Bell cow might get a break under Johnson

Mike Singletary said today he never considered firing
Jimmy Raye until after Sunday’s game.

It’s probably safe to say some of his players might have harbored such thoughts long before their head coach.

In fact, after listening to some of the Niners today, it’s
not absurd to wonder if a mutiny might have occurred if Raye had remained on
staff much longer.

Raye’s replacement, Mike Johnson, will not speak to the
media until Thursday. But his players
talked about him today. And their praise for Johnson indirectly – and strongly —
suggested they didn’t have much faith in Raye’s abilities to make basic adjustments
as defenses trained their sights on running back Frank Gore this season.

Consider this from Gore: “I think coach Johnson might do
more with personnel to give defenses a different look so that they can’t just
be able to sit and know what we’re doing.”

And tight end Delanie Walker: “Mike might bring some different
things to the table with the passing and the run game … We’re going to probably
have a lot of reverses, a lot of screens — try to open up the run  game. Keep them on their toes where they don’t
just keep seven men in the box to stop Frank.”

Raye famously called Gore the bell cow of the Niners’
offense last year. And defenses apparently have taken notice as Gore (52
carries, 193 yards) is averaging 3.7 yards a carry, 1.1 below his average from
2005-09.

A Comcast SportsNet report after Sunday’s 31-10 loss to the Chiefs said
Kansas City’s defenders were correctly calling out some of the Niners’ plays
before the snap. Gore said he didn’t hear them barking out plays, but he didn’t
think the Chiefs weren’t fooled by the game plan.

Gore has touched the ball on 39 percent of the offensive
plays this season. He touched the ball – or was targeted on incomplete passes –
on 28 of the Niners’ 57 plays (49 percent) Sunday.

“I won’t say that they knew, but they were playing the
run, man,” Gore said. “They were showing two deep and before the snap they’d
bring a safety right in the box. It was tough.”

During last year’s training camp, Raye announced his plan
for the Niners to run on 60 percent of their offensive plays in 2009.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Alex Smith stressed
the importance of being flexible and making in-game adjustments on more than
one occasion today. He anticipates the 49ers will use more personnel packages
and formations under Johnson, a coach who shares Smith’s vision.

“I think we’re kind of the same
philosophy in the sense that you’re going to do what it takes to win the game
and that’s not going to be the same week-in and week-out,” Smith said. “I
firmly believe that, but you definitely have to have the capabilities and
multiple personnels and looks to do a lot of different things, but it’s being
able to be flexible. Week-in, week-out, over the course of a game, you have to
be able to be flexible. You have to know to look at what the defense is doing
to you and combat that, you know to attack that.”

Smith again said it was wrong
to pin all the blame on Raye.

But it’s telling that Singletary,
who said today that the starting lineup would remain intact, indicated “changes”
might be coming after Sunday’s loss.

As it happens, Singletary decided
only one change was necessary to help reverse the course of a winless season.