Offensive Coordinator Greg RomanPress Conference - November 22, 2012San Francisco 49ers
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"Looks like a lot of people left early to get that turkey on their plate. I hope everybody is doing well. Happy Thanksgiving, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for. Getting ready to play the Saints in a tough environment. The last time we were in that environment was the first preseason game last year. We know how tough it is to play down there and how talented their team is, how well coached they are and what a winning tradition they have built there. Kind of have a half a day today here on Thanksgiving, but the guys came in early, got a lot of work done and we're progressing on schedule. Any questions?"
Can you clear up what's going on with the quarterback situation right now?
"Well, no decision has been made. We're hopeful that [QB] Alex [Smith] gets cleared tomorrow, physically. We're confident in both quarterbacks to be on the field. We're always going to make way all the information as we have it and make the best decision for the team at the time. But we have ultimate confidence in either. When you look at the Saints defense, as multiple as they are, it's very important that we get the proper attention paid to their personnel, their schemes, everything throughout the week. Very multiple as we know, [Saints defensive coordinator] Steve Spagnuolo, who was most recently with the Rams, has a very multiple system on defense. There's a lot of unique blitzes, different looks you see. It's not a cookie-cutter defense by any margin."
To clarify, Alex has not been cleared?
"Correct. We're hopeful that he gets cleared tomorrow."
Even if he is cleared tomorrow, you guys are taking off tomorrow for New Orleans. Does that leave enough practice time for him to play?
"That's something that we've got to evaluate and make a decision on."
Because he hasn't been cleared, he hasn't been practicing?
"He has been practicing. He's not cleared for contact, but yeah he's been practicing, looking sharp. Both quarterbacks are looking sharp. There's maybe a couple plays today we'd like to have an extra couple reps at, but [head coach Jim Harbaugh] coach wanted to get everybody back home for Thanksgiving."
There was a report yesterday that QB Colin Kaepernick was going to be getting first team reps in practice, is that accurate?
"Colin's been getting pretty similar to what he got last week. He's getting some of the reps and Alex is getting some of the reps, and that's how it gets divvied up. It's more play-by-play than first team reps, second team reps, really don't know what that means. But the reps are divvied up accordingly."
There's another report that coach Harbaugh told Alex that Kaepernick would start, and just to clarify that, did that occur?
"No. I'll repeat that no decision has been made."
Who has worked with the scout team?
"Well, [QB] Scott [Tolzien] has taken most of the scout team reps. I know Alex has taken some and Kap has taken some. Everybody's working together, a team, everybody's working as a team."
About the Saints defense, how different is it than the one you faced 10 months ago?
"Great question. It's a little bit of a hybrid. They have kept some of what they did last year and then they've combined it with what some of what the Rams have done. It's very multiple. It's a lot of different looks, and they've gotten better as the year went on. They've got really good players. WThey've got [LB Jonathan] Vilma, who's a great leader and [DE] Will Smith, who's one of the best defensive ends, one of the most physical guys you'll see. They're just getting better as it goes. We've got our work cut out for us and we know that their whole team, they've got great formula for winning there, with their offense, defense and special teams. So, it's going to take a complimentary team effort here to go down and beat the Saints."
Regardless of the quarterback, who on that defense or what about that defense is a key, a focal point, something that the Saints really try to confuse guys with?
"Mainly protections. I think we, as a staff, have a lot of respect for their staff and how they try to attack protections. They understand what the offense is doing and how they protect. It's obvious that they study it and then they try to violate it. And they've got good players, so that's a lethal combination. A multitude of overload blitzes at times, and then at times they make you think they're bringing an overload blitz and then everybody drops. So, they've got it all. It's graduate work, is what it is. It's graduate level football and they're good at it."
Is S Roman Harper kind of the catalyst?
"Not really. I mean, they all are. It's not like you can just say, ‘Hey, there's Roman Harper. This is what's going to happen.' They definitely, pretty diverse at this point."
Is there any lingering resentment over what was said about your offensive players, before the playoff game about what former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had to say to his team?
"I don't think so. I don't think there's any resentment whatsoever. What was said in the past is just that, it's the past. It's irrelevant. I think our players are really focused on 2012 and how important this game is to our season."
Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt said yesterday you guys are on pace to have more 10-yard runs than any team in NFL history. What do you attribute that to?
"It's a lot of things. It's players executing plays. Good players executing players, and I hate to minimalize things, but when you really cut down to it, I don't care what play you have. And I'll just tell you from a coaching standpoint, you might have the best play in the world and you know it is and you see the defense and you say, ‘Here we go, here we go, and this is going to be great,' and then somebody makes a mistake or got beat physically. It's the ultimate, ‘Dahhh,' you know. So, I think I've learned, we've all learned as coaches over the years, no matter what you draw up, it's the players getting it done that matters. I think our offensive line, our wide receivers have been very big key part of those extended runs down the field. I think when you look at our receivers relative to most in the league, you'll see them working a little bit. I think they work better than anybody down the field blocking. So, tight ends, running back, [FB] Bruce Miller, who I think is just a dynamic fullback in his ability to adjust and make the appropriate block as he approaches it, which changes all the time. And our backs, [RB] Frank [Gore] leading the way, [RB] Kendall [Hunter], and we've got where our other backs are working real hard too. So, it's a lot of things. It's everything. I think it starts with coaches' commitment to running the ball, being balanced and devoting time and effort to it in practice."
A credit to you, your name comes up quite often when talking about head coaching candidates around. Is there anything? Have you heard anything from Cal? Is there any interest on your part in the Cal opening?
"I am so focused on what I'm doing right now. Any thought or anything that would distract me from the task at hand for the 49ers to me would not be appropriate. So, I don't know to answer your question. I'm focused on one thing and that's continuing to get better every week here and winning the next game."
What about during the bye week? Did you have any interviews, anything like that?
"Self scouting. Yes."
Head coach Jim Harbaugh termed Colin's performance vs. Chicago A++. Were you as impressed as he was?
"Yeah, I thought Colin handled the quarterback position, his duties in this offense, extremely well. Just as Alex has. I thought it was a really good performance on a lot of levels, not just what happened after the ball was snapped. Managing the huddle, getting us up to the line, getting things done as we prescribe them. The beauty of having a quarterback like Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick is what a situation to be in. Alex was what a couple of weeks ago, what was it, 18 of 19 and he's befallen by injury and Colin steps in and performs the way he does. So, it's a great situation to be in, but what's happen up to this point is history. It's all about going down to New Orleans and trying to find a way to get the win."
When you have a young guy like that does it take more of a villageto kind of help him? Maybe even pre-snap?
"I think it doesn't matter. I think everybody has to do their job and whichever quarterback's playing that is very important. It takes a village no matter what. If nobody's blocking properly and guys are just running free at the quarterback, hey a play or two he can make something happen, but over the course of a game that takes an effect. Not being able to run the football effectively and putting ourselves in pour down and distance situations on 3rd down, that kind of stuff. That all just falls on his shoulders at some point, whoever's in the game."
Getting back to no decision has been. made on the starter. When you see reports that say the decision has been made does that bother you? Is that something that you have to address with both of your quarterbacks?
"That's something that the door's always open. We always communicate. But really do not pay much attention to what's going on, reported, not reported, rumored, that stuff. Don't pay much attention to it. Our focus is on the team, the team, the team and those that are interested in helping us win."
It seemed like some people expected the offense with QB Colin Kaepernick starting to look really different with his skill set and his running ability. It seemed like he was largely a pocket passer and the plays didn't look dramatically different. If that's accurate, is that encouraging to you that he's at that level right now?
"I think a lot of what he did was encouraging. The plan was very similar for he and Alex. As you know, the decision wasn't made until late in the week. We didn't know exactly what was going to unfold. So, you really couldn't go into the game with two separate game plans. I thought our players, our offensive line did a great job. The backs ran hard. Guys made plays down the field. But as far as the specific game plan goes, it'll tilt one way or the other a little bit, but it won't be that different."
Are you saying that that game plan was an QB Alex Smith game plan and QB Colin Kaepernick basically ran the game plan that was designed for Smith?
"Well, it's a 49ers game plan, but it was very similar. If Alex had been in, it probably would have been very similar."