It comes to pass for 49ers, Panthers

This is my Thursday column on the difference between the 49ers and Panthers.

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers face a version of themselves this Sunday.

If the 49ers are a “Bob,” the Panthers are a “Roberto.”

For the most part, the 49ers and Panthers are the same team: Excellent, hard-hitting defenses. Quarterbacks who run and throw. Offenses built around running the ball. And coaches who are the sons of coaches – football brats. Jim Harbaugh is the son of Jack Harbaugh, the former college coach. And the Panthers’ offensive coordinator, Mike Shula, is the son of Don Shula, the Hall of Fame head coach.

The difference between Bob and Roberto – the “erto” – is the difference between Jim and Mike. Jim and Mike coach the passing game differently. Jim coaches a simplified passing game and Mike coaches a complicated passing game. The “erto” is a synonym for complicated.

Trent Dilfer, who played for Shula when Shula was the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator from 1996 to 1999 and currently is an analyst for ESPN, recently told a Bay Area radio station there are no progressions in the 49ers’ passing game. “They’re calling a play for a defense, for a player and, if that play is called wrong, that second, third, fourth option isn’t going to get the ball very often. They don’t have the type of offensive structure and Colin isn’t the type of quarterback that there are five eligible receivers and anyone can get the ball.”

This style of passing offense allows coaches to do most of the thinking, and it makes quarterback, the most difficult position in sports, much easier to play: Just fire the ball to the primary receiver if he’s open and, if he’s covered, run for your life.

When the 49ers’ passing game is clicking and Kaepernick is hitting wide-open receiver after wide-open receiver, that means Greg Roman is guessing correctly. He’s calling plays designed to get one player open against the type of coverage he expects the opposing team to use on that play. When Roman guesses incorrectly, you don’t see Kaepernick reset his feet and find his second and third targets. There are no second and third targets. Those guys are decoys clearing space. When Roman guesses incorrectly, Kaepernick has to flip the ball to a running back in the flat, or scramble, or get sacked.

Sometimes Roman guesses correctly and the play fails anyway. This happened against the Packers last Sunday. Roman called a pass for Vernon Davis, who ran deep and out toward the right sideline and beat his man. Anquan Boldin was supposed to sprint to the end zone and clear space for Davis, but Boldin stopped sprinting 10 yards into his route and started jogging. Boldin knew he wasn’t getting the ball. He was a decoy, and receivers don’t run as hard when they are decoys. It’s human nature.

Tramon Williams, the Packers’ cornerback covering Boldin, saw him start to jog and stopped covering him. Williams saw Kaepernick wind up and throw to Davis. Williams broke on the pass and easily intercepted it.

Shula’s passing game does not work that way.

The success of Shula’s passing game does not depend on Shula guessing right. It depends on his quarterback, Cam Newton, making good decisions. This is the essence of the “erto.”

“A good decision means (Newton) is getting the ball out there on time, his feet are set, he’s going to the right guy,” Shula told the Charlotte Observer. “When he’s making those good decisions, we’ve won games.”

“I don’t think he’s just throwing to one particular guy anymore based on the pre-set,” Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen said about Newton to the New York Daily News. “He’s letting the play kind of unfold the way it’s designed and goes bang, bang, bang. It takes him to the right guy more times than not. That’s when you’re playing quarterback at a high level.”

You never hear Harbaugh talk about Kaepernick that way.

Last Monday before the 49ers played the Packers, a reporter asked Harbaugh where Kaepernick has made his biggest strides this season. “Been durable,” said Harbaugh. “Been there for every snap. Makes the throws when the throws need to be made.”

In other words, he did what we asked him to do.

The 49ers have had success playing it simple. Kaepernick makes fewer mistakes than Newton. Kaepernick threw just eight interceptions, and Newton threw 13.

But complex has its advantages, too.

Newton converts third downs more often than Kaepernick does. Third down tends to be a passing down. Passing downs are easier to convert if there are three or four different receivers a quarterback can throw to.

And Newton doesn’t need great receivers – he doesn’t have any. Kaepernick does. Kaepernick needs Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, or else the other team can double-cover Kaepernick’s primary receiver, and then Kaepernick is out of options.

Newton can make ordinary receivers dangerous because of Shula’s offensive scheme. Ted Ginn Jr. is the perfect example. He was on the 49ers last season and caught just two passes because Roman almost never called plays for him. This season, Ginn is a Panther and has caught 36 passes and 5 touchdowns because whenever he’s on the field, he’s part of a progression. He gets the ball when he’s open and Newton decides to throw it to him.

I’m not glorifying Shula’s passing game. If Newton throws three interceptions on Sunday, it won’t look so good. On the other hand if Kaepernick converts just two third downs, Harbaugh’s passing game won’t look so good, either.

Which is better, simple or complex? That’s what this game will determine. It’s about the value of added “erto.”

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  1. Is this something that was developed specifically for Kaepernick? I remember a footballo utsiders article a couple years back that showed how Harbaugh’s system made it easy for Alex Smith to go through progressions because the progressions were tied the steps of the drop/time held onto the ball.

      1. Exactly,

        And I find it hard to believe the Kaep just goes into Brain Lock if his Primary Target is covered & he doesn’t have the ability to go to his other WR’s because I’ve seen him go thru his progressions to find his other targets all season.

        Now to the degree of finding those other targets I don’t know but Dilfer & Jr. seem to insinuate that Kaep simply can’t do it. I call Bullshavic on that.

        1. I definitely do not insinuate Kaepernick can’t do it. That would mean he’s stupid or hates football and neither is true. It comes down to coaching. If Kaepernick had been drafted by Mike Shula and Newton by Harbaugh, Kaepernick would be the one reading the whole field, not Newton.

      2. Grant, have you see this then with each of Harbaugh’s QB’s (Alex, Andrew, etc.) or is it specific to Kap? What I’m trying to figure out is do they run this coach-centric passing scheme specifically for Kap (and perhaps it’ll become more QB-centric as Kap garners more experience reading defenses) or will Kap be labeled a 1-read QB for as long as he plays for Harbaugh?

