SAN FRANCISCO — Mike Singletary was fired by the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night after two disappointing seasons, including a 5-10 showing this year for a franchise expected to win the NFC West.
The team made the announcement late Sunday upon returning to the Bay Area, several hours after San Francisco was eliminated from playoff contention with a 25-17 loss at St. Louis. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was promoted to interim coach and will run the team in next Sunday’s season finale at home against Arizona. He is to be formally introduced in a news conference today.
Team president and CEO Jed York addressed reporters in St. Louis after the 49ers’ loss Sunday and was noncommittal about whether Singletary would coach the final game, saying he planned to think about it. Singletary was told of his dismissal back at the team’s Santa Clara complex after the trip home.
“I want to thank Mike Singletary for the passion and effort that he brought to this organization,” York said in a statement. “He is a tremendous person for whom I will always have great respect.”
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San Francisco began the year with high hopes of winning the West and reaching the postseason for the first time since 2002. Singletary finished with an 18-22 record in two-plus seasons.
“One of the greatest experiences of my life was having the opportunity to coach the San Francisco 49ers,” Singletary said in a statement. “What made it so special were the players. They were some of the most outstanding men I have ever been around in my life. The coaches were truly professionals. I wish the 49ers nothing but the best. I am thankful to the York family for having given me the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. I am indebted to them for that. I am also thankful for the Faithful fans, I am just sorry I couldn’t give them more.”
The 49ers began 0-5 and will finish with a losing record for the seventh time in eight years. They went 8-8 in Singletary’s first full season, then produced an unbeaten preseason this year only to drop their first five games. It was the franchise‘s worst start since losing seven in a row to begin a 2-14 season in 1979 — in the late Hall of Famer Bill Walsh’s first year as coach.
The 52-year-old Singletary, who first took over as coach on an interim basis when Mike Nolan was fired in October 2008 and soon declared “I want winners!” had two years remaining on his contract. York — son of owner John York — seems ready for major change around the 49ers despite having to pay Singletary, a Hall of Fame linebacker during his playing days for the Chicago Bears.
“Money is no object,” Jed York said in St. Louis. “I mean, our object is to win the Super Bowl, year in and year out be there and compete for Super Bowls. We’re going to make sure we get this right.”
Initially, Singletary seemed to be the man to do it, with his way of ripping into a player one minute then finding a way to turn it into a positive.
During his debut in place of Nolan — a 34-13 loss to the Seahawks on Oct. 26, 2008 — Singletary pulled down his pants in the locker room at halftime to make a point, benched struggling quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan in favor of Shaun Hill, and sent now-Pro Bowl and captain tight end Vernon Davis to the showers early for what he deemed inappropriate behavior following a personal foul penalty. Afterward, Singletary called out his team with the now infamous “I want winners” speech.
This year, Singletary fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye after Week 3, then lost secondary coach and special assistant Johnnie Lynn when he resigned for personal reasons earlier this month.
York said he plans to hire a general manager and will open a search to fill the job. Since former GM Scot McCloughan departed last March — and ended up with Seattle — in what York called a “mutual parting,” San Francisco’s football operations have been run by vice president of player personnel Trent Baalke. He was responsible for selecting two offensive linemen with the team’s first-round draft picks in April, and both Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are starters on the 49ers’ revamped offensive line.
York was asked whether a new general manager would help in a potential coaching search.
“We’ll have a general manager, and as we go forward, that will be something that the general manager and I discuss together,” York said.