Mike Singletary Talks To Joe

January 14th, 2015
Former 49ers coach Mike SIngletary, right, watched first-hand how former college spread-option QB Alex Smith, left, struggled terribly trying to get a handle with NFL offenses.

Former 49ers coach Mike Singletary, right, watched first-hand how former college spread-option QB Alex Smith, left, struggled terribly trying to get a handle on NFL offenses.

NFL Hall of Fame linebacker, Super Bowl-winner and former 49ers head coach Mike Singletary is in town coaching the East Squad in the East-West Shrine Game. His team practices in the mornings this week at Shorecrest Prep in St. Petersburg (practices are open to the public).

Joe thought it would be interesting to have Singletary shed light on how difficult it often is for college spread option quarterbacks to transition to the NFL.

Singletary has first-hand knowledge. He coached Alex Smith at San Francisco, a former No. 1 overall selection in the 2005 draft. Smith struggled mightily trying to adapt and really didn’t blossom until Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2011, right at the time San Francisco had just about given up on Smith.

“First of all, when you play in college with that kind of system, 9 times out of 10 you don’t have a playbook,” Singletary said. “So first of all, coaches are calling the plays from the sideline, so the learning curve when you get to the NFL – now you have a playbook about six-inches thick. And you have to learn all of these calls and all of this, whereas when you were in college, you are just looking at the sideline, and that is it.

“So, I think that is the biggest thing. The other thing is the discipline. If a guy can come out of high school and go to college and just get on the field, he has a script on him on his arm – OK, No. 1 [Singletary holds up his index finger like a coach signaling in a play] means this and let’s go. Hey, that’s great, but in the NFL, when that doesn’t happen, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute. I’m a little bit lost. I don’t know how to study. So somebody has to get with me and help me take this to the next level.’

“That’s not even factoring in [reading defenses] because you also have a read [in college spread offenses]. This is a read, if that’s not there you take that one, if that’s not there you take off running. [Reading defenses in the NFL], it’s different. So you have a lot of complex blitzes and things like that. It’s quite an ordeal.”

This is why Joe is adamant that if the Bucs draft Marcus Mariota — yes, Joe is still on the Jameis Winston bandwagon — the very best thing the Bucs can do for both the team and Mariota is to sit him for the 2015 season. He shouldn’t take one snap short of Josh McCown (or someone else) getting injured — even then, Mike Glennon should get the call from the bullpen.

It used to be standard practice in the NFL that rookie quarterbacks sat for two, maybe three seasons — and one could argue there was better quarterback play throughout the NFL 35 years ago as a result. This practice worked wonders for Aaron Rodgers.

And if the Bucs continued to lose with Mariota on the bench, that would deliver the Bucs another good draft selection in 2016. And then they can select an offensive lineman that scaredy-cats wring their hands about all day.

29 Responses to “Mike Singletary Talks To Joe”

  1. Ray Rice Says:

    Screw what he thinks about the QB. Why can’t our YUCS a go after him to coach DEFENSE. He’s what the defense needs. A hard nosed Hall Of Fame player and proven defensive coach that will automatically get respect with the players. Harbaugh inherited his defense in SF and Fangio kept the beat going. Even when SF sucked his defense was good. I know he’s runs a 3-4, but I’m sure he can run a 4-3 too.

  2. finishers Says:

    He couldn’t have coached Andrew Luck!

  3. Tom Edrington Says:

    “Coaches are calling the plays from the sideline……” (in college)

    Well, if my memory serves me correct, NFL coaches call the plays from upstairs and the sideline and it goes right into those nifty transmitters in the QB’s helmet, making it even easier….

    Or did Samuri Mike forget that?

  4. Dick2111 Says:

    Singletary’s over-simplifying I think. College QBs ‘fit the system’ … nothing more, nothing less.

    Cardell Jones, a 3rd string freshman, fit Urban Meyer’s system quite well. Jameis Winston fit Jimbo’s system quite well. And Marcus Mariota obviously fit the Duck’s system extremely well.

