The winless San Francisco 49ers fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye on Monday, another bump in a disappointing season that began with playoff expectations but has devolved into a mess defined by tantrums, confrontation and ineptitude.
Mike Singletary and the Niners should have seen it coming. San Francisco was Raye's seventh stop as an offensive coordinator and the sixth time he left an offense in worse shape than he found it. Remarkably, Raye has never stayed as coordinator for more than three seasons and only once even made it that far.
His firing wasn't so much stunning (as one Bay Area columnist called it) as much as it was preordained. Here's a chart chronicling Raye's tenures as an offensive coordinator. The numbers represent the team's NFL rank in total offense:
Note: We're using the word "FIRED" for both brevity and impact. In some cases, Raye wasn't technically fired. It could have been that he wasn't retained after a head coaching change or didn't receive a new contract. Tomato/tomahto. In all cases, he didn't have the job he used to have and the decision was performance-based.
The only time Raye improved an offense in his first season with a team was with the Jets in 2004. The only time he left a team with a higher offensive ranking than the one he inherited was with the Chiefs. If Jimmy Raye was an actor, he'd be Ted McGinley.
My buddy Doug Farrar lamented in an email today that Singletary seems destined to become one of those guys who can't make the leap from coordinator to head coach. (In Washington D.C., we call that Richie Pettibon syndrome. Bills fans refer to it as LeBeau disease. Browns fans: Romeomylosis.) Perhaps Raye is a positions coach who can't make the jump to coordinator. He's been in the college or NFL coaching ranks since 1971, so he clearly has a lot to offer to football teams. Managing an offense isn't one of those things though.
The bigger news here is that Singletary made the move in the first place. I heard someone on the radio today use the old chiched analogy that firing Raye is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That only works if you believe the 49ers ship hasn't already sunk though. In reality, firing Raye is like Wile E. Coyote putting up an umbrella before the Roadrunner's anvil falls on his head. It's a temporary diversion and momentary distraction from the inevitable.
Singletary isn't long for San Francisco. He should have known that the instant he hired Jimmy Raye.