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Snakes on a Plane? No, Rats in the Huddle


Mike Singletary, during San Francisco's opener agains Seattle last week, when he had not yet smelled a rat.
Getty Images/Otto Greule Jr
Mike Singletary, during San Francisco's opener agains Seattle last week, when he had not yet smelled a rat.
Getty Images/Otto Greule Jr

The day after the Giants demolished their most hated rival to take sole possession of first place . . . we just can’t stop gawking at the spectacle that is the 49ers. They’re only one game into a high-hope season, and may yet be able to avoid the metaphorical iceberg toward which the S.S. Singletary seems so inexorably headed.

Then again, things can't get much more sour than they already have.

Yesterday, the crew at 4949 Centennial Blvd. in Santa Clara focused on a “rat” in the building, who's leaking sensitive information to the press.

Short of Bill Bellicheck, how frequently does a team wade into this level of espionage-based intrigue, let alone so early in the season? 

In question was a Yahoo report that claimed questionable competence from offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, asserting that his play-calling is less than precise. This was less of an issue last year, it said, when the coach who relayed the plays to the field, offensive assistant Jason Michael, could ably translate Raye's jumbled instruction. The guy who’s doing it now, however, quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson, seems to need formations the way they actually appear in the playbook.

This information came from an unnamed source. Note that unnamed sources rarely put a positive spin on anything.

The typical method for dealing with unattributed inflammatory statements in the professional sports arena is to attack the courage of whoever said them, and claim that any umpstanding American would step forward for attribution.

Singletary, in yesterday’s press conference: “One thing that I want to teach our guys is to be men. If there’s something that you have to say, go say it. And say that you said it. But don’t go say a bunch of stuff, but ‘don’t tell him I said it.’ To me, that’s a rat. That’s a coward and a rat.”

Except in the instance when it’s the only reasonable thing to do.

Take at face value that every member of the 49ers, coaches and players alike, want to win. Also assume that the sources featured in the Yahoo account are valid (something that Singletary is not yet willing to do).

Now picture what would happen if the unattributed statement—and there was only one quoted, which talks about Raye “fumbling through his papers” during the process of getting a play called—actually had a name attached to it.

“Locker-room pariah” is never a fun title to hold, and while the full extent of Singletary’s doghouse is widely unknown, it can’t be a pleasant place. Teammates start to steer clear, and in a sport where camaraderie is everything, there’s a very real chance that the guy will find himself on an island in the locker room.

Several players reportedly approached Singletary over the off-season to discuss the issue in question about Raye, to no discernible affect. At that point, it's reasonable to see going public as a last line of defense.

If this is the case, anonymity is the only option for someone whose resume isn’t sufficiently beefy to withstand the repercussions. Whistle blowers have taken down corporations and a U.S. president. (“Deep Throat,” however, would be an admittedly terrible NFL nickname.)

Remember when a member of the Giants’ pitching staff labeled catcher A.J. Pierzynski a “clubhouse cancer” in 2004? (Brett Tomko was later fingered as the source.) It was undoubtedly a factor in the team’s decision to release Pierzynski after the season.

When it comes to the 49ers, there’s no better way to draw attention to internal discombobulation than to tell as many people as possible to pay attention.

Singletary said that the rat, whoever he is, will eventually show himself. In the meantime, however, the coach has little choice but to implement changes. If things don’t improve against the Saints on Monday, there’ll be many more angry people about it than a single unnamed player.

Elsewhere around the bay:

That the Raiders game on Sunday will be blacked out is hardly unusual; this makes eight straight. That it’s their home opener—it’s the first time this has happened since 2004—is. (They’ve had 44 games televised during that time, reports the Chronicle, and 77 blackouts. Initial reaction: 44 seems a bit high . . .)

In the middle of Joe Posnanski’s outstanding piece on White Sox GM Kenny Williams comes this: “If the Oakland Raiders called tomorrow and asked me to run the team, I would go. I would do it.” Too bad his peers in the NFL generally disagree.

Stanford’s closing in on its 100th NCAA title.

On Oct. 1, the Giants will gather as many Willie Mac Award-winners as they can.

Aubrey Huff loves the Stones.

Mark Purdy: All Posey, all the time.

Swimsuit model Marissa Miller threw out the first pitch at AT&T Park on Wednesday.

Billy Beane’s not happy with the health of the A’s.

The Raiders are spending time thinking about their offensive and defensive lines. They’ve also gotten past their overconfidence issues. Overconfidence issues?

Stanford’s new defensive coordinator made his mark, quickly.

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