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San Francisco Unearths New Savior; Signs Singletary to Four Year Contract

I've always loved Mike Singletary the player. The eyes. The mystique. The distinct possibility he's preposterously overrated.

I've been critical of his brief coaching career. Yesterday, San Francisco extended it through at least 2012.

Three events have defined Singletary's nine weeks. The least significant, but most noted is his public shaming of Vernon Davis. Davis has disappointed 49ers fans with his performance and has received a good bit of negative attention from the local media for his character. The former makes for a good discussion; the latter is a sad testament to the fact sports fans think they can know a man from his press clippings. He was an easy, almost certainly undeserving target. To this day, that act feeds arguments that Singletary "changed the culture" of San Francisco.

Here's what really happened:

1)      Two quarters into his first week as head coach, J.T. O'Sullivan is benched in favor of Shaun Hill.

2)      San Francisco faces an easier schedule in the final nine games than it does in the first seven.

How significant are those two events? Pretty damn.

1)      Two quarters into his first week as head coach, J.T. O'Sullivan is benched in favor of Shaun Hill.

Let's tackle this first. Since we're not talking which will be the better quarterback going forward, and we're talking about contributions from the same position, in the same system with most of the same surrounding talent, we can make a functionally accurate apples to apples comparison between O'Sullivan and Hill. The key then is to figure out how much each was worth in points. Here's how we do that:

First, take both players' net yards.

Shaun Hill: 1801 passing, 107 rushing, -141 sacks = 1767

JT O'Sullivan: 1678 passing, 145 rushing, -197 sacks = 1626

Then we need to account for the value of touchdowns, interceptions and fumbles lost. We're using fumbles lost because I'm not arguing who is the better quarterback, but who was the more valuable quarterback this season. It doesn't change too much, as both lost about 50% of their fumbles. For this, and the next step, I'm going to crib from The Hidden Game of Football. We're converting each into yardage.

Hill: (12 TDs x 10) - ((7 INT x 45) + (2 FL x 50) = -295

O'Sullivan: (8TDs x 10) - ((11 INT x 45) + (6FL x 50)) = -715

Resulting nets yards and points (With 12 yards = 1 point):

Hill: 1472 (122.67)

O'Sullivan: 911 (75.92)

Singletary picked up 46.75 points just by benching O'Sullivan. That move alone could account for San Francisco's post-Singletary improvement in point differential (From -38 to -4), but that would miss an important factor. I mean, what if San Francisco's schedule became much more difficult?

2)      San Francisco faces an easier schedule in the final nine games than it does in the first seven.

Nolan opponent point differential: 1, -98, -249, 70, 101, 127, 133 = 85 / 7 = 12.14

Singletary opponent point differential: -98, 1, -233, -3, -6, 49, 28, -233, -31 = -526 / 9 = -58.44

If we do a quick and dirty Pythagorean record for each set of teams, split the points and apply it to a ~league average, .500 team (370 points for/ 370 points against), we see Nolan's opponents averaged a .520 win percentage while Singletary's opponents averaged a .407 win percentage.

I like Mike Singletary. He was one of those players that got a ton of credit for leading the talent around him. If Lofa Tatupu makes the Hall, he'll be awarded a place for the same reason. I'm not sure "leadership" in football is too far from "framing" for a catcher, but...another discussion, another day. San Francisco could improve under Singletary. The launching point is pretty low. The media credits Singletary for benching O'Sullivan in favor of Hill. In that sense, they have improved under Singletary. Unfortunately for 49ers fans, despite that brilliant like a toothbrush move, San Francisco has declined. The 49ers weighted DVOA is significantly worse than its overall DVOA. There's a lot of optimism surrounding his signing, but I'm skeptical, because Singletary's résumé reads:

Benched failing journeyman quarterback

Publicly shamed player

Dropped drawers and a bunch of other foolishness

Won praise from media for quoteworthiness and antics

Cruised through easy schedule to a winning record while team declined

...and that's not very impressive.