Monday, September 15, 2008

After further review ...

Monday morning quarterback meets stream of consciousness:

*If Woody Hayes was your football hero and you loved watching Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma Sooners destroy teams on the ground, then you’ve got to love the run-run-run and run some more Raiders. They rushed for 300 yards in a 23-8 victory over Kansas City with rookie Darren McFadden gaining 164 yards on 21 carries.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, running will only carry you so far in the NFL. This just in: The NFL is a passing league. And the Raiders aren’t going anywhere unless quarterback JaMarcus Russell joins the party. He completed just 6 of 17 passes for 55 yards Sunday. That was against a young Chiefs defense that often had a pair of rookie cornerbacks on the field.

*The more I watch 49ers quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan, the more I like him. He was borderline brilliant in the 49ers’ 33-30 overtime victory against Seattle, throwing for 321 yards and a touchdown. It’s not just that he passed for 321 yards and became the first 49er to break the 300-yard barrier since Tim Rattay in October 2004. It’s also the way he handled the pressure – of the moment and from Seattle’s pass rush.

O’Sullivan produced some huge plays down the fourth-quarter stretch and in overtime. His 33-yard pass to Isaac Bruce in overtime was a gem. Bruce, lined up right, adjusted his route from a post to a streak and got a step behind cornerback Josh Wilson. O’Sullivan adjusted right along with Bruce. He threw a pass that hit Bruce in stride, giving the 49ers a first down at Seattle’s 44. From there, O’Sullivan marched the 49ers into range for Joe Nedney’s game-winner.

*Offensive coordinator Mike Martz had better find a way to keep O’Sullivan from taking so many sacks or this Cinderella story will have a painful ending. O’Sullivan was sacked eight times Sunday. That can’t continue.

*If – or I guess I should say when -- Al Davis fires Lane Kiffin, he’ll undoubtedly go back to what’s worked best in the past and hire a new coach from within. That’s the only viable option after an in-season whacking. It’s actually the Raiders’ best option at any time of the year.

It’s often too great of a culture shock for outsiders to become part of Al’s world. New coaches from the outside may think they know what they’re getting into, but they never truly do. If they rebel, Al tries to crush them (see Kiffin and Mike Shanahan). If they don’t, then their players view them as powerless puppets. Jon Gruden, an outsider coach, seemed to make it work for a while before he couldn’t take it anymore and forced Davis to “trade” him to Tampa Bay.

*So who are the in-house candidates to replace Kiffin if he gets axed? Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is an obvious possibility, especially after the way he defended Davis in an 18-minute, expletive-filled press conference last week. But Davis almost always hires his head coaches from the offensive side of the ball.

Wide receivers coach James Lofton, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and running backs coach Tom Rathman are the most viable candidates on offense, although I wouldn’t rule out anybody. There could be a quality control coach that Davis has his eye on.

So of those three, which would it be? Only Al knows. Davis interviewed Lofton twice in the past for the job and rejected him both times. That’s a red flag. Knapp would be the most traditional pick, an offensive coordinator being elevated to the top job. Too conventional for Davis.

That leaves Rathman. At 45, he’s still relatively young. Check. He played for the Raiders at the end of his career after eight seasons with the 49ers. Check. His players love him. Check He’d be an out-of-the-box choice, something Davis loves to make. Check

In my book, Rathman would also be the right choice.

*Entering the season, most of the 49ers’ concerns centered on their offense, particularly the quarterback spot. Not now. It’s the defense that’s having the most problems. In a Week 1 loss to Arizona, the 49ers’ defense couldn’t get the Cardinals off the field in the second half.

Then on Sunday in a victory over Seattle, the 49ers gave up 30 points to an offense that was missing its top five receivers. The 49ers had just one sack and rarely pressured Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Seattle rolled up 351 net yards on offense. Imagine what the Seahawks would have done if wide receivers Deion Branch, Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson had been in the lineup.

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