Cosell calls the 49ers’ offense “one-dimensional with almost no passing dimension.”

Wednesday morning on KNBR, Greg Cosell discussed the 49ers’ upcoming game against the Saints. Here is a transcript.

COSELL: “When you start to play better teams, you’re going to have to have the passing dimension, and right now (the 49ers) are a one-dimensional offense with almost no passing dimension. It came back and it caught them this week against a better team.

“You’re dealing with an extremely talented kid (Kaepernick). Now it’s up to the coaching staff in a large degree to figure out a way to define things for him so that they can have some kind of pass game.

“They went into New Orleans last year and they returned two interceptions for touchdowns and they were able to win and Kaepernick was playing much better at that point. You would not expect that they’re going to get two interceptions returned for touchdowns again. So if you look at this game, they’re likely going to have to score in the 20s to win if their defense plays very well, and right now they’ve got a few concerns. I assume Eric Reid probably would be out this week. So now you have Craig Dahl who can be exploited in pass coverage.

“The bottom-line point is they’re going to have to score, and it’s not likely they’re going to score enough just running the football.”

“(The Saints) aren’t a shutdown defense the way you’re thinking of shutdown D’s, but you’re going to have to have a two-dimensional offense (to beat them), it’s as simple as that.

“And I believe they’re going to be missing their rookie safety, Kenny Vaccaro, who has been arguably their most versatile player as a rookie. They use him in a variety of ways and if they’re missing him I think that’s a very meaningful loss. You need to find a way to exploit that. You need to create those kinds of opportunities based on formations and utilization of personnel.

“You don’t need three Jerry Rices to have an NFL passing game. You can create opportunities based on personnel, formations, route combinations – you can do that. You don’t need unbelievably great wide outs to have a passing game.”

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    1. Good piece Jack. They really are running a throwback offense in modern day football and for the most part it’s worked. Now though, it seems teams have caught up to some of the smoke and mirrors they use to try and confuse, and the team is almost solely reliant on the run game to have any chance at winning. While I don’t think they need to have a Saints level passing game, I don’t think the status quo is going to get it done either. I think it’s become pretty clear that the passing game has to improve to beat some of the teams they will face on the way to trying to win a SB.

      1. Thanks Rocket.

        I disagree with the notion that teams have caught up to them. They were in position to beat a very good defense on Sunday but couldn’t make the plays.

        This is an offense that is tied with Detroit for yards per pass attempt, and that is without their best pass receiver all season. How good is Detroit if you take away Johnson?

        I do agree that they need to improve. They need to cut down on the mistakes, dropped balls and silly penalties have hurt them at times, and as we have seen can be killers against good teams.

      2. The mistakes are an issue no doubt Jack, but this team’s margin for error is small and a big reason for that is the passing game imo. I really think they are under utilizing some players that might take some of the heat off of Davis and Boldin and also give Kap somewhere else to go with the football when one of these guys isn’t there like Davis last week.

        Crabtree coming back will help no doubt.

      3. “The Niners are 17th in passer rating.”

        Which makes sense given they often choose to run the ball in for touchdowns instead of throwing it in. The interceptions and lack to passing TD’s has a lot to do with that stat.

      4. Jack,

        The margin for error is great when you have a passing game that can move the ball quickly and efficiently. They had that going in the playoffs last year so maybe it is just as simple as Crabtree not being here but I doubt it.

        I’d like to see them using the RB’s other than Miller more in the passing game, as well as McDonald and now Manningham. You can’t focus on one or two guys every week and expect to succeed.

      5. Rocket,

        Even when the 49ers had Joe Montana, Steve Young, Bill Walsh and Jerry Rice in his prime they had days like what we saw on Sunday and in Seattle, and those were some pretty good passing teams that ran into defenses that had their number. It happens.

        Regarding getting other guys involved, on Sunday he targeted Gore twice, McDonald twice, Hunter once, and Mannigham led everybody with 6.

