Communication a growing problem for Niners

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The growing tension between San Francisco 49ers players and the coaching staff bubbled to the surface in the team's surprisingly lopsided loss at Seattle on Sunday. While coach Mike Singletary took quick action to call a team meeting Sunday night to get the coaches and players back on the same page, the reality is that Singletary is navigating some very choppy waters.

Singletary gets a little animated during Sunday’s loss.
(Joe Nicholson/US Presswire)

It's the kind of problem that could spoil not only a season expected to yield a division title, but also Singletary's career as a head coach.

On Sunday, the 49ers wasted three timeouts and were called for a delay-of-game penalty on three first-half possessions when they got inside the Seattle 10-yard line. By the end of those three possessions, the 49ers had only two field goals (though a touchdown was negated during one series following a booth review). Ultimately, that's the definition of ineffective football, allowing Seattle to gain momentum on the way to a 31-6 victory.

After the game, quarterback Alex Smith pointed the finger at the coaching staff, saying the plays weren't getting in fast enough. Smith was right and Singletary tried to cover that fact by claiming there were problems with the team's headsets.

According to multiple sources familiar with the circumstances, the real problem has been more than a year in the making and became more significant following changes the 49ers made within the coaching staff this offseason.

In Singletary's first full season last year, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, one of the more respected veteran coaches in the league, was calling plays from the coach's box upstairs. Raye would call plays down to offensive assistant Jason Michael, who would then send the play into the quarterback. That system worked effectively even at times when Raye struggled to find exactly the right play or say it exactly the right way.

"It seems like Jimmy calls plays from memory a lot of the time and not exactly the way it's written down," said one of the aforementioned sources, adding that the plays often get garbled. "He knows the plays and he knows the right thing to call, but he's fumbling through his papers and it's like, 'Hey, we need to get a play called.' "

Michael, who worked closely with Raye, was good at filling the gaps in communication. However, one of the problems created by the Raye-Michael relationship was that it began to alienate quarterback coach Mike Johnson(notes), whose involvement in building the game plan had diminished. In addition, some players began to resent Raye's tendency to blame them if things went wrong.

As a result, several players went to Singletary this offseason to complain about Raye and the overall situation. Singletary's solution was to change the mechanics of how the plays were sent in. He replaced Michael, who is still on staff, with Johnson in the play-calling process. On Sunday, that became a problem because Johnson couldn't decipher what Raye was saying during tense moments when the Seattle crowd was making noise. Singletary was seen several times yelling at Johnson on the sideline when plays didn't get relayed in a timely fashion.

The fear among those who know the situation is that this could put Raye, Johnson and Singletary at odds with each other. Worse, it could undermine the already tepid trust the players have in the coaching staff.

Singletary and Raye declined a request to talk to Yahoo! Sports directly about the situation, but the head coach addressed Sunday's miscommunication during Monday's media session: "We will take a hard look at it and we will have an answer for it. We will figure it out in the next few days exactly how we are going to do that and exactly how this is going to get better.

"Whether Jimmy comes on the field or however it is, we're going to figure it out and nip it in the bud."

Though Singletary said he was listening in on the headsets, the sources claim he isn't an X's and O's guy and doesn't know what a correct play call would be compared to an incorrect call. Surprisingly, that's not completely unusual in the coaching profession, but it creates a problem for Singletary on who to blame for the problem and how to fix the issue.

It also furthers the credibility gap for the coaching staff with the players.

The fortunate part for the 49ers is that they return home this week where the home crowd will make it easier to communicate. The unfortunate part is they play New Orleans, which will have had three extra days to prepare for the game coming off the Thursday opener.

QUICK SLANTS
QUICK SLANTS

No more Revis holdouts?

One of the key elements of New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis's(notes) four-year, $46 million deal is a clause specifying that if Revis holds out at anytime again, the contract becomes a seven-year deal. That's nice in theory for the Jets. In practice, it's worth as much as a pile of charcoal ash.

Revis was a typical thorn in the side for WRs on Monday.
(The Star-Ledger/US Presswire)

If Revis tries to holdout again in 2011, 2012 or 2013, the Jets will basically be in the same position they are in now. Moreover, the Jets may feel compelled to get back to the negotiating table faster because of the structure of the contract. However, the real disincentive for Revis when it comes to holding out again is his legacy. If Revis wants to be remembered as something more than a money-grubber, he needs to play out this deal without threatening to hold out again.

To be clear, those people who blame Revis for holding out as a rookie and again this summer don't understand the dynamics of what was going on either time. When Revis was a rookie, the Jets insisted on inking him to a six-year contract at a point in the NFL draft where players were taking five-year deals. Revis and his agents had to make sure the deal was fair. This year, Revis had received promises from the Jets of a long-term deal – public promises that created expectations for him, something the Jets didn't manage particularly well.

However, if Revis were to go to the well a third time after getting what is a very strong deal, that would paint him as greedy. That's particularly the case because Revis has a contractual guarantee that the Jets can't put any type of franchise tag or other restriction on him after the 2013 season.

If Revis plays out this deal he will have plenty of money and he will hit unrestricted free agency at age 28. A $100 million contract with another $40 or $50 million guaranteed is a good possibility at that point. In fact, the way this contract is written, the Jets would be foolish not to get Revis signed to a new deal before he goes into the final season of this contract.

Just as important as the cash consideration is the question of legacy. Because of the position he plays, Revis has a chance to play well into his 30s. Moreover, with coach Rex Ryan running the defense, Revis has a chance to be a Pro Bowler on a regular basis. Finally, he's in a market that adores great players.

