Singletary's Notebook: Dec. 8

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RE: After watching this game on film, what sort of stood out to you?**

"I think defensively when I put the game on and watched the defense, I just felt like there was so much energy. Guys were running to the ball, making plays. It was just what you wanted it to look like. So a lot of the physicality that we're talking about was there, guys playing with passion and hustle. That's very exciting. Offensively, as the game continued to move I saw the offensive line really doing a great job imposing their will on the other team. One thing that really jumps out at you is Vernon Davis. Talk about a blocking tight end. I don't know if there's ever been a tight end that can block better than Vernon Davis. I mean he did an exceptional job, it was outstanding."

RE: Are you talking about just yesterday
"I'm talking about period. I mean as a blocking tight end, for him to be on a defensive end, linebacker, I don't care who it was. He was on him, he was driving him, he was moving him and it wasn't like they didn't know he was coming. It was very impressive."

RE: Is that due in large part to his superior athletic ability, things that came out that were mentioned in the combine?
"I think it has more to do with his mental makeup. I mean there's a lot of guys that have the physical athletic ability to do it, but they don't do it. With Vernon, he can do it, he's willing, and he takes pride in it so I think I'm just very excited about what he does when he takes the responsibility of blocking somebody, he takes it personal and does a great job. And the other thing I saw was just execution. Shaun Hill I thought did a great job moving the ball around. I thought he made great decisions for the most part managing the ball. It was a total team effort. It was very impressive."

RE: Yesterday in the post-game press conference you were asked about Shaun Hill and you'd think he would be the starter next year and you were cautious in your answer. You said he was improving but you didn't sort of commit. So if you don't mind I would like to ask again and I guess I'm more interested in why you are being cautious than sort of a repeat of what you said yesterday?
"I wouldn't say the word is cautious. I would just say wise. I think right now, we are playing right now and after this season, I really don't know what's going to happen. There are a lot of uncertainties. I'm not going into next year talking about what I think Shaun Hill is going to do. I'm not going to talk about those things. I'm going to talk about right now. I'm going to talk about next week and that's about as far as I'm going to go. As far as Shaun Hill is concerned, I'm excited about what I see. I'm very excited about what he's doing and I've asked Shaun Hill to get to that point. Establish yourself as an NFL starting quarterback. Establish yourself as a championship quarterback in your mind and at the appropriate time, we'll address it. But I think the most important thing right now for Shaun Hill to do is to continue the progression to continue to get better."

RE: And you still think that he has potential to get better?
"Oh yeah. Yes, I do."

RE: Is the performance yesterday what you want to see out of this team on a consistent basis?
"It's certainly the start of it. I think there are a lot of things that we can do better. The physicality part I think we are scratching on the surface of it. Ball security, I think we are scratching on the surface of it, for sure. We're doing the things right now that you have to do to be in the game. We're doing things right now that to me football is all about. Football 101. Being physical, playing with emotion, playing with passion, playing with all of those things. So to me we are scratching the surface of what greatness is all about, but now it's those little things that we have to do. Making sure that we are not turning the ball over, making sure that we are finishing, not just finishing some blocks, but you are consistently finishing all the time, not falling off blocks, not creating penalties at difficult times. Ttrust me, there are a lot of things that we could do better and we will, but right now I would say we are scratching on the surface of it."

RE: You mentioned ball security – are you concerned with the way that DeShaun Foster fumbled?
"Absolutely. Yes I am. But you know he'll get better at it. The thing that DeShaun really runs into is he's trying to get extra yardage. He's trying to make something happen. Frank Gore is in all the time. And then DeShaun gets a chance and he wants to show, 'Hey, I can do this. I'm a good back. I can make things happen.' Rather than just 'take the ball and go. Get what you can and let's line up and start over again.' So that's just something that he's going to have to continue to work on. And he'll get there."

RE: Is he going to have a big role in Miami?
"It depends. It depends on how Frank is doing. We just have to watch him closely this week and see how healthy he is. I'm sure there will be some extra incentive: he's going home. So hopefully that will be medicine that is applied as well."

RE: So he hasn't been ruled out?
"No."

RE: If he's unable to go, would you consider bumping Thomas Clayton up?
"It's possible. It's a possibility."

RE: Have you seen [Thomas] Clayton play?
"Oh yeah. All I know, all I can tell you about him is he runs hard, he does everything that you ask him to do. I'll tell you what. I'll put it this way: Mike Martz is a fan. That will tell you a lot about him. He is just working his tail off. So I'm very excited about him. So if he gets the opportunity, great. But obviously if Frank is well enough to go, that's even better."

RE: The past few weeks you've talked about your assistant coaches and how they're a big part of this. When you took over, you probably had the least amount of experience as any person on that staff. Did you feel like the assistants bought in right away or do you feel like you had to earn their respect?
"I don't know to be honest with you. It's not even something that I ever really thought about. I just know that I had the opportunity. The most important thing to me, it wasn't really about whether they bought in or not, it wasn't really about how they saw me or whatever. The most important thing for me is I knew what I could do. With much prayer, much, I guess, wisdom and day-by-day experience I had a good feel for what I could do with them, and with the players. So that's not really anything I ever thought about."

RE: Could you have done this job three years ago? Were you ready to do this three years ago or was now the right time?
"I would say no. I would say no. I would say no."

RE: So what's been the difference in the last three years that got you to this point?
"Probably the biggest difference is continuing to learn. Continuing to ask a million questions. Continuing to watch Mike [Nolan] and talk with Mike. And continue in the offseason going around and talking to all the head coaches I could, that were willing to talk to me and give me that time, until you feel that, you know what? I knew that this year I'd be ready. It was just a matter of the opportunity presenting itself. I did not know it would come this way, but it's just a lot of preparation. When you talk about opportunity beating preparation, I just felt that at some point in time the opportunity would present itself and it was very important that I prove myself worthy and work my tail off until that opportunity presented itself."

