FanPost

Why our offense is what it is (part 1): Greg Roman

I started writing this in the fall when our offense was plodding along. I never finished it, but hey, we got time to kill before the draft, so here it goes. I'd like this to be the start of a series that talks about our offense. I don't have to be the only author. If you have some research, feel free to throw out part 2 or part "n." Collectively, I hope that we can get a handle on the team we love and prepare ourselves for 2014. I only have a couple of ideas, so if it is just me it will be a short series, but that is ok too.

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You want to understand why our offense is the way it is, it helps to look at the guy calling the plays.

Greg Roman spent the bulk of his early coaching carrier under Dom Capers. He was the offensive line coach at Carolina for Dom from 1995-1998 and then for George Seifert (Carolina) from 1999-2001. In 2002, he rejoined Dom Capers in Houston as the QB/TE coach.

Yes, Greg Roman was the QB coach for David Carr. I'm just going to let that sink in.

After 4 years in Houston, Greg went back to being an OL coach for Brian Billick in Baltimore (06-07). He was out of professional football in 2008 and then joined Jim Harbaugh in his second year at Stanford (09-10). The rest is history.

I believe Greg Roman is really smart. The way he handles himself and the way he is portrayed supports this. I also think he has been hamstrung but his past, and I am hoping this is the year that he outgrows his own shadow and our offense takes off. Anyway, fingers crossed.

Let's look at some of the influences of Greg's professional career:

Yr Team Head Coach OC DC QB WR RB Pos W L P Att R Att % Rush
1995 Carolina Dom Capers Joe Pendry Vic Fangio Kerry Collins Mark Carrier Derrick Moore OL Coach 7 9 537 454 46%
1996 Carolina Dom Capers Joe Pendry Vic Fangio Kerry Collins Mark Carrier Anthony Johnson OL Coach 12 4 487 502 51%
1997 Carolina Dom Capers Joe Pendry Vic Fangio Kerry Collins Rae Carruth Fred Lane OL Coach 7 9 534 441 45%
1998 Carolina Dom Capers Gil Haskell Vic Fangio Steve Beuerlein Rocket Ismail Fred Lane OL Coach 4 12 507 405 44%
1999 Carolina George Seifert Gil Haskell Steve Beuerlein Muhsin Muhammad Tim Biakabutuka OL Coach 8 8 575 356 38%
2000 Carolina George Seifert Bill Musgrave Steve Beuerlein Muhsin Muhammad Tim Biakabutuka OL Coach 7 9 566 363 39%
2001 Carolina George Seifert Richard Williamson Chris Weinke Donald Hayes Richard Huntley OL Coach 1 15 579 354 38%
2002 Houston Dom Capers Chris Palmer Vic Fangio David Carr Corey Bradford Jonathan Wells QB/TE Coach 4 12 447 424 49%
2003 Houston Dom Capers Chris Palmer Vic Fangio David Carr Andre Johnson Domanick Williams QB/TE Coach 5 11 439 421 49%
2004 Houston Dom Capers Chris Palmer Vic Fangio David Carr Andre Johnson Domanick Williams QB/TE Coach 7 9 471 481 51%
2005 Houston Dom Capers Chris Palmer Vic Fangio David Carr Andre Johnson Domanick Williams QB/TE Coach 2 14 449 437 49%
2006 Baltimore Brian Billick Jim Fassel Steve McNair Mark Clayton Jamal Lewis OL Coach 13 3 524 476 48%
2007 Baltimore Brian Billick Kyle Boller Derrick Mason Willis McGahee OL Coach 5 11 557 446 44%
2008
2009 Stanford Jim Harbaugh Vic Fangio Andrew Luck Ryan Whalen Toby Gerhart OC 8 5 312 527 63%
2010 Stanford Jim Harbaugh Vic Fangio Andrew Luck Ryan Whalen Stepfan Taylor OC 12 1 279 524 65%
2011 49ers Jim Harbaugh Vic Fangio Alex Smith Michael Crabtree Frank Gore OC 13 3 451 498 52%
2012 49ers Jim Harbaugh Vic Fangio Alex/Colin Michael Crabtree Frank Gore OC 11 4 436 492 53%
2013 49ers Jim Harbaugh Vic Fangio Colin Kaepernick Anquan Boldin Frank Gore OC 12 4 417 505 55%

What do you see when you review Roman's resume, other than the crazy affiliation with Vic Fangio?

