The Fall Guy

September 27

This is not a blog about the 80’s ABC action series starring Lee Majors and the scalding-hot Heather Thomas. However, I’d rather watch bad 80’s television than another week of the 49ers offense guided by Jimmy Raye. Mike Singletary and the 49ers obviously felt the same, and Raye was made the fall guy for an 0-3 start.

Did Raye deserve the axe ? Yes. The 49ers showed the flexibility of the Tin Man after they fell behind in Kansas City Sunday, and as a result they’re 0-3.

Will Mike Johnson instantly make the 49ers better ? Not necessarily. Johnson might relate better to the players and bring more imagination to the playbook, and he might better utilize the 49ers talent, but if this move is more than window dressing I’d be surprised.

Sunday was an epiphany. We all suddenly realized the 49ers aren’t who we thought they were. Most NFL experts, and most local observers ( myself included ) didn’t see this coming. We were wrong.

The 49ers’ problems run much deeper than the offensive coordinator. That was obvious to everyone Sunday. There are issues with the terminally-skittish quarterback who goes one step forward, one step back. There are issues with the defense, which was pushed around by the Chiefs, and there are issues with the young and inconsistent offensive line. And yes, there are major issues with game-planning among the coaching staff.

If those problems aren’t addressed, we know who the next “fall guy” will be. An 0-6 start with home losses to the Eagles and Raiders would take all the bloom off the Singletary rose, even for the Yorks. Would they swallow five-million dollars to let him go ? They might lose the fans if they don’t.

***

Across the Bay, Tom Cable told reporters he told Sebastian Janikowski he “loved him” and that he would go to him again to kick a game-winning field goal, despite Sunday’s shank in Arizona. Because, the alternative is … ?

Despite that silly statement, Cable is getting better results than Singletary. He might lack social graces or a resume, but the Raiders are much closer to being a competent team than the 49ers. They don’t have a great deal more talent, but they are better at the quarterback position and are playing like they care.

October 17 at Candlestick could be a very interesting day for many people.

***

There’s been a lot of talk about juggling the Giants pitching rotation so that Tim Lincecum is available for a possible one-game playoff Monday. General Manager Brian Sabean said on KNBR Monday that Lincecum could be moved up to Wednesday and pitch on “normal” rest both days. I hope that doesn’t happen.

Lincecum has been so good in September partly because he has flourished on an extra day’s rest with all the off days this month. He might be able to pitch once on “normal” rest, but twice is pressing his luck, especially when that second time is a possible do-or-die game on a Monday.

I don’t like fooling with a good thing. Aside from Barry Zito’s start in Colorado the rotation has been on a historic run of excellence. Even if Zito falters on a Friday night against San Diego, you have two days to make up for that, and you have a well-rested Lincecum for a possible Monday playoff.

The only move I’d support is dropping Zito from the rotation, but that’s probably not going to happen. And there’s something else to consider: whoever starts Sunday will be on a VERY short leash. If a playoff spot is at stake, Bruce Bochy will manage like it’s Game 7 of the World Series.

***

George Blanda was one of the last links between old-school football and the modern NFL. For all of the drama surrounding Brett Favre playing quarterback at 40, Blanda was making clutch plays with his arm and foot for the Raiders until the age of 48. He didn’t waffle about retirement; he just strapped it on every year for 26 seasons.

How far back does he go ? He played for Bear Bryant … at Kentucky. He is also a reminder of how far removed the Raiders are from their glory days.

George Blanda died Monday at the age of 83. He was the kind of athlete that few fans would even recognize today. He had a work ethic and passion for the game for a fraction of the price.

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