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New head coach Mike Singletary talks about his passion for the game. He is the 16th head coach of the 49ers. San Francisco 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan announced at a press conference Oct. 21 that Mike Singletary is the new coach of the team. (Karen T. Borchers/Mercury News)

SANTA CLARA

You can understand why Mike Singletary has such confidence. Pending his first game as head coach of the 49ers, the man has never failed at anything of consequence.

You can hear for yourself why he finds regular work as a motivational speaker.

"I'm not a sugar-coating guy," he told an attentive audience Tuesday at the 49ers training facility. "I don't scratch my head when it doesn't itch, and I don't blink when there's nothing in my eye."

Singletary is real, he's intense and he has a pretty good working knowledge of the NFL. What he doesn't have is a full appreciation for the difficulty of the job he just accepted.

"I know what it is here," he said. "There is a lot of talent."

No, there isn't.

If there were a lot of talent, the 49ers would be better than 2-5 this season. They wouldn't be on a four-game losing streak. They wouldn't have committed three turnovers, 13 penalties and allowed six sacks last Sunday against a New York Giants team that was clearly off its game.

If there were a lot of talent on the 49ers roster, Mike Nolan would still have his job. Because it would mean he had done his job.

Instead, Singletary was introduced Tuesday as the 16th head coach in team history. Nolan had left the building, having been dismissed Monday night in a decision apparently made by group hug.

"The next step is not as hard as the first step," Singletary said. "(Nolan) built the foundation. I just have to build on that foundation."

No, he's wrong. Nolan dug a big hole in the dirt. That is what Singletary has to work with. The 49ers are not overly impressive on either line, have an underwhelming receiving corps and get sporadic play from their secondary. J.T. O'Sullivan may be the best quarterback the 49ers have, but that doesn't mean he's an NFL-caliber starter.

You can see why Singletary would want to err on the side of optimism. The firing of a head coach is serious business. And while you wouldn't know it by what's happened this fall, firing an NFL coach in midseason is quite unusual.

Such events are solemn enough for those close to the team. It's in everyone's best interest to see it as a tough decision that had to be made so a talent-laden team could fulfill its true destiny.

Jed York, son of team owners John and Denise York, was asked Tuesday what he thought the 49ers lacked.

"Passion and intensity," he said. "What we're lacking right now is that killer instinct."

As evidence, he pointed to games this season that the 49ers had a chance to win but didn't.

"You've seen us getting blown out in the past three seasons," he said. "We're not getting blown out now."

Maybe they're not getting blown out, but they're not losing nail-biters, either. Their average margin of defeat the past four games is 12.3 points. They're not losing because they lacked passion or a thirst for blood. They're losing on merit.

This isn't to suggest Singletary is delusional when he gives such a glowing appraisal of the team. You can attribute part of his outlook to his competitive fire. "(It) burns in my heart for this team to be successful," he said. "And it's unconquerable."

And let's be honest, part of it is because he's reluctant to kick his good friend Nolan in the can on his way out the door. What's he going to say?

"Forget a shirt and tie on the sideline. I'm going to dig me up a hazmat suit."

And part of it is that it's one thing to know you're about to jump into a frigid alpine lake and quite another to hit the water and have it take your breath away.

Interestingly enough, Singletary had that experience less than four years ago, when he agreed to help Nolan try to rebuild a 2-14 laughingstock.

"Looking back," Singletary said, "I don't think Mike or I realized the task at hand."

He can say he knows better now. He'll be scratching his head soon enough.

Contact Gary Peterson at gpeterson@bayareanewsgroup.com.