As a general rule, NFL head coaches don’t enlist former Division III defensive linemen to help educate their $60 million quarterbacks.
But Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers says Greg Roman isn’t a typical coach.
In 2004, Capers, then the Texans head coach, examined his staff and decided the 49ers offensive coordinator would help mentor struggling quarterback David Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft. Capers moved Roman from tight ends coach to quarterbacks coach – an unlikely title for a former defensive lineman at John Carroll University with scant hands-on experience with quarterbacks.
“He understood the total concept so well that I ended up making him the quarterbacks coach,” Capers said in a phone interview this week. “That was just because I felt he was the best guy for the job and he understood defense. He understood how to attack things. He not only knew the protections in the pass game, but he knew the route concepts.”
By 2004, Roman was in his seventh season working for Capers – the first four in Carolina – and had been given countless titles: defensive quality control coach, offensive quality control coach, offensive assistant, assistant offensive line coach and tight ends coach.
Capers felt Roman, then 31, had received a comprehensive education. So although Roman had never worked with quarterbacks, his mastery of other offensive positions and ability to recognize a defense’s weakness had him tutoring Carr.
In two seasons with Roman as his quarterbacks coach, Carr had 30 touchdowns, 25 interceptions and an 80.5 passer rating. In his three other seasons as Houston’s starter, Carr had 29 touchdowns, 40 interceptions and a 71.7 rating.
“I think some people might see it as being an unusual move,” Capers said. “But when you sit in the meeting room and you know that you’ve got a guy in there that understands not only the run game, but the protections and has also been involved in the pass game because he’s coached the tight ends … I just felt at the time that Greg was the most qualified guy to move to the quarterback position.”
Seven years later, it appears Roman will be working with another former No. 1 overall pick in Alex Smith, who will count Roman as his seventh offensive coordinator.
“I think what Greg has that will enable him be an outstanding coordinator is that he’s worked in all those different areas,” Capers said. “And he’s got a real good understanding of all facets of the game.”
• Carr, 31, hasn’t started a game since 2007 and has thrown just 58 passes the past three seasons.
While Jim Harbaugh has publicly wooed Smith this offseason, he’s been tight-lipped regarding Carr, his only quarterback under contract for 2011.
Roman, who was in Houston for Carr’s first four seasons, says the former No. 1 overall pick might have had a different career if it had started differently. As a rookie, Carr started all 16 games for an expansion team and was sacked 76 times, an NFL record.
“No one will ever know,” Roman said. “But I do think it was definitely a factor. It certainly didn’t help his maturation.”