I know he feels good about what we're doing. . . . Hopefully, it works itself out. But once again it has to work for both sides and hopefully it gets done.
Q: What is the feeling of the coaching staff about playing a regular-season game in London?A: I'm excited about it. Our team is excited about it. It's another opportunity to maybe showcase who we are and I think it's great for the game of football to go out of the country and having the entire world see what this game is all about. It's a great opponent that we're facing there, so we have do the best we can to be prepared.
Q: Why did you hire Kurt Schottenheimer as special-teams coordinator when it's been so long since he has coached special teams?A: I think a good football coach is a good football coach. When you're able to find the experience, the passion, all of the things that goes into what makes a great coach. I just know from everybody I've talked to, sitting down and visiting with he and his wife – my wife and I had a chance to do that. I came away from it feeling very comfortable about Coach Schottenheimer and what he can bring to our football team from a special-teams point of view. So I'm very excited about that.
I thank you very much.