      3. But which point is more germane here? Obviously, we want to retain the ball, so conversion percentage on 3rd down is the supreme metric here. get it? This is a team sport. I don’t care about Kap looking good in this context.

    1. Trent Dilfer knows football but he’s the last one to try and knock a QB. The guy was the ultimate game manager. I always compare Alex Smith to him. It’s not hey we are giving you the ball to win the game, it’s more so don’t screw it up. I next. agree as of now, Cam may be better but cam Also has more in game experience. We watched Cam Struggle last year and not make the playoffs. I’ve watched Kap struggle clear and we are still here. As far as win – losses, which is what really matters, it’s not close. As al Davis said, “JUST WIN BABY”

      1. Nice article Grant! I have a theory: Newton has about 20 more career starts than Kap, my guess is that Harbaugh/ roman are “keeping it simple for their young QB. Asking a QB to do too much early on can hinder their progression. Just look at Alex Smith. Confidence is an important part of a QB’s make-up. You have Peyton Mannings of the world who can go 3-13 as a rookie and bounce back by taking your team to the playoffs the following year. Or you can have Alex Smith who throws 12 ints. and 1 td as a rookie……and almost never recovers.
        Cam had 2 tough seasons, and now is playing at a high level! Kap only knows success! Although Newton has about 20 more regular season starts…..hes o-o in the playoffs and kap is 3-0. Its hard to argue who’s style is better (Shula/Harbaugh) but id say Harbaugh’s leads to earlier success (it took Cam 3 years to reach the playoffs)
        My question is: how was Andrew Luck handled at Stanford????? I bet his first year, he was coddled a lot like Kap has been with the one read stuff. But by his senior season, did they let him read the whole field and go through progressions? or was he still being babied along with the single read junk? To answer this will give us a glimpse into Kap’s future as a QB under Harbaugh

  2. Ni news will not get out of carlonia period.

    Finale score carlonia 35 nines 10 map those three interception gets sack 6 times.

    Niners get no sack and no interception.

    1. Alex … ??

      Izzat you there .. ??

      (Nah … did’t think so …
      this “booper” fellow can’t speak English)

      Grant … is there any way you can order us
      up a more intelligent class of troll ?

    1. Watch film. Determine tenancies vs formations. Guess what the defense will actually do vs similar formations while relying on those tenancies. Seems pretty straight forward.

      1. That’s not the definition of guessing. That’s called studying, research, educated hypothesis. That’s what pro coaches do.
        I agree that a play call is designed for a specific player but I almost guarantee that at this level of football, that if that first read is not there, there is a outlet/plan B. This is however the NFL and a team that has won a lot of games the past three years and I assure you, Roman is not that good a guesser.

      2. I think the guessing isn’t meant as random or without prethought, Prime. It’s like a batter trying to guess the next pitch. A tennis player trying to guess the next serve. You don’t have to gamble, but you do have to guess.

    2. I hear what your saying prime. It seems like if a team went an entire game just guessing each play call then they wouldn’t have anywhere near the success we’ve had.

      But I see what Grant is saying hear too. That makes a lot of sense as to why we waste so much play clock. Because Kap is trying to make all the pre-snap adjustments to determine the correct play for that paticular defense. But I still don’t think a team could have that much success by just guessing with a one-read option. There has to be atleast 2-3 reads I would think.

      But would do I know?

      And if this is going on do you think this would hinder Kap’s growth as an NFL QB. What will happen when Roman leaves? What if Chryst were to leave as well, where would we be? However, if this is plan to bring Kap along slowly and give him more and more as he progresses that may not be such a bad thing.

  3. I’ll always prefer an offense that has multiple threats on any given play – executed well they are harder to stop. But its hard to find QBs that excel at reading the field and making the quick decisions necessary, and when they are just a little ‘off’ in the decision making bad things tend to happen.

    Harbaugh has installed an offense that doesn’t require a QB that excels at reading the field per se, just one capable of reading how the defense is marking the primary target, can get it to him when he gets open, and ideally can make something positive happen if its not there (dump offs, run, whatever). It makes the position so much easier to play.

    I didn’t watch enough Stanford games with Luck at QB to know whether it was the same then or not – I’d like to think with a QB like Luck he trusted him to make more progressions than he does with Kaep. Tailor the demands of the position to the skills of the QB.

    1. Scooter,

      It’s the same. Most of the plays have multiple reads but to the same side of the field. They don’t often ask the QB to read the entire field.

      1. Thanks Jack.

        As much as I’d like the offense to be more expansive in the passing game (i.e., have more progressions), can’t argue with the success Harbaugh has had getting young QBs ready to play and play well.

    2. I believe the Niners have 3 levels of decision making on offense.
      1. Roman from the box overlooking the field calls down a play set with options. Harbaugh on the field can be involved in that. Veto power?
      2. That play set can then go from first to section option with a kill kill kill by Kapernicks read.
      3. Finally Kapernick can make a change after the snap for the final level. The pistol formation plays an important part in the 3rd level decision and because it is after a defense commits can like multiple check downs be very effective.

  4. The Panthers play a lot of zone coverage. With their fast linebackers this helps take away Kaepernick’s explosive runs. His ability to find the holes will be a big factor on Sunday. Can the line give him the time he needs?

    1. I know there’s a lot of talk about the Niners having the advantage this time around since we’ll have a healthy Crabtree and the full-time service of Davis and Aldon. But I really think, and this might sound so simple, if our O-line plays better and protect CK, the Niners win on Sunday.

  5. I find it hard to believe Harbaugh’s system is that simple; one read and throw it away.
    Most passing plays have a primary receiver who is the first read and then a second’ third and some times fourth. I recall both Alex and Kap working thru progressions on pass plays.
    I also recall Kap moving receivers from one side of the field to the other based on presnap reads.
    So; while the Niner passing offense may not be as complicated as the Panthers, I don’t think it is as simple as a “Bob”; maybe it’s a Robbie.

    1. A lot of those shifts Kaep runs are for isolation or defensive reads. I will have to agree that we dont typically run more than maybe 2-3 reads max on passing plays. Not sure where that limitation comes from (maybe coaches, maybe Kaep or some mix). Regardless the end result of our system is a 12-4 team against a tough schedule. Results are what matter in the NFL, not how you get there.

