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Mike Johnson's Thursday Presser: First Answers Are Telling

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There was an interesting quote from Mike Johnson's presser today where he was asked about the difference between having Troy Smith or Alex Smith in the game as it pertains to shotgun formations and such.  I thought that the way Johnson chose to answer the question was very telling and also indicative of what we've seen ever since Jimmy Raye stepped foot in the building.

Johnson has diversified the offense to a slight degree with some more three-wide looks and a few toss sweeps there and there...but for the most part "run it up the gut" has been the overarching theme of the play calls.  When asked this question, see how he answered:

On whether the ability to come out of the shotgun formation with Alex has anything to do with him playing over Troy, who isn’t used to that formation:
"Well like I said, those two guys are different, and I don’t know how much of a difference that makes. I think we’ll do both. We’ll hand the ball off to Westbrook in the shotgun and hand it off to [RB] [Anthony] Dixon in the shotgun and we’ll do both from under center. So there will be both in this game plan, but I don’t know how much of a difference that makes."

Notice he talks about handing the ball off out of both shotgun and under center.  I just had to laugh to myself because his first thought was "well, let's does shotgun affect the run game?"

I've grown more and more critical of Johnson as part of my disdain for the entire coaching staff as this painful season wears on.  Still, I have to admit that we don't know how much Mike Singletary may be influencing the play-calling, even if only by saying things such as, "Let's protect the ball and eat some clock!" when we've only a six point lead, for instance.

Still I had to share this because it just seemed funny to me.  After the jump I post the transcript from Johnson's presser.


On whether the offense has utilized TE Vernon Davis:
"The one thing people have done this year is take away Vernon down the middle. After what he did last year, that’s the one thing. We’ve gotten down the middle a couple of times, but not as much as last year. He’s a guy that can do a lot of different things. He’s a guy that can run the flat, go down the middle and he can also protect. We’ve used him in all those different ways. We have probably not used all of his talents. I think some of the situations we’ve been in with the quarterback has dictated some of that. So, we’ve kind of made sure that we’ve done things to be smart in respects to that."

On the position it puts him in with the quarterback changes:
"My job is to try to put together a game plan that fits for no matter who plays quarterback. Whoever that guy is, I try to put together a game plan to give that individual the best chance, and our team the best chance, to win. So, that’s my job, to try to put together a game plan each week to put them in the best situation to help the team win."

On whether QB Troy Smith was holding the offense hostage:
"I wouldn’t say holding us hostage. He’s done a good job for the time that he’s been in there. Have we been limited in some areas? Yes, but I don’t think that hostage is the correct word to use because he’s done a good job with the time he’s been there. He’s 3-2 as the starter for this football team. I think he’s done a good enough job with the stuff that he’s been given."

On an example of how Troy’s been limited:
"Well, there are some areas that he will not be able to operate in as well in as Alex just because he’s not been here as long and doesn’t have the knowledge of the entire playbook. Like I said before, my job is to make sure I put him and the team in the best possible position to win and not put him in harm’s way. If there is an area where he may not be as good as other areas then I can’t put him in those situations. He’s done a good job with the time he’s been in there and he’s given us a good chance to win in most games."

On the run offense at Green Bay:
"Well, we did okay early. I thought we were doing a decent job, but the footing was a problem in some areas. But we only had 42 plays before the last three minutes and we didn’t take advantage of the time we got in the red zone. When you’re in a game when you have that small amount of plays, you have to execute when you’re in the red zone and get touchdowns. That’s what we didn’t do. We had opportunities, but we didn’t cash in and I think that was the biggest issue opposed to the running game not being effective. We had opportunities to get down inside the 10 yard line and we didn’t cash in."

On Coach Singletary being weary of how many times an inside run is called for RB Brian Westbrook because of his concussion history and whether that is constricting:
"I’m not calling the game to restrict Brian from certain runs because of his concussion history. A run that may look like an inside run to you has the ability to bounce, so not all of the runs he gets are runs down the middle. There are runs that are designed to draw a defense in and maybe bounce if the look says so. So, there is a mixture of inside, outside runs for both running backs. Depending on what they do determines which cut they make."

