Notebook: A second Singletary joins staff

The 49ers will have a second Singletary on their coaching staff in 2009 – and another defensive specialist who fits the vision and plays in the image of new head coach Mike Singletary.

Vantz Singletary, a veteran of the college coaching ranks who also is Mike Singletary's nephew, has been hired as the team's new inside linebackers coach, a role that belonged to his uncle for most of the past four seasons. Jason Tarver will continue to coach the team's outside linebackers.

Al Harris, a former defensive lineman who played with Mike Singletary on the legendary and fearsome Chicago Bears' defenses of the mid-1980s, also has joined the San Francisco staff in the newly created position of pass rush specialist coach.

"We are pleased to add Vantz Singletary and Al Harris to our coaching staff," Mike Singletary said. "Both possess the qualities and character that I am looking for to lead our group forward."

Vantz Singletary has been a successful collegiate coach for the past 17 seasons with his most recent stop in 2008 as the defensive tackles coach at Buffalo, where he helped lead the school to its first ever bowl appearance and a 2008 Mid-American Conference title.

His previous assignments were with Tennessee at Chattanooga (2006-07), Hawaii (1999-2005), Southern (1997-98) and Trinity College (1992-96). He has coached numerous future NFL players while they were collegians, including current 49ers defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga at Hawaii. Singletary also has served as a summer intern at NFL camps for several teams.

"Vantz has had a tremendous career during his many seasons as a collegiate coach," Mike Singletary said. "I am confident that the way in which he has worked with young football players during that extensive experience will translate into success as he embarks on his NFL coaching career."

Harris returns to the NFL after a stellar playing career that spanned 11 campaigns with Chicago (1979-84, 86-88) and Philadelphia (1989-90).

Harris teamed with Mike Singletary on some of the vaunted Chicago defenses that were considered among the best of all time. Curiously, due to a contract dispute, Harris sat out the entire 1985 season that was considered the signature season for that legendary Chicago defense and ended with the Bears winning their only Super Bowl title.

This will be Harris' first foray into coaching at any level. He recorded 20.5 sacks and four interceptions during his playing career.

"Al Harris' greatest attribute is as a teacher," Mike Singletary said. "We're excited about the addition of Al because our players will benefit from his teaching ability, in terms of the strategy and methodology of what goes into the pass rush."

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After hiring two new defensive assistants, Mike Singletary's focus will revert back to the offense during the coming week. He addressed that side of the ball last week when he hired Tom Rathman as the team's new running backs coach.

Singletary made his first move after being named head coach two days after the conclusion of the regular-season when he fired offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Singletary also dismissed quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and running backs coach Tony Nathan.

The moves were meant to create stability, as Singletary said he did not consider Martz's scheme a long-term solution for the 49ers' offense.

"I think sometimes you have to take a step back, in order to go forward," Singletary said.

The 49ers will have the franchise's seventh offensive coordinator in seven seasons. But Singletary felt the best way to create continuity was to part ways with Martz. Singletary said his philosophy is different than Martz's. Singletary said he wants the 49ers to adopt a run-first mentality.

Singletary and general manager Scot McClougan already have interviewed four candidates to replace Martz, and their search is not yet concluded.

Martz did a good job in his only season as 49ers' coordinator. He inherited the league's worst offense and turned it into a respectable unit. The 49ers ranked 32nd in the NFL in total offense and passing before his arrival. But the 49ers improved to 23rd in total offense and 13th in passing under Martz.

Singletary said he wants a more conventional offense that focuses on establishing the run. He said he wants to be able to wear down defenses on the ground in the fourth quarter. He said he envisions an offense that will continue to be able to run the ball effectively even when the opposition places eight defenders in the box.

"You have to know that you can run the football," Singletary said. "I'm not trying to outsmart anybody. I'm not trying to be a magician. We are playing football, and we need to be able to run the football."

Singletary signed a four-year, $10 million contract to become 49ers head coach - a move that was announced just minutes after the 49ers' 27-24 season-ending victory Sunday over the Washington Redskins. The contract includes a club option for a fifth year.

The 49ers have compiled a list of veteran candidates for the position of offensive coordinator. Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was the fourth to interview, following former Rams coach Scott Linehan, Colt receivers coach Clyde Christensen and Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.

While Singletary said he hopes to fill the position as quickly as possible, he also wants to take enough time to make sure the job is handled correctly.

"The only thing that I can say is, we will find the right guy," Singletary said. "We will find the right person that is the right fit going forward and that person will understand the philosophy and, hopefully, we can have them awhile and get the continuity that we need.

