Gannon on audibles: ‘bad things will happen’

By Phil Barber
Press Democrat Staff Writer

Note: I’ll be adding to Grant’s 49ers blog here and there through Sunday’s game — and beyond, if we’re headed to another Super Bowl.

I spoke to Rich Gannon — the former NFL quarterback and current NFL Network and Sirius XM NFL Radio analyst — yesterday, mostly about the physical (and possibly illegal) style of the Seattle defensive backs. That story will run in the Press Democrat tomorrow.

During our conversation, Gannon told me something that was only tangentially related to that story, but highly pertinent to the 49ers’ chances at CenturyLink Field. He was explaining the ways in which the Niners might attempt to combat the Seahawks’ aggressive defense when he got to the subject of changing plays.

“You can’t go in there and expect to audible,” Gannon said. “It’s a waste of time. It’s not only a waste of time, but bad things will happen — communication errors, false starts, wrong routes. You can’t do it that way.

“You have to call your audible in the huddle. You’re calling two plays in the huddle, say one versus 2-deep (zone) and one versus 3-deep. Everyone’s been told, you’ll call the blitz-beater you’ve called for third down in case you don’t like the coverage. It’s a check-with-me system, or a kill system. If you (the quarterback) don’t like what you see, you say ‘kill-kill-kill’ and get to the second play. You have to have the tools in your toolbox to go up there and not get killed.”

Not exactly revelatory perhaps. We all know it’s incredibly loud at the CLink. We all know it’s hard to audible when it’s loud.

But Gannon’s description got me thinking about this game a little differently. Much of the media focus this week  centers on whether the 49ers are tough enough, physically and mentally tough enough, to go into Seattle and win. Of course they are. The Niners are as hard-edged as any team in the league.

But are they smart enough, or efficient enough?

It’s no secret the 49ers have struggled getting plays off before the play clock expires under head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. It’s an occupational hazard of the offensive system they run, with its detailed and verbose terminology. Gannon is saying that the assignment will get even tougher at Seattle, where the code that goes from Roman to Harbaugh to Colin Kaepernick to the other 10 offensive players in the huddle is likely to double in length because of the need to call two play options instead of one. Sort of a scary proposition for 49ers fans.

Moreover, if Kaepernick is using a check-with-me system, his ability to quickly survey the defensive alignment and get out of bad plays becomes that much more vital. The 49ers have generally praised his skill in this regard. Sunday, we’ll see just how far he has progressed in the mental game of football.

  1. Grant its what i’ve been saying all week, i believe the 9ers to be the superior team in every way other than special teams where we are even. My only worry is CK’s presnap management. If he looks calm and confident presnap i believe we will win by 9 or better but if he starts running around behind the line and gets that deer in the head light look we are in deep trouble. Now that does’nt mean we will automaticly lose we could still win 10-9 or so.

    1. That’s my main concern and in fact what I think will be the X-factor that will decide whether the Niners will be going back to the Super Bowl in a few weeks.

  2. Nice to see you here, Phil. I very much enjoyed reading your chronology of the 49ers – Seahawks rivalry the other day. The 49ers are one of the most sophisticated teams in the league because they are intelligent enough to handle sophistication. But sophistication and intelligence rest upon effective communication – and so I share your concern about whether the 49ers communication system will hold up against the crowd noise for 60 minutes of playing time without sacrificing time-outs or taking penalties. 49er coaches are of course aware of this problem, too, and will be practicing its solution throughout the week. I take some comfort from that.

  3. Bandaid Harvin still not cleared for practice. Even if he plays i’m not sure a guy who has played so little this season would take over the game.

  4. Welcome back Phil. maybe each player should have a wrist band with the plays or just the skilled one’s. so a play call would go like this
    roman to harbaugh to ck. play 1 and 7. One is a run, 7 is a pass for example. If it’s a 7 called and he wants to switch to a one, he shouts kill. If he wants a different passing play, he shouts a different number and all of the wr’s, rb’s and te’s check that play on their wrist band and go from there. o line adjustments are to be called from the center or ck. In order for this to work, it has to be done out of no huddle. tire their defense and vocal cords of the fans. they won’t be able to sustain.

    1. I don’t know how that translates to the real NFL World, Big Niner, but it makes sense to me. For that reason alone it may be suspect. ; >)

    1. I commented to my buddy during the game when Newton did that. It’s a disgrace and an embarrassment. You wanna flop around like that go play soccer or even hockey which has gotten really bad with that garbage. Bush league and pathetic.

      1. You guys probably never played soccer. flopping is an art to protect your best players. protection of the qb is way worse than soccer flopping. imagine running down the field with a player trying to take out your ankles or acls ? soccer players are commodities transfered for hundreds of millions every year. These players try to protect their livelihoods by diving, not to mention the advantages of getting the opponent carded. get a defensive player carded and he softens up the rest of the game.
        soccer is the toughest most difficult sport to play in the world. no timeouts and a physical 6-10 mile running marathon. there’s a reason why it’s the number one sport in the world.

      2. Big Niner. No offense but soccer sucks, and flopping not only makes it a sissy sport, it gives men a bad look. Soccer flops are a joke.

      3. Soccer flops are terrible and a blemish, but if you want to see the best athletes in the world, watch European club soccer.

        The beautiful game.

      4. Big Niner, taking a dive to get a player penalized is brutal. It seems to be part of the game of soccer but that stuff has no place in football. Not saying it isn’t there but I personally think it’s sad. You wanna fall down and act the fool, head to Hollywood.

  5. I was watching the nfl network with Brian Baldinger and Jaimie Dukes. And Baldinger brought up an interesting point. The ref, (don’t remember his name) has called ONLY 16 defensive holding calls this season. And it’s his First big game. This might no go well for us. It could go very well for a holding defense.

    1. I’m hoping our guys can hold too, if that’s the way the refs want it. Pretty tacky, though. How bout you CheatHawks just line up and play football?

    1. Actually, Angus, I thought it was pretty funny, especially after you pointed out that it wasn’t that funny.

      Go figure. Go Niners.

  6. I read Roman calls the plays into Harbaugh. Then if Harbaugh likes the plays, he relays it to Kaepernic. Do all teams use this (seemingly) cumbersome system? It would save time (and give Roman a few more seconds to choose a play) if he could call the plays to Kaepernick directly.

    1. Most teams do not do that. In fact, I’m not even sure the49ers do that? I think Harbaugh listens in, but with some exceptions I’m sure, lets Roman call the plays
      Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.

      1. Roman calls em, Harbaugh relays them to Kaep. Roman is up in the booth and only the sideline can communicate directly to the QB.

    2. I’ve read many stories where even Kap has said two plays are called and it’s up to him to decide which play is best against the defense he sees.

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