Game Ball Of The Week: Mike Johnson, come on down

This post is sponsored by Sprint.

In our continued efforts to keep the lights on here at SB Nation, we're going to be presenting a Game Ball Of The Week to somebody with the 49ers. The post will happen every other week and will feature a player, coach, front office executive or anybody else associated with the team.

Seeing as the 49ers laid a big fat egg this past Sunday, it's hard to say a player deserves a game ball. If any player was going to get this award it would be either Joe Nedney for his 51 yard field goal or Nate Clements for his sometimes solid work in run support.

Instead I thought I'd cap off the last few days excitement by presenting the Game Ball Of The Week to new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson. There has been plenty of uproar over Jimmy Raye dating back to last season and plenty of folks are certainly pleased that a change was finally made. What will come of that change remains to be seen. After all, the 49ers are going into a game against a very solid defense with a brand new offensive coordinator who has never had this full time position before.

I thought we could use this post as a cumulative look at Coach Johnson's experience to date and try to extrapolate out what that means for the 49ers offense.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Johnson's Experience
2009-10: QB Coach, San Francisco 49ers

2008: Out of football (apparently researching spread formations at college programs)

2006-07: WR Coach, Baltimore Ravens

2003-05: QB Coach, Atlanta Falcons

2002: WR Coach, Atlanta Falcons

2000-01: QB Coach, San Diego Chargers

1999: QB Coach, Oregon State

1997-98: WR Coach, Oregon State

This was mentioned in one of the many comments regarding Mike Johnson this week but I thought I'd pull it out for further discussion. Back in 2003, Falcons interim head coach Wade Phillips had Mike Johnson call the Falcons offensive plays for the last two games of the season. While it's obviously too small a sample size to really extrapolate much, we don't have a whole lot else to go on so we might as well start with this.

The Falcons went 5-11 that year and two of those wins came in the two games with Johnson calling the plays. The Falcons beat a fairly weak Bucs team 30-28 and a bad Jaguars team 21-14. One of the stats people are rolling out is that QB Michael Vick put together two of his better QB ratings in those games (119.2 in the former, 93.0 in the latter). While that is certainly accurate, Vick didn't exactly have a monster passing performance in either game. More importantly, the offense didn't exactly blow up in either game. The Falcons finished with 267 yards of total offense in the win over the Bucs and 344 yards of offense against the Jaguars.

What could actually be interesting to watch is how Mike Johnson utilizes the mobility of Alex Smith. Under Jimmy Raye we generally only seemed to see Smith's scrambling skills when the team was trailing. There was one nicely designed run this past week but it was called back on a penalty. One of the 49ers beat writers (I can't remember which) mentioned the idea that the 49ers would use more designed roll outs with Smith. It makes this weekend's game against the Falcons all the more interesting.

We've also read plenty about how he spent time during his brief hiatus in 2008 researching spread offenses. Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree both have extensive histories with the spread offense. Does this mean we'll see a more spread oriented offense? Or will we simply see baby steps that involves utilizing some spread options while maintaining a balanced offensive attack?

I'm also equally curious as to how Coach Johnson will utilize the running backs and also the fullbacks in this offense. Will we see more of Nate Byham in the h-back role? There are so many questions that none of us can answer at this point. I have to say, once again I head into a game quite excited. The 49ers may leave me hanging but I remain hopeful for yet another week.

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