In many ways, Revis has a chance to be the Jets' version of New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter – an exciting athlete and first-class person who generates a sense of excitement with the mere mention of his name. This is all a long way from coming to fruition, but Revis has a chance to make that happen if he plays his cards right.

Holding out again along the way would not be a correct play, certainly not with the combination of what he has been given and what he can get.

Top five
1. New Orleans Saints:
The opener wasn't great, but they handled the Vikes better this time than in the NFC championship game.
2. Baltimore Ravens: Impressive road victory vs. Jets, but they've had problems with Cincinnati in recent years, so this Sunday is big.
3. Green Bay Packers: A sloppy yet good road win vs. a quality team, but the reported loss of RB Ryan Grant(notes) might hurt.
4. New England Patriots: The defense was exposed a bit at the end, but beating the Bengals that thoroughly was impressive.
5. Houston Texans: Some people are boasting that the Texans finally slayed the dragon with the win over the Colts. Not quite, but that was a big win.

Bottom five
28. Oakland Raiders:
Just when you think the Raiders have a chance to put something together, they open the season in typical style. Disturbing.
29. St. Louis Rams: Sure, QB Sam Bradford(notes) took his lumps. But for a guy throwing 55 times in his first game, it could have been a whole lot worse.
30. Cleveland Browns: QB Jake Delhomme(notes) is what he is. He has his good moments. Sadly, he has way too many bad ones as well.
31. Carolina Panthers: QB Matt Moore(notes) turned back into a frog and suffered a concussion in the process, which led to an early appearance by Jimmy Clausen(notes). Expect to see more of Clausen soon.
32. Buffalo Bills: Yeah, yeah, they had a chance to win, but that was some extraordinarily ugly offensive football.

This and that

Rivers was sacked twice by the Chiefs.
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers(notes) is a good person and a really good leader. When he gets frustrated and starts yelling, as he did numerous times Monday night during the 21-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, he's not doing it for show. He's legit. However, if Rivers really wants to solve what's ailing the Chargers, he should expend some of that frustration on Chargers management for not trying to get deals done with wide receiver Vincent Jackson(notes) and offensive tackle Marcus McNeill(notes). On Monday, the Chargers missed Jackson in a big way. Aside from two busted coverages by Kansas City that allowed a 59-yard TD catch by Legedu Naanee(notes) and a 34-yard reception by tight end Antonio Gates(notes), the Chargers vertical game was pretty limited and the Chiefs were basically daring the Chargers to throw deep by the end of the game. If anybody can get San Diego to change its stance on Jackson and McNeill – Jackson apparently is willing to do a one-year contract at this point – it's Rivers and he should realize that San Diego's hope to win a title rests on having all its weapons.

A tip of the cap to former quarterback Joe Theismann, who again is advising people, particularly men in their 60s, to get screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm (a.k.a. AAA). Theismann took time last week to call reporters around the country in the battle against the "silent killer." Kmart is giving free screenings for AAA, which Theismann's 90-year-old father was discovered to have five years ago. "There are a million people walking around with this and it has a 90-percent chance of fatality if not caught," Theismann said. "But it has a 90-percent success rate of being treated if you find it." Theismann also described the screening as being "like a pregnancy test with ultrasound." In other words, it's non-invasive, simple and quick. Get it done.

Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano is a terrific coach in many ways. He sees the big picture, he knows how to communicate with players and he's very organized. However, he's a butcher at game management and Sunday was the latest example. On third-and-13 from the Buffalo Bills' 36 with 32 seconds left in the first half, the Dolphins called for a screen that gained 8 yards and put the team in position for a 46-yard field goal. Nice work. However, Sparano inexplicably called timeout with 21 seconds left rather than allowing the play clock to run down to three or four seconds so that the field goal attempt would be the last play of the half (or at least force Buffalo to call the timeout if the Bills wanted to stop the clock). When the Dolphins missed their field goal, the Bills got the ball with 16 seconds and all of their timeouts remaining. That gave Buffalo enough time to get in range for a 63-yard field goal attempt that missed. In a game the Dolphins won 15-10, Sparano's timeout could have proved costly.

As a postscript to the Dallas Cowboys' loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday night when the last-second, game-winning touchdown was erased by a penalty against right tackle Alex Barron(notes), people associated with the St. Louis Rams are getting quite a chuckle. St. Louis took Barron in the first round in 2005. By 2008, the Rams had come to the conclusion that he was one of the laziest players in team history. They kept him only because they had no alternative. The fact he was so lazy with his technique Sunday should be of surprise to no one. The fact that the Cowboys have him on the roster is ridiculous.

While I'm all for decorum in the locker room and at practice, I also find it a little ridiculous that TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz is tweeting about how she was "very uncomfortable!" in the Jets locker room last week as she waited for an interview with Mark Sanchez(notes). There is no excusing the catcalls that Sainz got from players and Kris Jenkins's(notes) claim that "this is our locker room" is just plain stupid. When reporters are there, it's a working environment. It's not too much to ask players to act like gentlemen for a few minutes each day. At the same time, it's a little hard to take Sainz seriously when she tweets (translated from Spanish), "I die of embarrassment!" A quick Internet search of Sainz will find at least one page full of glamorous photos, complete with posed swimsuit shots. Among the easy-to-find pictures of Sainz is one with her dressed in tight jeans and a sleeveless shirt sitting on the shoulders of two Indianapolis offensive linemen prior to the Super Bowl in February. In other words, Sainz, despite being a reporter, isn't above using her looks to get attention. Fair enough, that's your business if you want to play the Charo card. But don't act surprised when sometimes the attention goes the wrong way.

Finally, on a personal note, congratulations to Henry Pierson Cole, who officially became an Eagle Scout on Monday night. You couldn't make a father any more proud than I am today.