Here’s the transcript of today’s Murph and Mac Q&A with NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell.
Q: What do you think of long snapper Brian Jennings?
COSELL: I don’t want anybody to think, “Oh my God,” but I don’t watch special teams at all. I just don’t have time. I don’t watch them at all, so don’t ask me any special teams questions.
Q: What does the Cleveland Browns offense bring to the table? What will the 49ers defense be up against?
COSELL: Not much. This is not a very good offense. It’s very limited. The quarterback is Colt McCoy, who I’m sure you all remember from the University of Texas. In fact, Kellen Moore at Boise St. just tied Colt McCoy’s record for most wins by a college quarterback. But Colt McCoy’s physical skill set does not translate real well to the league. He does not have a very strong arm. There’s throws he can’t make. This is a team that doesn’t run the ball really well. They’re playing Montario Hardesty who had 33 rushes for 95 yards last week. He does not have much lateral explosiveness. He’s not a difficult runner to defend. I don’t think the Niners will have a difficult time at all defending this offense.
Q: As far as receivers is there any kind of threat that the Niners need to worry about?
COSELL: There’s two players I think you need to be concerned about. That’s Josh Cribbs because he does have speed. He can lift the top off the coverage, as we like to say. He can run by people. And then they have a tight end who I thought they’d use a whole lot more after I watched them in the preseason, and for some reason he’s been lost in the shuffle. That’s a guy named Evan Moore, who you guys might know. If I’m not mistaken he’s from Stanford. He’s got some talent now. He’s a kid that I think has ability. I’m surprised he has not been used more. So we’ll see how it goes, but this is not a real good offense.
Q: Is Peyton Hillis a significant threat?
COSELL: He’s a power back, and he’s what we call a volume runner. He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to break long runs or be explosive on the perimeter, but if the game is close and they can keep feeding him the ball so he gets up in the 20, 25 carry range, he tends to wear out a defense quicker than he gets worn out. So he becomes a very important factor in the second half of games. Now, he’s coming off a hamstring. My guess is even if he does play, they’re not going to trot him out there for 25 carries because he probably wouldn’t be able to handle it. So I don’t think you have to worry necessarily about that being a factor.
Q: I’m looking at their depth chart, and I see Owen Marecic is on their roster, another Stanford guy.
COSELL: He’s their starting fullback. Two-way player as I recall.
Q: Is the defense what gives the Browns a chance to win?
COSELL: I think you have to be careful about that. You guys probably haven’t studied the Browns a whole lot, but if you look at their schedule you’ll see that they’ve played some fairly poor offensive teams. Their numbers might looks good, but they’ve played Indianapolis, Miami. They played in Oakland, and I’m not knocking Oakland’s offense but that was the game Campbell got hurt and Boller came in that game and did OK, but then they played Seattle. So even if you put Oakland aside, they’ve played three bad offenses. You have to be careful about using their numbers. Dick Jauron is their defensive coordinator – he’s pretty straight forward, the occasional blitz, was a little more aggressive last week, may have a been a function of who they were playing – Charlie Whitehurst. This is not an aggressive, attacking, pressure defense. It’s more of what we like to say an execution defense as opposed to a scheme defense.
Q: Gee, it really doesn’t seem like the Browns bring much to the table.
COSELL: Well, here’s the issue. The 49ers are not an explosive offense. Alex Smith has made some throws but we talked about this last week – they’re not really a passing team. They sort of limit what Alex Smith does. They rely on the run. This is not likely to be, unless their defense sets them up, a team that’s going to go out and score 30 points. So when games are close, and if indeed it is close, then all of a sudden you get into fourth quarters of games, and if it’s 13-10 you know how that works. One play could change the game. Because the Niners are not explosive offensively – they had those two Gore runs against Detroit which were great schemed runs, a specific kind of run with a specific kind of blocking scheme which worked really well against a penetrating Lions defense. If you don’t get long runs, the running game usually doesn’t produce a lot of points.
Q: Do you know anything about the Browns head coach Pat Shurmur?
COSELL: I know him extremely well. He was in Philadelphia for years.
Q: What is he trying to get done there in Cleveland?
COSELL: Pat Shurmur’s background is the West Coast offense, with Mike Holmgren there as the president. They drafted Colt McCoy because I think they want to run a fairly pure version of it, which is a very horizontal pass game. I think they’re working through that right now. They’re trying to put the pieces in place. It’s a major work in progress, and it’s been slow. So we’ll see how it goes, but that’s the plan, and that’s what Colt McCoy gives you because he’s limited as a passer. He can’t make stick throws down the field. His arm is not strong enough.
BONUS Q: Carson Palmer looked rusty on Sunday.
COSELL: I think you’ve got to go beyond that – look at every single throw. He threw the ball 21 times. I thought the ball came out well. He threw two dig routes, I believe they were both to Heyward-Bey 20 yards down the field in between people. Those are very difficult NFL throws. They’re stick throws into tight windows between people. I came away feeling good about that performance given how long he’s been away.
Q: So the release looked quick and the arm looked strong?
COSELL: Put aside the results. Watching him drop back and deliver, don’t you think he looked like an NFL quarterback to you?
Q: I did, but I thought he looked a little slow.
COSELL: I think that’s a function of not playing in live action. You can’t simulate that in practice no matter what. I think there’s a lot to build on. It was a positive performance, not a negative. Don’t look at the numbers, look at the performance. It was a positive performance.