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Beating a Dead Horse: The Hiring of Jimmy Raye and the Kübler-Ross Model

I don't know how many of you read my features over at SB Nation Bay Area in regards to Mike Singletary's tenure in San Francisco (which I never did finish, would upon request), but suffice to say that I cannot get over it. Everything about his hiring, our delusions and the way things went down in regards to him actually being hired do not make sense on any level whatsoever, and do not fit in line with how any successful team in any sport has ever done things. While thinking about this earlier yesterday, it got me thinking to just how delusional we were as a fanbase.

Eventually, I found that we could apply several different known variations of famous psychological formulae to events before, during and directly after Singletary's time in the Bay Area. Obviously, most of these are famous for a reason: they just make sense, and they obviously apply to many, if not all, situations they claim to. So, while I'm pointing out something fairly obvious with this (and perhaps future) post(s), I still find it relevant and actually fairly entertaining.

Literally everything was wrong with the quick promotion of Mike Singletary, a man I did and still do admire, and like I've said in the past, it was not a strong showing from Jed York. I described it as his first major league game, and he went ahead and screwed it up. It was probably golden sombrero-worthy ... we can't all be Brandon Crawford. That being said, I have high hopes for Jed in the future, and believe the Jim Harbaugh hiring to be a good one ... one that excites me, even. Am I deluding myself like I did when Singletary was hired? I hope not.

For now, we're going to explore the hiring of Jimmy Raye as the team's offensive coordinator, and more specifically, how it can be applied to the Kübler-Ross Model, which is more famously known as The Five Stages of Grief.

First, we'll get to some backstory on both the hiring and the Kübler-Ross model as well. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross interviewed over 500 dying patients and a large portion of people who have experienced, at the time recently, a catestrophic loss and detailed a process of five stages in which people cope with impending death and or a significant loss. She published a book on her findings and ultimately did a lot of good in regards to treatment of mental health in regards to patients dealing with terminal illnesses and things of that nature. She was adamant that they are not in chronological order and are not categorical in their application, but most agree that the most popular grouping is as close to chronological as it gets, as it applies to the majority of the population, and nobody can deny what this was able to do for mental health.

The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Adult Swim's Robot Chicken illustrated these stages in a great way, so for further education on the subject, watch this video.

As far as the hiring of Jimmy Raye is concerned, folks will remember that Singletary fired Mike Martz, one of the more brilliant offensive tacticians in league history, to start his tenure. Then, they offered the job to Scott Linehan after multiple interviews, and he turned them down, choosing instead to take his talents to Detroit and join the Lions in the same capacity. Hue Jackson came up as a candidate, and most figured that he was the guy, to the point where Niners Nation didn't even initially cover the fact that Jimmy Raye was interviewed. But Raye was, and was hired immediately. So we've got Linehan flat-out lying to our faces, passing up on the promising Hue Jackson and hiring Jimmy Raye. For a more in-depth breakdown of the coaching search, I touched up on it in the second part of my We Want Winners, But We Settled For Less posts. So there's your background, now how about we get to the stages and how they pertain to the 49ers? Actually, there were two different points where we went through the stages of grief: during the beginning of the hiring, actually during his time as 49ers' offensive coordinator.

1. Denial

Jimmy Raye was hired immediately following an interview, and the general consensus was "wait, what? No, surely this wasn't happening. We were just teased with Scott Linehan and then Hue Jackson, an up-and-comer? There's no way that Jimmy Raye is the guy that was hired. I'll wait for more official confirmation. He has to be being brought in as a consultant of some kind, the guy is like a hundred years old.

That was the line of thought for the 49ers fanbase. It just didn't make sense, that those candidates were floated first, of course along with some other names that weren't so appealing, but ... really? I still can't believe it happened, but eventually, the fanbase moved on.

Of course, there was more denial. When Raye was retained for a second year, people denied it up and down. They assured themselves that a more worthy candidate would be available, and eventually, the 49ers would be smart enough to make that change. Well, they were partly right, as there was certainly people available, but the 49ers did not at all make a change.

2. Anger

Next, we all lashed out in anger. This guy named Mike Singletary is an idiot with a stupid mindset! You can't recreate the Chicago Bears team of the 1980s, not with this team at least. Running the ball constantly just doesn't work in this day and age, what are they thinking? Posters lashed out and called this one of the dumbest moves in franchise history, other people were just mad because there was nobody else out there.

More anger ensued when Raye returned to the team, people citing the horrible numbers offensively for the 49ers the year before. They were totally ineffective in almost every area, why was he brought back? Pretty sure more than a few people were warned on NN when that happened, or more accurately, pretty sure we turned off site decorum for the thread talking about it.

3. Bargaining

There admittedly wasn't a ton of bargaining, but there was a lot of people deluding themselves, which, in my mind, constitutes bargaining. Well ... if ... maybe if they bring in some good free agents. Maybe if they get a quarterback, or perhaps Alex Smith actually works out in some way. Jimmy might bring in some kind of good offensive staff, and surely the 49ers days of mediocrity are over, right? We'll all be good people from here on out if some mythical force helps them along this year.

4. Depression

It was pretty easy to see the depression around here, folks saw the kind of numbers that Jimmy Raye's offenses were responsible for throughout his long career, and they weren't pretty. Offense was the side of the ball that needed re-working, and here was a guy not known for innovation or even solid play throughout. Frank Gore was never the problem, they didn't need to bring in a guy to call plays to get Gore the ball more. They didn't need someone to come in and orchestrate a run to the left side 35 times a game. Fans regressed into a feeling of general depression, believing themselves to be in for yet another terrible year.

Of course, that's what they got ... and then when Raye was kept on for another season, it was even more depression. There's really no other way to describe it. Personally, it upset me a lot.

5. Acceptance

Now this ... this was something to see. Almost all of us, as a fanbase, sat back and accepted it. After all, Raye had his positives ... he's obviously a smart guy, colorful when he talks and of course, he has so much experience. We accepted him because we had a blind trust in Mike Singletary, for some reason. Perhaps Vernon Davis would find his way, at least tight ends have done good in his offenses, right? Maybe a simplified playbook would help whoever is the starting quarterback. We accepted it.

And eventually, we accepted him for year two as well. The prevailing line of thought was along the lines of Davis having a great year prior and, more so, Alex Smith having the same offensive coordinator throughout an offseason. That obviously was supposed to be key. We accepted him for that. 

The five stages of grief generally ends with somebody dying, after they have accepted it. We had to sit and watch the offense slowly die piece by piece with Raye at the helm, and eventually, we pulled the plug.