49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 1, 2009
49ers aiming for continuity

Ted Tollner might not see it this way, but the decision to allow the incoming offensive coordinator to pick his own quarterbacks coach is a wise one. The move was done with continuity in mind. That is, the incoming OC brings an apprentice with him. Should that OC leave for greener pastures, then the QBs coach would be promoted and the offense - in theory - wouldn't miss a beat. That will be an important criterion when the 49ers begin their interviews: Who would you bring with you?

A team should want its OC to be considered for a head-coaching job. That means he's been effective at his current job. What the 49ers have to do as they sit down with OC candidates in the coming weeks is think several moves ahead, something that hasn't been done - or at least done well - in the last six years.

The 49ers not only played better under Mike Singletary, they played smarter. San Francisco was the 10th-most penalized team this year, incurring 98 flags for 732 yards. Sixty of those penalties occurred in the first half of the season. In fact, over the last six games, the 49ers averaged just 3 ½ penalties a game. If they had had that average over all 16 games, they would have been the least penalized team in the league.

Their biggest bugaboo was false starts. The 49ers had 25 of them this season with Vernon Davis and Billy Bajema the chief culprits. That makes sense. As tight ends, they are at the end of the offensive line and thus can't always see the ball or hear the snap count.

On defense, the 49ers had 15 encroachment or offsides penalties. Six of them were committed by Ray "jumpy" McDonald. The 49ers had 16 holding penalties. Guard David Baas led the team with three. Fellow guard Chilo Rachal had zero. In fact, Rachal has to be considered one of the 49ers' success stories this season.

Interesting stat: Prior to Davis' infamous "unnecessary roughness" penalty that led to his banishment in Week 8, the 49ers had nine such personal-foul type penalties. After the Davis brouhaha, the 49ers had five. Maybe Singletary got their attention.

Other interesting season stats ...

Isaac Bruce became the first wide receiver since Brandon Lloyd ('05) to lead the team in receptions (61). Frank Gore has been the team leader the last two seasons. With Martz gone, what becomes of Bruce? He's under contract for 2009, but it's hard to imagine him being as happy in another offense, especially one that leans on the running game.

Last year's "Ted" linebacker, Derek Smith, finished with 78 tackles and an interception. His 2008 replacement, Takeo Spikes, finished with 96 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and a sack. The 49ers top four tacklers, in order, were: Patrick Willis, Spikes, safety Michael Lewis and defensive end Justin Smith. That's pretty much how coaches envisioned it before the season.

Betcha can't guess who led the team in special teams tackles. I'll give you a hint, his initials are T.B.C. Yes, Banta-Cain, who was inactive for four games, edged out the perennial leaders like Michael Robinson, Jeff Ulbrich and Keith Lewis by finishing with 19 tackles. Counter-intuitively, Jason Hill was second with 17. It's hard to imagine Hill playing much special teams next season.

Joe Staley, Eric Heitmann and Davis were the only offensive players to start every game. As far as I can tell, Staley played every snap for the second straight season. On defense, Smith, Willis, Walt Harris, Mark Roman and Lewis started every game. Lewis might have to get the warrior award for starting 16 games despite an array of injuries.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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