        I agree to an extent with what you are saying here, but I also think some of that falls back on Kaepernick. As I said my comment to Shoup earlier, there were times where he had guys, McDonald on one 3rd down play in particular, open underneath but chose to go downfield instead.

        On Sunday he targeted Gore twice, McDonald twice, Hunter once, and Mannigham led everybody with 6.

      6. I agree rocket. Having a passing game that is Davis, Boldin or nobody makes the offense too easy to stop for good defenses.

        Yes, cleaning up the silly mistakes may well have resulted in a W on Sunday, but to consistently beat good teams the 49ers need to have a passing game that can move the ball consistently and compliment the running game. On Sunday it did not, and that is the 3rd time this season it has cost them. And a large part of that can be placed at the inability to get anyone other than Davis and Boldin involved – for whatever reason.

      7. Jack,

        As a fan since 78, I saw some bad performances now and then, no doubt about it. The problem is the impotence was never as bad as what I saw from the current team on Sunday. In a league where all the rules are geared toward passing, you can’t have days like Kap had on Sunday without wondering if there is a deeper rooted problem.

        Having Manningham, and later Crabs back will be a boost no doubt, but as you mentioned, there is also the fact Kap is not always seeing the field well to deal with also. I’m just of the opinion that if they get him into a groove early with some short throws/easy completions it can help, which is why I’d like to see the RB’s and other TE and WR used more – as Manningham was last week.


        It’s how bad the passing game can be that concerns me. That’s 3 games this season where the passing game has been practically non existent and helpless to get the team back in a game they ultimately lost. You really got the feeling that they had no answer on Sunday and that is worrisome.

    2. Jack, I loved your usage of the DeLorean time-machine. Great stuff!

      But while we still have it handy, which player or coach would you bring back from the past in the passenger seat if you could and why?

      1. Jack, Joe Montana was my first choice, but I also had thoughts of bringing back Bill Walsh as an advisor to the 49ers current OC, lol.

    3. I stopped reading your post after I read the first sentence, which was poorly written and had two mistakes in its first seven words. If you do not have the writing skills and/or the ability to catch mistakes by proof reading, how could you expect anyone to take your work seriously?

      1. Coming from someone who takes themselves too seriously.

        Just read it or don’t, it’s not a big deal.

        Great article Jack. Thanks for the read.

      2. A couple of typos kept you from reading an informative article? Well, go read a couple of Kevin Lynch’s articles at SFGate and you’ll likely see more than mere typos — and that’s from a journalist that is getting paid to write.

      3. Jack,
        Just misspell words on purpose to piss him off. I think the ejector seat in his Austin Martin misfired and the spring went up his ass instead.

    4. Jack,
      Just another nice article.

      When and if you have your stand alone site. Ask yor webmaster to make it a little more comment friendly.

    5. For those of you who put the breaks on this DeLorean ride because of some minor editing issues — sorry for you. You missed a frankly amazing and quite rare trip on a time machine. As for me I completely missed the alleged typos as I was so caught up in the journey.
      So why, I ask, was this enlightening insightful article not published in my morning rag instead of the generic under researched underwhelming articles I had to suffer through during morning coffee. Mr. Hammer get yee to the Chronicle and the SI now. And Grant if you can get permission from the author, take a day off and put this one up as a next post.
      In the meantime I am making a hard copy of this for reread and to replace that thing they call a sports page so I can actually enjoy tomorrow’s AM coffee.
      Bravo Jack!!!

  1. Does Greg Cosell comment when things are going well, or does he only come on the show when there is a disaster?
    I dont listen to KNBR so my only source regarding his offerings is thru the print media (specifically this blog).

