SANTA CLARA – Greg Roman made the Sonny Corleone mistake at his press conference on Thursday.
Sonny Corleone opened his mouth in front of Sollozzo in “Godfather I,” expressed interest in dealing narcotics without consulting the Don. So, Sollozzo knew there was discord in the Corleone family and used it against them. Sonny broke the omerta, the mafia’s code of silence.
Roman didn’t come out in favor of drugs. But he broke the 49ers’ omerta on Thursday. All week, reporters had been asking Jim Harbaugh, the Niners’ Don, what is wrong with Colin Kaepernick? Is he regressing? Is he having trouble going through his full progressions?
“We don’t think anything’s wrong with Colin,” said Harbaugh, defiant. “We feel like his progression’s been very good. He’s played winning football for us and that’s what we expect.”
Harbaugh did not blame Kaepernick for the passing game’s problems. He praised Kaepernick.
Cut to Roman on Thursday. A reporter asked him how well Kaepernick is developing.
“Colin is progressing very nicely,” Roman said, and then he broke the code: “There is still an element of, ‘I’m seeing something for the first time.’ Obviously, there was a lot of that last year, and very similar this year.”
Let me translate that for you: Roman was saying something like: “Don’t blame me that the offense has disappeared in big games this season. Blame the novice quarterback, that’s who. Half the time he doesn’t know what he’s seeing when he looks at the defense, so what can I do?”
I imagine Harbaugh dropping his head in disgust after hearing that, calling Roman into his office and saying, “Santino, never tell anyone outside the family what you’re thinking again.”
Does Roman even realize it is his job as the offensive coordinator to anticipate the different looks Kaepernick will see in the game, and then present those looks to him on film and on the field during the week of practice prior to the game? That’s what Roman is paid to do. When he calls out his quarterback’s ability to recognize defenses, Roman really calls out his ability to teach.
And Greg, if you think there’s “an element” of Kaepernick seeing things for the first time, hold onto your hat in the Superdome.
Kaepernick never has faced a defensive scheme like the one he faces this weekend. Rob Ryan is the Saints’ new defensive coordinator. His scheme is unique to the Ryan family. Rex Ryan runs a version of it with the Jets, but no other teams run it.
The “Ryan Defense” thrives on confusing a young, inexperienced quarterback. What you see is what you don’t get. Rob Ryan will show Kaepernick a variety of fronts and coverages only the Saints and Jets run. Rob Ryan will have a way to take away Vernon Davis, if he plays, and Anquan Boldin using coverages from unique looks other teams simply don’t show.
And Rob Ryan probably has concocted brand new looks just to confuse Kaepernick. Rob Ryan lives to make a young quarterback’s life miserable.
Good luck, Colin.
Greg, you picked the wrong week to admit your quarterback is struggling to read defenses. Rob Ryan is probably doing a dance right now.
On passing downs when his Nickel defense is on the field, it will look like gumballs to Kap, players bouncing around, prowling the formation, confusing the offensive line – Who should block whom?
And it will confuse the quarterback. Rob Ryan’s defense disguises its coverage before the snap. Where the defenders are when the quarterback is going through his silent cadence is not where the defenders will be when the center snaps the ball.
To make matters worse, the 49ers like to line up Kaepernick in the shotgun on passing downs. Meaning, he has to take his eyes off the defense and watch the ball fly into his hands before he can raise his eyes again and see what’s going on. Stuff happens when he’s looking at the ball. The defense reveals its coverage. But Kaepernick can’t see it right away because he has to catch the ball first.
I have zero confidence in Roman’s ability to work around these issues after making the Sonny Corleone mistake. The passing game will be as dead as Sonny at that fateful toll booth for the second week in a row and Roman will deflect blame to Kaepernick.
The 49ers scored 17 offensive points last season against the Saints. The 49ers will score fewer than 17 on Sunday, and they will lose by more than a touchdown.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.