Forget the rat, will Niners get plays called on time?

The Niners’ play-calling issues were made painfully evident during Sunday’s 31-6 loss to the Seahawks, two days before a Yahoo! story fleshed out those problems in further detail.

So amid the dismissals of the Yahoo’ account today, there was a more important question to answer: Will the Niners futz around forever in the huddle on their first third-and-1 against the Saints?

Mike Singletary and Alex Smith didn’t want to discuss the specifics of
their plan to remedy the problem, but Smith has used a wristband in
practice this week. In response to speculation that he might move from
the booth to the sideline to streamline the play-calling process,
offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said he felt more comfortable staying

Raye, who has drawn the brunt of criticism for his role in the Niners’
play-calling snafus Sunday, struck a the-buck-stops-with-me tone in
opening his 17-minute meeting with the press.

“It’s my responsibility, I bear all the responsibility for the way we
operate on offense, Raye said. “I’m the leader, it’s my watch and I have
the responsibility for the things that occur that concern the offense.”

But Raye struck more defensive notes when fielding the final 14
questions. He questioned at least one of quarterback Alex Smith’s
decisions to take a timeout instead of delay-of-game penalty Sunday. And
when asked what he could have done better as an offensive coordinator,
he didn’t mention the matter of getting plays called in a more timely
manner – something Singletary said Raye needed to improve on earlier
this week.

“I guess we could have won the game, and then I wouldn’t be here
addressing this issue,’ Raye said. “I think it’s important that all of
you understand that this game has a human element to it, and of the
games that were played last week, I would dare say that there was anyone
in the position I’m in that was flawless. So what could I have done
better? I could have maybe had a better plan, I could have maybe made
some better decisions.”

Asked if he “lived up to his responsibility” for getting play calls
delivered on time, Raye said, “I’ve lived up to my responsibility
everyday I’ve been here as a San Francisco 49er coach, and I did that on

The Yahoo! story said the play-calling problems began more than a year
ago, during Raye’s first year on the staff, and Smith gave credence to
that timeline today.

He suggested the Niners had the potential to produce similarly
disastrous results in 2009, but often narrowly beat the play clock.

“Like I said, I think it’s something that we’ve gotten away with at
times in the past, especially last year, you know, just battling it and
hurried at the line of scrimmage and we’ve gotten away with it at
times,” Smith said. “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 in key situations. All
those things add up.”

Last year, offensive assistant Jason Michael took the play calls from
Raye and delivered them to the quarterback. Michael and Raye had worked
on same staff with the Raiders in 2005 and with the Jets in 2006-07. Due
to their shared background, Michael was adept at deciphering some of
Raye’s play calls.

This season, however, quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson has assumed
Michael’s duty. According to the Yahoo! story, the change was made
because Johnson began to feel alienated. The change didn’t net positive
results Sunday. According to Yahoo!, Johnson often couldn’t hear Raye
due to the crowd noise and was yelled at by Singletary on the sideline.

Raye said the transition from Michael to Johnson “naturally made sense,”
in part, because Johnson was more familiar with his play-calling style
after spending a year together.

“Jason and I have been together for a long time, the familiarity of the
things that I say or start to say, go faster than a year ago where the
situation everybody was learning me,” Raye said. “… It just didn’t make
good practical sense to do it that way.”

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