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Singletary's Notebook: Nov. 30



Opening statements:**"Good morning. I'm very pleased with the victory yesterday, obviously. The guys played hard. The guys practiced hard all week. We had a good week's practice and we talked about playing like we practice, and that's kind of what we did on both sides of the ball. On the defensive side of the ball, I think, for the most part, we did a good job. I thought we went into the game thinking that we would attack a little bit more, particularly in the first half. We just have to continue to do a better job on the back end, tackling and the angles that we approach the tackles and the whole nine yards. We're doing a great job running to the ball and all of those things, but we just have to do a better job tackling overall. I think we've got to do a good job getting off the ball. There were a couple of times where we just didn't get off the ball for whatever reason. Maybe guys standing up versus getting down in the three-point or whatever, particularly a guy like [LB] Ahmad [Brooks]. He's normally standing up, and I think playing on third down, there were a couple of times if he had just gotten off. So, we'll do a better job there. He's only going to get better going forward.

I think, technique-wise, on defense, just a little thing that, going forward, in order to be successful we have to continue working on our technique across the board. Other than that, I think our defense did a good job. I think we went into the game and the No. 1 thing on our minds as we approached this game was to really stop the run. I think our guys did a great job of doing that. You talk about a team effort. I think the fact that our offense was able to create some first downs and move the chains and those sorts of things, that helped our defense stay off the field and get a little break here and there, and I think that went really a long way to helping us to be successful against the run.

On the offensive side of the ball, I thought our o-line, our o-line continues to work and get better. It's a work in progress, and I think on the right side, [RG] Chilo [Rachal] and [RT Adam] Snyder, for the most part did a better job passing off things, and that was very good to see. I think [LT] Barry Sims, and what he's been able to do to step in, there are a lot of guys, a lot of tackles – as a matter of fact, we were trying to look around and find some tackles that could come in in a back-up situation. And, a lot of backups don't want to come in and play. They want to come in and say, 'Now, what do you expect of me?' Well, if something happens, I want you to play. 'Well, really? How about I be your third tackle?' Here's Barry Sims, a guy who's been in the league a while, and he's excited about starting. He's a guy that's excited about playing. To have that, I really appreciate his effort and his work ethic, as well as the whole line. I think Chilo and Snyder, we talked about those guys a number of times, and that process of trying to work together and communicate amongst each other, I think they're really doing a good job. So, that's good to see.

[TE] Vernon [Davis], I think is having a tremendous year. He continues to get better. The thing I like about him most, I think the better he gets, the more he continues to stay after practice and work on his craft, both blocking and catching the ball. Of course, he had a couple of drops yesterday that, I guess for a regular tight end, you say, 'Vernon, just do a better job.' But, I told him yesterday, I said, 'The great tight ends catch those balls. It's a simple as that.' And, I know that's what he wants to be. He's having an outstanding year, but it's those things that I want to see him do a better job of is some of those other tight ends that are out in the league that are supposed to be great tight ends, Vernon is an outstanding tight end, and I just want every opportunity that he has. There should be no excuse for him not making the Pro Bowl this year because he is definitely, in my eyes, far and beyond any tight end in the league.

No. 15, [WR Michael] Crabtree, he's continuing to grow and mature. He dropped a touchdown yesterday. I think he's still asking himself what the heck happened. He has great hands and prides himself on plucking the ball out of the air, and I think he needs to join Vernon as well after practice and just continue to work on catching the ball. He does a good job, but sometimes he can get off track.

The other receiver, yesterday, I thought really did a great job. He did everything across the board, and that's Josh Morgan. Josh caught the ball well. He's blocking downfield well. He's doing a number of things. He's good with or without the ball. I'm really excited to see him continue to grow and mature.

[QB] Alex Smith, I thought, did a very nice job. I thought he took a big step yesterday. This is an offense that he talked about and envisioned and was able to step in and not just talk about it but produce, find receivers, have a blitzing linebacker or end coming right at him and still focus downfield and make a throw. He made some really nice throws yesterday. The one throw to Vernon on the fourth-and-one was outstanding. He didn't even break stride. Of course, the possible touchdown to Crabtree, that was an outstanding throw. So, he's really doing some things that are very nice to see.

