Mike Singletary radiated an uncommon intensity during his Hall of Fame career with the Bears. He then spent a decade giving motivational speeches before getting into coaching in 2003 as Mike Nolan's right-hand man.
Tuesday, the former linebacker replaced Nolan as 49ers coach on an interim basis. It came a day after Nolan and offensive line coach George Warhop were fired seven games into their fourth season. The 49ers have lost four in a row and allowed a league-high 29 sacks.
Although Singletary has interviewed for four top jobs in the NFL and another at Baylor, his alma mater, the thought of replacing Nolan made him uneasy until he spoke to him.
"I looked at (Nolan), and he looked at me. And before I said a word, he said, 'I want you to take this job,'" Singletary said. "'I know that you have the heart of the players at hand, and I know they're important to you. If you do not take the job, I will be very disappointed in you as my friend.'"
Singletary, 50, praised Nolan's work in raising the 49ers to a measure of respectability and said he believes they can improve quickly.
"The guys realize that we do have something here," said Singletary, who was serving as assistant head coach and linebackers coach. "To what degree, I don't know. But we do have something special here. It's a matter of stepping in and being able to bring it together, and that's something I've done all my life."
General manager Scot McCloughan said that Singletary will be a candidate for the permanent job after the season.
Jed York, son of owner John York, appeared with McCloughan and Singletary for the announcement. He said the 49ers lack "passion and intensity."
"There's no doubt that we have talent," he said. "We've got Pro Bowlers on all three phases of the ball. What we're lacking right now is that killer instinct, that finishing ability.
"We're not getting outplayed. I think we are getting out-intensitied. I don't think that's a word, but I'm going to use it anyway. That's what we need, and that's what Mike Singletary is going to bring. I think you feel it. I assume you feel it. You feel his presence when he's up here speaking. That's what he brings to the organization. That's what he's going to bring out of the players."