SANTA CLARA, Calif. – On Sunday afternoon, San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary said Jimmy Raye would remain the team’s offensive coordinator. On Monday, Raye was fired.
Singletary had indicated he might be forced to make changes after the 49ers’ third straight loss, a 31-10 rout by the Kansas City Chiefs, but even though the team’s uninspiring offense has scored just four touchdowns, he never wavered in his support of Raye.
After returning home, however, he had no choice. And he insisted the move was neither prompted by nor ordered by ownership.
“One thing I want you to understand -- if I make a decision, it’s my decision,” he said. “The thing I have control over is the 53-man roster and the staff, who’s on my coaching staff. That is my decision.”
A change was certainly a long time coming. Quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson will take over as offensive coordinator for a team that ranks 31st in the NFL in points scored, 31st in third-down efficiency and 27th in rushing.
Johnson, who at 43 years old is 21 years younger than the well-traveled Raye, has never served as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, but he’s expected to open up the 49ers’ offense quickly. Before joining the team in 2009, he took a year off to study the college spread offense and how it can be incorporated in the NFL.
“Mike is a great communicator and a great teacher,” Singletary said. “I think he’s a visionary. He understands what we’re trying to accomplish, and I think the players will embrace him.”
It’s clear they either weren’t embracing Raye’s offense or weren’t executing it properly. There were reports that the Chiefs’ defense knew what plays the Niners were going to run based on personnel and formations, although Singletary said he was unaware of it. But he said after the team returned to the Bay Area, he went home, then came back to his office and spent the night watching tape of all three losses.
“I’ve looked at every game we’ve played a few times,” he said. “But when you’re searching for an answer, sometimes you can look at it in a different way. And you’re looking for something specific and it’s really difficult to put your finger on, but you see it. It’s hard to describe, but it’s there. After looking at the film and thinking about it and praying about it, that’s the decision I came to.”
Curiously, Singletary was not wearing the cross around his neck that he always wears at practice and during games.
Singletary also denied a report that linebacker Takeo Spikes and safety Michael Lewis would no longer be starters, saying, “There could be some changes, but I don’t know where that came from.”
One change he won’t make, he said, it at quarterback. Alex Smith will remain a starter.
Asked if there would now be a change in philosophy on offense, including opening things up and getting more creative, Singletary said, “The most important thing to me is winning. How we do it, I really don’t care. Yes, we can talk philosophy. We can talk about opening it up, closing it up, whatever it is. But the bottom line is winning. I want us to do whatever we need to do to win football games. That’s the philosophy I want to become very familiar with.”
In the locker room, it was business as usual. But the feeling is that players are ready to line up behind Johnson after going 0-3 under Raye.
“I couldn’t put my finger on (what’s gone wrong),” tight end Vernon Davis said, “but things weren’t going the way we expected them to go. We planned on being a winning team from the start.
“I’m pretty much here to support whatever moves they make. I believe in coach Johnson just like I believe in coach Jimmy Raye.”