Will the 49ers be more explosive under Mike Johnson?

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 20:  Michael Crabtree #15 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes against the Philadelpia Eagles defense at Lincoln Financial Field on December 20, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

It’s hard to argue that the 49ers aren’t the most disappointing team in the NFL thus far. While the Vikings, Giants and Chargers have played below expectations themselves, the Niners were supposed to be well on their way to winning the weak NFC West by now.

Instead, they’re 0-3 and were the first team to make a major coaching change earlier this week when they fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye on Monday. Mike Johnson will take over the position and already he’s vowing to do things differently than his predecessor.

Johnson wants to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers by spreading things out and giving defenses more looks. Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis have been underutilized so far and the hope is to confuse opponents with different packages.

Of course, Raye wanted Crabtree and Davis to get their hands on the ball more too, but when Sundays came he would stick with a more conservative approach. Communication issues between Raye, head coach Mike Singletary and quarterback Alex Smith only complicated things and subsequently led to Raye’s firing earlier this week.

The Niners take on a Falcon team this Sunday that ranks 21st in the league in total defense, but is only allowing 15.3 points per game. They’re prone to giving up the big play, so if Johnson is aggressive Smith may be able to connect with Crabtree and/or Davis in the vertical passing game. On the surface, this doesn’t appear to be a good matchup for the 49ers. But considering Atlanta is coming off an emotional victory over the Saints and could be due for a letdown, this is a situation San Fran may be able to take advantage of.

But it’s up to Johnson to deliver on what he’s saying now. Plenty of coaches and coordinators talk a good game during the week but then when game time approaches, some of them lose their gumption. They call plays too close to the vest and before they know it, their team is down by two scores and they’re playing catchup.

We’ll see how Johnson fares in his debut.

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49ers fire Jimmy Raye – could Mike Singletary next?

SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 02: Head coach Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers watches his team during their game against the San Diego Chargers at Candlestick Park on September 2, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The problem with motivation is that when it comes from the wrong person, it carries as much weight as loose leaf paper.

Mike Singletary is a great motivator, but it appears that nobody’s listening anymore. The 49ers nearly pulled off a great upset on Monday night against the Saints, but then followed it up with an uninspired 31-10 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday.

Today, the first axe fell in San Francisco as offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was fired. The move was hardly shocking when you consider how inept the Niners have been on that side of the ball this year. They currently rank 20th in total offense but are averaging just 12.7 points-per-game, which ranks them 31st in the NFL. There have also been reports that Kansas City defenders were calling out San Francisco’s plays yesterday before the snap, which is troubling to say the least. Some offensive coordinators can be predictable in their playcalling, but there’s a much bigger problem at hand if your opponent knows what you’re going to do before the snap.

But back to Singletary. The 49ers no longer seem to be responding with his methods and even appear to be tuning him out. Fans and the media like his post-game pressers and his intense persona, but if it doesn’t work with the players then none of it doesn’t matters.

There haven’t been any reports to suggest that Singletary will lose his job, but it’s not like the 49ers have it any easier over the next two weeks. They’re in Atlanta this Sunday and then host the Eagles in Week 5. They catch a break with the Raiders, Panthers and Broncos in Weeks 6 through 8, but if they continue to play as poorly as they did in Kansas City yesterday then it won’t matter who they’re playing.

Quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson will replace Raye as offensive coordinator, so maybe he’ll provide a spark. But even if he does, the players still have to believe in what Singletary is preaching because if not, then Raye won’t be the last to go.

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