    2. Grant I liked this article but I will slide just a little to 42′s point. When it comes to complex / simple what I think we really have is two different types of complex.
      One (the Niners) has a whole lot of complex up front (before the snap) and the other (Panthers) shifts more of the complex to after the snap. Hence Niners often run out of time before getting the snap off and have to waste a time out.
      Yet even then (going with 42 comment) when it comes to check downs the two are more like Bob and Rob rather than Bob and Roberto. Kap does have check downs by design and he more than occasionally makes use of them.
      But as Grant says this team rides to the playoffs on a pre-planned high success first read. That resultant fast release keeps things easy for QB, reduces sacks and reduces turnovers.
      Three very good receivers now give Niners back the opportunity for an open first read. “Educationally guessing” which WR that will be is Roman’s tricky krap shoot.
      It is a set up, second guess and luck of the draw out of the shotgun, pistol and even under center (when Gore run first). That is just the tip of the complex ice burg that will punch a hole into the side of the River Boat.

  6. I don’t think the winner of this determines which system is better. You use the system that best fits your qb. It is clear that Kap is not the type of QB that will sit in a pocket and let plays devolope and make his progressions. He is the type of qb that chooses who gets the ball before the snap, like how I play in madden. For now it’s working but we will run into times when it doesn’t. Kap needs to improve this offseason. But overall complex is the way to go clearly, I don’t think that’s a real question, more of a shot at what the niners do. Having 5 eligible options every play is better than 2.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I usually have a #1 outside read and if he isn’t open usually my next read is the TE… by that time if the balls not out its a sack….i gotta get better at reading those defenses, it would up my game no question. I love madden.

    2. Correction Adam,
      It is the system that best fits all the personal and also a composite philosophy of previous regime and current. This is a team built around ground and pound at core, reduce turnovers and depend heavily on a good defense that is particularly adept at stopping the run.
      It is a good plan with a few flaws (in my opinion). Entire field to east and west (left and right) is not utilized enough even though Niners have the personnel for it.
      Need to disguise more between intentions (run and pass) by working out of one formation for both run and pass rather than changing up to fit motives.

  7. Why can’t grant ever write about something positive? Maybe he should change the name of this column to “why I don’t like Colin kapernick”

    1. Actually it should be “why I don’t like Jim Harbaugh”. He seems to be OK with Kaepernick, just doesn’t like Harbaugh.

  8. One thing you forgot is the work Kaep does recognizing defenses pre snap. Granted not that much when it comes to choosing between two plays but it’s an element that you didn’t mention and another variable aside from just roman guessing correctly.

      1. You are right and I thought about that while posting. But it speaks to some of quick assessment and decision making kap has to do. As a loose parallel to cam’s decision making when it comes to his profession of his reads.

      2. Which is also why we are fighting with the play clock so often. I dislike that component of this offense. I like that they played some hurry up though. With Gore, Crabs, VD, and Boldin we should be able to go hurry up more often, but maybe some of the old timers need breathers….

  9. This representation of the go-to-one-guy passing system is itself way too simplified. Sure, Roman makes educated guesses, calls in the play, hopes for the best. But that’s not all he does or can do. The 49er’s offense comes out of the huddle, lines up – and then more often than not guys shift all over the place. And how often does just one guy simply go in motion from one side of the line to the other? These shifts are “tells” for a defense, which must react to them. Roman knows this, too, and so he can use deception – set up deceptive “tells” – and in that way hope to “bend” the defense in a direction he wants it to go, i.e., in a direction that favors the designated receiver getting open. And can you imagine the satisfaction a coach feels when he pulls this off on any given play – actually manipulating a defense into doing what he wants it to do? What a huge LOL! And as to the difference between the two offenses: part of that difference probably also represents a realistic, pragmatic playing to the respective quarterbacks’ strengths rather than to their weaknesses.

    1. Also, think of the old shell game – under which shell is the pea hiding? It’s not Roman who’s guessing. He’s making defenses guess – and he’s moving the “shells” around to make their job of guessing just that much harder.

      1. I believe all the shifting is to give CK a jump start on his post snap read. How the D reacts to the motion tells CK what kind of coverage they will be in post snap. Motion creates a defensive “tell”. I still believe that the problem with the play clock [which incidentally has improved quite a bit] falls on the shoulders of CK he is not a calm and deliberate QB.

      2. Max,
        This complexity is pre snap. This gives a defense a chance to react before the snap even if only a fraction before the snap.
        The Panthers shift more of the complexity to after snap — to Cam Newton. When on track defenses have to literally read on the fly.
        But as said more pressure on QB and thus more turnovers.

      3. @ . . . says. Yes, but the complexity – the shell game – often continues post-snap as well. I’m thinking of those first four plays we ran against Arizona last time. And again: some of the final pre-snap looks we give to a defense may be deceptions based on discerned patterns of defensive reaction behavior studied over many games. But your point is a good one and if we can limit Carolina’s pre-snap opportunities to read our offense to fractions of a second maybe we’ll be okay.

  10. Grant, here’s the meaning of the word GUESS according to Merriam-Webster:
    guess verb \ˈges\
    : to form an opinion or give an answer about something when you do not know much or anything about it

    : to guess (something) correctly : to make a correct conclusion about (someone or something) by chance

    I think the word “guess” does not apply to what Roman is doing. Just my opinion.

    1. OK, is it forecasting then? It’s something. Anticipatory speculation? Speculative anticipation? You don’t know what’s coming but you suspect it’s more likely to be A than B. Phew.

      1. A journalist uses the exact words to give the exact meaning Brotha. I would expect any professional to understand that!

      2. Personally, I got Grant’s meaning. It is very much a guess as too who will be the open receiver on the next play. That reciever will be that first read which as determined is all important in the mostly one read Harbaugh offense.
        Yes it is obviously educated as it is based on situation, defense, time and a whole bunch of other things to make a Roman’s head spin.

