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Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Updated: January 1, 9:57 AM ET
49ers fire two more assistants

Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Mike Singletary knows what he wants to see from the San Francisco 49ers' offense, and thinks he'll need mostly new coaches to create it on that side of the ball.

The no-longer-interim head coach announced two more adjustments to his coaching staff Wednesday, firing quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and running backs coach Tony Nathan.

Singletary dismissed offensive coordinator Mike Martz on Tuesday after one season with the 49ers. Nathan also was in his first year with the team, while Tollner had two stints with the club during the past decade.

While Singletary's defensive staff apparently will stay in tact under coordinator Greg Manusky, the moves are all part of Singletary's plan to build the 49ers' offensive approach behind a relentless running game. He also wants San Francisco's seventh offensive coordinator in seven seasons to stick around for longer than one year.

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"My offensive philosophy is more of a traditional one, more of a run-to-pass," Singletary said at his season-ending wrap-up news conference. "Hopefully you have a balance, 50-50, but the most important thing is you have to be able to run the football. I'm not trying to be a magician."

Singletary is still compiling a list of candidates for the job, and the new offensive coordinator will be allowed to hire his own quarterbacks coach. But now that Singletary is firmly running the club, he feels free to build the 49ers in his preferred image - and that hopefully includes a running game that can't be stopped, even if defenses know it's coming.

Since the players will have to learn yet another offense in the offseason, Singletary knows he can't wait long to get started. He plans to be in the office on New Year's Day, winnowing his candidates at coordinator.

"We've got to go fast this offseason," he said. "I don't want a Band-Aid. I don't want a patch. I don't want a compromise. That person is out there, and we'll find him."

But Singletary doesn't want fans to think he's just "a 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust guy," he said. Instead, he favors the fundamental soundness of the offense originally developed in San Francisco in the early 1980s by coach Bill Walsh, before it morphed into the various pass-happy versions that became known as the West Coast offense.

"Those are the teams that have been successful year in and year out, and are not going to go out of style," Singletary said.

Singletary also said quarterback Shaun Hill would have to compete again for the starting job in training camp, despite the coach's midseason promotion and very public backing of Hill as the veteran won five of the 49ers' final seven games. Hill, 7-3 as an NFL starter, won't be the presumptive first-stringer in camp, and Singletary said San Francisco also must find another quarterback in the offseason.

"I think competition is the greatest thing in the world," Singletary said. "I really appreciate what (Hill) did. He did not surprise me in terms of what he did. That's why I wanted to go with him. ... I just don't want to get into making promises just because somebody says I should."

Singletary also had a short shopping list for the offseason, topped by a strong pass-rusher for a team that had just 30 sacks this season - 25 fewer than its opponents. He said the 49ers also need that new quarterback, more help on the offensive line and a safety, which could mean trouble for the oft-criticized Mark Roman.

Although San Francisco fans are energized by the team's strong finish and Singletary's inspirational leadership, the coach cautions against too much optimism. After six straight losing seasons and with another offseason of turmoil coming up, the 49ers are still a long way from the finished product he hopes to see.

"I think some teams may have overlooked us [this season]," Singletary said. "They won't next year. ... It's the offseason for everyone else, but we're on."