SAN FRANCISCO -- The first time Jimmy Raye was on the San Francisco 49ers' coaching staff, he didn't even really have a job
title. He's coming back 32 years later to take on a title that
nobody has kept very long in recent years.
Raye agreed to terms with the 49ers on Friday to become the
club's seventh offensive coordinator in seven seasons.
The 62-year-old coaching veteran is a somewhat unlikely choice
for the 49ers, who needed a full month to fill the vacancy created
when coach Mike Singletary fired Mike Martz on Dec. 30 in his first
major act after getting the permanent job running the club.
Singletary, who went 5-4 as an interim coach to finish the
49ers' sixth consecutive losing season, wanted a veteran
coordinator who would build his game plans around a sustained
running attack. He apparently found what he wanted in Raye, the
eighth man to interview for the job last week.
"It certainly took longer than we would have liked it to, but
sometimes good things come to those who wait," Singletary said.
"The thing I didn't want to do was go ahead and make a knee-jerk
decision and select someone before I thought we had our guy."
Singletary also hired former Baltimore Ravens assistant Mike
Johnson as the 49ers' new quarterbacks coach.
During more than three decades of NFL coaching experience, Raye
has been a coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay, New
England, Kansas City, Washington and Oakland, where he also was the
Raiders' assistant head coach in 2004-05 under Norv Turner. He
spent the last three seasons as the New York Jets' running backs
coach under Eric Mangini.
Raye fits Singletary's desire for a coordinator who emphasizes
the running game. He was the Rams' coordinator in 1984 when Eric
Dickerson rushed for a league-record 2,105 yards.
Despite their mutual decades of NFL experience, Singletary and
Raye hadn't even met until the Jets' trip to San Francisco last
month to face the 49ers. Raye admired San Francisco quarterback
Shaun Hill's dissection of New York's defense that day, but never
imagined he might be joining Singletary until they initially spoke
on the phone several weeks ago.
"We had a shared vision of how you play the game and what we
would like to see when the game is played," Raye said. "His
passion for football is kind of contagious. That started the mutual
understanding between the two of us."
Raye wasn't Singletary's first choice, however. Former St. Louis
coach Scott Linehan turned down the position earlier this month,
saying he wasn't ready to commit to his next coaching stop - only
to take the same job with the winless Detroit Lions a few days
San Francisco's offense finished last overall in the NFL in 2005
and 2007 under coach Mike Nolan, but Martz raised it to a level of
respectability in 2008. The 49ers scored 339 points after managing
just 219 in 2007, also racking up nearly 74 more offensive yards
But the franchise that redefined offensive football in the 1980s
under Bill Walsh has employed a new coordinator in every season
since 2003, one year after the 49ers' last trip to the playoffs.
Raye will be at work in the Bay Area on Wednesday, breaking down
game film of last season and formulating a plan. Most of his staff
already is in place, including new running backs coach Tom Rathman
and offensive line coach Chris Foerster.
Although Raye doesn't yet know much about the 49ers' personnel
beyond running back Frank Gore, he'll be instrumental in choosing
the quarterback. Hill isn't guaranteed to be the starter despite
his solid play in the second half of the season, while former No. 1
overall draft pick Alex Smith won't return unless he reaches an
agreement to drastically reduce his salary.
Raye might not know all the players, but he knows what
Singletary wants him to do.
"The teams that I've been the leader of as a coordinator have
been tough, physical football teams that run the ball and have a
physicality about them," Raye said. "The overriding factor is
that we want to be tough-minded physically and emotionally."