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Cohn: Stirring statements from Singletary, if nothing else


SANTA CLARA

This is about Mike Singletary getting flustered at his Monday news conference and it?s about Singletary trying to intimidate a writer. I admit I was the writer.

I was sitting in the interview room listening to Singletary speechify. He is not yet one of the best coaches in the NFL but when it comes to launching into a speech, nobody can touch this guy. He was saying Sunday?s loss to the crummy Titans was ?one of the better offensive performances I?ve seen since I?ve been here.? I was thinking there is nothing ?better? about losing to that bunch.

He was saying, ?We?ve got a coaching staff that will continue to work its tails off,? and he was saying, ?The guys are playing hard.?

I was thinking that?s Tom Cable material, stressing how hard the team works. Like anyone cares how hard a team practices. Football is a bottom-line business. Your record is 3-5, Bub.

I asked myself why Singletary has a better reputation than Cable, a crummy coach. What does Singletary actually have over Cable? Singletary gives better team huddle. He has a better voice and a better stare and a better build. He was a better player. He has zero physical-harassment accusations.

On the other hand, he has a longer losing streak than Cable: 4 vs. 2. He seemed to be making progress but now his team is backsliding. So, what makes him better than Cable? That?s what I was thinking when Singletary launched into one of his whoppers:

?In these moments, this is when I?m at my best,? he intoned. ?Because in these situations you just have to rise above and you have to put your best foot forward. You have to look at where things are. I can?t get lost in the reality of the four losses. It?s not a place that you want to be but that?s where it?s at. For me it?s just getting ready, coming in this morning, being excited, talking to the coaching staff, ?Hey let?s go, let?s get ready, call your guys, let them know we?re on, be ready to go tomorrow when they come in.?

I wanted to run up front and shout, ?I believe, Coach!?

Singletary kept going. He is pure voice:

?I would much rather have it this way where you come in, you start off right, you know you can do it. Then all of a sudden all these changes ? you?re changing the quarterback ? you start finding out about yourself. You start finding out about the people around you. You start finding out what you?re made of. And then you come back together and things start working again. Then you feel better about what you accomplish. I feel good about these next eight games. I feel good about the situation we?re in and feel good about the guys and having to work through some things to climb back up again and get ready for that next one and let?s go.?

Well, I felt my heart palpitating from sheer joy. I never realized a record of 3-5 was a good thing. And I thought about the Niners? marketing campaign slapped on buses and billboards, Singletary saying, ?Don?t tell me. Show me.? And I thought he was doing a ton of telling. But mostly I was impressed how good he feels about ?the guys.?

So I said his words were motivating but we were mere writers and it?s the players who count. I asked how he could be sure his players could turn it around. He eyeballed me, surprised a mere writer put him on the spot.

Singletary: ?You know what, sir, I don?t know where you?re from and I don?t know what you really meant by that. I understand that you?re not my players. I?m thankful that you?re not my players. I do want to win. But let me say this, you have to know guys that you spend days with. Just like you when you?re at home. I don?t know how much time you spend with your kids. But it?s important that when things happen you have a pretty good idea of how your kids are going to respond. If you tell me that one of my kids slapped you, one of my kids spit on you, I?ve got a pretty good idea of who it would be, because I know them. ?OK, that was Jack, or you know what, that was Brooke.? When I?m talking about our guys, I know them. When you spend as much time with these young men and you know what they?re made of, you have a pretty doggone good idea how they?re going to respond. Does that make sense??

Whew! Quite a response. Here?s what I got out of it. Singletary wanted to know where I?m from. Singletary imagined his kids slapping me and spitting on me. Clearly, that?s what he wanted to do for interrupting the serenity of the news conference and making him feel uncomfortable. I also got that he believes in his players ? another total Cable response, which may or may not mean a thing.

He asked if his answer made sense.

Cohn: ?It may. We?ll see what happens.?

Singletary: ?It may? You asked me a question. I thought I responded to your question.?

Cohn: ?I appreciate your response.?

Singletary: ?Well, I thank you very much.?

Cohn: ?And I wish you the best.?

Singletary: ?I appreciate it.?

Cohn: ?But when you say you know how they?re going to respond, I don?t. You may know better than I.?

Singletary: ?You?re not the coach. I wasn?t asking you the question. You asked me the question.?

Cohn: ?You asked me if I thought you did OK with the answer.?

Singletary: ?Thank you.?

Cohn: ?My response is I guess we?ll find out. You clearly have more confidence in your players than other people may, including me, and that?s why they play the games.?

Singletary: ?You?re exactly right. Are you going to be here next week??

Cohn: ?I?m going to be here all the weeks.?

Singletary: ?Now that?s exciting. That?s outstanding. I?m looking forward to it. I want you to get a seat right here (up front) and you ask me those same questions.?

Cohn: ?I?ll stand next to you.?

Singletary: ?Outstanding. Fantastic.?

And you know what ? when it was all over, he pointed his finger at me and I pointed back and we smiled. And it meant, ?To be continued.?

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