Alex Smith and the Shotgun Spread

As we've been discussing Smith and his success (or lack thereof) in the 49ers offense, many, myself included, have advocated moving toward a more open "spread" attack, utilizing plays mostly out of the shotgun.  I've been advocating this because it has certainly seemed like Smith was more comfortable in this formation, and the 9ers offense as a whole is more successful.

During this conversation, some people have been wondering what the "spread", "shotgun", "desperation" or whatever you want to call it offense actually entails.  To me, it means running plays primarily (>50%, more like 60-75%) from the shotgun, with either 3+WR,  2 WR 2 TE, or 2WR 1TE 2RB (that's 2 RB,  not 1 RB, 1 FB).  The latter formations allow for players to begin on the line and shift  out to WR spots, or vice versa.  What it DOES NOT mean is throwing on every down, completely abandoning the run.

I wanted to take a look at the Niners' O since Smith has been starting, and see how successful they've been when they're in the "spread", so I looked at every drive, and compiled all of the drives where >50% of the snaps  were taken from the shotgun.  I did this becasue I wanted to differentiate between when the offensive philosophy was to execute from the spread, as opposed to being forced to use more WR / the shotgun because of down and distance on isolated occasions.  As a result, several of these drives include plays made from under center, and with non-spread personnel, but the overall drive conformed to the philosophy.  The results may surprise you:

The Niners have had 14 such drives since Smith became the starter, surprisingly enough, only 2 in Houston. Here's how they went:

Green Bay

plays yards result

3  5 punt

9 50 turnover on downs

7 68 TD

3 2 punt

3 24 TD

7 83 TD

3 TD in  6 drives, 2 3 and outs, one of which had only 2 shotgun plays on 2nd and 15 and 3rd and 9.



plays yards result

11 48 punt

On this drive, we ran 9 times.  6 times from the shotgun for 35 yards, with 3 successful runs (>33% required yardage on 1st down, >50% required yardage on 2nd down, >100% required yardage on 3rd or 4th down), and 3 times from under center for 2 yards with 0 successful runs.



plays yards result

9 82 TD

6 13 punt

1 0 int

11 78 TD

The last 2 drives are somewhat confusing, because the int happened on the only play of the drive, you can't really tell if they were truly going for a spread look or just an isolated play from the shotgun.  I included it anyways because it met the criteria.  The TD could be called a "garbage" TD, though technically they did have the opportunity to recover the onside kick to take posession to try to tie.  However, this is the game some detractors point to and say "this is what happens when we try the spread".   As it turns out, we didn't really try the spread very much in this game.



plays yards result

7 89 TD

This was the 2 minute drive at the end of the first half of the game.  As an aside, the number of plays marked (run formation) in this game was absolutely sickening.  It's as if Sing and Raye have never seen our O Line.



plays yards result

7 73 TD

5 32 int

IMO if you're going to say that the TD at the end of the TEN game was a "garbage" TD and throw it out, you have to do the same for the int at the end of this game.  I was surprised to find that there were only 2 drives that met my "spread" criteria in this game, I could have sworn it was more like the GB game.


Total - 14 drives, 7 TD, 4 punts, 2 ints, 1 turnover on downs.


All in all, I'd say we've been pretty successful, and this has completely reinforced my position that we should fully adopt the spread attack  until a team shows they can stop it on a consistent basis.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

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