Singletary's clear message hanging over 49ers

A new banner appeared outside the locker room at 49erland on Thursday. It declared a much more specific message than the banner that had appeared in the exact same spot during the past three years. And that's yet another indication of how Mike Singletary is methodically putting his conspicuous and firm stamp on the organization – and how he's doing it differently than his predecessor, Mike Nolan.

You remember the infamous banner that Nolan, during his first year as San Francisco's head coach in 2005, had team personnel attach to the brick wall that players pass by on their way to the practice field.

It read, "Win the West," with red Xs running through the helmets of San Francisco's three divisional rivals, the Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals.

It seemed a bit presumptuous at the time, with the 49ers coming off a NFL-worst 2-14 season. It seems a bit laughable now, with Nolan deposed from the building after compiling an 18-37 record in his 3½ seasons with the team.

Nolan had the banner taken down before this season as he switched gears to a "one-game-at-a-time" mantra before being fired. Singletary had a new one put up Thursday, and the message blared loud and clear:

"49ers Formula For Success" it read across the top.

Below that was a list of five distinct principles:

"1. Total Ball Security"
"2. Execute"
"3. Dominate In The Trenches"
"4. Create Great Field Position"
"5. Finish"

Like several things Singletary has done since he took over Oct. 20 as the team's interim coach, it seemed like something genuine that cut directly to the heart of the matter.

Those five principles, by the way, can clearly be pointed at as things the 49ers failed to do consistently during the first half of this season – or at any sustained point during the past five years since their last winning season, for that matter.

When asked if the banner is part of the new tone-setting he is implementing within the team, Singletary didn't try to dance around the subject.

"In all honestly, it's what we need to do," he said. "It's not a new flavor of the month. It's not, ‘I think this sounds good.' No, this is what we have to do in the second half of the season to be successful and give ourselves a chance to compete at the highest level."

You can't get any more straightforward than that. And the thing is, Singletary is precisely accurate. Those are the things the 49ers need to improve upon to get better as a team, both on the field and in the win/loss column.

Singletary couldn't have broken down San Francisco's problems into a five-item list any better, and as he was quick to say, "Obviously, we didn't do a lot of those things right in the first half. And so you just try and sit back and reflect and capture those things that you know you have to do going into the next half of the season, particularly in November, and give yourself a chance to get back in it."

SFI then mentioned to Singletary that it was a nice touch – giving the team specific goals to shoot for rather than just general platitudes, like "Win the West," for example.

"You've got to know what you're shooting for," Singletary responded. "You've got to know what it is that you want, what you need to do, and then from there you work from there. But you got to know what it is."

As is becoming more and more evident, Singletary seems to know what it is. Of course, the real proof will come with how the 49ers play on Sundays the remainder of the season. But Singletary continues to present subtle changes amidst his team that seem like inspiration and innovation to the casual observer.

And two weeks into his new job, he's still just getting started. Singletary has made copies of his message and plans to post them around the team facility in Santa Clara.

"They're up on the wall and they're in the building," Singletary said. "They'll be all over the building. But it doesn't mean anything until it gets into the hearts of the players, and that's what we're driving home."

Which is another way Singletary is getting to the heart of the matter here – something of which it seems more and more that he's a natural at doing. And that's something of which the 49ers, as they attempt to resurrect during the second half of their season, simply can't get enough.

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