If anyone is familiar with how to defend the zone read, it ought to be San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Back in 2012, Shanahan was Washington’s offensive coordinator. He had to tailor his offense to fit the skill set of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin. To get the most out Griffin, Shanahan spent all offseason studying previous offenses that ran the zone read. On Matt Maiocco’s 49ers insider podcast, Shanahan talked about what he went through to put the offense together:
“Every one can figure out how you want to run that scheme. What you got to know is how guys are going to defend it. We made a 200-play reel of zone read that had been run over the past few years. There was a lot of Vince Young, Tim Tebow. There was some stuff with Michael Vick. We put in something in the offseason that we thought would tie everything together and take us through the year.”
I’d pay money to watch that reel.
Fast forward to December 2019 and Griffin, Greg Roman, and Shanahan will all be in the same stadium. On the podcast, Shanahan explained the zone read, and compared Baltimore’s version of it to more of a wildcat offense. Here were his exact words:
“They’re doing quarterback power, quarterback counter, running the quarterback up the middle. They’re doing a ton of things off it. That truly makes it, to me, a wildcat offense. You haven’t seen someone use a quarterback that way with all those types of runs. The issue is, it’s a wildcat offense with the quarterback playing the wildcat, which is what makes it pretty historic in what they’re doing.”
Everyone comes in with a plan, but few teams have made the necessary in-game adjustments. That will be critical for San Francisco, which Shanahan acknowledged:
“If you’re not going to adjust at all and play the exact same way you always do, this quarterback and this offense has proven you’re going to have some issues with that. There are things you need to tinker with, things you need to adjust. (But) just like anything, you still have to do what you’re good at, so there’s a fine line. We’re going to have to honor a lot of what they do. We’re going to have to play smart. Their scheme is making everybody adjust. But there have to be some times in the game when we do what we do, and we do it at a high level and get to the quarterback.”
Let’s get to some links.
Baltimore heavily favored over the 49ers (NBC Sports)
Kurtenbach: Here’s how the 49ers can stop Lamar Jackson (Pacifica Tribune)
49ers-Ravens advance scouting report and Periscope preview ( The Great Grant Cohn)