I see a coach that understands run blocking. A coach that saw his best years when his team ran the ball over 50% of the time. He was a part of the George Seifert era in Carolina, where they tried to air it out to no avail. He was part of a 12 win Carolina team that ran the ball over 50% of the time. He was part of a 13 win Baltimore team that subsequently dropped to 5 wins the following season when they went more "west coast" (assumes Billick is a west coast guy). Heck, even at Stanford, with the great Andrew Luck, Roman coordinated a run heavy offense.

In all of Greg's career, running the ball equals success. He didn't need a top flight running back to do it. He's worked with serviceable but not great QB's (including our HC). He knows what a great receiver looks like, but he's never been dependent on them.

Who has Greg learned offense from? To be honest, I don't recognize many of those names. I know Musgrave was at the niners at one point. Jim Fassel coached at Baltimore after the Giants let him go. FYI, Baltimore has no OC for 2007 because Brian Billick managed it. Honestly, other than being a run first guy, Jim Harbaugh might be the biggest offensive influence on Greg.

Many people have said that this is really Jim Harbaugh's offense. I believe there is a lot of truth to that. Jim had a well documented 14 year NFL career. He made it to the conference championship in 1995, but he never had a 4000 yard season. In fact, Jim only had two 10 win seasons in his 14 years. Greg is working under Jim's guidance, but I don't think he is being hamstrung by it. These are two peas in a pod. They are doing what they know, and to their credit, they are having team success.

I'm sharing this because three things struck out to me when I reviewed Greg's resume.

1) Greg's best years have been on run first teams (see above).
2) Greg has not coached under a dynamic, fast break type offense.
3) This is really Greg's first stint as an NFL offensive coordinator.

Greg has seen success when team's run the ball. What he has not done, is led a dynamic multi-faceted offense like a west coast offense. In fact, as I look over his resume, I am not sure what offenses these teams have run. Dom Capers and our own George Seifert were defensive head coaches. I don't know if any of these offenses were ever "explosive."

It does not mean the Greg is not capable of running a west coast offense, or even an offense with screens, but it does show why he might have the preferences that he does. Many on the site mention how Greg does not know how to utilize LMJ. When previously in the last 15 years has Greg been able to work with a player like LMJ?

Jim Harbaugh is a conservative coach, who only cares about winning. Style points don't matter to him (except for Stanford vs USC). In this regard, Harbaugh and Roman were a match made in heaven. They both want to play smash mouth football, and winning by 1 point is as good as winning by 14.

This explains, at least a little, why Greg Roman is who he is, but what about the future? Have you read the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell? Anyway, in the book Malcom references the 10,000 hour rule. I'm sure I am butchering it, but basically, in many many endeavors, it takes humans about 10,000 hours to become experts at what they do. Whether you are learning the violin, playing football, or being an offensive coordinator, about 10,000 hours. I personally experienced this in my profession, and it equates to about 5 years.

Guess what? Greg has now been and offensive coordinator for 5 years (2 at Stanford, 3 at SF). I fully expect good things from our offense this year. Heck, Greg probably crossed this threshold last year given how many hours coaches put in.

I think in 2011 teams did not know what to expect from the 49ers. New coaches and a shortened pre-season. In 2012, half way through the season we switched from Alex to Kap and again kept opponents guessing. In 2013, after the summer of Kap, teams were prepared for us, and I think it showed. It took us a few games to find our identity, and then we had to live through some of Kap's growing pains.

At the end of the season, I saw a focused coach and a game plan that the players could execute. The number of 3 and outs was down and we had consistent sustained scoring drives. Red zone still needs work, but the overall results showed up in our end of season and playoff win streak.

I am expecting big things for 2014. Do I expect to see screen passes and west coast check downs? No, but wins are wins I think the predictable play calls are behind us.

This is not a "fire Greg Roman" article. This is a "expect better results but don't expect radical change" article.

Also, what in the resume I laid out above screams "head coach material?" I understand the marketing around Greg being a head coach candidate, but right now his best career success is the last 3 years with the niners. For that to be a stepping stone to a head coach gig, he has to finish what he started. His best years of success can't be where he was a key reason his team DID NOT win the championship. Greg may very well get a head coaching job, and soon, but I am not surprised he is still waiting.

OK nation, what do you think? I know there is nothing new here, but what other Greg Roman nuggets that I missed? Disagree with anything I posted? Ideas on what "part 2" should be? Fire away.

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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