Jiminy Christmas: Jimmy Raye Is a Gift for SF 49ers' TE Vernon Davis

Brian O'FlahertyContributor IMay 29, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 16:  Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after Frank Gore scored a touchdown in the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams during an NFL game on November 16, 2008 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For the 2009 San Francisco 49ers, the offensive playbook will be modified once again. Jimmy Raye will be the 49ers seventh consecutive offensive coordinator.

Why did the 49ers decide to do this? Wasn't Mike Martz the answer? Wasn't the offense improved?

Yes, its true. The offense was improved under the wise overseer, Martz. However, an argument can be made, and will be made, that the 49ers best talent was NOT improved under Mike Martz, but was instead, hindered.


49ers head coach Mike Singletary might be a little more pragmatic, as opposed to dramatic, then certain fans and late-night talk-show hosts give him credit for.

Singletary recognized the football philosophy of Martz for what it was, and what it was proven to be; a highly disciplined offensive scheme, which statistically favors the wide receiver and quarterback positions as the focal points.

Although this scheme is also famous for generally scoring more points, it is equally as infamous for creating more quarterback sacks and higher than normal aggregate amounts of turnovers.

There is obviously no doubt, that Mike Singletary likes the “more points” aspect of this offensive scheme. What he, apparently is highly unhappy with, is the turnover and sack aspect that comes with the resume. And as long as Singletary is in charge of the coaching staff, all resumes with high turnover histories will be tossed into the recycle bin.

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This is much easier for me to say, because I don't have to account for every sports writer, comedian, fan, coach, player, and NFL public relations official hovering over my every word.

Singletary has said that the one aspect of being a head coach which surprised him the most, was the fact that an NFL head coach has to not only lead a group of tough and raucous young men by day, but by late afternoon must change his persona and become a more (slightly more) mild-mannered, sagacious diplomat when dealing with the media.

There is not really a kindly way to suggest that Mike Martz's offense caused too many infuriating turnovers. So instead, Singletary simply says, he believes in “ball control,” with a strong “running game,” etc; all phrases that insinuate fewer turnovers.

Singletary's low threshold for turnovers was demonstrative in 2008.

J.T. O'Sullivan, against the Seahawks, threw a costly interception which was run back for a touchdown. So, Singletary yanked him from the starting lineup for the rest of the year. Later in the year, against the St. Louis Rams, Singletary almost yanked Shaun Hill for throwing too many interceptions in a very poor first three quarters of football.

Hill might have saved his career by convincing Singletary to let him finish the game. Also, DeShaun Foster, who held the football in a one-handed cavalier fashion while running up the middle, was released after the season.

“Ok, well, was Martz let go because of too many turnovers then?” Partly. But Singletary is not single-minded.

The Blues Brothers

In fact, I can give two other important reasons for letting Martz go.

I can give two big reasons, but also, I can give two fast reasons.

The first reason, is 6'3", 250lb TE Vernon Davis, who can outrun most defensive players, and has been clocked at an almost legendary time of 4.39 in the 40-yard dash.

The second reason, is 6'0", 242lb TE Delanie Walker, who can not only block defensive ends, but is sometimes utilized as a kickoff returner.

Both players were drafted the same year, and since that time, both players have had their moments. However, neither player has been satisfied with the amount of footballs thrown in their direction or the amount of plays designed for them.

These two have been “singing the blues” for years, but not due to lack of talent as much as lack of opportunity.

They LOOK like big, strong, hands, don't they?”

The never-ending-story when it comes to Vernon Davis, is the idea that his hands are made out of stone. But this story is mostly a fantasy.

The truth is, Davis doesn't drop an inordinate percentage of his passes; but the passes he does drop have been easy ones, and not only easy, but they came at very important times.

For example, Davis dropped a pass against the New York Giants in 2007 that, based upon Davis's incredible ability, looked like it had a good chance to be a 50+ yard touchdown; it was a well thrown ball and would have given the team a chance to get back into the game.

I think that particular drop solidified his “hands of stone” image more than any other event.

