To some, San Francisco Forty Niners second year Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye has much to prove. Wait. Let me back up. Did I just say second year Offensive Coordinator? For the first time in almost a decade the Forty Niner offense is able to build on a foundation laid the previous year.
Discounting the obvious familiarity advantage of already knowing the offense, was it wise to keep Jimmy Raye? Ask a 49er fan that question and you'll get answers that range from a resounding yes to an emphatic no and all varying shades between.
Last year on an NFL site I got into a brouhaha with a Cardinals fan. Insults were traded, some were even factual. The obvious divisional boasting was exchanged. The Cards were going to send the Niners home crying for their mommas I was told.
A comment was made eluding to Jimmy Raye's inability to run an offense. While ignoring the intangibles, he based his argument solely on the basis of statistics. Pointing to those stats, he was sure the Cardinals would walk all over the Niners last year.
That prompted me to think. Who is Jimmy Raye? I mean I'd heard of him but I didn't know that much about him. I set out to do some research.
I started with the obvious link to his wiki page where I learned he was a star quarterback for the Michigan State Spartans. Set the wayback machine to 1966 Sherman.
The world was a different place. There were 3 channels on TV and only 3 bowl games, all of them on New Year's day. In that era the grandaddy of all bowl games was the Rose Bowl and Jimmy Raye was the quarterback.
Jimmy Raye is only a couple years older than I. I was a high school safety while he was a standout college quarterback. I remember watching Jimmy lead the Spartans from behind to tie for the national championship. I also remember thinking that I was happy to not be defending against him.
Jimmy Raye was an excellent quarterback. As I remember it, he had a strong accurate passing arm and could beat you with his legs too.
Does that give him the ability to run an offense in the NFL? In my opinion yes. Watching Jimmy adapt to the limited abilities of two separate quarterbacks last year confirms that for me.
In 32 years of coaching, Jimmy Raye has worked with some of the greatest talents in football. While he has never produced a "championship offense", he has come close on a couple of occasions. Were it not for the 49ers many say his Rams teams could have gone the distance.
Last year, the under center game management style of Shaun Hill was not working. Shortly after the quarterback switch we saw a change in the look and feel of the Forty Niners offense.
Reportedly required by Alex Smith's inability to adapt to working from under center, Raye switched boats last year in mid stream. He barely got wet doing it. Within a couple of weeks the Forty Niner offense had a whole new look. A look that seems to have great promise. The process was almost seamless.
Norv Turner, Mike Martz and Jimmy Raye are all students of the Don Coryell/Ernie Zampese style "west coast offense". In comparison of the two offensive systems of Martz and Turner, Mike Singletary preferred the style of Norv Turner. Norv Turner's former assistant head coach Jimmy Raye and Hue Jackson comprised the short list for the OC job.
To finalize the selection Mike Singletary brought both candidates in to talk to the assistant coaches and players. He let them decide who would get the job. It is reported that Jimmy Raye was chosen almost unanimously by the coaching staff and players.
While that may be a catchy phrase from an old commercial it applies to football as well as it does to chicken nuggets. Football is a game of pieces as much as it is a game of inches.
The three main pieces are offense, defense and special teams. If you are missing one of those pieces chances are you won't get to the championship game.
Each piece has it's own series of integral parts. If one part is lacking or is not up to par, the entire piece does not function at optimum performance.
As an example, after releasing Allan Rossum last year the Forty Niners kick return game suffered. Various attempts to replace him with players already on the team failed. Poor starting field position affected the 49ers offense. That is one of those intangibles.
Knowing statistics can be manipulated to suit the needs of the manipulator, I did what any computer geek would do. I placed the stats for each year into a spread sheet and started clicking and clacking on column headers.
After numerous sorts, resorts, charts, graphs and comparison of the data I realized during the years Jimmy Raye's running game was at the bottom of the rankings, the quarterback was sacked more often.
This would tend to make one believe the offensive line was not up to par for those teams. Additionally there were only a couple of years where he had a defense that ranked in the top ten.
Let's examine some of the stats from Jimmy Raye's previous years as offensive coordinator.
1983 Los Angeles Rams (9-7).
The 1983 Rams under head coach John Robinson were ranked 12th in total offense, 9th in rushing and 12th in passing.
QB Vince Ferragamo was sacked 23 times and Eric Dickerson rushed for 1,808 yards. Mike Barber led the Rams in receiving with 55 catches for 657 yards.
Allowing an average of 27 points per game the defense was ranked 27th.
1984 Los Angleles Rams (10-6).
The 1984 Rams under head coach John Robinson were ranked 21st in total offense, 2nd in rushing and 27th in passing.
Jeff Kemp was the primary QB, Vince Ferragamo and Steve Dils filled in and all were sacked a total of 32 times. Henry Ellard led in receiving with 34 catches for 632 yards.
Allowing an average of 27 points per game the defense was ranked 31st.
These are the only two years his offense made it to the playoffs.
1985 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14)
Under head coach Leeman Bennett the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 23rd in total offense, 21st in rushing and 17th in passing.
QB Steve DeBerg was sacked 19 times and RB James Wilder had 1300 yards rushing wtih 10 TDs. WR Kevin House had 44 catches for 803 yards and 5 TDs.
QB Steve Young was sacked 21 times and WR James Wilder caught 53 of his passes for 341 yards. Total sack count this year was 40.
Allowing an average of 28 points per game and 448 yards per game the Bucs defense was ranked 26th.
1986 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14)
Again under head coach Leeman Bennett the Bucs were 27th in total offense, 12th in rushing 27th in passing, and 26th in points.
