Catch up with former 49ers cornerback Eric Davis each week as he recaps Sunday's game. In this latest column, Davis talks about Mike Singletary's bold moves, and why the 49ers lost to Seattle. **
The two most visible steps taken all season towards establishing a new philosophy for the 49ers were made during Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. The benching of JT O'Sullivan and the dismissal of Vernon Davis from the field to the locker room were the first steps towards stopping the complacency that has become a cancer in the locker room.
Players MUST know that they either perform or else. By making the change at quarterback before the half, Mike Singletary clearly stated to his team that if he is losing with you, he is not afraid to try and win without you. The 49ers have players on their roster with potential to be good. The problem is that POTENTIAL is a coach killer. A coach will lose his job waiting for a player to reach his potential. If a player is not performing, he should not be on the field. I do not mean that a player should be benched for every mistake. However, we are what we repeatedly do. So, that makes JT O'Sullivan a TURNOVER. He had to come off the field. He has, I'll say it, POTENTIAL to be a starter in the NFL. He definitely has the most physical talent of any of the quarterbacks on the team. But until he can hold on to the ball, he is a liability that the team is not talented enough to overcome.
Time will tell if the situation with Vernon Davis was handled correctly. Football is an emotional game as everyone knows. Right now it is hard to tell whose emotions got the best of them. Vernon made a bad choice when he struck a Seahawks player in the face costing his team fifteen yards. If he was sent to the locker room for detrimental comments towards his coach or teammates, I absolutely agree with the head coach. However, if this was a move to strictly motivate the players it could backfire. It is fine to want players to fear you, but if they don't trust you they won't play for you. I am the first to agree with establishing a fear factor in the locker room. Most of the players on this year's roster need to play under the assumption that a poor performance today could mean no job tomorrow. Constantly preaching technique and focus without consequence for not using it has sent the wrong message and created a losing culture for the 49ers. Mike Singletary benched JTO because of his bad performance. He benched Vernon Davis for his lack of focus and immaturity. Singletary made his expectations of players known to all. He knows that players are not robots. They have different personalities, but a childish one will not be tolerated by him.
The actual game was horrible. Seattle came into the game with backups playing all over the field.
At 2-6 the 49ers are now officially the worst team in the worst division in the NFL. All the motivational speeches in the world will not transform into wins if the team cannot block and tackle. As in every game, there were spans of good football. Manny Lawson played his best game since coming back from his injury. The defense as a whole played well at times, but could not go a complete game without giving up some big plays. There was no pressure on the Seahawks quarterback. Missed assignments and missed tackles led to scores for Seattle. JT O'Sullivan completed his metamorphosis into an actual turnover in the first half. Shaun Hill replaced him and led the team turnover free. He engineered a Joe Nedney field goal drive, and a Jason Hill touchdown reception drive. He also displayed the lack of arm strength required to run the offensive system that is in place. Mike Martz will have to reinvent his offense to tailor to the strengths of Shaun Hill as the starting quarterback. Mike Nolan hired Martz to be the savior of the offense. Going into the bye week it is obvious that it still needs saving. When faced with a salary cap, a trade deadline that has come and gone, and a 2-6 record, a wise man would think about adjusting his system to fit the players. This should not be a problem for an offensive genius like Coach Martz.
Unfortunately, personnel changes along the offensive line did not bring better results. The 49ers linemen are built to grind and run block for Frank Gore. He works hard for them and they work hard for Frank. The players on the offensive line, regardless of the lineup combination, are not athletic enough to protect in space like the present offensive system requires. Forty yard passes down field are pretty - losing is not. Give the ball to Gore.
Creating a winning culture at 4949 Centennial Boulevard will take time. The answer to the 49ers problem is not a new player or a coach. The 49ers need a new philosophy. There has to be a strong fear of failure and a championship level of accountability that EVERYONE in the organizations is evaluated by, each and every day. Mike Singletary is the man in charge of creating that culture in the locker room. He has started by making strong statements to his players that a new sheriff is in town. The bye week will give him more time to instill his plan in the locker room. Hopefully it works before he has to ride off into the sunset.