  11. Cam the better pocket passer, and Shula playcalling is best for him, and Kaep can throw on the run and his play book is best for him. Steve Smith is a great receiver, although he has been hurt. None of it matters, that is why they play the game.

  12. Love Grant’s gift for catchy writing, but the concept seems like semantics to me. We’ve all seen times where Kaep checks down, perhaps even to a 3rd option. We’ve also seen times where both he and Cam force it to the first read. Pressure? Inexperience? Gas? Doesn’t every play have a primary read with check downs? Sure the 4th read may be a decoy less likely to get the target, but even Pop Warner coaches say, “run your pattern cuz you never know!” Experience increases vision and allows for more and faster progressions in which case you get a Brady, Bree’s or Montana. If not, you get Ryan Leaf.

  13. The rest of this season all comes down to the pass….more specifically CK.

    The defense has done there job for most of the season. When the box is not stacked we have shown Gore can make plays still!

    We need to make plays against man coverage and single high safety PERIOD

    1. I actually think CK, Crabs and Boldin together will eat up a zone. Just need the time to let play develop.

      As for the spy CK must identify this person at the line and manipulate the play knowing they must contain

  14. Nice article Grant. This seems to explain an apparent dropoff in options when things go awry at the line. There has to be a plan B in there somewhere though? Perhaps this oversimplified the 49er checkdown a bit too much?

    1. Off topic, but I always get a good feeling at the Internationality of The Faithful. Andrew From Rishikish; WHERE YOU AT? Haha. DClark, I see you. Scooter too. Angus, Sean & Prime; sheesh, yer family!

      1. I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand but am still a fanatical 49er Faithful! (Never been to Saudi but came close on a recent holiday to Dubai).

  15. I say, let the “genius” Roman walk. Maybe Rathman as OC? Niners continue to be in mix based on roster and defensive and special teams coaches. Roman sucks. Bill Walsh would be rolling in his grave watching this.

    1. Boz, I agree, though I don’t think he has any plan to “walk.” He ‘ll leave if he’s offered a HC job. Roman’s done a good job with the 49ers, just like Alex was becoming a very good QB. But….. as a long time 49er fan I’m extremely greedy when it comes to offense. I want “brilliant” not just good. Thought we were getting that with JH. Closest to Walsh in the league now is Payton though Walsh’s teams usually had a very good run game too. But …… if we should win the SB? Of course then …… as with Barry Zito…..then all is forgiven and I will at that point bow down to Roman.

  16. Alex to Colin (it is all about the paycheck):
    If for some reason, neither one of us brings
    home the Lombardi trophy this year… Well,
    I’m gonna feel good having renegotiated my
    final one year contract (at $ 7.5 million) to
    something multi-year for much bigger bucks.

    How much $$$ will you be playing for, rookie?
    Enuf for more new tennis shoes & earphones…
    See the discussion above
    Oh yeah, and ink, hmm? (almost forgot the ink)

    1. Hi, my name is Colin Kaepernick and I make 100X more money than Alex Smith in endorsement deals. Like my ink? So do the ladies…

  17. Not sure I disagree with much of the substance written here but the entire tone of this article, most Grant Cohn articles for that matter, seems to try to knock down the 49ers and build up the opponents.

    “Just fire the ball to the primary receiver if he’s open and, if he’s covered, run for your life.”

    These guys put in 70-90 hour weeks game planning for each opponent. I highly doubt Chuck & Duck or Chuck & Tuck is the strategy. Each play has multiple progressions with multiple receiver options based on QB reads. CK is still developing so he is slow on his progressions and focuses on his first read only but Cohn’s description makes it sound like the offensive staff is drawing plays up on the cave wall and throwing virgins into the volcano hoping for a successful play.

    Cohn writes this about Shula – who will NEVER be considered a high end OC:

    “The success of Shula’s passing game does not depend on Shula guessing right. It depends on his quarterback, Cam Newton, making good decisions.”

    It all goes together. The success of every teams passing game depends on good offensive play calling and execution by the players. When OC’s “guess” wrong and call a bad play then the QB (both CK and Cam) audible out of the play and try to get into good plays. It all goes hand in hand.

    Cohn you could have written this entire article in one sentence:

    Cam Newton is further along in his development as an NFL QB than Colin Kaepernick.

    Or to further your agenda of denigrating all things associated with Harbaugh you could have started the article a little more honestly:

    Cam Newton is further along in his development as an NFL QB than Colin Kaepernick. However, I am going to blame the 49ers offensive coaching staff for employing a strategy from the neolithic period that pales in comparison to the ultramodern offensive strategy employed by Mike Shula.

    1. That wasn’t my point at all. Shula’s scheme lives and dies with the decisions a young quarterback makes during a play — even if the primary receiver isn’t open, there are two other targets downfield Newton can throw to. If Newton makes a bad decision or forces a pass, that can lose games. Harbaugh’s system does not live and die with Kaepernick’s decisions during a play. Harbaugh’s system is much more dependent on Roman’s decisions, his ability to get the primary receiver open for Kaepernick, which has its positives and negatives. It’s a trade off and a difference of philosophies. Both philosophies have been working for both teams.

      I do believe when you use a system with decoys, you’re at risk for the type of interception that happened in Green Bay last Sunday.

      1. Boldin wasn’t a “decoy” on the interception play. That was a simple flood concept with a guy at all 3 levels. Kaepernick had both the mid-level (Davis) and low-level (Gore?) open. He chose Davis, not a bad choice.

        What caused the play to fail was that he made a poor throw, putting way too much air under it.

        1. Boldin absolutely was a decoy on that play. There is no question about it. Watch him start jogging 10 yards into his route, before he looks back, before Kaepernick starts throwing.

          What caused the play to fail was that Boldin didn not sell his route, so Boldin’s man pealed off him and intercepted a pass to Davis right in front of him.

      2. Yeah, I tend to agree that Grant is great at provoking thought. It just comes across as one sided most of the time to me. I’m fully appreciative of any writer slamming the 9ers when they deserve it. I think Grant would have been great writing during the Erickson/Nolan/Singletary era. Harbaugh has had amazing success very quickly so always pointing to the negative comes across as uneven commentary to me. I’m sure Harbaugh is abrasive and tedious to deal with for the media but at least give the guy credit for almost always pulling the right strings to get this team to the point they currently enjoy.

