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The Packers’ “Coaching Curse”: Is Singletary Next?

Week 9 (November 7): Green Bay defeats Dallas, 45-7. November 9, 2010: Head coach Wade Phillips is fired.

Week 11 (November 21): Green Bay defeats Minnesota, 35-3. November 23, 2010: Head coach Brad Childress loses his job.

So, to review, what do these two head coaches have in common?

It’s an interesting trend: That is, at least, for the Vikings and the Cowboys. Ultimately, a loss to the surging Green Bay Packers led to their respective head coaches being let go, midseason. Now, look at this:

Week 13 (December 5): Green Bay defeats San Francisco, 34-16.

Doesn’t look good for Head Coach Mike Singletary, does it?

Now, obviously, I can’t possibly believe in random curses, here. And, I’m also not saying that Singletary’s job is doomed because he happened to lose to the Packers on Sunday. However, I am saying that, based on the circumstances for each of these three teams – Minnesota, Dallas and San Francisco – if Singletary did lose his job sometime in the next few days, I wouldn’t be that surprised.

The truth is, each of the three times have a lot in common. The Vikings, the Cowboys and the 49ers were all favorites to win their respective divisions before the start of the 2010 season. All three teams performed well in 2009: Childress led the Vikings to a 13-3 record, reached the NFC Championship game for the first time since 2000, and was an untimely Brett Favre INT away from reaching the Super Bowl. The Cowboys won a playoff game for the first time in 15 years under Phillips, and had the high-powered offense to make a deeper run. Singletary’s 49ers, with an 8-8 record in 2009, were the de facto NFC West favorites. They possessed a scary defensive front and an improving offense, under QB Alex Smith, RB Frank Gore and WR Michael Crabtree.

Fast-forward to November: Just before Phillips was fired, the Packers sent them to a 1-7 record. The Cowboys defense allowed 415 yards in what had been their worst loss of the season to date, and their second-worst road loss in franchise history. The team was uninspired – partly because they had a backup QB under the helm (Jon Kitna) for the rest of the season, but partly because the players were sensing Phillips was on the chopping block. The fact is, the Packers sent the Cowboys to their lowest point of the season, and it culminated in Phillips losing his job 2 days later.

It was the same sort of situation with Minnesota. Childress practically begged an unsure Brett Favre to come back and play for the Vikings. Partly because of that, alone, the team began to lose their faith in their head coach. As the losses piled up, the complaints got publicly louder, until they became verbal bombs. The Randy Moss fiasco, which lasted only a few weeks, made the team question Childress even more. If the open criticisms of Childress, on top of the losing record, wasn’t enough, perhaps being swept by their archrival Packers was too big of a cross to bear. After their second loss to Green Bay, which saw an offense equipped with Favre, RB Adrian Peterson and TE Visanthe Shiancoe, come away with only three points, the Vikings powers-that-be, led by owner Ziggy Wilf, had seen enough. Two days later, Childress was out of a head coaching job.

Now, Mike Singletary is faced with the same predicament. With a revamped offense that saw backup RB Brian Westbrook gain over 100 yards on Monday Night Football last week, and an opened-up passing attack led by QB Troy Smith, things seemed to be looking up for the 49ers. However, a 4-7 record going into Green Bay wasn’t anything to smile about, despite the fact that they were still in the NFC West race. Most accounts had the 49ers running away with an underachieving division, yet they started the season at 0-5. While 4-2 going into Lambeau Field, talks of Singletary losing his job by season’s end had been all over local airwaves for weeks.

Despite his relative success over the last two years, Mike Singletary could be out of a job soon.

In their loss to Green Bay, the 49ers allowed 410 yards and 34 points. Meanwhile, their offense could only muster 269 total yards, and stalled on key drives to get them back into the game. Afterwards, Sing said he couldn’t take anything positive away from the game, and that he simply was coaching for his job every single week. With a 4-8 record and little answers for a struggling defense and a mistake-prone offense, it is obvious that Coach Singletary is on very shaky ground.

If he survives “the curse” tomorrow, he’ll have another chance to prove himself in a rematch against the Seattle Seahawks, where the 49ers’ tumultuous season began.

If he doesn’t … it was nice knowing you, Coach.

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