According to a recent Yahoo Sports story the communication problems the 49ers suffered on offense in their loss to the Seahawks goes much deeper than just last Sunday and all the way back to last season. The unnamed source, presumed to be an offensive player, said offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has had problems even last season sending in the correct calls with them sometimes “garbled”. It is not that Raye does not know the plays but he often calls them from memory. Last season this was less of an issue because 49ers offensive assistant Jason Michael knew the playbook well and was able to identify the play being called and correctly sent it in to Alex Smith. However having Michael relay the plays in did not sit well with quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson who is now the person calling in the plays to Smith. Problem is Johnson is not as good as Michael was in filling in the gaps and that showed last Sunday.
What I don’t understand is if this was an issue last season why hasn’t it been solved this season? Why did Mike Singletary allow Johnson to be the man to relay the plays in to Smith if Michael was mostly successful at doing the job? Smith did say the Yahoo report was ridicules but also added,
“It’s something that we’ve gotten away with at times in the past, especially last year. Just battling it and hurried at the line of scrimmage. But I think over the long run, it hurts you. You have less operation time at the line of scrimmage, you’re burning timeouts. You’re taking unnecessary penalties.”
This is what the off-season, training camp and the preseason games are for; to work out all the issues the team faced last season and correct them. But it is seems like that was not the case. Raye is a veteran offensive coach who has been in the league for 33 years. I trust that he knows the offense and knows the correct plays to call in any given situation. What I don’t trust is that he can get the call in quick enough for Smith to call the play so he can make adjustments at the line of scrimmage and snap the football before the clock runs out. This was evident against the Seahawks and playing in front of the loudest fans in the NFL compounded the problem.
There are three solutions to the communication problems: 1.) Put Raye on the sidelines to call plays 2.) Have offensive assistant Jason Michael radio in the plays like last season. 3.) Give Alex Smith a wristband with numbers and the plays on it and have Raye call in a number that Smith crosschecks.
Giving Smith a wristband is the most feasible option with putting Raye on the sidelines a close second. Singletary has said one of those two options will mostly likely be what they will use but he would not indicate which one. My guess is they will go with the wristband and keep Raye up in the booth because he is more comfortable calling plays from there. If he has had trouble getting the play in up in the booth he would have an even harder time calling plays on the sidelines dealing with all the players. In order for the play to be called in a timely manner and to avoid calling the incorrect one a wristband is needed. If the play calling problems are not solved on Monday night against the Saints they never will be and you can kiss goodbye to the 49ers chances of winning the division.