Niners' new offensive coordinator in no rush to pick starting QB

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jimmy Raye isn't worried about choosing the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback right now. He's more interested in making sure that quarterback has an offense to run.

Raye, the 49ers' seventh offensive coordinator in the last seven years, is on the field with the team's rookies, free agents and selected veterans at minicamp this weekend, already deep in the installation of yet another offensive scheme for a franchise that hasn't had consistency in that area since its last playoff appearance in 2002.

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San Francisco coach Mike Singletary says he wants an offense based around the running game, but Raye realizes it's not that simple. Particularly after selecting wide receiver Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall pick in last weekend's draft, the 49ers should have the personnel for a balanced offense -- and Raye wants to keep every option open.

"I don't see it as run-oriented or pass-oriented," Raye said Saturday in his first public comments after assuming one of the NFL's hottest seats. "What we are doing is installing both run and pass equally. Ideally, when we get to the point where we are playing football, we would like to determine what our best facet is."

In his 33rd season as an NFL coach, Raye knows there's no point in rushing to a decision on any aspect of the 49ers' offense. He was hired by Singletary after Scott Linehan turned down the chance to replace Mike Martz, with many observers believing Raye was a desperation choice to run an offense for the sixth time in his coaching career.

But Raye, the first black quarterback to play in the Rose Bowl in 1966, has been at his job longer than almost everybody on the 49ers' roster has been alive. He's preaching patience and study, confident the team will get it together in the coming months.

"There's no reason for us at this time to back ourselves into a corner or paint a picture that we are this or that," said Raye, the New York Jets' running backs coach last season. "We are basically going to what we do to give ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter.

"What we would like to do is have an offense with enough versatility to take care of the contingencies of the defense, give the playmakers that we have an opportunity to make plays and do what is necessary to give us a chance to score points and move the football."

Shaun Hill, Alex Smith and rookie Nate Davis all took snaps during drills Saturday at the 49ers' training complex. Hill and Smith again are in competition for the starting quarterback job, with both veterans showing up at a minicamp designed primarily for youngsters just to make an early impression on Raye and quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson.

Raye doesn't believe the 49ers will choose a starter before the preseason begins in mid-August.

"I don't think it will go into September," Raye said. "I think we will have a little bit better idea, but I'd like to see them both play football. A lot of decisions are sometimes made in anticipation of how they will actually play football, but I'd like to see some of that, so the exhibition season will be part of that process."

Hill went 5-3 as San Francisco's starter during the second half of last season, running Martz's offense better than most expected. Raye's hybrid scheme could suit Hill's abilities better, and Raye already has been apprised of Hill's reputation as an unimpressive practice player who knows how to get things done in games.

"I really like the way he teaches," Hill said of Raye. "He's very thorough, and also, he's not so caught up in, 'We have to be able to do this."' If we are good at (something), that's what we're going to do. He's definitely going to call games to our strengths. Our offense is going to be to our strengths, to the personnel we have. He's going to make sure that we're darn good at it."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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