One of the NFL's worst-kept secrets of the past week became reality on Friday, as San Francisco 49ers rookie head coach Mike Nolan began filling his staff with the hiring of Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary as assistant head coach.
Singletary, 46, will handle the 49ers linebackers, inarguably the strongest unit on the defensive side of the ball for San Francisco, in addition to his responsibilities as the assistant head coach. The move to the Bay Area represents a quantum leap for the former Chicago Bears star as he works his way up the coaching ranks.
As the Baltimore Ravens' inside linebackers coach for the past two seasons, Singletary worked directly with Nolan, who was the team's defensive coordinator. Last week, ESPN.com reported that Singletary would likely join the San Francisco staff if Nolan landed the head coaching job. The initial thought was, though, that Singletary might be a candidate for the defensive coordinator post.
"We wanted to build a strong staff and this was the perfect way to start," Nolan said on Friday afternoon. "He brings some instant credibility and intensity to the team. If there is anyone who knows how to win and how to prepare to win, it is Mike Singletary."
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 following a brilliant 12-year playing career with the Bears (1981-92), Singletary made 10 Pro Bowl appearances and was an All-Pro eight times. He followed a long line of standout Bears middle linebackers and more than upheld the reputation of that stellar group.
Singletary finished his career with 1,488 tackles and was the Bears' leading tackler or second-leading tackler 11 times. For his efforts, Singletary was named to the NFL's Team of the Decade for the 1980s. He has also earned numerous off-field awards, including the prestigious Byron "Whizzer" White award in 1989.
He was the NFL defensive player of the year three straight seasons, 1984-86. In 2001, he earned the Man of the Year Award presented by the Walter Camp Foundation.
Following the end of his playing career, Singletary primarily worked as a motivational speaker. A few years ago, he quietly sought the head coaching job at his college alma mater, Baylor, and opted then to pursue a career on the sidelines. Singletary has made no secret of his desire to be a head coach in the NFL someday, and the position with the 49ers figures to add to his coaching profile.
"The biggest reason I'm here," said Singletary on Friday, "is because I know that Mike knows exactly what it takes to win. I'm excited about that, and coaching staff will be excited about that, and the team will be excited about that. We need to get it going and I'm ready to get to work."
Nolan continues to interview potential candidates for the rest of his staff. It is believed that he has a gentleman's agreement with Baltimore officials not to pursue any more of the Ravens' assistant coaches.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.