So much for continuity at offensive coordinator!
On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers suffered their second defeat of embarrassing proportions in the course of an 0-3 start to the 2010 season.
The defense had their worst performance of the year, allowing nearly total yards to the Kansas City Chiefs. But for all the defensive struggles, the offense looked even worse.
The game plan was hard-nosed and committed to a repertoire that clearly was not working. Play calls were painfully predictable and the offense only broke 200 total yards on a last-second, meaningless touchdown drive in the closing minutes of the game.
Despite head coach Mike Singletary’s 49ers.com/media-gallery/videos/Singletary-Postgame-49ers-vs-Chiefs/c3698271-177b-4861-a001-b588b6aeacc0">post game assertion that Jimmy Raye would remain as the offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season, after reviewing the film, Sing apparently had a change of heart.
Monday brought news that Jimmy Raye had been dismissed from his duties and replaced by quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson. Coach Sing stated in a press conference that the move was completely his decision.
After so much was made of the fact that Alex Smith finally entered 2010 with continuity at offensive coordinator for the first time in his career, why would the 49ers make such a move just three weeks into the regular season?
Probably because Jimmy Raye was the most predictable, uncreative, and conservative coordinator the 49ers have had since Greg Knapp.
Regular readers might recall that I suggested such a move in the wake of yesterday’s loss, and I believe it to be the best-case scenario for the 0-3 49ers for a variety of reasons.
Many have been calling for the replacement of Alex Smith and/or Coach Sing, but this move makes much more sense. While many will doubtless claim that this is but another OC whom Smith has forced out of San Francisco through poor play (by the way, if you wish to leave such a comment, leave it for someone who cares), the game plan concocted by Raye in 2010 would have made just about any QB shake his head in disgust.
Repeated and stubborn runs into the teeth of the defense forced the 49ers into desperation passing downs, allowing defenses to key in on the pass rush and disrupt the offensive rhythm.
This in turn led to the inability to sustain drives, which affords the opposition overwhelming opportunities and creates big holes for the 49ers to climb out of.
Mistakes do not help, but a better game plan was warranted much more than a change of on-field personnel.
If the 49ers were to fire Coach Sing, who would replace him?
It is very doubtful the 49ers could lure a promising college coach away from his team mid-season to right a floundering NFL squad, and even more doubtful a high-profile coach like Bill Cowher, John Gruden, or Tony Dungy could be enticed to leave the cushy broadcast booth for such an “opportunity.”
Seeking some continuity in the hopes of bringing about immediate results, the 49ers likely would have promoted from within, making defensive coordinator Greg Manusky the most likely candidate for interim head coach.
Manusky lacks the motivational skills and playing career prowess of Singletary, making it questionable whether he could get more out of the team. It is also highly suspect that such a major shake-up would have positive affect at this point in the season.
Replacing Raye, however, offers the same tangible message that all will be made accountable for their short-comings, without the turmoil involved in purging the top leadership.
The move was also made early enough to give the team the opportunity to get things turned around.
Finally, Raye’s replacement—Mike Johnson—ascends to OC from the QBs coach position, a role he has filled since last season.
Having his former position coach as his new offensive coordinator should give Alex Smith the confidence that his coordinator understands his skills and capabilities and should alleviate the frustration Smith has shown at some of the play calls so far this season.
Having a QBs coach as the new OC should help spur the passing game toward becoming the dangerous unit everyone though it had the potential to be.
Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis will need to play better, but at least they will likely be given more opportunities.
Is it a perfect situation? Of course not.
For one, swapping OCs yet again gives Alex Smith another potential excuse to underperform, alleviating—in theory—some of his accountability over the remainder of the season.
However, after ascending to captain this off-season, Smith has been far from the most limiting factor on the offense, and a more favorable game plan could allow him to finally blossom.
Swapping OCs makes much more sense than other, more dramatic, sexier moves for which the fans have been pleading for weeks.
The 49ers are not out of the woods by a long shot and could still be in for major disappointment, but the move if nothing else proves they are serious about wanting to get better, before it gets too late.
Only time will tell whether this move pays off, but at least it gives the 49ers a much better shot at short-term success and salvation for a season that could not have started any worse.
Keep the Faith!