SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Mike Singletary this week again found himself facing questions about whether he's satisfied with the work of veteran offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye -- even after quarterback Alex Smith threw for a career-best 310 yards in last Sunday's loss at Seattle.
Singletary insists he supports Raye and his decisions, though there's no telling if the team will move forward with Raye beyond this season or turn to yet an eighth offensive coordinator in as many years come 2010. The 49ers (5-7) have had their successes -- most recently by turning to a pass-heavy offense -- in recent games doing what they're doing but have still largely been inconsistent this season.
That has generated criticism of Raye's playcalling in crucial situations for a unit that ranks 28th in the league in total offense and rushing, sparking questions about whether Raye will return in the same capacity or if the Niners will go to the guy they're grooming for the future: quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson.
Raye has said he would like to stick around to help turn around rebuilding San Francisco, which also is 29th in third-down efficiency.
"Absolutely," Singletary said when asked whether he is confident in Raye. "I think that Jimmy has adapted and adjusted. I think he's going 180, 360. Anything that I've asked him to do he's been more than willing to do and I think that he's done a fine job. I think that Alex has adjusted to him well. I think that he and Alex are on the same page along with Mike Johnson."
An example of a play the Niners probably would like back came with 39 seconds left in San Francisco's 20-17 loss at Seattle. In a tie game, the team faced a third-and-3 from their own 18 and attempted a deep pass that was nearly intercepted rather than going with a higher-percentage play to get a first down. The 49ers wound up punting, giving Seattle a short field on the way to Olindo Mare's game-winning 30-yard field goal as time expired.
Singletary has moved on from that disappointing loss, which practically eliminated them from playoff contention and perhaps a winning season, too. The team has endured a franchise-worst six straight losing campaigns.
Nobody in the locker room seems to be pointing any blame at the 63-year-old Raye, who has also made stops with the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay, New England, Kansas City, Washington and Oakland in more than 30 years of NFL coaching. Singletary chose Raye to run the offense based on their shared views of the game and how it should be played with a toughness at all times.
Vernon Davis has thrived in Raye's tight-end friendly system. So much so that Davis has 10 touchdown catches, a franchise record at his position.
The 49ers sure would appreciate some continuity in the coordinator job considering it has changed every year for nearly a decade.
"Jimmy Raye has done a great job. Of course you've got a lot of other naysayers out there," receiver Josh Morgan said. "But as players we support Jimmy Raye and stand by everything he does. We have had a lot of coordinators. This is my second year and this is my second coordinator. I know it's been tougher for guys like Alex, who every year he's been in the league he's had a different coordinator. I really do think we need some continuity with that. No matter who the O-coordinator is, we've got to execute. If we execute it makes the coordinator look great."
Singletary didn't rule out Johnson eventually taking over as coordinator, but didn't want to get ahead of himself and begin talking 2010 with four games left this season.
"I think that Mike Johnson and Jimmy Raye just continue to develop their relationship," Singletary said. "There's a synergy there, a flow there and they spend a lot of time talking, a lot of time in conversation and Alex Smith is also part of some of that conversation in terms of basically asking him the questions as: 'Are you comfortable with this? Do you like this? What about this?' And Alex is able to have some feedback. So, I think that it's been a work in progress, but I think that it's working very well."
LT Joe Staley was scheduled to participate in individual drills during Wednesday's practice as he continues to work his way back from the sprained right knee he hurt during San Francisco's loss at Indianapolis on Nov. 1. "If everything goes well out there, I'll be on track to play Monday," Staley said. ... Second-year DT Kentwan Balmer, a former first-round draft pick, had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder and won't play again this season. He was hurt vs. Jacksonville on Nov. 29. The team also signed DT Baraka Atkins. ... FB Moran Norris was named to the inaugural USA Football/NFLPA "All-Fundamentals" team for his sound fundamentals and community service work, which he does in his hometown of Houston. "Some drills look stupid, but they help me on the field," Norris said. "It's a good award." Norris received a pewter-dipped helmet and will have a $1,500 equipment grant to donate to a school. He plans to give it to his former high school in Houston, Madison High.