I finally tracked down the new offensive coordinator of the 49ers, Jimmy Raye II, at his home in New York. Raye was nice enough to spend a few minutes with me on the phone. He first of all confirmed that he indeed has accepted the job. He has not officially signed any documents, so the 49ers have not yet announced the hiring.
I asked Raye about the interview he had Wednesday with Mike Singletary: "The interview was very good," he said. "It was our first face-to-face encounter after logging untold hours on the telephone talking back and forth. Mike has a clear vision of what he's trying to do." Raye said Singletary first got in touch with him soon after the regular season ended. Which is to say, Raye was not a last-minute candidate despite having his first face-to-face interview Wednesday.
I asked Raye about how Singletary communicated that vision to him: "He wants a tough-minded football team. He's a middle linebacker that understands the grunt part of the game, the briar patch if you will. He wanted to find someone with a similar vision."
I asked Raye about the personnel he'll inherit in San Francisco. He said he was still studying that group and that he would fly back to Santa Clara next week to immerse himself in film study in preparation for the scouting combine. He did say that he thinks the 49ers are somewhat similar to the Kansas City Chiefs squads he coached a decade ago. In fact, that seems to be the model both he and Singletary are using. "I'm hopeful of that. I don't know if I can compare a Vernon Davis to a Tony Gonzalez because I haven't seen (Davis) yet. I know he has a tremendous upside. Hopefully he is. We will try to see if that's a fit for him. Frank Gore seems like he has the capability to carry the ball 25 times (a game). Now (fullback) Tony Richardson - we don't have that player or that body right now in the building. But I think we'll find that guy."
Raye said his offense would marry the one Norv Turner, his boss in Oakland, ran in San Francisco in 2006 and the one he ran in Kansas City. "I think it would be a part of that," he said of Turner's system. "It would be a combination of that and what I did as a coordinator in Kansas City with Elvis Grbac and Tony Gonzalez and Tony Richardson and the players I had there." Both men are disciples of the Zampese digit-system, so Raye said he thought quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Alex Smith would be somewhat familiar with the language since they used it in 2006. "There should be some continuity. Norv and I come out of the same three-digit school."
I mentioned that the 49ers don't have a true fullback on the roster: "Might need a big, square-backed guy who can go in and bloody some noses," Raye said. (Tom Rathman probably likes that description).
I asked if he had ever talked to Turner about Alex Smith: "Yeah, I talked to him this morning. I've talked to him a lot about Alex. He was very high on him. He qualified that with 'As long you do the things that (Smith) can do.' Now what those things are is something I have to find out."
I asked Raye whether he has ever worked with quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson. He said he has not, although he's talked to him at combines, Senior Bowls, etc. Again, the connection is Turner. Johnson and Turner worked on the same Chargers staff in 2001.
Here's a quick look at those K.C. teams from a decade ago. These, by the way, are the best offenses that Raye has led over his career:
1998: 19th overall (16th passing, 23rd rushing)
1999: 12th overall (22nd passing, 4th rushing)
2000: 8th overall (5th passing, 25th rushing)
In other news, the 49ers announced they have signed WR Maurice Price to a future contract. Price (6-1, 200) was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007 by the Chiefs out of Charleston Southern. he had a spot on the Chiefs' 53-man roster entering the 2008 season and was inactive in the season-opener at New England (9-7). Price was then released by the Chiefs (9-11) and signed to the team's practice squad, where he remained for two games before being signed to the active roster of the New England Patriots (9-24). He was inactive at San Francisco (10-5) before being released by the Patriots (10-11) and signed to their practice squad (10-15). He spent the rest of the 2008 season on the practice squad of the Patriots.
-- Matt Barrows