      3. I don’t comment on things I haven’t already watched. They were in a zone coverage and even if Boldin was faster than a turtle the CB would have broke on the ball.

        That play is a bad example to use because there are multiple options to throw to all on the same side of the field. Kaepernick chose Davis, not a bad read but a tight window throw that he airmailed.

        1. You’re wrong. If Boldin had sold that he was an eligible receiver, the cornerback would have had to respect the deep route but he did not.

          That play is a perfect example. It’s designed to get Davis the ball. Kaepernick probably never passed to Boldin once when they repped that play in practice because he’s a decoy. Gore is a checkdown option which the 49ers don’t always give Kaepernick. It’s a high-low read on one side of the field, the stuff Blake Bortles does at UCF.

          How can Boldin be part of the progression when he starts jogging before Kaepernick throws, before Williams breaks on the pass, before Boldin even looks for the ball? He starts jogging because he knows he isn’t getting the ball.

      4. That was weird. Not sure how my comment was posted in 2 places.

        Grant, you’re way too caught up on the decoy thing. Bill Walsh signed Renaldo Nehemiah for the sole purpose of being a decoy. Or, to say it a different way, Bill Walsh signed Renaldo Nehemiah to attack deep which also had the added benefit of opening up intermediate routes for other receivers. Boldin quit on his route which allowed a DB to come off and make an interception. If Boldin did his job attacking the deep 3rd then that pass is a 25 yard completion. I don’t think you can necessarily use that play to criticize the entire offensive game plan.

      5. Grant for your hypothesis to be correct then Boldin had to knowingly imperil the entire play by not clearing out the passing zone for Davis. Every offense in the NFL has plays designed to go to a specific receiver. Many NFL players including Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and even Steve Smith do not go 100% on every play especially when they are on the backside of a play call. I think a more plausible explanation is that Boldin screwed up the play call and thought he was on the back side.

      6. If Kaepernick had thrown and completed the pass to Boldin, then perhaps we could say that Boldin wanted to be seen as a decoy, as a non-target, thus ridding himself of a pesky cornerback’s attentions and making a relatively unobstructed catch. Very clever, these 49ers!

      7. I think whether Boldin sold the route or not, Williams was going to peel off and go to Davis – that’s film study on Williams’ part. Call it an educated guess by Williams as to where Kaep was going to go on that play.

        And as Jack says, the ball had a little more air under it than it needed. Kaep actually had a number of passes last week where he put more air under it than usual – I think that was the plan due to the cold to make it easier for the receivers to catch it.

    2. Thank you Houston. I agree with you. Grant has his uses on this blog, but it is the commentary of the fans that most of us read it for. Grant is great at provoking thought.

      1. Yeah, I tend to agree that Grant is great at provoking thought. It just comes across as one sided most of the time to me. I’m fully appreciative of any writer slamming the 9ers when they deserve it. I think Grant would have been great writing during the Erickson/Nolan/Singletary era. Harbaugh has had amazing success very quickly so always pointing to the negative comes across as uneven commentary to me. I’m sure Harbaugh is abrasive and tedious to deal with for the media but at least give the guy credit for almost always pulling the right strings to get this team to the point they currently enjoy.

    3. Correct me if I’m wrong but it would seem like many if not all teams call some plays where the main purpose is to get their #1 receiver open, especially when you have a legitimate weapon that you would like to get the ball in his hands…..I’m not saying the entire game is called that way but I would think it is not uncommon.

      And I also agree with Houston to an extent. Though some of Grants arguments are valid, his tone comes off somewhat condescending or diminishng. Hence all the angry readers. Whether on purpose or not that’s a different story

      1. Not diminishing, just describing.

        The difference is when the No.1 receiver isn’t open, Newton has more options built into the play than Kaepernick does. Kaepernick sometimes has a checkdown No.2 option, but not a No.3 option. The No.3 option is scramble.

        Kaepernick can’t throw to a decoy who is jogging and not looking for the ball.

        When do you ever see Kaepernick choose not to throw to his primary receiver and then throw to a secondary target downfield? Harbaugh doesn’t ask him to. Newton has been doing that all season because Shula asks him to.

      2. “The difference is when the No.1 receiver isn’t open, Newton has more options built into the play than Kaepernick does.”

        This just isn’t true. There are multiple options on the majority of their pass plays.

        1. It is true, Jack. Newton has three targets in his progression frequently and Kaepernick almost never does. He gets two reads at the most, high-low on one side of the field

      3. Being that I work full time and have 2 crazy boys (1 and 3 yrs) waiting for me as soon as i get home I am not going to go through hours upon hours a game tape to prove my point.

        So I’ll take your word for it.

      4. “When do you ever see Kaepernick choose not to throw to his primary receiver and then throw to a secondary target downfield?”

        He did it on Sunday during the final drive. He looked downfield, it was covered so he came back down to Gore. He also had Dixon on the outside on that play but he was covered which is what opened up Gore.

        1. Checkdowns, safe throws, not always built into 49ers’ passes. Shula asks Newton to read two or three receivers downfield, not one downfield receiver and a back or two in the flat.

      5. Isn’t the sideline outlet to the FB (Miller/Boobie) a 3rd option most times, with high-low the 1/2?
        The system has reads. When Colin took over that’s what we saw, he threw to his downfield reads more aggressively than Alex.

        1. It has reads like a J.V. passing offense has reads. The easiest reads possible. And that leads to fewer mistakes. Shula’s scheme is more complicated, so they’re more at risk of their QB losing games for them.

          The 49ers called more downfield throws when Kaepernick came in, like the deep pass to Kyle Williams against the Bears.

        1. Maybe not because he hasn’t won a Super Bowl, but he’s close. He might be. I haven’t given it a lot of thought.

          Like Pete Carroll, Harbaugh really gets his guys to play for him. That’s probably Harbaugh’s best quality.

        1. Belichick and the other Harbaugh, Tomlin, Coughlin. You have to consider them. Maybe Jim is No.5, but you could make an argument for Carroll, too.