    For any QB moving up into the NFL from the college ranks there’s undoubtedly a huge transition (maybe a tad easier for someone like Andrew Luck, but still a big transition).

    At this point, in this particular class of QBs, I’d put my money on Mariota to most successfully make that transition, IF his skills ‘fit the Bucs system’ (whatever that turns out to be) and IF the Bucs are patient with him in that transition.

    The year Dan Marino and John Elway were drafted (1983), the Patriots could have drafted either. Instead they chose a QB named Tony Eason. Outstanding college career, BUT … the Pats started him too quickly and their OL couldn’t protect him. He developed ‘happy feet’ as folks called it then and he didn’t last very long.

    Strange how many times over the years that’s happened on various teams.

  5. Phil Says:

    We should draft Jameis Winston with number one pick and then we don’t have to worry about Mariota’s learning curve.

  6. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I think we sit Mariota except for when we use him in the Wildcat……the Wildcat is coming to Tampa!!!

  7. Tom Edrington Says:


    Thanks for some great commentary there, that was a great QB draft, wasn’t it? I almost forgot about Eason. Great points and yes, there have been so very many misfires with quarterbacks over the years, especially by teams desperate to have a quality signal caller….

  8. MTM Says:

    “NFL playbooks are 6″ thick”. Somebody thick alright. Some players take longer to transition from college to the NFL. Nobody is expecting a first round draft pick to play like a 5 year veteran day one. What generally makes rookie quarterbacks look bad is the bad team that drafted them. There’s a reason they have the number 1 pick. Its because the team is typically a mess.

  9. Bird Says:

    It probably would give lovie another year. Again hoping bucs are much better next year but probably would give lovie next year and now the year after to prove what he’s got. Go bucs! Mariota or Jameis here we come in just a few months

  10. ToesOnTheLine! Says:

    Or Joe if the Bucs pick a pass rusher with their first round pick this year and OL afterwards and the current crop of Buc’s QB’s don’t flourish under the new OC’s system than the Bucs will pick high again in 2016 when they could have a shot at a true franchise QB (Hackenberg) if he leaves his junior year. That would silence the Chicken Little we have no QB crowd.

  11. Dave Pear Says:

    That was a nice post.
    A little clarification though…Elway was picked #1 overall by the Colts and later traded to Denver when he said he was going to play baseball.

  12. gotbbucs Says:

    Nobody wants to believe it, but I think they are full speed ahead with Glennon this year. They were trying to protect him this season knowing that they would bring in a real OC in the offseason. Im sure their hope is to trade down and use a 2nd or 3rd round pick again on a QB to develop.

  13. Matt Says:

    That’s 4 “ifs” in your statement, only one of which the bucs can actually control. Plus an assumption the bucs suck again (safe). Maybe not the best strategy…

  14. JC De La Torre Says:

    While I totally agree with the sentiment that if Mariota is the pick he should sit, the reality is Lovie Smith can’t wait around. He’s coming off a 2-14 season. Guys are getting fired one year after coaching their team to the Super Bowl.

    If he leaves Mariota on the bench, he’ll just be training him for the next coach.

    Since Jameis is considered by many as someone who can start from day one, barring any skeletons in the closet, it’s likely he’ll be the pick. (He also fits Koetter’s playcalling style a bit better).

  15. ToesOnTheLine! Says:

    Agree gotbbucs. Only logical scenario for sitting Glennon last year is the coaches realized a limited mobility QB would get shell shocked behind that line and pick up bad habits in mechanics. If they wanted to trade him then play him and let him win a couple more games that Turnover Machine helped give away last year.

  16. ToesOnTheLine! Says:

    @ Matt

    Well my assumption is also that Glennon will do well under an OC that has had success with Matt Ryan. I am of the Glennon can be somewhere between Matt Ryan and the good Matt Schaub (not the current one from the past two seasons). The Bucs have some control of that. Regardless of who the QB is, last year’s pass protection would rattle just about any QB…vet or shiny new rookie. That needs to be improved ASAP

  17. OB Says:

    Here is a happy thought, Glennon starts and the new QB sits and learns for a while. I don’t care who we draft but the sitting and learning will help either Winston, Mariota, or Jones, who is a beast, see how and what the NFL is.

