Everybody remembers the stare.
Mike Singletary played his last down 16 years ago, but when he zeros in on a target, Singletary still has a look that could peel paint off a helmet. Whether that kind of focus and intensity will translate into wins fast enough to save the coaching job he fell into little more than three weeks ago is another matter.
The way the 49ers operate, Singletary might be better served if that pair of eyes were located in the back of his head.
A decade of mismanagement has turned one of the NFL's signature franchises into a stumbling, bumbling, comically mismanaged shell of its former self.
Owner John York made a mess of just about every department he meddled in since a family power struggle left his wife, Denise DeBartolo York, in control of the team. She finally saw enough last December to hand the day-to-day business over to son Jed.
Changing faces has done only so much to transform the back-stabbing, front-office culture that thrived throughout John's erratic, tightfisted reign.
Francisco from Baltimore with deposed head coach Mike Nolan three years ago to help toughen up the defense. Few people, though, could appreciate just how bad the 49ers were on the other side of the ball than one of the best middle linebackers to ever play.
What Singletary learned in the span of less than a minute Monday night is that the problems run much deeper that that.
There's no point in rehashing the final drive of the 29-24 loss to Arizona. San Francisco should have won. The 49ers should have managed the clock to get at least three, possibly four, tries to score the winning touchdown. Calling a dive play for fullback Michael Robinson - or anybody in a 49ers jersey not named Frank Gore - was stupid, plain and simple.
It was so obvious even Singletary couldn't pretend otherwise.
He took the blame for the poor time management and the chaos on the sideline because that's what head coaches are supposed to do. The lion's share of the blame, though, belonged to offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who didn't have the right personnel ready, didn't know until he talked to Nolan over the phone Tuesday what the correct line of scrimmage was - and, apparently, hadn't bothered to practice winning close games.
The closest Singletary came to calling Martz out was to hang responsibility for the final play call on his offensive coordinator.
unconvincingly, ``so he made that call. We got to live with that result.''
There was plenty more to say, but little reason to say it.
Singletary was not the type of player to sell out a teammate, and that hasn't changed. But he was always truthful to a fault, and inside the 49ers' locker room, the effect might be the same.
Two weeks ago, after taking over for Nolan, Singletary got into a very public confrontation with tight end Vernon Davis after a needless penalty, and was infuriated with Davis' nonchalant attitude and banished him from the game.
Then, he sacked turnover-prone starting quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, a Martz favorite, and replaced him with Shaun Hill.
Singletary's postgame rant after the loss to Seattle made headlines - but even better was the pants-dropping tirade he staged at halftime to let his players know how embarrassingly their butts were getting kicked.
Singletary was torching loyalties at a frightening rate, but he was in a hurry to get results. Besides, the bye week that followed was supposed to buy him enough time to smooth over ruffled feathers and have some real input in how the offense was run.
He wanted not just tougher players, but smarter ones. Because of Martz' shenanigans, he got only one wish.
e a secret of his desire to be a head coach again, and his reluctance to simplify the 49ers' schemes to feature Gore's running and the ``smash-mouth'' style of offense Singletary wants will continue to play out as a behind-the-scenes drama as long as the two share the same set of offices.
Offense was the trademark of the 49ers' dynasty, beginning with the brainy West Coast attack of Bill Walsh and the cool execution of Joe Montana and Steve Young at the helm.
The club has gone through a handful of offensive philosophies, coordinators and coaches to try getting it back, but considering the growing rift between coach and coordinator, the 49ers seem farther away than ever.
Opponents used to say that looking into Singletary's eyes back in the day hinted at the fury about to be unleashed on every play.
Anybody who thinks things are tense on the sidelines in San Francisco at the moment would do well to keep that in mind.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org

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