      6. >>Checkdowns, safe throws, not always built into 49ers’ passes.

        Which is a 180 from the Niners offense when AS was QB.

        Something to think about for those who describe GRo as “stubborn”.

  18. Cam Newton has the IQ of a pencil sharpener and the emotional make up of a 16-year-old girl. I look forward to Aldon Smith knocking that clown on his butt…

  19. Trent Dilfer, who played for Shula when Shula was the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator from 1996 to 1999 and currently is an analyst for ESPN, recently told a Bay Area radio station there are no progressions in the 49ers’ passing game. “They’re calling a play for a defense, for a player and, if that play is called wrong, that second, third, fourth option isn’t going to get the ball very often. They don’t have the type of offensive structure and Colin isn’t the type of quarterback that there are five eligible receivers and anyone can get the ball.”

    Perhaps, Dilfer can now remove the stigma he placed on CK when he referred to him as “remedial” if the 1st read is not there.
    I truly doubt that Dilfer will retract any comments about CK.

    But Dilfer’ latest statement seems to contradict his earlier comments about CK. Now, he (TD) is saying that the 49ers offense operates under the plan of going with the 1st read, which puts the onus Harbaugh/Roman rather than Kaep.

    All good because its proven to be a successful plan. But like I said, I don’t expect an apology from Dilfer.

  20. I think this article over simplifies the offense. It’s like only describing grass to someone whose never seen it as simply, “Green”.
    Receivers stop running in every system. When receivers stop running, the play usually ends in an interception. The R. Wilson broken plays aren’t drawn up by design. Receivers typically run for 2-3 seconds and that’s it. If they haven’t shed the defender, they aren’t a target. They surrender. When you’re Boldin or Brandon Lloyd and you have no speed to start with, your clock is even shorter.

  21. Doesn’t Kaepernick make all the pre-snap reads for the offense, and get the offense into the correct play or does Roman do that for him, too?

    What % of the plays is Kap getting a one read or run?

    When asked why Kaepernick threw to Quinton Patton at the end of the Cards’ game, Kap said that “I liked the matchup.”

    This theory has so many holes in it, because we clearly see Kap going thru his progression at certain times during games. The Crabtree TD, Boldin was the first read.. then Kap scrambled to his right and found Crabtree for the TD in Tampa. Going from your main read to a secondary read is called ‘going thru progression’. If Crabtree was just a decoy as you’ve theorized, he would have just given up on the play as he was never meant to get the ball.

    I could go on and on with examples, but why bother.. this is stupid, I can’t believe I wasted my time reading this drivel.

    This might come as a shock to Grant, but not every route ran and not every receiver is eligible, decoys do exist to get certain players the ball from time to time if the coordinator is trying to exploit a particular part of the defense. In your example, Roman liked the mismatch Vernon Davis presented to the Packers’ L’backers, Boldin was suppose to clear out the space so Davis would have room to run. That is ONE play.. not every play, on play doesn’t dictate an entire offense.

    Sometimes you hit the nail on the head, other times you miss by a mile.. this one is by three miles.. this really irritates me because it’s so stupid.

  22. Should the fact this is the 49ers 3rd straight road game concern me? Back in my gambl….er, investing days, I once read that a team on it’s 3rd straight road game didn’t do well (not sure if that was straight up or against the line). I kinda think 3 straight road games in today’s NFL is rare, but does anyone know if 3 straight road games is a factor? Didn’t hurt GB as a 6 six seed not long ago.

  23. Good article Grant. There’s this huge backlash against any criticism of the Niners passing offense. And many fans refuse to believe that the 49ers beat defenses best when Kap IGNORES what Roman says and makes plays on his own. Isn’t that how he continues to win? Converts 3rd downs? We don’t always “clearly” see Kap going through progressions – and the reason why this offense can seem so “rhythmless”. Dilfer isn’t the only NFL analyst to make this point about how the 49ers “manufacture” passing. There are too many former pro players and coaches out there agreeing with Dilfer to ignore it.

  24. I don’t disagree with most of what you’re saying, it’s a well thought out article. The 49ers passing offense definitely has a good amount of manufacturing baked into it. My disagreement comes from the number of options available on any given play.

    1. Fair enough. I see your point.

      If you have the time, check out Newtons’ 79-yard TD pass to LaFell Week 6. It’s Newton’s second downfield read. Newton looks left and then back to the right for LaFell. The 49ers don’t ask Kaepernick to do that.

      1. Grant,

        The 49ers run that post/wheel concept a lot. Watch the second TD pass to Davis in the 2011 NFCCG. It is the same play.

        1. Not really. That’s a half-field read, both receivers on the left side, and Smith stares down Davis. Newton reads the whole field on his 79-yard TD to Lafell, left to right.

      2. It’s the same post/wheel concept. Newton is going right the whole way. He’s looking left during the play fake to hold the safety.

        The 49ers do the same thing, and also will do it with a curl instead of a post from time to time. It is one of their favorite “shot” play calls.

      3. Does not really matter if you think Cam has better fundamentals then Kaep, Cam had extra year to develop.How many times has Peyton Manning been the better QB and lost play off games. If he loses this week, it will definitely put a bad mark on his career, after the records he broke. Kind of reminds me when George Steinbrenner called Dave Winfield Mr. April.

      4. Cam Newton is further along than Kap as a pro QB and he should be. He had a year and a half head start.

        I’ve seen progress from Kap the second half of the season which is all we really can expect. They don’t ask him to go through progressions very often, but have answers built in to the offense as Alex Smith described it a couple of years ago. As time goes along, I’m guessing they will give Kap more responsibility to read the entire field instead of half, but it takes time to master that.

        What Kap needs to do is be accurate more than anything because there is usually an option whether it be first tier or further. He also has to be willing to take the short gain more often instead of holding the ball and waiting for the longer option to uncover. If he threw just a few more passes to the backs, it would open up the middle of the field greatly. His greatest asset (his arm) is also the greatest impediment because he is always looking for the big play instead of the checkdown. As soon as he learns to balance the two he’ll be fine.