  2. I don’t know about you folks, but I’m just totally blown away by Greg’s amazing analysis. It’s chocked-full of incredibly deep revelations that no fan could ever discern for themselves. I mean, consider these gems of football and 49er-specific knowlege:

    -When you start to play better teams, you’re going to have to have the passing dimension
    -You’re dealing with an extremely talented kid (Kaepernick). Now it’s up to the coaching staff in a large degree to figure out a way to define things for him
    -You would not expect that they’re (49ers) going to get two interceptions returned for touchdowns again
    -they’re likely going to have to score in the 20s to win if their defense plays very well, and right now they’ve got a few concerns
    -The bottom-line point is they’re going to have to score, and it’s not likely they’re going to score enough just running the football
    -You don’t need three Jerry Rices to have an NFL passing game. You can create opportunities based on personnel, formations, route combinations

    Well. I’m just floored. What, did he spend all of 15 minutes scouring the blogs the past few days? Good for you, Greg. *slow clap*

    1. Yet another insightful gem from our in house analyst:

      “That’s the only way SF wins. Stay on the field on offense and reduce possessions for the Saints”.

    2. I see you have become familiar with the ways of Greg Cossell, Grandmaster of the Obvious.

      But seriously, Niners need to get productive on first and second downs. It’s the third and ridiculous longs last Sunday that helped stall the drives.

    3. Funny how quick some opinions change….last season, when Cosell was critical of Alex Smiths play, there were many on this blog (not pointing any fingers here) that used his criticisms to back up their comments and arguments against AS…now, Greg Cosell makes critical statements about the 9ers this season, that are fairly obvious to most of us, his opinions are dismissed as though he’s a media hack spewing a know nothing rant…

  3. While this was a bit of an obvious analysis, I am more curious to understand if recievers were getting open on the all 22 screen and they were just being found by Colin or if they were unable to gain any seperation.
    I remember after the Seattle game Cossel stated in the film room that Kyle Williams was the only reciever getting open consistantly but Colin was not finding him.
    These are the insites I would like to understand more. I think in this game if the niners stick with the running game they might surprise everyone with a win but if they go away from the run like they have in the past they will get boat raced. Surprisingly neither one would surprise me as I have yet to see a consistant game plan from our coaching staff on offense.

    1. Shoup,

      The answer to your question is yes and no. Early in the game there were a couple of times that Kaepernick was either late with the throw. As the game went on, they only called 3 passes in the 3rd quarter on which 2 were completed and Kaepernick scrambled for 16 on the other, a couple of things happened. First they opened the 4th quarter with back to back drops, followed by an offensive PI, and then a sack on 3rd and 25.

      On the next possession they have 2nd and 6 and go into an empty set. The ROLB blitzes off the edge and because there is no running back in the backfield no one is there to pick him up forcing Kaepernick to bail and throw an it away. Then on 3rd and 6 they spread it out again, and he has McDonald wide open on a little curl at the first down marker, but he instead throws it incomplete to Boldin who was well covered. As my coach always told me, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Maybe Harbaugh should remind Kaepernick of that.

      Next possession opens with the ball on their own 1 yard line, and they try a play action roll out but everyone is covered so he throws it away. After a run gains no yards they complete a quick slant to Manningham for a first down. Next play they go play action and it looks like Kaepernick wants to go to McDonald who is open, but as he steps up to throw it he is sacked by Keuchly coming in on a delayed blitz. Now it’s 2nd and 19 and Kaepernick completes a quick hitch throw to Manningham for 6. 3rd and 13, they spread it out sending all of the receivers past the sticks. He is pressured and escapes right, Williams begins working back to him on the sideline and Kaepernick throws it to him, but it is too high.

    1. Jack, since you seem to analyze the all 22 film and have the knowledge I direct this question to you. If you can, could watch a game or 2 from last year and compare it with the past two games that Kaepernick has played. I’m curious to know how he went through his progressions last year compared to this year. Did he stare down Crabtree like he does Boldin? Was he more than a one read? Was he as worried he is now about taking a sack?

      It seems like, since he doesn’t trust anyone but Boldin or Davis that he will stare at that guy unitl a small window opens up. He had such trust in his throwing power that he thinks he can force them in there. And since he doesn’t trust the other guys he doesn’t care to even look at them.

      1. I’ll save Jack the time – Kaep isn’t making the right pre-snap read consistently, and he is slower than average getting through progressions. Thus, he tends have trouble when under moderate pressure if the first read is not open, which has been the case since week 1.

