Niners' offense still sending mixed signals

Posted Jan. 01, 2010 @ 2:08 a.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

So, what's it going to be?

The 49ers' offense started out the 2009 season with head coach Mike Singletary supposedly married to a smashmouth power-running attack.

But when former No. 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith replaced Shaun Hill as the starter under center in the second half of the Week Seven game against Houston, the offense suddenly morphed into an up-tempo, pass-happy attack out of the spread/shotgun.

Apparently not totally comfortable in the spread, the offense switched back to more of a traditional two-back set in the final weeks of the season.

"I think this offense is going to continue switching gears, based on the opponent, and kind of make that their identity," said one veteran team insider.

The one certainty, it appears, is that first-year offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye will be returning next season, thus breaking the Niners' string of seven different coordinators the last seven seasons.

Raye's return figures to bode well for Smith, who has never worked with the same coordinator for more than one year.

It is far from a slam dunk, however, that Smith will be the undisputed No. 1 signalcaller in 2010 after regressing down the stretch in '09, particularly on his throws over 10 yards.

"At some point in time he's going to know, and everybody else will know, that he's the guy that can take us where we need to go," Singletary said, when asked a few days before the Niners' season finale whether he thought Smith had done enough to secure the starting job.

"I think that it's one of those things that it's a work in progress. He has done enough for me at this point to say that, going forward, I don't see why I would doubt it."

It would appear there are plenty of Niners fans, however, who still have their doubts about Smith, who has looked really good at times this season and really bad at other times.

"Alex just doesn't have that real 'it' factor," the insider said. "He has all his arm strength back, he can move around and make quick decisions, and he knows the game.
"But he still can get fooled pretty easily at times. He definitely hit a rut down the stretch, but I think he has all the tools and will really benefit from being able to participate in a full training camp next year."


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