The San Francisco 49ers search for an offensive coordinator appeared to hit a speed bump Tuesday morning when the Indianapolis Colts announced Rob Chudzinski had been "promoted" to associate head coach. The 49ers were interested in Chudzinski, but the wait for the end of his contract proved fatal in their pursuit.
A fairly common belief at this point is that Geep Chryst is the likely successor to Greg Roman as offensive coordinator. It seems odd given his close connection to Jim Harbaugh. Chryst served as Harbaugh's quarterbacks coach from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, Chryst and Harbaugh worked together at the end of Harbaugh's playing career in San Diego, and also during Harbaugh's days in Chicago. He's seemingly a Harbaugh guy, but the 49ers have elected to keep him around.
If the 49ers end up promoting Chryst to offensive coordinator, the time it has taken would seem to indicate Chryst is a plan B (or C or D or whatever). He would appear to have been on the radar, but the team also considered other options, in part because they would have to know plenty about it him thus far.
If Chryst gets the job, the question becomes what do we as fans actually know about him. We know about plenty of position coaches, but their day-to-day work is often buried in obscurity. They do not speak with the media on a regular basis like the coordinators and head coach, so we are often left guessing and inferring about their work. Fortunately, there is some info about there about what Chryst has done. It does not mean we can project his future as a potential offensive coordinator, but it at least adds some context.
The big question with position coaches is how much they are involved in play-calling and game-planning. We don't know what happened the last three years, but at one point in the 2011 season, Chryst was handling two-minute drill work. In the divisional round playoff game with the New Orleans Saints, Chryst called all the plays on the final drive that culminated with the Vernon Post.
The aftermath resulted in some interesting quotations about Chryst's involvement. Chryst had designed the Vernon Post play in particular, and knew the right time to use it:
A former assistant coach at Carolina, the Saints' rival in the NFC South, Chryst knew from past experience that Saints safety Roman Harper tended to get flat-footed near the goal line. Chryst called the play - delivering it to Harbaugh on the sideline.
"That play was specific for that yard line against the Saints," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "So much love to Geep Chryst for bringing that one to the table."
"It's worth it at that point," Roman said. "All those things flash through your mind, but we practiced it. It looked good in practice. Once (Chryst) showed me, it wasn't a hard sell. It was like, 'Yeah, this is a great idea.' "
Jim Harbaugh has consistently relayed play calls in from the specific play-caller, but at least we know Chryst has had some involvement in calling and designing plays. Obviously knowledge of one particular drive does not give us nearly enough information to make significant conclusions, but it adds a little context.
If you're looking for a little more knowledge about Chryst's personality, check out this pre-Super Bowl Chicago Tribune feature. It focuses on the relationship between Chryst and Harbaugh, dating back to their mutual days in Chicago. Chryst was a quality control coach for the Bears, and Jim Harbaugh was wrapping up his time. They knew each other dating back to Chryst serving as a ball boy at Bears camp in the mid-80s, but it was during Chryst's time as quality control coach that they really got to know each other. The article is a good read.
None of this means Chryst will be a successful offensive coordinator. If Chryst gets the job, he would have solid talent with which to work. That does not mean he will successfully draw up game plans, or figure out necessary adjustments on game-day. But for now it provides a little more context to a guy who has an extensive history in the NFL.