QB Steve Young was sacked 47 times and James Wilder rushed for 704 yards and 2 TDs. WR Calvin Magee caught 45 passes for 564 yards and 5 TDs. Steve DeBerg was sacked 9 times that year in relief of Young pushing the sack total to 56.
Allowing 29.6 points per game and almost 400 yards offense per game the Buccaneers defense that year was ranked 28th.
1990 New England Patriots (1-15)
Under head coach Rod Rust the New England Patriots were 26th in total offense, 25th in rushing and 20th in passing.
QBs Marc Wilson, Tom Hodson and Steve Grogan were sacked a total of 58 times. RB John Stevens led with 808 yards rushing and 2 TDs. WR Irving Fryar had 856 yards receiving and 5 TDs.
Allowing 28 points per game and slightly more that 350 yards offense per game the defense was ranked 27th.
1991 Los Angeles Rams (3-13)
Under head coach John Robinson the 1991 Los Angeles Rams were 18th in total offense, 27th in rushing and 7th in passing.
QB Jim Everett was sacked 30 times. RB Robert Delpino led with 688 yards rushing and 9TDs. WR Henry Ellard had 1052 yards receiving and 3 TDs.
Allowing 24 points per game and slightly more that 325 yards offense per game the defense was ranked 21st.
1998 Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
Under head coach Mary Schottenheimer the 1998 Kansas City Chiefs were 19th in total offense, 23rd in rushing and 16th in passing.
QB Rich Gannon was sacked 25 times. Donnell Bennett led with 527 yards rushing and 9 TDs. Tight end Tony Gonzalez led in receiving yards with 627.
Allowing 23 points per game and slightly more that 300 yards offense per game the defense was ranked 9th overall.
1999 Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
Under head coach Gunther Cunningham the 1999 Kansas City Chiefs were 12th in total offense, 4th in rushing and 22nd in passing.
QB Elvis Grbac was sacked 25 times. Donnell Bennett led with 627 yards rushing and 8 TDs. Tight end Tony Gonzalez led in receiving yards with 76 catches for 849 yards.
Allowing 20 points per game and 315 yards offense per game the defense was ranked 14th overall.
2000 Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
Under head coach Gunther Cunningham the 2000 Kansas City Chiefs were 8th in total offense, 25th in rushing and 5th in passing.
QB Elvis Grbac was sacked 29 times. Tony Richardson led with 697 yards rushing and 3 TDs. Tight end Tony Gonzalez led in receiving yards with 93 catches for 1,203 yards.
Allowing 22 points per game and 330 yards offense per game the defense was ranked 18th overall.
2001 Washington Redskins (8-8)
Under head coach Marty Schottenheimer the 2001 Washington Redskins were 28th in total offense, 8th in rushing and 30th in passing.
QB Tony Banks was sacked 30 times. RB Steven Davis led with 1,432 yards rushing and 5 TDs. WR Michael Westbrook had 57 catches for 554 yards.
Allowing only 19 points per game and slightly more that 300 yards offense per game the defense was ranked 10th overall.
2004 Oakland Raiders (4-12)
Under head coach Norv Turner* the Oakland Raiders were 17th in total offense, 32nd in rushing and 8th in passing.
QB Kerry Collins was sacked 25 times and RB Amos Zereoue led with 425 yards rushing and 3 TDs. WR Jerry Porter had 64 catches for 998 yards.
Allowing an average of 28 points per game and 371 yards per game the Raiders defense was ranked 30th.
*Norv Turner called most of the plays.
2005 Oakland Raiders (5-11)
Under head coach Norv Turner the Oakland Raiders were 21st in total offense, 29th in rushing and 10th in passing.
QB Kerry Collins was sacked 39 times and RB Lamont Jordan led with 1005 yards rushing and 9 TDs. WR Randy Moss had 60 catches for 1,005 yards.
*Lamont Jordan had 70 catches for 563 yards.
Allowing an average of 24 points per game and 330 yards per game the Raiders defense was ranked 27th.
2009 San Francisco Forty Niners (8-8)
Under head coach Mike Singletary the San Francisco Forty Niners were 27th in total offense, 25th in rushing and 22nd in passing.
QB Shaun Hill was sacked 18 times in 4 games and QB Alex Smith was sacked 22 times in the remaining 12 games for a total of 40 sacks on the season. RB Frank Gore led with 1,120 yards rushing. As is typical in a Jimmy Raye offense the TE led in receiving yards. Vernon Davis had 78 catches for 965 yards.
* Frank Gore 52 catches for 406 yards.
* Michael Crabtree 48 catches 627 yards.
* Josh Morgan 52 catches 527 yards.
Allowing an average of 18 points (4th), 326 yards overall (15th) 97 yards rushing (6th), and 229 yards passing (21st) the Forty Niners defensive needs were addressed in the draft.
Were it not for 4 plays last year the Niners record could very easily have been (12-4). It is bound to get better this year.
This year Trent Baalke and Mike Singletary pulled off the draft of all drafts. Augmenting the Oline with Davis and Iupati was the catalyst the Niners new offense needed.
Anthony Dixon is a bruising 3rd down type running back. Combining Gore and Coffee with Dixon give possibility to the 3 back system used by Dallas and New Orleans.
Careful selection was made throughout the draft and free agency to improve the needs in the team. Adding Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams, Leroy Vann and Phillip Adams shored up the kick return game.
Taylor Mays, Navorro Bowman, Leroy Vann, Phillip Adams and several free agent acquisitions enhanced the defensive depth chart. The Forty Niner defense will only be better this year. I think they could be the #1 overall defense.
This year all of the pieces are in place for the Niners to return to NFL domination.
This is Jimmy Raye's time to shine and I believe he will do so.