San Francisco 49ers: Yet Another Questionable Hire

Andy BenschSenior Writer IJanuary 31, 2009

For the past six seasons, the once-rich tradition of quality bay-area football has gone from top-notch to rock-bottom.

Not only have the 49ers gone 32-64 since the firing off former head coach Steve Mariucci, but since losing the Super Bowl to Tampa Bay in 2002, the Raiders have gone an even worse 24-72.

In that span, each team has gone through various coaching changes—some that were good moves and some that were not so good.

Raiders hired Norv Turner, Art Shell, and Lane Kiffen. Turner was an understandable selection seeing that his offensive scheme has worked with numerous teams. However, his head coaching record was not something to be proud of. Coincidentally, things didn't work out as head coach of the Raiders.

Art Shell didn't fair any better. In fact, he had been out of coaching for so long, the hiring seemed to be one of the most confusing in recent memory. And, of course, Lane Kiffen was only 32 when he was hired and was fired in the middle of this past season.

The 49ers have also had difficulty finding quality coaches. After Mariucci was abruptly fired at the end of the 2002 season, San Francisco brought in former Oregon State head coach Dennis Erickson to run the team. However the former college coach went 9-23 in two seasons with the 49ers before being fired.

Enter Mike Nolan, the son of a former legendary 49ers coach Dick Nolan (who led San Francisco to three division championships in the '70s) was hired as the 49ers head coach in 2005. Formerly the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, Nolan was clearly a defensive-minded coach who lacked any idea of how to re-build an organization.

Nolan went 18-37 in three-and-a-half seasons for the 49ers and had lost support of the fan-base in 2007 when he threw his former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith under the bus when he questioned the severity of an injury sustained by the 49er quarterback. 

Often deflecting blame away from himself, Nolan was finally let go after San Francisco stumbled to a 2-5 start this past season.

The 49ers then made one of their best hires in recent memory when they promoted assistant head-coach Mike Singletary to be the interim-head coach. The 49ers promptly finished over .500 under Singletary, (something a 49ers coach hadn't of done since Mariucci went 10-6 in 2002) finishing with a 5-4 record in their final nine games.

However, despite the turnaround, the newly promoted full-time head coach Mike Singletary (with the backing of the 49er front office) decided to fire offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Apparently, even though Singletary and Martz worked well together down the stretch (the 49ers went 5-2 in their final seven games) the two coaches did not see eye to eye.

Therefore, for the seventh year in a row, the 49ers were in a search for a new offensive-coordinator. They interviewed the likes of former Rams head coach Scott Linehan, Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, and even former Falcons and Bronco coach Dan Reeves, who has been out of football for years.

In the meantime, a couple of talented, offensively-minded head coaches lost their jobs.  Former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden was fired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs, and former 49ers assistant and long-time Denver Broncos head-coach Mike Shanahan was fired by Denver.

Neither coach has yet to be hired by another team, and there aren't many teams left in need for a head coach.  So even though one might assume that neither Gruden or Shannahan would settle for a coordinator job, if they want to coach in the NFL next season, they may have to settle for being a coordinator.

Yet, despite having two great former head coaches (who both know the bay-area quite well) on the market, the 49ers hired Jimmy Raye to be their latest offensive coordinator.

The question I ask is: why?

Why weren't Gruden or Shanahan amongst the candidates interviewed? Why was the job given to yet another no-name?

Let me re-ask a question I posed in one of my most recent 49er articles: What happened the last time an inexperienced head coach replaced a quality offensive coordinator with a relatively unknown replacement after the 49ers had finished the previous season 7-9?

Well the last time this happened, Mike Nolan replaced Norv Turner with Jeff Hostler and the suppose to be up-and-coming 49ers went 5-11.

It is true that this time around isn't the exact same situation. After the 2006 season, former 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner left for the head coaching job in San Diego extremely late in the off-season. Therefore, Nolan was forced to make a quick decision on a replacement. 

However, this time around, the 49ers fired their quality offensive coordinator (Martz) and had plenty of time to find and adequate replacement.  

But their supposedly "adequate" replacement is Jimmy Raye? Granted, Jimmy Raye has been a coach in the NFL for some time now, and is not nearly as bad of a hiring as Jeff Hostler but his hiring is still a questionable one.

Most recently, Raye was the running-backs coach for the Jets over the past two seasons, and before that was the Raiders offensive coordinator from 2004-2005. (Oakland went 9-23 in those two seasons).  Raye has also been offensive coordinator for the Rams (twice), Bucs, Patriots, Chiefs and Redskins.  

Raye's records as offensive coordinator:

With Rams: 22-26

With Bucs: 4-28

With Pats: 1-15

With Chiefs: 21-25

With Redskins: 8-8

With Raiders: 9-23 

Career: 65-125

I have one word for those numbers: OUCH.

Just as I was once again getting excited again about the direction my beloved San Francisco 49ers were going, they make another questionable hire.

I sure hope Mr. Singletary knows what he is doing, because I have become a fan of his coaching philosophy. A philosophy that got this team to change their losing ways last season, but this hire at offensive coordinator makes me extremely uneasy.

I had been looking forward to next season in hopes of having both Singletary and Martz back, and when Martz was let go I was extremely discouraged. However, I had hope that the 49ers would hire a replacement that would once again get me looking forward to next season.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen.