Liotta: It’s do-or-die at Fort Singletary 

Fort Singletary is under siege.

After taking two beatings and posting one “nice try,” Jimmy Raye became the Fort’s first casualty, thrown from the coaching tower to the masses who demanded something be done. The 0-3 49ers will be under attack again today at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta trying to fend off a Falcons team coming off an impressive win over the defending Super Bowl champions.

And the 49ers’ effort against Matt Ryan and Co. will be telling. It’s a must-win game, and the game will be a measure of the team’s endorsement of Mike Singletary as its coach. Yes, after three disappointing weeks melted away an entire offseason of optimism, it’s come to this.

And, let’s face it, it has not been three pretty weeks for Singletary.

After the first game, he delivered a harsh postgame critique of his team, and then had to hold a Sunday night team meeting to clear the air.

Week 2, he got into a spitting war over Jason Cole’s Yahoo Sports report, claiming that the 49ers have a “rat” in the organization.

After an impressive effort against the Saints in Week 3, he claimed his team had turned the corner.

Week 4 opened with Singletary endorsing and firing Raye in one 24-hour period, with the promotion of quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson to offensive coordinator being called “awesome” by tight end Vernon Davis. How many pages is this team on?

All told, this does not sound like sound leadership. Throw in the team’s ineffective clock management and Singletary’s struggle two weeks ago to call timeouts, and it all sounds a lot like the Niners under Mike Nolan.

To me, the uneven efforts out of this team also smell of poor leadership. Playing two anemic games against mediocre opponents around an impressive effort against the defending Super Bowl champs is not the résumé of a team giving its all on every down.

There’s no doubt the talent is on the roster. Alex Smith can play quarterback, and Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Davis give him the guns to go out blazing. Linebacker Patrick Willis is proving he’s among the best the NFL has to offer, and that’s a talented defense around him.

It’s going to take time before anybody can distill Johnson’s personality as a coordinator, not to mention his effect on this offense over the long haul.

Here’s the deal: The 49ers have 60 minutes of football to hold the Fort, to dispel the critic’s reaction to three weeks of foul-smelling odors eminating from Fort Singletary.

If he’s the leader he has made himself out to be, the Niners will play very well today. If not ...

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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