Another out-of-nowhere plot twist in the 49ers' season-long soap opera occurred Monday with the announcement that Jimmy Raye had been fired as the team's offensive coordinator. With the guillotine coming down on Raye, QB coach Mike Johnson moves up the coaching ladder to become the Niners' eighth offensive coordinator in eight seasons. Offensive assistant Jason Michael will replace Johnson as the QB coach.
Beleaguered head coach Mike Singletary reportedly had given Raye a vote of confidence shortly after his team suffered through a 31-10 shellacking at Arrowhead Stadium — the Niners' second abysmal showing on the road in the season's first three weeks. When the news hit that Raye was whacked, there was immediate speculation that Singletary might have been given an ultimatum from management to make the move or else.
But after staying up all night watching film and thinking about his team, Singletary told the local media early Monday afternoon that it was his decision alone to fire Raye, whose alleged play-calling shortcomings were highlighted in a scathing Yahoo! Sports report a few days after the Niners lost the season opener in Seattle, 31-6.
"I looked at the overall view of where we are and where we need to go and felt that I needed to make the move," Singletary said, adding that he didn't seek input from anybody else. "One thing I want you to understand here is, if I make a decision, it's my decision."
The PFW Spin
One would think eight coordinators in eight seasons is enough already. But on a team that has struggled under Singletary to establish a specific offensive identity, such changes have become par for the course. While Singletary indicated that it was his decision to can Raye, who had been an offensive coordinator for six different teams in his long career, team insiders can't help but wonder otherwise. Johnson was widely assumed to be the "rat in the building" that Singletary referred to shortly after the Yahoo! exposé that caused such a stir both locally and nationally. Is it really possible that Johnson and Singletary can operate on the same page moving forward?
There are many close to the team that have been adamant in their belief that the Niners' offensive personnel might be better suited for a more pass-oriented spread/shotgun style, especially in the case of QB Alex Smith. But Singletary has remained a staunch smashmouth proponent, with an emphasis on establishing an imposing run game.
It will be interesting to see how the offense looks this Sunday in Atlanta, when the Niners have the unenviable task of facing a Falcons team coming off a stirring upset of the Saints. It's also very much worth noting that the Falcons obliterated the Niners, 45-10, in San Francisco last season, outgaining them, 477-279.
As for Raye, who reportedly had a knack for making changes in offensive meetings without consulting coaches, it could be another case of the Niners not pulling the trigger soon enough on a festering problem. The same thing happened with Scot McCloughan, the former GM who had issues behind the scenes that suddenly came to a head with his shocking exit from the team only five weeks before the 2010 draft.
What numerous league observers have said for a while now is that the Niners could really benefit from a veteran head-of-football operations to work side by side with Singletary, who remains a relatively unproven commodity as a head coach, and solidify an organization that continues to fly wildly by the seat of its pants.
In the meantime, the drama just keeps on getting heavier.