Yes, there will be a football game going on in the Superdome Friday evening. But there will also be a shadow game happening at the same time.
Preseason games are about getting the team in order, lining up in the correct spots, running the plays the correct way. But for Jim Harbaugh and his brand-new coaching staff, this first preseason game is also about communication.
There’s going to be a complex system for calling and relaying the plays to quarterback Alex Smith, and neither Jim Harbaugh nor offensive coordinator Greg Roman has any experience with it in the NFL. At Stanford, they called the plays from the sideline with hand signals.
On Friday, Greg Roman or Jim Harbaugh will call the plays into Alex Smith – it’s still a mystery who actually will be calling the plays, although there seems to be a feeling that this is Roman’s domain. Calling the plays over the headset is not as easy as it seems and it takes practice. This is the first time they’ll be able to test their in-game communication, and the loud Superdome will make the test difficult and worthwhile. Also Harbaugh will be able to speak to his offensive and defensive coordinators over his headset and microphone or simply listen into their conversations. There will be a lot going on and it takes skill to get it right.
The 49ers were subpar in communicators last year – remember the opening-game fiasco in Seattle when Jimmy Raye could not get the calls to Smith on time? If Harbaugh and his staff want to differentiate themselves from the Singletary bunch, getting the plays in on time is a good place to start.
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