On QB Alex Smith recognizing he needs to take more downfield shots and how he goes about getting him to do that:
"What I do each week is try to design certain calls that have the ability to go down the field and if they take that away, you have things underneath to go to. Each quarterback is a little bit different. Some guys will take more of a risk than others. I think Alex has taken some of those shots early in the year, but we just didn’t execute the shots as well as we have with some of the things that Troy did. When Troy came in, if you remember the St. Louis Rams game, that design that we did in that game was something we had never done before. And it was something we had saw on tape that was specific for that game plan and we got the ball vertical in that game. They were stopping the run. Alex Smith is a guy that has tremendous knowledge of everything that we want to do. My job with him is to make sure we provide all of the avenues and parameters that he can play from, have some shots down the field, take those shots when they present themselves, have some quick’s that you can go to if they take those things away. Spread them out a little bit more, run the ball, run out of the 22 package. So, we needed to give him all of the avenues in which to operate and then allow him to make those decisions and give us a chance to win the game."

On whether it’s a fair comparison for head coach Pete Carroll to say that it doesn’t really matter how much time you get in order to pick up the protection schemes:
"Every team is different, I don’t know what they do from their protection standpoint, they may have five protections and we have 15. So I can’t answer that question because I don’t know what they do, and [RB] [Brian] Westbrook’s playing now, so that’s all I can say is he’s in the game now, he’s playing. I can’t go back and look at the times where we had [RB] Frank Gore, so I’m going to go from here and move forward."

On whether or not you lobbied for QB Alex Smith to come back:
"I didn’t lobby for anyone to come back. I think those are decisions we made as a staff, coach Singletary and the rest of the coaches, and it’s something that we decided to do, but he’s the final say on all of that."

On how much input you had on that decision:
"I wouldn’t say input, coach Singletary is the head coach of this football team and he makes those decisions as to who the starting quarterback is each week. He asks me questions I give him my opinions, my answer, and then he makes the final say. That was a decision that he and we decided to go with this week."

On what was your role in terms of the game planning for week 1 against the Seahawks:
"Well, I was the red zone coach. I was basically the guy that did the research in the red zone, both run pass, and look at ways to attack their defense in the red zone, and then take the plays that Jimmy Raye designed and go forward."

On whether it gives you an advantage against Seattle because they haven’t been able to experience your game plan:
"I mean it’s different, that I would say, and I don’t know how much of an advantage that is, this is the NFL. They have tape, they watch tape, and I’ve been calling plays for a number of weeks. They have some idea of what we want to do. They have tape from [QB] Troy [Smith], they have a couple games of [QB] Alex to go from, and I guess they’ll have some idea as to what we’re going to do and they just have to do their game plan and we’ll do ours."

On whether the ability to come out of the shotgun formation with Alex has anything to do with him playing over Troy, who isn’t used to that formation:
"Well like I said, those two guys are different, and I don’t know how much of a difference that makes. I think we’ll do both. We’ll hand the ball off to Westbrook in the shotgun and hand it off to [RB] [Anthony] Dixon in the shotgun and we’ll do both from under center. So there will be both in this game plan, but I don’t know how much of a difference that makes."

On whether getting into the shotgun was something that you wanted to do in the previous games but couldn’t due to Troy Smith:
"Like I said before, what I tried to do is take the information that Troy had and try to provide the best possible situation for he and the team to be in to give us the best chance to win. Now we’re with Alex, I’m going to do the same for him. So whatever those things may be, that’s what we’ll do to give him a chance to be successful and our team to be successful."

On whether Singletary has final say on the game plan:
"He has input and being the head coach of the football team, he always has input. I listen to everything coach Singletary has to say, but as far as putting together the game plan, we do it as a group."

On whether you have any more final say from when you first took over:
"From an offensive standpoint, I would say yes, I do have some final say when it comes to that, but like I said, we all do it together. We all come together. Coach Singletary has an opinion. I listen to it. That is my role as a coordinator, to listen to the head coach and to try to put together the game plan that we all see fit together to give us the best chance to win."