Hints of optimism surround Johnson’s promotion

Don’t get me wrong, none of the 49ers were publicly celebrating the firing of offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye today. But it didn’t take a super sleuth to read between the lines and sense some optimism with a new man in charge.

Mike Johnson, 43, the former quarterbacks coach who will assume Raye’s duties, is a 10-year NFL assistant, serving as a wide receivers or QB coach with the Chargers, Falcons, Ravens and Niners. Prior to joining the 49ers staff 19 months ago, Johnson did not coach and spent some of his time studying the spread offense in college football.


A former quarterback at Arizona State, Mesa Community College and the
University of Akron, Johnson was the QB coach when Michael Vick was with
the Falcons (2003-05). In 2001, he worked with Doug Flutie in San Diego
and – not to scare you – he worked with Ryan Leaf in his first year on
staff with the Chargers in 2000.

He’s served as an offensive
coordinator for two games during his NFL career. In 2003, he took over
Atlanta’s play-calling duties for the final two regular-season games
under interim coach Wade Phillips. The Falcons, who finished 5-11,
averaged 305.5 yards in those games, 38 yards above their previous
season average.

“I think Mike will help,” backup quarterback
David Carr said. “He’s young. He’s got a lot of energy. He’s got some
great ideas. I think just him being our quarterbacks coach, I think that
we’ve got a pretty close relationship as far as him with the
quarterbacks. So I think he knows how we feel about our offense and
about how our personnel can be used. And he’s got some great ideas
himself. So I think it’s only a positive.”

Vernon Davis echoed
some of Carr’s sentiments — citing Johnson’s relative youth (he’s 21
years younger than Raye) — and expressed optimism that the Niners would
get more players involved on offense. The limited role of running back
Brian Westbrook (1 carry, 2 receptions) has been a surprise three games
into the season.

Davis said he’s developed a strong relationship
with Johnson — he was one of the first players to meet him when Johnson
arrived on the Niners staff.

“He’s a little different than Jimmy
Raye,” Davis said. “I think he’s a little more, he seems when I talk to
him and when I’m around him, he seems like he’s a creative guy. And it
seems like he’ll take chances, a lot of chances. And, he just … he’s
young and he’s hungry. I think it’s a great opportunity for him.”

Davis called Raye an “outstanding” offensive coordinator and said he “believed” in him when Raye was on the staff.

But was the change a good move?

“I
strongly believe … that it is a good move,” Davis said. “It’s an
awesome move. Like I said, coach Johnson is a talented young man. He’s
young and he’s hungry.”

• Singletary was solemn after Sunday’s
loss. And he was calm during today’s press conference. But he did flash a
hint of emotion when he was asked whether the front office pressured
him into firing Raye, “One thing I want you to understand is if I make a
decision, it’s my decision. The thing that I have control over is … the
53-man roster and the staff. Who is on my coaching staff. That is my
decision.”

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