49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman is not one to give away much in the way of scheme information. While this is not remotely surprising, he does still provide a few details here and there that help us get a broader understanding of the 49ers offense. We won't know much about the details, but having some semblance of understanding is better than knowing nothing at all.
Over the last month, as the 49ers rolled out more pistol and read option wrinkles, people were quick to describe the 49ers offense as the pistol offense, or the read-option offense. In reality, as we know, those are simply formations and plays used as part of a broader, creative concept.
The 49ers have shown they can mix and match their offense to suit needs. They cut back on read option and pistol in the closing weeks of the regular season, only to blow it out against the Packers. They cut down on the read option against Atlanta, providing a lot more of Frank Gore and LaMichael James in a bit more traditional power attack. The 49ers offense is built around power and a variety of old school running plays, but they are able to keep other teams off balance by mixing in different things. In 2011, we saw the introduction of the fly sweep. This year we saw a lot of pistol and read option late in the season. None of these plays or formations defines the offense.
I pulled a few Greg Roman quotations from Super Bowl week, as the 49ers OC attempted to discuss the offense in broad strokes:
(on the pistol offense) "It depends how defenses want to play it. It can force a defense to play certain ways that they might not play. If that is the case, so be it. I just think it is another way to get first downs. That is what we are trying to do. Colin (Kaepernick) obviously has some background in it and he is a unique and rare athlete. Anytime you have a rare athlete you are going to want to have that athlete impact the game any way that you can. The difference between us and Carolina, for example, is we are only going to do it so much. It is an adjunct to what we normally do. It is not the crux of what we do.
(on how many concepts he's brought into the team's system in the last two years) "That's hard to quantify. I don't know. I think we try to be creative, try to keep people off balance, try to have fun. I think what we do stimulates our players. When they come in every week, there's always something new and they get really excited about what's next. So, it's a lot of fun. It's a great process. A lot of credit goes to the rest of the offensive staff. We've got a great staff. Mike Solari - who's been doing it forever - Tom Rathman, Geep Chryst, Johnnie Morton, Reggie Davis, Tim Drevno. A lot of guys who have seen a lot of things and we're definitely open to try something, anything, that will help us win."
(on how he sets his game plans for future games) "We're always trying to win the game we're playing, but we always try to have an eye for what the next team is going to be looking at, how they're going to perceive it, how they're going to interpret it and then any advantage we can get moving forward. It's definitely something that our players give us an opportunity to do because they enjoy week-to-week a new wrinkle or something different. We try to explain why to them and that's when they really get invested in it. You explain why we're doing something, it makes sense, and then they buy in. Eventually, they take ownership of it. Week-to-week, you've got to give credit to all the defensive coordinators and the defenses. Great defenses, when they see something, if they get hit with something, they can probably stop it, so we try to mix it up a little bit."
As the 49ers begin preparing for the 2013 season, how will they continue to adjust? Defenses will work to game-plan against the pistol and the read-option, but we know the 49ers coaching staff will look to stay one step ahead. We will continue seeing these plays and formations, but I have to think the 49ers will mix and match a few more wrinkles.
It is mostly guess-work at this point, but is there anything you think the 49ers will do, or what they should consider doing to keep opposing defenses on their toes?