49ers are looking for better communication

After a horrendous season-opening loss to Seattle, the 49ers identify one obvious problem: They're not getting plays called in to QB Alex Smith on time. The solution may be to cut out the middle man.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – What the San Francisco 49ers have right now is a failure to communicate – or at least communicate quickly.

That's why coach Mike Singletary said it's a "possibility" that offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye will move from the press box to the field and relay plays directly to quarterback Alex Smith when the team plays the New Orleans Saints next Monday night.

"That's a real possibility. Jimmy could be on the field with a headset," Singletary said Monday.

He admitted there were problems getting the plays called on time, although he would not specify what the problems were. But they need fixing.

"We will take a hard look at it, and we will have an answer for it," he said. "We will figure it out in the next few days exactly how we're 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."

Singletary and Smith were clearly at odds Sunday night in describing the communication problems during a 31-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Singletary said there was a problem with the headset that's used to send in plays to the quarterback; Smith said the plays weren't coming in quickly enough.

Headset communication between the coach and quarterback starts with the 40-second clock and is cut off with 15 seconds remaining. On the 49ers, Raye sends in the play to quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson, who is on the field and conveys the call to Smith's helmet via radio.

By cutting out the middle man, it's presumed Raye would be able to get the play called faster. On Sunday, the Niners burned all three of their timouts by early in the second half, and Smith had to take a delay-of-game penalty on fourth down at the Seattle 1-yard line. Rather than try for a touchdown, the 49ers kicked a field goal.

"It's a management problem," Smith said Monday. "It's something that has to get fixed, no question. But I don't think it's that crazy a thing to fix."

Bringing Raye on the field to call plays, Smith said, is "something to look at. I don't know if that's the answer, but I certainly think it's something to look at. It's right to look at the different scenarios of what you do."

Singletary conceded that plays did not arrive quickly at times, although he said he was initially told by Johnson that there were problems with the headset.

"It was a misunderstanding on my behalf," he said. "If there's a problem with the headset, OK, there's a problem with the headset. If it's one time or 20 times, that's what I thought. So if I said it more than once, I was wrong."

Smith was among several players who were called out by Singletary in the locker room after the game. When the team returned to its practice facility after the flight home, Singletary called a team meeting because he said there were several players who felt he had been too harsh.

"I felt that after the game, some of the comments I made were very hard comments, very honest comments," Singletary said. "I wanted to make sure everybody was on the same page and didn't leave here having conversations in the parking lot and having conversations in the bathroom, and not fully understanding what I was saying."

Smith did not say if he was subject to criticism, but he admitted there was plenty of blame to go around.

"He was critical of everyone, but yeah, I certainly had a hand in it," he said. "As a quarterback on offense, we only scored six points. There's a lot of things to get better at. As the quarterback, you're touching the ball on every play."

There was certainly room to point fingers. The 49ers were 1 of 15 on third downs and suffered their worst season-opening loss since a 41-3 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999.

"If your feelings got hurt, you don't belong here," tight end Delanie Walker said. "We've got a lot more games to play. A lot of teams lose their first game and still go to the Super Bowl. We're still on that journey."

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