The San Francisco 49ers moved with serious purpose in the first week of the new league year. The team signed 11 free agents and traded for center Jeremy Zuttah, replenishing an offense with quite a few options.
Zuttah will compete with Daniel Kilgore for interior line work. Pierre Garcon brings a solid possession ability they had been lacking. Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson bring speed that could create some game-breaking ability. And of course, Kyle Juszczyk is being described as an “offensive weapon” who will get opportunities in a variety of areas.
I did not think the 49ers were making their moves with no specific plan in mind, but the plan might have been spelled out fairly well before Kyle Shanahan even joined the 49ers.
On Thursday, MMQB columnist Albert Breer had this note about the 49ers first week of free agency:
The very specific vision Kyle Shanahan has on offense? It’s written all over the Niners’ additions: a heady center (Jeremy Zuttah), X receiver (Pierre Garçon), game-breaker (Marquise Goodwin) and pass-catching back (Kyle Juszczyk).
However, back in January, then Chicago Bears QB Brian Hoyer offered up something similar. He was speaking with Albert Breer about Shanahan and what he had done with the Atlanta Falcons offense heading into the NFC Championship Game. Hoyer told Breer that he knew the Falcons offense would explode in 2016 based on conversations he had with Shanahan back in 2014 when both men were with the Cleveland Browns.
Shanahan used to tell Hoyer, “You need a big-time, playmaking ‘X’ (split end) in this offense.” He has Julio Jones now. Hoyer says, “Kyle always wanted a guy who was really, really fast.” He has Taylor Gabriel in Atlanta. Hoyer remembers how Shanahan wanted pass-catching backs. Enter Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Most of all, Hoyer recalls how the Browns offense crumbled after Alex Mack was injured in 2014, because Shanahan’s offense puts the ‘mike’ calls and the protections—responsibilities he had as the quarterback in New England and Houston—on the center. So Atlanta signed Mack in March.
I don’t know that Zuttah will quite match up with Alex Mack, but I do know that Pierre Garcon and Brian Hoyer are not on the level of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan, respectively. That being said, it would appear he has at least developed a sort of “mini-me” offense in Santa Clara. We have seen Kyle Shanahan adjust to the personnel, but this is the first time he has had serious say in all the personnel. It will be fascinating to see what they can implement with this group seemingly offering something moderately similar to the Falcons.