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Some 49ers fans are doing the unthinkable this week - they're rooting for the Raiders. Should Oakland topple the Chargers, the thinking goes, it would further erode the ground beneath San Diego coach Norv Turner. Turner would be fired, the 49ers would pounce, restore him as offensive coordinator and suddenly San Francisco would be where it was at the tail end of 2006 - with momentum and an OC whose philosophy matches the 49ers' personnel.

How realistic is this? There are many, many variables, the two biggest being. 1.) Will Turner keep his job? and 2.) Who will be the head coach in San Francisco? As far as No. 1 is concerned, Turner received the dreaded "vote of confidence" a few weeks ago, which in NFL circles is tantamount to a pink slip. (See: Davis, Billy; Hostler, Jim). The Chargers are dramatically underachieving, they're having trouble selling out their stadium and it seems that only a miracle finish will save Turner. The Chargers play the Raiders, Chiefs and Bucs before ending the season against the Broncos, who are leading the weak AFC West with a 7-5 record.

As far as no. 2, Mike Singletary is one win away from making a good case, two wins away from making a very good case and three away from sealing the deal. The players, the media and the fan base all seem to love him. Singletary's biggest weakness, however, happens to be the 49ers' biggest bugaboo over the past few years - offense. It's not his area of expertise and he needs a strong OC to run the shown. One thing that owners most should/must/need to hear from Singletary is a long-term plan as far as who that OC might be.

If Singletary gets the job in 2009, and if he were to retain Mike Martz as OC, the 49ers would have something they haven't had since the 2002 offseason - continuity on offense. There are a number of arguments in Martz's favor, including the fact that he's breathed real life into a moribund passing attack and that no one whips a quarterback into shape faster than him. The biggest reason to keep Martz around, however, would be so that the 49ers hit the ground running early in 2009.

But while Martz called perhaps the most Singletary-esque game Sunday in Buffalo, it's still not clear whether the two are a good match. Singletary likes black-and-blue football; Martz doesn't even have a true fullback in his offense. Singletary's philosophy is "game-management;" Martz's is "high-risk/high reward." In all these ways, Turner appears to be a happier fit on a Singletary-led team, not to mention one that was assembled by GM Scot McCloughan to be a power-running team. (see chart below).

The 49ers also would get some of that coveted continuity with Turner. Most of the offensive players are familiar with his system, most notably Frank Gore, who had a record-breaking season under Turner, and quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Alex Smith. Hill definitely will be on the roster next year. The addition of Turner might also prompt Smith to return at a reduced price, something that McCloughan would favor. It all seems like a snug fit. If the Chargers continue to lose and the 49ers continue to win, it could happen
...

49ers offense ...................Turner 2006......................Martz 2008

total offense......................26th 303.8 ypg..................26th 304.4
3rd down...........................26th 34%...........................26th 35%
turnovers...........................24th -minus 5....................32nd -minus 13
penalties............................18th worse........................5th worse
QB rating............................74.4...................................81.8
passing offense.................29th 168...........................18th 205.8
passing TDs......................25th 16.............................12th (16 thru 12 games)
INTS...................................17th worse 16...................6th (t) worse (14 thru 12 games)
sacks.................................15th worse (35).................2nd (t) worse (43)
rushing offense..................6th 135.5..........................25tg 98.6
rushing tds.........................18th 12.............................23rd (8 thru 12 games)
Gore rushing avg...............5.4 yds.............................4.3 yds
Gore avg. no. carries..........19.5................................18.2
Gore avg. no receptions......3.8.................................3.25

-- Matt Barrows


MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

June 2009

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