Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Mike Singletary Era: Part II

Mike Singletary, the new coach of the 49ers, has been preaching effort. He wants his team to trust their teammates, play as hard as they can, and be ferocious.

And it has paid off. Since he took over, the 49ers are 3-3. Their record prior to his taking over was 2-5. And more importantly, two of their losses have been very close games, with San Francisco hanging in there until the last minute.

Another indicator of the effect of effort can be seen in San Francisco's performance relative to the spread. The spread, or betting line, is an indication of (essentially) a consensus on whether San Francisco will win or lose, and by how many points.

Prior to Singletary's takeover, which I'd call the "poor effort" era, a team demoralized by losing and a quarterback controversy, was 2-5 against the spread. There were high expectations for the team the year before, and this year they stumbled through the season.

After Singletary's takeover, the personnel remained the same, except for a quarterback switch. The difference was how much effort he was getting from his players. He is big, black, a former linebacker ( I think) who looks tough, talks tough, and was known for his intensity while he was in the league.

The team is now 5-2 against the spread.

5-2 is quite a good winning percentage. 71% to be exact. The 49ers are having a period of sustained superior effort. They are playing hard, getting results, and believing again. They also have a staff and coach that knows there is a lot of money and prestige to be made by signing a contract extension at the end of the season. So everyone is putting in a ton of effort to make sure everyone plays their heart out.

So among the factors contributing to this new effort are a new coach known for his intensity and the uncertainty of cuts or extensions at the end of the season.

The two questions are: can this uptake be anticipated? A coach with credibility both in the league at large and with the 49ers in general, and a team perhaps underperforming?

The second is: how long will this sustained superior effort last? What are the limits on a human's ability to have sustained superior effort? There are two games left in the regular season. Can San Francisco keep it up? Especially now that their next opponent is a repeat opponent they already played and beat upon during the new era? I would think they would have trouble getting up for the Rams like last time. But Singletary is a great motivator.

Interesting questions to ponder.

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