I just feel like going forward, it's just a matter of continuing to look at our offense and look at what helps us win. I think there are a lot of philosophies out there. I'm hearing a lot about, well, the philosophy should be to throw the ball more. Sometimes, it's run the ball. The only thing I can say is this: My overall philosophy is to win. It's to win. I think that's the thing that I've said from the very beginning. I want to win. I think it's one thing when you look at this is what I'd like to do, but I think you have to look at what you have and go with that, make the most of it, and be excited about having it. To me, that's what I am. I talked many times about when we run the ball, I want to run the ball. I don't want to tip-toe. I don't want do any of those things. I want to hit people. I want to go forward and I want to run the ball. When we pass the ball, I want to do the same thing. I want to see our receivers going downfield and adding on, hitting somebody. Don't just look at the guy. Run with the ball. Go hit somebody. To me, that's what it's all about. That's football. So, that's not going to change. Any questions?"

On whether he is disappointed that it took this long to have such a complete performance:"No, sometimes things take time. I know there are some coaches that have been waiting two or three years and it still has not happened. I think the thing I am thankful for here is all of the great coaches that we have and more so than anything else, the players. It is not just the talent, but it is the attitude of the players we have. These guys continue to go out week-in and week-out and believe. They are just working their tails off, they are doing whatever we ask them to do. Once again, the best thing about this week, or this past week, was for the first time since I have been here, there were a group of players, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, who stepped up. In the midst of all the different coordinators, there is a trust factor that has to be in place for a player to come forward and say, 'You know what Coach, I think this would be a good idea. I think if we try this, that would be great. I think we would win.' That to me is very, very important because at the beginning of the week, one of the things we talked about was leadership. We talked about ownership and one really can't come without the other. The trust factor on the coaches' behalf, for those guys to step up early in the week and say, 'This is what we feel. This is what we like.' For Alex Smith to echo those things, that lets you know something very exciting is on the verge because they believe. 'If we can do this and that, we can win.' It's not: 'If we could have a better offensive line. If we had a guy that could throw the ball, we could win. If we had another receiver, we could win.' No, we have it here. If we can do this, I think we can win. There is a big difference."

On how the players gave the coaches their input:"During the Green Bay game, the guys got excited in the second half. Vernon came to the sideline and said, 'Coach, I'm telling you, this is exciting. This is fun. I know we can do this. This is who we are.' Then, of course, we come in early last week and I had different guys in the office, just talking to them about what they felt. I talked to Alex Smith, even last weekend prior to the Green Bay game, and talked to him about what he was feeling and what he was thinking and told him how important it is to convey those thoughts to Jimmy Raye, not anyone else, not even me. Go to Jimmy Raye and sit down and say, "Jimmy, Coach, if I may, I'd like to express some ides, some thoughts.' I think those kind of things are extremely important and as the week went on, there was no town meeting, there was no rally, there was no boycott. The guys just basically said, 'Coach, this is what we like. I think this would help.' The thing that I have been talking about all year is ownership. When you talk about ownership, that is a huge word, it comes with a lot of responsibility. If you are willing to ask for something, if you are willing to come up with a solution, then it is on you to make sure that you carry through with that. That's what leadership is. Leadership is not stepping up every week and saying, 'Hey, I don't like this; I like that. We could do a better job if we did that.' That's not leadership. That's just a bunch of opinions. But, when you have players stepping up saying, 'I believe if we did this, we would get the results that we want,' that's leadership. Now it's up to the coaches and the people in charge to make those decisions and go from there."

On the benefits that come from Smith talking to Raye directly:"I have always believed all of my life that if someone has something to say, be man enough to convey it. Don't come to me and tell me, 'Coach, I don't like this; I don't like that. Jimmy is doing this; he is doing that.' That's not going to fly. All that is going to do is get me upset because that concerns me that you are not man enough to do that. The most important thing to me is we have 53 men, not a bunch of boys, not a bunch of guys sitting in there waiting for something to happen. I went to Alex, he didn't really come to me. I went to him because I know what he has been through. Sitting down and just asking him, 'What do you think about this? How do you feel about that?' To hear those ideas and to hear those thoughts, that is great. That is outstanding. Now we'll tell Jimmy. I didn't want him to tell anyone else, just go tell Jimmy because that relationship is critical. I don't want to go to Jimmy and tell Jimmy, pull a 'I'm the head coach, you're the coordinator. Just do what I tell you to do.' That's too easy, that's easy to do. I want Alex to do the difficult thing, to go in there and take a risk and say, 'This is what I like. Can we do this?' because that is where the relationship is. That is where the team gets better other than me pulling a power card. That's no good in the long run."

