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SAN DIEGO

So how do you like your playoff-bound 49ers now?

Let me amend that. Let's call them possibly playoff bound. Yes, the 49ers, who got murdered 34-7 by the Chargers on Thursday night, still can make it to the postseason because they play in the world's most grotesque division.

The Chargers game was a terrific chance for the Niners, a juicy chance to prove they are good, to prove they're not a joke, to prove they deserve our attention and maybe even our praise, a chance to make a statement to the league and their division.

Oh, they made a statement all right. They demonstrated once again they are sub-mediocre. They are a bad outfit and, no matter what happens in their final two games, no matter if they make the playoffs, their confused coach needs to get fired for his own good.

In a pregame interview with Deion Sanders, Mike Singletary explained why he loves being a head coach: "I wake up every day having a problem of some kind, and for me, that's why I was born. I solve problems."

Please name one problem Singletary ever solved. He's not a problem solver. He's a problem creator. He sure could solve one problem — the Niners' coaching problem — by quitting ASAP.

While I'm quoting the coach, here's something Singletary said when he took over the 49ers. Someone asked what kind of coach he aspired to be: "To be the greatest coach of all time," he boomed in the fullness of his pride. Well, move over, Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and Bill Walsh. Mike Singletary is in town.

Now for the quarterback — the Smith du jour, Alex. This poor man needs to go someplace else. The 49ers could not run the ball against the Chargers. Smith needed to win the game on his own like a real quarterback. It came down to him. Could he deliver? Don't be silly.

It didn't help he was executing the 49ers' offense. San Francisco moves the ball downfield so slowly and in such painfully small increments, it's hard to keep things going — too many chances for stuff to go wrong. And they always do.

Sure, Smith can be a quarterback in the NFL. Let him be a backup to a good quarterback on a good team. Let him be Philip Rivers' understudy. Smith has the makings of a fine backup, a pleasant man who can embrace a pleasant life whose most weighty chores are playing golf and holding the clipboard.

In the first half when the 49ers lost the game, they failed on every big-play opportunity fate gave them, the mark of a horrible team. Here are a few of those botched plays. Call them the Niners' greatest hits.

On the Chargers' first TD, a 58-yard pass, Vincent Jackson beat Nate Clements on a jump ball, a long high Rivers pass, and ran all the way home.

"When I looked to get back to the receiver, fighting for the ball," Clements said, "he made a great play."

Jackson made a great play and Clements did not.

Shortly after that, on third-and-2 from near midfield, Smith threw to Delanie Walker, who was open for the first down and more but the pass was one of the worst in the history of passes and that drive flopped.

"We had a run called," Smith said. "Obviously, third-and-2 you'd like to run it. I tried to get it over him and make a circle throw. Unfortunately, we didn't convert."

Whatever.

In the second quarter, the Niners went for it on fourth down, six inches the Chargers' end zone — the right call. But Anthony Dixon lost two yards. And the Niners scored zilch.

Near the end of the second quarter, Ahmad Brooks put himself in perfect position to intercept Rivers near the Chargers' end zone. He had room to run it in, or pretty close. He just needed to catch the ball. He reached for it. Things looked good. Oops, he dropped it. And he wasn't even wearing a cast like Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes.

I could go on but it's not good for the soul to dwell on the unspeakable. What is my point? Good teams make big plays. The 49ers never make big plays.

After the game someone asked Singletary if the 49ers are a playoff team.

"If we are fortunate enough to go to the playoffs," he said in the thoughtful voice he sometimes uses, "I believe we deserve to go."

If the 49ers go to the playoffs, they need to apologize to teams with winning records who are denied the playoffs, to the NFL for hogging a valuable spot and, in the interest of good breeding, to all of America merely for existing.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.