SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Mike Johnson has never been an offensive coordinator in the NFL, but his coaching career took a sharp turn late Sunday night when San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary called and told him that he was the team's new offensive coordinator.
So who is Mike Johnson?
"He's a cool dude," running back Frank Gore said Monday. "He knows football."
At 43, Johnson is 21 years younger than the man he replaces, Jimmy Raye, who had more than 30 years' experience as an NFL coach but was fired by Singletary after the 49ers' 31-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Before he was hired to be the team's quarterbacks coach last season, Johnson spent 2008 studying how the college spread offense – the same offense under which Alex Smith thrived at Utah -- could work in the NFL. He has been in the league 11 years and worked as either a quarterbacks coach or receivers coach for the San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and 49ers. He also served three years as an assistant at Oregon State.
"I think we'll work hand in hand, but it's his offense," Singletary said. "And when I say his offense, I know Mike will do a great job of involving every coach on the offensive staff. I know he'll do a great job making sure everyone has input and it's a collaborative effort. I know he'll work his tail off to make this the best offense it can possibly be."
The 49ers did not make Johnson available to the media, saying he was preparing a game plan for Sunday against the 2-1 Falcons in Atlanta.
But players seem to think a change will benefit the offense if Johnson can incorporate more players in the offense.
"I think it would be a good deal if we could get everybody involved," said tight end Vernon Davis. "That's the dream for me, getting everybody involved, every playmaker that we have. That would be a key. If you look at other teams, they're taking advantage of their talent. I think that's one thing we need to do here."
Backup quarterback David Carr said it's unlikely Johnson will revamp the offensive scheme three games into the season, but he said fans can expect to see a change in styles between Johnson and his predecessor.
"I think you'll definitely see his style come out next weekend," Carr said. "Just in the conversations we've had so far and the time I've spent with him, I think he understands the personnel we have here. He's big on matchups and how we can attack people with the weapons that we have, so we'll see how creative he gets with it."
Considering the team's start, a change is welcome.
"I strongly believe it will be a good move," Davis said. "Coach Johnson is a talented young man. He's young and he's hungry."