NFL commentary: Singletary’s hard work pays off

SAN FRANCISCO — The Mike Singletary makeover seemed complete. Ten weeks ago, he arrived at his first post-game news conference as the San Francisco 49ers’ interim head coach, full of fire, brimstone and abject apologies after a horrendous loss. On Sunday, he came to the same podium in an impeccably fitted business suit, armed with a four-year contract as the team’s undisputed leader, and full of sober analysis about another improbable win.

The new guy, to be honest, was pretty dull, almost a cookie-cutter NFL head coach.

Singletary wasn’t supposed to be able to pull off that one. When he interviewed for head-coaching jobs two years ago, he came across as an ex-linebacker who had the intensity of a good head coach but not the carefully detailed, practically diamond-cut plans for being a team’s field-level CEO.

Some people still have their doubts, despite the rebirth of the 49ers under Singletary’s command and a rare winning record for an interim coach, 5-4. They don’t know about all those binders that he keeps at home, full of information and treatises on offensive and defensive philosophy, and revisions of the 49ers’ playbook to suit his taste. Apparently, the binders are huge, and Singletary assembled them all himself.

“You know, we own Kinko’s,” said his wife, Kim.

She and their seven children — Kristen, 22; Matt, 20; Jill, 18; Jackie, 15; Brooke, 14; Becky, 12, and John, 10 — all gathered in the 49ers’ interview room after the win over Washington on Sunday. Two

cousins and their mom, Kim’s sister, joined the crowd.

On Friday night, Kim Singletary said, the family members learned for certain that they would be staying in the Bay Area. “But I felt it for a while,” she said.

She has a lively personality, and her husband’s less-inhibited side seemed to be channeling through her Sunday. She said his temperament had changed since he became the head coach.

More uptight, tense, under pressure?

“No, I think he felt more free,” she said. As Mike Nolan’s assistant head coach, she pointed out, he had limited control over the team.

“He was very respectful of his position, but he had stuff bursting to come out,” she said. “There was so much of him that he had to squelch.”

She backtracked for a second, though. Her husband, she said, did seem to feel pressure after that first game against Seattle, which unfolded as both a standard NFL whupping and a wild session of group therapy for a dysfunctional extended family.

Singletary’s halftime decision to drop his pants in the locker room as an expression of disgust became instant NFL lore. His wife said he assured her that he had kept certain things covered, but it was still a little unnerving to see the story turning into a defining moment for a coach just starting to establish his identity.

“It wasn’t really that big a deal or that embarrassing,” she said. “More like ‘Note to self: Don’t do that again.”’

The pressure he felt, though, came from the loss. He thought he could turn around the team faster than was possible.

E-mail Gwen Knapp at gknapp(at)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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