On the challenge of keeping good practices going from week to week:"The practices have been good. It's just a matter of – there's a difference in when you go out and practice, it's not like you don't believe in something. Jimmy Raye has a great plan. Every coordinator, if you were to sit down and talk to every coordinator, defensively or offensively, he's going to have an array of plays that are just outstanding. You look back and you go 'Wow, look at those plays, we could do this.' Okay, look over here and say, 'Hmm, we can just eliminate all of that. This is what we have here and this is what we have to do.' That's the difficult part. So, I think when you look at our offense, Jimmy has just kind of been putting things here and you've got a tackle that goes down over here, maybe your best offensive lineman, he goes down and you've got another one over here and he's going to – he's down. Okay, now your running back is – and by the way you've got a quarterback change. Every time you turn around, I'm trying to put another piece up here. So that's where he's been. I tell Jimmy week-in and week-out, 'I'm really proud of you for what you've been able to do. I'm proud you haven't run over me in the parking lot,' because I go to him and say, 'Jimmy, I think we have to think this way,' and he's done nothing but doing what I've asked him to do. So, I think that's the interesting thing about this team. I think that's the best thing about this team. You have a lot of unselfish players, as well as coaches, where the bottom line is to win and that's why I'm excited about this team."

On whether there is time to get what he wanted to get done given everything that's gone on with the team:"I told the players last week, it's all in front of us. Everything that we want is in front of us. I don't want our guys to start looking around, thinking about this and hoping that. We had a game yesterday that we had to win against a good football team. We go out there and we win the game and by the way, Arizona loses the game. That's pretty cool, but guess what, we've got to do the same thing next week and the week after that and the rest of the season. So forget about anything else. I think we have the time to get done what we need to get done."

On the difference in Chilo Rachal from September to now:"Maturity, experience, working together, relationship. I mean it's huge when you talk to that guy and you trust that guy. It's one thing to say, 'This guy does that and then you and I have to switch off,' and when that call is made you have to make sure that you have each other's back and I think that's a work in progress. That's why the offensive line anywhere in the league, if they are a good offensive line, chances are they are very close. When you see one, you are going to see all of them and I think our guys are just continuing to gel, continuing to spend time together and watch film together and do all of those things. Now, they also have to interact with the quarterback as well because they can do a great job here, but if that quarterback is stepping right where he's not supposed to, then they can do a great job, but they look awful because the quarterback just jumped right in the way. So, it's vitally important that all of those pieces come together when you have an offensive line and a quarterback that trust each other and that's really the biggest difference, time."

On why the defense has played so erratic:"I think you start the season, you have a formula in place that you are going to win by. You have the running back in place and you have the quarterback in place. So, the defense knows that the way we are designed, our offense is going to eat up the clock because we are going to make first downs. So the offense goes out and we're not turning the ball over. That's the formula, we're not turning the ball over, there's not a whole lot of opportunity to turn the ball over. We are going to run the ball and we are going to let Shaun Hill dictate to us, how much we are going to throw the ball. So the defense over here, we are playing 45-50 plays, maybe 55. Now, you change that formula and you've got another quarterback in and those tackles that were there in place to allow you to run the ball the way you were trying to run it, now they're not there so you are changing it a bit, so now you have to throw the ball more or you're not getting as many first downs, you're not eating the clock the way you were, so now you are playing about 80-85 plays. So that's almost like playing two games. So, when you look at the defense, there's a lot that goes into it. You kind of get sloppy after awhile. We're not at that place yet. One day I hope to be in a place where we are a dominant defense where it doesn't matter what the offense does. They can go out there and throw an interception. We are going to go out there and one, two, three out. We may even get you the ball back. We're not at that place yet. So, when I'm talking about technically and all of those things, it's just a matter of guys, just like that offensive line playing together, the defense, they have to play together and have people in place and just be sound technically across the board."

