SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -Mike Singletary was noncommittal Friday when the San Francisco 49ers' interim coach was asked whether offensive coordinator Mike Martz would return to the club with him next season.
Singletary, 4-4 since taking over the 49ers (6-9) from fired coach Mike Nolan on Oct. 20, is widely expected to get the permanent job early next week.
He met with club officials Monday to outline his plans for the future, but it seems unlikely that they include Martz, the former St. Louis head coach who has done fairly solid work in his first season as the 49ers' coordinator. Singletary has been outspoken in his desire for a powerful, run-based offense, which probably runs counter to the pass-happy Martz's strengths.
But Singletary had little to say about Martz's future after the 49ers returned to preparations for the season finale against the Redskins, following a day off for Christmas.
f Martz will be fired. ``It will happen soon enough.''
Singletary acknowledged he had spoken to Martz about the future, but didn't share what they had discussed.
``We've had too much of a distraction from it already this week,'' Singletary said of the rumors about his return. ``(We're) really trying to keep these guys focused. You had Christmas, you had Christmas Eve, you had shopping, you had all of the other things. I want to get these guys back and get them totally focused on Washington.''
If Martz departs, the 49ers will have to hire their seventh offensive coordinator in seven seasons. That lack of continuity was among the biggest problems of Nolan's tenure, and the yearly overhaul of the 49ers' offense is among the factors that hampered the growth of quarterback Alex Smith, the top overall pick in 2005.
Martz's sophisticated passing offense has raised San Francisco out of the NFL cellar, where the team was ranked 32nd in two of the past three years. The 49ers' 312 points and 4,619 yards already are the most for the club in the past four seasons, yet they rank in the bottom half of the NFL in most statistical categories.
The offense has improved since Singletary took over and quickly benched quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan in favor of Shaun Hill, who has been among the league's most successful passers since his promotion.
r for Martz, returned to practice in a limited role Friday on his sprained left ankle. Singletary still isn't sure whether his star running back will get the chance to go for another 1,000-yard season against the Redskins.
``I don't want him to reinjure anything trying to get 1,000 yards,'' Singletary said. ``When he's healthy, he'll get more than his share of yards. I just want him to be smart about it, and he looked good today.''
Gore has missed the last two games for San Francisco since getting injured shortly after halftime in the Niners' win over the New York Jets on Dec. 7. The injury left Gore 22 yards shy of gaining 1,000 yards for the third straight season, which would be a record among San Francisco running backs.
``I feel better each day, and hopefully by Sunday I'll be ready to go have fun,'' Gore said. ``I'd be upset if I don't get 1,000, but if I can't get it because of an injury, I'd understand. I've got more years.''
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