Temper Your Expectations: Mike Johnson is Still Sing’s OC

Sep 28, 2010 at 8:25 AM

Put me right up there with the group of people who was utterly shocked when I heard the Jimmy Raye news. Not because I thought the move was itself was wrong, but because I never thought Coach Singletary would do it. But he did, and it may be the best decision he's made all season.

But that doesn't mean the 49ers problems are solved. In fact, the number one problem still remains: Head Coach Mike Singletary.

The question from the beginning of Sing's tenure has always been how a coach with little background in X's and O's would lead a team in a league where strategy is demanded of elite teams. Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan, Sean Payton, and yes, even Todd Haley, are head coaches who strategize. They exploit match-ups, attack defensive deficiencies, and make adjustments based on what they see in-game. I would need more research and more time, but I think it's safe to say that generally, elite coaches are also elite strategists who bring innovative concepts to teams. This would leave Singletary firmly outside of the upper echelon of elite coaches.

Firing Raye was necessary, but remember that Coach Singletary had problems finding an offensive coordinator. Scott Linehan, an innovative offensive mind, declined a job offer due to "personal reasons" then accepted another coordinator role 5 (FIVE!) days later in Detroit. Singletary said in his press conference that Raye did his best to fulfill the head coach's vision. Mike Martz, another innovative offensive mind (who, incidentally, ran the ball more than Jimmy Raye did) was fired due to philosophical differences (And now Cutler and the entire Bears offense looks much better than it did in years past).

Mike Johnson and whatever game plans he may have is atill subject to the rule of Sing. He will not have the philosophical autonomy that many fans think will associate a new coordinator. This team has talent. The front office did it's job well enough to field a team with playoff-level talent. Now it's up to the coaches to maximize that talent's potential.