"I want to do what gives us a chance to win. I think sometimes you can get a coach that has a lot of experience and it doesn't work. I think the most important thing is that we find the right fit."

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In October, Steve McMichael, a former Chicago Bears teammate of Singletary, told the Chicago Tribune that Singletary said he would hire him as defensive line coach if Singletary ever became head coach. Likewise, Richard Dent said there was a chance he could join Singletary's staff.

Singletary was named 49ers head coach on Dec. 28, but he said he will not create a coaching position for McMichael or Dent.

"Absolutely not," Singletary quipped in an interview with San Francisco radio station KNBR. "I would not bring Steve McMichael back because there are some values that I want to have in place that he would not adhere to. So, I don't want to do that."

Singletary emphasized that he was joking. He said he might bring Dent to help during training camp, though.

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Singletary has final say over the 49ers' 53-man roster, while general manager Scot McCloughan has final say on draft day. But the key word for Singletary is "compromise," he said.

Singletary said he will be very active in the draft, and McCloughan will have a strong voice when it comes to forming the final roster.

"I don't see Scot as above me; I don't see him as under me," Singletary said this week. "He may be the guy that I report to. And I certainly know that Scot does not see me as above him or beneath him. I see us working together."

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Quarterback Shaun Hill is 7-3 as the 49ers' starter the past two seasons. In games Hill did not start, the 49ers were 5-17. But Singletary has yet to name Hill as the starter for 2009.

Singletary said he does not want to make a promise to Hill that he can't keep. After all, Singletary said he is unsure of whom the 49ers might acquire to compete with Hill.

"I'm saying that I would not name a starter before training camp," Singletary said. "I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to put him (Hill) in that situation and I didn't want to put myself in that situation. I think everything will work itself out.

"Shaun Hill did an outstanding job this year, but he did not surprise me in anything that he did. Going forward, if Shaun Hill is the best quarterback that we have coming out of training camp, then he will be the starter."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If there's a great ball player there, a really make-a-difference kind of guy, then you've got to look at it. But if it doesn't make much of a difference from one position to the next, depending on what's there, then you will probably go in another direction. So I just think it just depends on what's there." – Coach Mike Singletary on prioritizing the 49ers' draft needs.

FREE-AGENT UPDATE: There are no players scheduled for free agency on whom the 49ers would consider using a franchise tag. Takeo Spikes did a very good job this season after signing a one-year deal. He expressed a desire to return to the 49ers next season to play alongside Patrick Willis. The 49ers will likely want him back. Receiver Bryant Johnson played well, but the club is looking to push youngster Josh Morgan into a more significant role. Johnson might find a better opportunity elsewhere. Among the 49ers' other free agents that they would like to sign for the right price are players such as running back DeShaun Foster, return specialist Allen Rossum, defensive tackle Ronald Fields, cornerback Donald Strickland and pass-rusher Roderick Green.

TEAM NEEDS

Pass rusher:
Whether it's at outside linebacker or defensive end, the 49ers need to find at least one more player on defense to put pressure on quarterbacks.

Free safety: The 49ers' starting safety, Mark Roman, has not recorded an interception in more than two seasons. The 49ers need a presence in the secondary to generate turnovers.

Offensive tackle: While Joe Staley looks to be a pretty good player at left tackle, the 49ers need to find a more reliable player to take over at right tackle.

Quarterback: The 49ers plan to bring in either a veteran or a youngster to compete with Shaun Hill for the starting job. Singletary has not named Hill the starter for next season because he said the 49ers might acquire somebody better. Hill will have to compete for his starting job.

MEDICAL WATCH

QB Alex Smith underwent surgery to clean out his right shoulder. He went on injured reserve early in the season with a small fracture. He expects to be fully healthy for the start of the 49ers' offseason program, but it is not known whether he will still be with the team. Smith will have to accept a large pay cut to remain with the 49ers.

WR Arnaz Battle ended the season on injured reserve with a badly sprained foot. He should be ready to take part in all the team's offseason activities.

CB Shawntae Spencer went on injured reserve early in the season with a torn ACL. He will have a limited offseason program, but should be at full strength by the start of training camp. Spencer was the 49ers' No. 3 cornerback when he went down with his injury.

RB Frank Gore missed most of the final four games of the season with an ankle sprain. He said his surgeon in Miami will check out his condition, but he is expecting a full recovery in the next several weeks.

WR Josh Morgan sustained a torn groin muscle in the middle of the season. Although he returned to action, he never returned to 100 percent health. He figured to take three weeks of rest to get back healthy.



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