    I wonder if Koetter has thought of that, you think?

  18. ddneast Says:

    Unfortunately Ray Rice, no one wanted to play for Singletary in San Francisco. Hence the losing records under his tenure. The logic you use so often is just plain convoluted.

  19. bucrightoff Says:

    Alex Smith’s real issue was the ever changing OC’s in San Fran. Lovie’s had 6 in 11 years himself. Mariota will not succeed with that kind of OC turnover, Winston probably a better chance but still not easy to consistently be learning new offenses.

  20. bucs4lyfe Says:

    no matter what quarterback we draft im hoping they sit out the year and give the rest of the offense a chance to get right. josh mccown, mike glennon…if we truly have a decent coordinator then they should be able to work to their strengths

  21. Skyline Crew for Mariota or Winston Says:

    I believe who ever we have draft at QB should be sat for awhile before they come in. No QB should be thrown into the position just like that. They should be given sometime to adjust to the speed of the NFL (don’t think Mariota will have that problem, but think Winston will after watching the Rose bowl).

  22. KWBucs Says:

    Man did anyone pay attention to the Ohio St game? Mariota is considered fast, quick but couldn’t get the edge on Ohio St athletes? And when he took a hit from Boza had to leave the game? He going to see those types of athletes, and some better, every Sunday. And get hit like that even more. I’m a Buc fan so who ever we pick I’ll be behind cause they will be Bucs but Winston is an NFL QB right now. Draft him and day 1 on mini camps he is your starter.

  23. Rob Says:

    I’m all about Mariota taking a season or two to learn before starting and agree it’s much better for QB’s in the long haul to get real time to adjust to the NFL. Throwing guys in as rookies is killing a lot of careers – young QB’s and coaches alike when they can’t all step in and immediately take teams to the playoffs on their own.

  24. Zam Says:

    Sit for a year, you mean like Vinny Testaverde? Not again thanks.

    I fail to see how a franchise QB improves faster sitting on the bench than being in the line of fire.

    And sure dumb quarterbacks will NEVER get it, but MM had a 3.22 GPA and graduated in three and a half years instead of the typical 5. And won the Heisman in his spare time.

  25. Skyline Crew for Mariota or Winston Says:

    Unless you are going to a stable team (Colts, Seahawks, etc.) the idea that a rookie can come in and do well is not realistic. Sure some have a great rookie year, but they don’t last after that. If you can sit your QB and build up your team around them and figure out what your QB can and can’t do then you build an offense that best suits your QB. This is the recipe for a good team. After that is accomplished then you can draft and draft and get little nuggets here and there like the Patriots and other top teams do.

  26. Twizzylax Says:

    Zam, the issue with Mariota starting is more that he has never had to call audibles, protection changes, go through full-field progressions from the pocket, etc. In the NFL, he will have to learn all of that before he can even be on the field. Unless he goes to a Chip Kelly-type system, he’ll need to sit for a while.

    As for the last statement, according to FSU, Winston has around the same GPA (ACC Academic All-American last year), and was scheduled to graduate next year (less than four years as well). So there’s really no differentiation between the two QBs in that regard.

  27. Skyline Crew for Mariota or Winston Says:

    Good News, Falcons did not get Todd Bowles.

  28. Dhutch81 Says:

    Joe, do you think we are going to draft Mariota? It seems the popular opinion (including mock drafts) is we are.

  29. Joe Says:

    Joe, do you think we are going to draft Mariota? It seems the popular opinion (including mock drafts) is we are.

    First off, outside of Mike Mayock’s one and only mock draft, mock drafts are as useful as Charmin.

    As for waiting and drafting Hackenberg, geez. That guy is regressing terribly. Hackenberg isn’t in the same solar system as Winston.

    And Joe is a Hackenberg fan.