Head coach Mike Singletary however, doesn't see hands of stone. What he sees is a tight end whose blocking is not only solid as a rock, but what he deemed as the best blocking from the tight end position he has ever seen.

And despite the major derision the media likes to report about Singletary's relationship with Vernon Davis, Singletary has gone so far, to liken Davis as, “a son to me.”

If one thing is for sure regarding Singletary and Vernon Davis, its that both men respect each others capabilities and talent. For the most part, Davis has been diplomatic and patient in his eager insistence at having more opportunities with the ball in his hand. Singletary has genuinely listened to his pleas.

Singletary is also aware that because Delanie Walker has improved his blocking, there is little reason both Davis and Walker should not see the field together more often.

Ask Mike Martz about the tight-end position, and you won't see a whole lot of excitement in his eyes.

But ask Jimmy Raye, and you will see that “ray” of light that Davis and Walker have been waiting for.

Perhaps Singletary is not single-minded after all.

The focal point

Jimmy Raye believes the tight end position is the “focal point” of his offense. What does that actually mean? Hard to say; but whatever it means, it sure sounds exciting for tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.

Jimmy Raye certainly knows a lot about talented tight ends. He worked with one of the best tight ends to ever play, when he was involved with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1992-2000.

Tony Gonzales raised the bar for the tight end position. Suddenly, there was a tight end who could not only block, but could also run all over the field and serve as a team's PRIMARY receiver.

Jimmy Raye's brain is filled with information and know-how regarding what particular formations and plays are best when utilizing a talented tight end.

The 49ers have two talented tight ends. Which is great because it gives Raye even more tools to work with.

Remember, Tony Gonzales has been lined up all over the field, in the slot, at wide receiver, and of course, on the end of the line. Raye should be able to do the same types of shifts and motions with Davis and Walker.

Additionally, Raye has plenty of coordinator experience, and should be able to utilize the tight end screen and, if we want to get really creative, the end-around play-action pass.

Davis and Walker should see the ball handed, tossed, and lobbed to them on various running plays and misdirections at a much higher frequency then in the past. Their days of being used mostly as blockers and decoys are hopefully coming to an end.

The bottom line is, if you want to get more production out of the tight end position, where a lot of the 49ers underutilized talent has been hidden away, Jimmy Raye is the ideal man for the job.

Singletary is looking at the “big” picture

When you look at the modern NFL today, you see, as usual, great quarterbacking leading the way; and those teams without a great quarterback, usually hang their hat on a good defense, and a ball-control offense.

The teams without top tier quarterbacking have to find a way to get the ball into the hands of their best playmakers without putting it all on the quarterback's shoulders. These teams tend to have at least two strong tailbacks and a powerful offensive line.

They also have a quarterback who knows how to do just enough to spread the ball around, move the chains, and win games.

The 49ers have at worst, a quarterback who can do just that, in Shaun Hill.

Additionally, the 49ers have some “big” pieces already in place.

Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker can line up at any skill position and provide great blocking wherever that might be.

Josh Morgan and Michael Crabtree are both big, strong, physical players, who should be fantastic as blocking wide receivers.

Michael Robinson and Moran Norris are both running backs, but they fulfill different roles. Norris is the big, powerful, pure lead blocking fullback, and Robinson can do a little bit of everything; he can block, run routes, and take hand-offs.

The 49ers have also built a big, powerful, offensive line to create holes in the power running game.

David Baas, Eric Heitmann, and Chilo Rachal form a large and powerful threesome in the middle of the line.

Heitmann, because he is so effective at pulling, is an especially valuable center piece when running draws, end-arounds, and screens.

The possibilities are endless, and its all made possible by Mike Singletary, who understands that the players he already has on his roster need to do what they are built to do, move the chains and wear the opposition down.

Singletary knows what Vernon Davis has been thinking, he knows he can frustrate. He knows when he's been bad and good, so in 2009 for goodness sake, he better not shout, better not cry, better not pout, and I'm telling you why; Jimmy Raye is coming to town.

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