      5. Yeah, whether that was Newton’s second downfield read or not, something I would love Kaep to learn that Newton seems to be doing is looking off DBs. Kaep is still caught staring down his receiver, which for an offense that tends to halve the field for the QB makes it that much easier for defenders to know which side the ball is going (thus letting over the top help slide confidently to that side of the field).

      6. Scooter,

        If you can, check out the first drive from the week 10 Carolina game. Kaepernick looks left for Davis before coming back right to Boldin running up the seam.

        Kaepernick stays with Davis a tick too long allowing the CB to come off the outside WR and undercut the throw.

      7. Maybe he just looked left to move the safety and the play was designed to go to Lafell the whole time. Smh at the stupidity of this article. This is the worst article I’ve read all week

    2. What kills me about the Niners third down tries, if it is 3rd and 8, please pass the ball at least 8 yards, we have seen this too often where they throw the ball short of the first down marker, yes I realize they are not covered as tight in those areas.

    3. I agree with Grant’s article on this. I would just move it further into shades of gray. But nuance is a place you don’t want to go to in pro football because there is a whole lot of it.
      Speaking of:
      The discussion so far seems to loose sight of the fact that Kap is still getting comfortable with being a good pocket passer. The pocket helps the offense to give the QB the time he needs to find those second and third options. Until Kap finds a Drew Breese like pocket presence this will be a pound and ground / first read offense.

  25. If Kaepurnicus gets time, he will shred the Panthers with his arm. Hardy and his fellow Slytherin defensive line mates are confident they can manhandle Staley and his Griffindor offensive line mates. I think they rise to the challenge and shock the Panthers with an outstanding performance….

  26. The key to this game for me is Niner O-line. Panthers led league with 60 sacks, 15 of those sacks in their last 2 games. Panthers front 7 are peaking and they’re rested. If O-line can hold them off, Niners will win.

    1. Crab15,
      CK may have had his worse game as a pro or any football level (high school/college) against the Panthers.

      I’m interested in how CK’ mindset/psyche holds-up during our first offensive series.
      If CK’ psyche is as strong as I think it is, he will have put the last game against the Panthers behind him and have an outstanding game on Sunday.

      To me, that will be an important hurdle in Kaep’s overall growth as an NFL present and future star.

      1. AES – Good post bro….Kap needs to stay within himself in first quarter. Not try to do too much, too soon to make up for his poor game vs Carolina.

  27. Let’s talk QB reads, progressions and the offense. (part I)

    Dilfer is mostly correct in his assessment but the conclusion is wrong.

    But let’s clear up what QB reads and progressions are. I’m stealing much of this from chris brown’s article about cam newton’s college ability to read defenses.

    there are basically 3 levels of QB pre-snap read skill levels.

    1. Simple Progressions. This is the simple, look from one receiver to the next to the next, usually from right to left. To a certain degree this is what Difler is talking about. But the Niner’s offense is not that simple.

    2. Simple Coverage Reads Again fairly simple, the QB looks at the shell coverage: one high or 2 deep safeties. one high = middle of the field closed (mofc) and 2 deep = middle of the field open (mofo).

    THIS IS WHAT KAEPERNICK IS MOSLTY DOING. You ever wonder why he locks on to his WR? There are two reasons. The first reason is because when he reads single high safety (which he frequently does because the Niners face a lot of 8 men in the box with the strong safety used for run support) he looks/locks on to the outside receivers (usually the Flanker Boldin…used to be Crabtree….now I think they’re interchangeable depending on the play). I’ll get to the 2nd reason in a little later.

    3. Full Field Coverage Reads/Playbook Mastery The QB reads the coverage (shell and man vs. zone, individual defender tendencies…etc..) and immediately knows exactly what route in the play called attacks the coverage the best. This is the kind of QB play that Manning, Brady, Rogers and Brees play. They are basically on field computers doing much of the calculations during pre-snap and on the fly (as opposed to Kaepernick who simply changes the play if he doesn’t like what he sees).

    The ability by a QB to fully analyze and figure out how to attack a defense allows an offense to utilize the whole field and allows the QB to make instant decisions which helps to get the ball out of his hands faster. Also, this level of sophistication tied to the receivers has the them adjusting routes with site adjustments and option routes which help them get open. You ever wonder why slot receivers and tight ends on other teams always look open compared to the Niners who will have no one open in the middle of the field or just a dump off to the RB? It’s because none of the Niner’s receivers adjust their routes to the defense. They run strict routes; there is no complex synchronicity between Kaep and his receivers (except for Crabs who seems to know instinctively or through practice how to get open when the play breaks down).

    Now, I’m not saying Kaep can’t do any of this. He can at times. Some plays he’s going to know better than others against some defenses he reads. But Dilfer is correct that the routes and plays are fairly static. It’s either there or not which makes Kaeps scrambling ability much more important. If the routes and reads don’t adjust in the play (static) then the play is either dead or he can scramble to make up for the ineffective called play.

      1. also, i haven’t watched many Panther games but I don’t know how you can tell if Newton is reading coverages and instantly making decisions or if he’s reading coverage shells. he came out of college reading coverage shells (at least according to the article i read). it’s not all cut and dry as to when and if a player is simply reading coverage shells or full coverage reads. sometimes Kaep makes the instant read too (usually he sees man coverage and instantly throws the back side slant…man beater route)

        1. You can see Newton scan the whole field. When can you ever see Kaepernick do this? He basically cheers from the pocket for his primary receiver to get open. His feet never take him to his second read. Newton’s feet do. That’s coaching.

          Also, Shula and Rivera have talked a lot about Newton’s ability to get to the third target in his progression.

        1. More on the coach than the player in my opinion, and not all on Roman. It’s on Harbaugh and Chryst, too. You play how you’re coached to play unless you hate football. If the 49ers coached Kaepernick to go through three or four full-field progressions quickly while re-setting his feet, he probably would.

      2. yes, Kaep does scan the whole field sometimes. not often either due to the play called or because of pressure. again, it’s not all black and white. Kaep does read coverages sometimes. just like Newton will read coverage or simply read the shell or go with the hot receiver. It’s just that the Niner’s offense structures this more for Kaep.