As long as the head of the coaching tree is intent on imposing his blunt-force philosophy on the offensive game plan, expect the 49ers to remain a team with unrealized expectations.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • 9erfansince1980
    On the day before firing Raye, during his all-night tape watching session, I suspect Singletary munched on a variety of crow dishes. I also suspect Singletary brought a pair of knee pads to his meeting with Mike Johnson. I think Singletary knows the ownership has already considered a head coaching change, and decided to wait until the end of the season. Without making the playoffs, he knows he is out. With his job now and head coaching prospects in the future all riding on the success or failure of Johnson as an OC, I speculate Singletary has made a promise to Johnson that he will NEVER, EVER, again open his trap and express any opinion on matters related to Offense. So I think we will see the uncorrupted, unadultrated Johnson for the rest of the season.
    Oct 2, 2010 at 7:36 PM
  • Peter
    If the 49ers don't beat the Falcons this Sunday at 10am, we will go 0-4 which, by our teams history, we have gone 2-14 in all accounts. Do you think Johnson will do better then Raye? No doubt you do. Do you think we can beat the Falcons? Sure. Will we? Probably not because we still have problems across the board. On defense we can't stop a screen for our life, we don't blitz enough late in the game and we play our corners off way too much. I think Reggie Smith and Taylor Mays needs to start getting some reps. Michael Lewis and Nate Clements aren't cutting it. On offense, Crabtree and Morgan need to find their rhyme with Alex Smith. You can point out Davis but sadly he's been better then our two starting wideouts. Sure the offensive line can do better but Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Mark Sanchez never took six years to develop as good quarterbacks. As a fan, I'm sick and tired of excuses from these coaches. I'm glad you wrote a great article and I like your writing style, but at the end of the day...it's just W's and L's and so far I'm not impressed. If we lose Sunday I wouldn't count the team out going for a top 10 pick and drafting Andrew Luck from Stanford.
    Oct 1, 2010 at 10:13 AM
    Response: I think Johnson CAN do better than Raye. But given that he is coming in mid-season I don't think he will. I agree. At the end of the day it's Ws and Ls and we are not getting the Ws.
  • northbayteacher
    Singletary might be concerned about losing his job, but I believe he's even more concerned about the failure of the personal philosophy that's brought him so much success in so many other areas of his life. After all, that's what helped make him such a great linebacker in the first place, so why wouldn't it work for coaching a team to greatness? Hopefully he comes to realize that by definition "beating another team" is imposing your will on them. So let Johnson and Smith open things up.
    Sep 29, 2010 at 10:08 AM
  • John
    Doesn't this feel exactly like when Nolan hired Martz, who didn't share his offensive philosophy, as a last gasp effort to save his job? It's deja vu all over again.
    Sep 28, 2010 at 6:52 PM
    Response: No, it doesn't feel that way at all. It feels like the wad coach finally realized what everyone else, players included, had been seeing for a little bit. I do not think Sing is trying to save his job. He strikes me as the kind of man who will go out trying to do what's right for his team, not what's convenient for his job. That doesn't mean he knows HOW to fox it, but he will try his best. I just don't think his best is good enough right now for a playoff team in the NFL.
  • Johnny
    I have to say, just because Sing said that it was his decision alone does not make it true. Do you really think that if Jed basically told him to do it, that he would admit that to thepublic? No, he is the head coach and he had his ready-made answer ready for the obvious questions. I'm with NinerNate, Jed told Sing to make a change and this was the change that was made. Props to young Jed for growing a pair! I do agree, however, that this isn't going to fix all of our problems. We don't know how Johnson will do calling the plays, only time will tell. Two things to be optomistic about 1.He can't do any worse! 2.The players do seem excited. I'm truly convinced they really weren't buying what Raye and Sing were selling. What do you get when the entire team thinks your philosophy is crap? They play half A**. You could see how sluggish the whole team looked last week. They played like trash. This move should help thats completely obvious. but how much, we don't know yet. IMHO we should release Sing after the season.Leave the Defensive coaching staff in tact! and bring in a better coach.Spend the $. Does anyone else see Manusky getting at least an interview for HC in the nxt few yrs?
    Sep 28, 2010 at 12:47 PM
    Response: Sing, despite his shortcomings, strikes me as an honest man. So yes, I do think he would have admitted it to the public.
  • Mark
    I agree with you the only think that makes me feel better is you could see it Sings eyes. He knows his job is in jeopardy he knows he has to do something different. He can keep imposing his blunt force as you called offense. I think he knows this. He was asked about it in the conference and he said I don't care what kind of offense we have as long as we win. If he really has been humbled enough to give in and let Johnson open up the offense more like it was at the end of last season then I think things can better. I think Sing almost has no choice but to try this. I think also as the NFL network guys mentioned Smith has a better relation ship with Johnson and I think he will be more comfortable telling him what he likes then he was with Raye.
    Sep 28, 2010 at 11:09 AM
  • niner
    solari wasnt picked why? Its BS, Sing just does not want the WCO. Its too foo foo for him. X's and O's to him means hugs and kisses. Soalri would have made him dispensable. Like Lowell Cohn said , other than "sis boom bah" what does he coach, offense defense? He didn't even know he had an offensive problem until he watches the film after the 3rd game? Hey thats ok for high school but your playing with the big boys now. ( unless you consider VD the typical nfl player) Sign is over his head and really should go to college or somewhere and get some experience. His last interview reminded me of Bear 49er games where we destroyed them and he had that befuddles " we just didnt execute" look. Duh when it happens time and time again ( they won no playoff games after Buddy Ryan left)it aint just luck, its superior coaching.
    Sep 28, 2010 at 11:02 AM
    Response: Changing OC is big enough, but changing from the digit system to the WCO would have been too much.
  • Hacksaw
    As the good ship lollipop slowly sank in the west, the band played on! Oscar, the man is throwing darts at the board. How in the world is that a good decision? Johnson is an unknown, he is inexpereinced but of course that is the hallmark of this organization and look were it has brought the 49ers , last place in the west. What needs to happen , clean house now. We know Singletary will be gone at the end of the season. Why wait? Do it now and get going on building an organization filled with 'Football People" Go 9ers!!!
    Sep 28, 2010 at 10:55 AM
  • front office did not do its job of putti
    they could have gotten a number of QB's this off season, just in case Alex Smith didnt live up to the hype of last year. Mike Vick, Mark Bulger, even Derick Anderson would have been good "just in case pick ups" so dont say the fron office did its job!!! now we are stuck with Alex Smith, David Carr, and Nate Davis.
    Sep 28, 2010 at 10:33 AM
  • NinerNate
    The only reason I'm optimistic is because I'm convinced that ownership forced Singletary to fire Raye, and that Johnson will have a high degree of autonomy as the offensive coordinator. Any optimism from this rests on Johnson actually being good at coordinating, and who knows, but that risk is better than what was there before. At least the players seem excited.
    Sep 28, 2010 at 8:56 AM
    Response: Sing has absolute authority over the staff. He has openly said it was "my decision, and my decision alone." I don't think Jed had anything to do with this.

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