On the Atlanta game and how the defense was still having problems even with Shaun Hill as the quarterback:"That's when it became apparent to me that a change had to be made because we were not moving the ball – In order for me to talk about the defense, I have to talk about the offense because if I don't talk about the offense and just talk about the defense, solely, then I need to go to the games where – as far as tackling, we have to do a better job tackling, it's as simple as that. Not that it's horrible, but for where we want to go, it's not good enough. It's simply not good enough. Our angles to the ball, we've got a lot of guys flying to the ball, that's the one thing that we pride our defense on. Guys are relentless on going to the ball, but we have to take better angles of getting to the ball and we will do that because guys are working at it, we will do that."

On his evaluation of watching the development and maturation of the team during the season:"I think that guys have matured a lot this season, I just think that we've been through a lot together and it seems like we've been through a lot early. The most important thing that we've done is we've continued to stay together and grow through it. Adversity only brings you together or it tears you apart and I think that it brought us together and when guys have to overcome things and still be in the fight, it builds a lot of character- that's the things about this team that's very exciting."

On the technique of S Dashon Goldson's playing style:"Two things about that – the one thing that it tells you about Dashon is that he is a headhunter. The guy just wants to annihilate everything that's back there and the thing that I want to get him to do is that he's got great speed and he wants to hit everything that moves and it's just a matter of 'okay Dashon, let's settle down a bit, gather yourself and make the play,' and he will do that. That's a great problem to have for a DB because most of them may run 4.3s or 4.4s but they are awfully slow getting to that tackle. That's another problem that you have with a guy that doesn't want to tackle and we don't have that issue."

On figuring out the team's offensive system while contending for the playoffs:"The thing that's exciting to me is that I think in the next five weeks, really in the next couple of weeks, a lot of those questions will be answered. That's why it's so exciting to be 5-6 and still be in the hunt, still be in the chase. You are right. There are things that are out of our control, but the fact is that there are five games that remain and we still have a chance to do things that we want to accomplish. I believe that to the core of my being."

On being able to accomplish team goals without making it to the playoffs:"I'll hold off on that one. Because coming into the season – I'll just hold off on that one, I'll answer that in a couple of weeks."

On whether T Barry Sims is one of the best five offensive linemen, even after the return of starting T Joe Staley:"Ok, now you're talking about the left side of the line versus the right side of the line and I won't go there for right now but I will say that I think that [RT Adam] Snyder and [RG] Chilo [Rachal] on the right side are very solid right now and they're working together and they're getting things done. When Staley comes back, Staley is the left tackle and those will be our five best guys."

On whether he expects T Joe Staley back in time for the Monday Night Game vs. Arizona:"Possibly, hopefully he'll be running this week, lifting, squatting, and doing some things like that. But hopefully he will be back."

On the status of CB Nate Clements return:"Nate Clements, in all likely hood, would be back maybe the last game of the season."

On Player Injuries:"One thing that I neglected to do – did I go over the injuries? [WR] Josh Morgan: Hip contusion, taking it day-to-day he should be fine. [DT] Kentwan Balmer: Right shoulder sublex, his shoulder went out, went back in and that's day-to-day. [LB] Parys Haralson: thumb contusion, I have no idea what the heck contusion is. It just sounds good, and [S] Curtis Taylor is having an MRI today: hip strain."

On elaborating on his coaching philosophy:"If you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers from last year, you don't have to go very far to know that is a physical team. They're a running football team first, but they couldn't run the ball last year and if they couldn't run the ball and if everyone else was saying 'well, they've got to be able to run the ball' or they started saying in maybe mid-season 'if they can't run the ball well then they're not going to go to the super bowl.' Okay, they were in the Super Bowl and they didn't run the ball, so they got there. What was the philosophy: to win. Tony Dungy goes from Tampa Bay, where they were a run oriented team, Tony's philosophy is 'guys look here, we're going to run the ball on offense, we're going to eat up the clock.' That's the same kind of thing that I believe here in my core because I'm a defensive guy. Tony goes to Indianapolis – does he take [QB] Peyton [Manning] and sit him down, bring somebody else in and get a better line and say we're going to be physical? No. you take one of the best quarterbacks of all time and leave him back there. If that's what you do, then that's what we're going to do. Tony wanted to win and I think that it's important - being stubborn can be a good thing, but I think most of the time it's a foolish thing. I do want to win, but it's not about me. It's not about what I think and feeling like I've got to go back on my words. The most important thing that I want for this team is to win. I want this team to win and to win big, so in order for me to do that the most important thing is that I'm always true to the personnel and we'll go from there."

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