Coaching matters in football way more than any other sport. Much like a conductor of an orchestra, a head coach has to be able to manage all the different parts of his team in order to achieve a harmonious result. That’s a lot easier to do when you have the same people playing the instruments year after year. That is not the case for the 49ers this season, and it’s part of the reason the offense has struggled so far this year. Offensive line coach and run game coordinator Chris Foerster addressed that idea at the podium yesterday.
“It’s all different. We talk about it often. I don’t think there’s anybody on the staff that’s doing the exact same job that they did a year ago. Even though I was the offensive line coach, I didn’t have the duties of run game coordinator and I think every single person you could point to on the offense is in a different role. It’s the same, but it is different. It’s just to all of us, how Kyle uses each one of us, how we all have to supplement helping him formulate a gameplan. It’s just different.
He had [Miami Dolphins head coach] Mike [McDaniel] for so many years, who knew what Kyle needed and could go around the staff to get what Kyle needed and help Kyle with all those things. And so now it’s more and it’s a process of realizing, okay, this is what Chris is going to be able to do in this role and still be able to coach the offensive line. This is what [offensive passing game coordinator] Bobby Slowik is going to bring the table. This is what [tight ends coach] Brian Fleury is going to bring to the table and then you see people’s strengths and weaknesses.
It’s like during the season you realize, hey, [OL] Aaron Banks pulls better, he’s a better puller than [OL] Spencer Burford, so if we’re going to pull somebody, we’re probably going to pull Aaron a little bit more. Not that Spencer can’t do it or if the play calls for it, but same with coaches. This coach is a little bit better at this, this coach a little bit better at that.
My strength isn’t making sure that the Excel spreadsheet is set up properly with exclamation points, parentheses, and all of a sudden who knows what the game plan would look like, so somebody else is going to do that. McDaniel was really good at working the Excel spreadsheet or whatever it might be, so that’s a random example, but you get my point...I’m not real good at spreadsheets yet.”
That much turnover on one side of the ball in a single offseason is almost unprecedented, and it shouldn’t go overlooked. Football teams function like clocks. All the different pieces must fit together perfectly in order for the mechanism to work properly.
The loss of Trey Lance in the fifth quarter of the season threw another wrench into the works. Now, instead of just trying to get the preparation process to run smoothly, Kyle Shanahan also had to teach his staff the Garoppolo offense on the fly. The conductor forced to change songs in the middle of the concert.
As such, there’s not much time available for the evaluation of the game plan preparation apparatus during the weekly grind of the season. During the bye week, however, Kyle and the other coaches will have the time to sit down together and discuss what’s working, what’s not, and how the team can streamline that process for the second half of the year.
Hopefully with some honest self-scouting, the coaching staff will be a more cohesive unit in the second part of the season. That should help the offense out on the field on Sundays.
And for the love of God, don’t make the offensive line coach type up the spreadsheets.