In 2001, when Greg Roman was a Panthers assistant coach and Jim Harbaugh was in his 15th and final season in the NFL, Carolina’s veteran quarterback told the bright young assistant that their paths would cross again.
“Jim doesn’t remember this,” Roman said, “but one day at practice, Jim was warming up and he said, “You know what? When I’m a head coach, some day I’m going to hire you.’ And I said, ‘What!”
Sure enough, Roman and Harbaugh have been colleagues since 2009 when they reunited at Stanford. And it’s safe to say that no one on San Francisco’s staff will work more closely with the offensive-minded Harbaugh than Roman, in his first season as an NFL offensive coordinator.
But Roman, 38, didn’t divulge many specifics regarding exactly how their partnership will work, possibly because he doesn’t know those details in mid-February.
For example, regarding play-calling? Will they share those duties?
“I’d say that’s pretty accurate,” said Roman, who will be in the booth on game days.
Asked a follow-up question on game-day, play-calling, Roman said, “You know what? That’s up to Jim. And Jim’s the head coach. I’m sure I’ll have my role in it. Jim will always have the ability to … have the last word.”
• Roman seemed to fall somewhere between Trent Baalke and Harbaugh on the Alex Smith Love-O-Meter, “I think Alex does a lot of things really well and I don’t have a crystal ball so I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I think we all see that he’s gotten very strong in certain areas. But we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out; pretty fluid situation.”
• Roman said the offense at Stanford was great influenced by the West Coast Offense, “Our whole system is basically in the nomenclature of the West Coast. So the language is the West Coast language.
“Is it tweaked here or there? Yes it is. And when you look at all the different branches that have branched out over the years, they are tweaked everywhere. Like when Mike Holmgren went to Green Bay, they became more of an I-formation team than the split-back team they did with the 49ers. That’s just the way they were built from a personnel standpoint.”
• Roman, who worked under George Seifert in Carolina, is eager to watch film of Bill Walsh installing the West Coast Offense in San Francisco. The Niners haven’t yet tracked down the footage, but Roman is ready to go to great lengths to retrieve it.
“I went to Home Depot last night and got an axe and a pick. I’m ready to dig for ‘em,” he said. “Yes, we are on the trail. We’re going to probably get some pizzas one night, as an offensive staff, and just start rolling through them.”
• Special teams coordinator Brad Seely said the Niners wanted to get the ball in Ted Ginn’s hands, but that didn’t necessarily mean Ginn would handle the punt-return duties in 2011. He indicated Kyle Williams, who endured an injury marred rookie season, would provide competition for the spot.
“I think he’s a guy that we want to touch the football,” Seely said of Ginn. “So, if you get the chance to touch the football as a kick returner and punt returner, we want to give him those opportunities as well because he’s a guy that can make big plays. Whether they come in the kicking game or they come on offense, it really doesn’t matter to us. It’s what’s it going to do to help our football team win the game.”
• Seely’s official job title is special teams coordinator/assistant head coach. Similarly, Mike Singletary is now the linebackers coach/assistant head coach with the Vikings.
Sounds important. But what exactly do those assistant-head-coach duties entail? For his part, Seely’s still not sure.
“I don’t think that’s all been decided yet,” he said. “You probably will have to ask coach Harbaugh what he expects from me out of that title because it changes with every team I’ve been on.”
As the assistant head coach in Cleveland, Seely said he worked as a liaison between the head coach and the other assistants, “They might bounce a question off me about a practice or a practice schedule. Something like that.”