        He tends to pick his pass early, and a guy like Crabtree in 2012 – who created separation consistently – is thus thrown to often. Contrast to Manning/Brees/Rogers who take what the defense gives and spread the ball around.

        Scheme also plays a part – with VD running routes that take advantage of his speed, and Gore consistently staying in to block, there isn’t the easy dump-off that other QBs often have.

        I’d hope to see a few more screens, a lot less Pistol, and a WR or TE reverse to keep the D honest. If we’re going to run the read option, we need to run it with passing options, not just run-reads.

        DEs are generally playing it right by half-stepping to the RB but staying with the QB.

  4. I’m starting to think that we should’ve broken the bank and gotten Peyton Manning while sitting Kaep for 2 more years. He’s supposed to be an upgrade from Alex Smith…so far it’s been a net loss on our end. Something’s gotta give now or else this offensive coaching staff is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

      1. Tell me about it! And Colin would get to learn from one of the most fiery competitors in the league and one greatest QBs of all time.

  5. Hey Jack Hammer, I wanted to commend you on your last blog entry. I enjoy the content you put together and I think you hit on some really good points regarding Harbaugh’s offensive influences.

    Do you think it’s a bad thing that Harbaugh has leaned more on Schembechler and less on Walsh even though both styles have roots in Gilman’s theories? On the one hand, I’d say “no” because a team with a dynamic power run game seems to have a silver bullet against the modern spread shotgun teams that dominate today’s NFL.

    On the other hand, I could argue “yes” because Walsh routinely beat power/smashmouth teams with the “finesse” (what does that even mean?) WCO teams. Also, didn’t Walsh disdain being a “physical” team because you always meet someone more physical than you and then what is your counterpunch?

    Appreciate yours (and anyone else’s) thoughts.

    1. Thanks Adusoron.

      I don’t see a problem with it. I grew up watching both and successful football comes in all forms.

      Regarding Walsh, go back and look at his record against Parcells. It wasn’t pretty.

    1. He sort of undercuts the validity of his methodology with this statement:

      Last year, despite a subpar 7-9 record, they (Carolina) finished second at plus-29

      1. ribico, when I read: “Carolina is an interesting case study,” I took that to mean it was an abberation to the TD. I just thought it was interesting that he and other coaches have been using the TD for some years now. Personally, I don’t recall having heard or read about it before.

  6. I totally disagree with several of the posters regarding Cosell. His analysis on KNBR was very good. He said:

    1. CK7 is a very talented QB and needs some refining and that means getting meaningful reps in the pass game and learning how to read defenses.
    2. CK7 is not regressing, but that the expectations of the ESPN/NFL network types have set this predictable situation in motion.
    3. SF will need to manufacture more passing offense through CK7 to advance in the playoffs.

    1. Cosell also admitted the WR issue is a problem. Where I differ from Cosell is that I think the trust factor really hurts a young QB more than Cosell is willing to say. My take is that if you trust Crabtree and Manningham highly, and then lose both, it’s hard to handle the defensive pressure that is placed on the two remaining targets you trust (Davis and Boldin). It stands to reason that adding these two trusted targets, with a little better playcalling, and Colin’s field-reading will improve a lot.

    2. Adusoron,

      The interview in its entirety has a much different tone than what was portrayed in this post. This was a case of very selective editing.

  7. Until the 49ers get a WR that can take the top off the secondary, most teams are going to load up the box and stop the run, including Kaepernick’s read option. Davis is the only deep threat we have and he is our best blocking TE as well.
    WR formations that are stacked and use motion are the only option I see that maybe will create enough space between DBs; something to keep teams from press coverage or close the line of scrimmage.
    This week I would think we run the ball and try to control the clock and keep Brees on the sideline.
    Last week the 49ers were 2 of 13 on 3rd down and 9 of these downs were 7 or more yards; they have to do a better job of down and distance so converting is easier.

  8. We’re going to need a better passing game to beat good teams? Thank you, Mr Cosell/Captain Obvious. My 1 Year old great nephew has better analysis than this.

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