RE: Do you still talk to Mike Nolan?
"Yes."

RE: About work-related stuff?
"We do more texting than anything else. There's not a whole lot of conversation. We're still friends. I know he's doing some things and he knows I'm doing some things, obviously. We're still friends and we still talk."

RE: When you won that first game, did you give him the game ball?
"Yes I did."

RE: Why?
"Man, you guys know everything. The biggest thing about that is I just felt that everything that I had a chance to do since I've been head coach, a lot of it stemmed from Mike [Nolan], and to me, winning that first game was as much his as it was mine because of everything that he did and all of the time that he put into me teaching and conversations and all of the things we talked about. I wanted to make sure that I let him know that I am always indebted to him as a friend and as a mentor."

RE: I had a question about the end of the first half. You were trying to call a timeout there. Did you want to stop the clock to see if you could get something before the half?
"It's one of those things where you're trying to call a timeout, but at the same time you're thinking to yourself , 'Maybe I should just let it run out.' If something, if we could have got the ball punted to us, something could have happened – maybe take a shot or whatever. It was probably better that it didn't happen. I just wanted the ref to know I was trying to call a timeout and he said, 'Well, I didn't see you.' But, anyways, that's what we were thinking."

RE: A lot of coaches do let that clock run out, sometimes with more time on the clock than you guys had. Do you think this is something you would have done earlier in the season, and is this a sign that you're gaining confidence in your defense?
"Confidence is a big part of it. I think sometimes when it's hot, when you feel like the time is right and you feel like, 'Maybe I can get more points. Maybe I can get a field goal, Maybe I can…' Sometimes it's greedy as well. Sometimes it's not wisdom, but it was a thought and I think it worked out the way it was supposed to."

RE: What is the rest of your season going to be about?
"To me, the next game. It's about winning. Whenever you're playing, it's all about winning. All of the whatever-comes-off-of-that, that's for everybody else. But, to me, whenever you're going to play a football game, I don't care what it is, I don't care what it's for. It's about winning. It's about making a statement. It's about you have another opportunity. If you have another game, you have another opportunity to say, 'This is who I am. This is who we are as a football team.' So, by not being able to get into the game, the game at the end of the game, it leaves a statement: When this team does come back next year, everything that we're building right now, it'll just continue to roll forward. But, we are building something. We're in a process of building something, and there's a progression in it, and you don't just look at it, 'Well, OK. We're not going to go to the playoffs and forget it.' No. We're building right now, and wherever we end up is where we're going to start. I think that's very important."

RE: What is you contractual status to this franchise for the next year?
"My contract is done at the end of this year so I'm a free agent if you would call it that. But, [it's] done.

RE: In the preseason we always hear of players who are sort of on the bubble say that they're putting film together for whether it's this team or some other team that's out there. Do you feel that, in essence, you're putting film together as a head coach?
"If I were saying that, then I would be auditioning again, I'm not. Once again and I don't know how to really put it any better but I'm really not auditioning. I'm really not trying to show anyone anything. I'm just working. I'm doing what I love to do and that's all that I can do and after that, let the film speak. To me, since you talk about film, there are a whole lot of intangibles that goes into it that you can't even begin to explain. But I just feel very thankful once again for the opportunity and whatever happens we go forward with it."

RE: A minute ago you were talking about continuity and everything you were doing for the last few games and rolling them into 2009. When you say things like that, that kind of implies that you expect to be here as part of that continuity in 2009?
"I'll say this again, I don't ever start anything that I don't plan to finish. But that's the way I think. But I don't have control of that. I don't look at anything as finality. For me, everything that I do in my mind, if that does not happen, then so be it but I'm always thinking forward. I think that if you don't think that way there's some things that you could do that you talk yourself out of. There's something's that you could do that maybe you think 'well, if I don't get the job, I look foolish' no. You know what, you do it. you go all out, you do the best that you can, this is who I am and just let it all hang out and that's the only way I know how to do anything."

RE: Having a retired NFL official in the coaches booth, was that was your decision?
"I think the best way to say is this: When you look a the ruling, the referees and all of the different rules that they have a few years ago I said to myself 'you know what, I'm just going to take this book and I'm just going to go through all the rules and by the time you get through the first quarter of it, you begin to realize, you pick up the phone you go and drive and visit a [referee] and talk to them about the rules that it's not the rule itself but the perception of the rule. So it's so gray that you begin to think 'you know what, I need to go about this in a different way. I need to have someone around me who has some awareness that can explain some of these rules.' Because I know what the rule is, but then it's ruled differently. Either I'm going to drive myself nuts trying to figure this out, or you get someone who speaks that language. You get someone who knows that world that can explain 'Well Mike, they said that because of this'. Now normally you're right, it happened this way, but he saw it that way. So I thought you know what, that's the best way to do it otherwise you could begin to take it personal and did not want to go there because I love this game too much."

RE: So, did you get in touch during the Bye week before Arizona?
"Maybe the week before the bye week, the week before, something like that."

RE: Do you know of any other coaches have contacted officials?
"I really don't know. Maybe some have tried, I really don't know. But I just thought that it made sense."

RE: With Nate [Clements] out yesterday they put a lot on [Donald] Strickland and Tarell Brown. How did they fair in their roles?
"[They] did a great job. If Nate was going to have to miss a game, and hopefully it doesn't happen very often, this was the game that Strickland would step in and do a good job. He could use his physicality, the hustle and then of course Tarell Brown. I just thought you know what this is their kind of game, so let's get in there and get our hands on them and they did a good job so I'm very pleased with what they did."

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