    1. Kaep is getting there too. The Niner’s offense just uses more “crutches” or “training wheels” IMO. But as Kaep makes more decisive reads (which comes from experience) with the given plays, you’ll see more full field types of plays called. Even now, you see more options open to Kaepnerick than before. As I said at the end of my comment, Newton just has about a year or more of experience.

      1. The Niners never took the training wheels off Smith. Reid did, and Smith played better.

        Kaepernick is 26. Newton is 24. Both have been in the league 3 years and studied under the same QB coach 3 yeas. Newton is more advanced because of the coaching he’s received from Shula.

      2. Newton has more starting experience.

        Also, it’s not just training wheels. It’s basic offensive philosophy. Harbaugh and Roman are always going to lean towards a power run game with controlled play action passing (which naturally limits the number of receiving options).

        Smith is playing much the same way with Reid as he did with Harbaugh. He’s still a conservative passer. I’m sure Reid’s playbook is more complex.

        But the passing concepts are pretty much all the same. stick is a stick, snag is snag, mesh is mesh, smash is smash no matter what the personnel grouping and other window dressing you apply.

        1. Yeah, but Reid often puts five elligibles in the pattern, and four guys aren’t decoys. It’s more complex and Smith rose to it.

      3. Decoys? the full field is being used. all the receivers are eligible for the ball. it’s just that once the decision has been made based on the read coverage, once side of the field or the other will be used. then those receivers on that side of the field are the primary receivers in play.

        also, in most passing concepts receivers are used to get other receivers open. coverage usually dictates who’s the “decoy” and who’s the intended receiver.

        as for Reid’s offense. don’t ya think that all those screen passes are mostly “one-2 read” plays? no different than play action passing receiver options. and it’s not like all of the Niner’s plays are half field reads, there are full field read plays in their playbook. you see them more on third down.

      4. Good stuff allforfun.

        Grant in my eyes he’s one this debate. It seems to me that you are attempting to explain what you see or what you perceive, but allforfun is explaining the mechanics behind what you see and why you see it. But then again what do i know.

        allforfun – I’m assuming you have some sort of extensive football background, you seem very knowledgeable on the subject.

    2. Allforfun,
      For me the best comment yet. As a nuts and bolts person cannot get enough.
      Your point about 8 in the box leading to a first read is what I mean when I say this is a ground and pound with first read offense. The run between tackles pulls the safeties in tightens up the box and the next thing you know you have single coverage for a first read.

      If they could just get defenses to respect east west (left right) and not telegraph with formation changes so often. Defenses generally read Niner intent and stretch the box to the right side just enough to take away Kaps scramble for pass or run that was so effective last year. So Kap this year has been running more to left. Passing from the left for him is a do not go there.
      I would like to see one of our backs mostly on the bench (LMJ) as that left side threat. And I want a formation that keeps that threat in there with Gore to both keep them guessing and to stretch the field in all directions.

  28. Silly column right out of your imagintion. The 49ers, and Roman are always getting complimented as one of most innovative offenses in the league. To say it all gets dumbed down because Kaepernick can’t handle it is just plain stupid. And then you accuse Boldin of taking plays off costing us an interception. Maybe the 49er’s should have hired you instead of Mangini. We’re into the second round of the playoffs and no one on 9er’s has seen what you’ve seen. Maybe you could point out to Harbaugh and Roman what mistakes Kaepernick and Boldin are making.

    1. the innovation is in the running game.

      their use of multiple trap blocks from various types of players (guards, fullbacks, H-Backs, TEs and even WRs) along with their jumbo personnel groups to get a tactical advantage is some of the best in the game.

      their other innovation is in incorporating various “wrinkles into the offense” like the fly sweep and the read option.

      you could call the Niner’s streamlining of the passing game an innovation but is certainly not the most complex or revolutionary of innovations.

      1. Allforfun,
        I want one more innovation in the running game. I want to see Gore and an outside back in at same time. I want to see a formation that puts a running inside and outside threat together. This is something the Niners don’t do and I am sure it would work if they gave it a decent try. That outside runner should see a lot of calls to the left side. This would open up Kaps favorite right side again.
        I want all these plays from one formation so the defense cannot possibly read unless some O line man tips the hat.

    2. Deacon,
      I’ve not had the opportunity to re-watch the game, but many media commentators have pointed out that Boldin quit on his route, tipping the GB defender that the ball was going somewhere else, so he promptly peeled off and made a nice pick.
      You seem to have a problem with Grant pointing out what is clear to many on the film. What’s your deal?

  29. I asked this question earlier…

    Grant – Do you think that running an offense the way you have described the 49ers run their offense can and will hinder the development of a young player like Kap? What if Roman leaves and takes Chryst with him and we bring on an out of house OC? How would Kap respond to transitioning to a more conventional offense? Also do you think the plan is to bring Kap along slowly and gradually put more and more on his plate?

    1. Leo:

      If Harbaugh is still the head coach, I don’t think you are going to see the offense change significantly, regardless of who the OC is.

    2. I understand that Claude, but its more of a hypothetical. Basically just wondering if Kap’s development is being hindered in this “one-read” system.

      1. I don’t think it’s being hindered. the structures in place can just as easily be removed as Kaep becomes more proficient at reading defenses and mastering his playbook. He can become a full field QB. But as Claude said, they’re still going to run the ball and use play action whenever possible. But full field plays would come into play more often in obvious passing downs situations.

      1. not all the plays are half field reads. and the half field read is somewhat misleading as they are using the full field most of the time. Just providing a half field read structure based on the coverage.

      2. I agree with allforfun. Kapernicks development will be little by little. That is how Harbaugh wants it.
        I think the problem is more about pocket passing than check downs as the first usually begats the second. We have seen more under center pocket work and hopefully that will improve with time.

  30. On that pick Colin threw last week he would have had a nice gain if he had pump faked to Vernon and hit Gore in the right flat for nice 10+ gain. The pump would have given Gore a little more space to run. He was already open. Disappointed with Boldin on that play. It was kinda BS from a “team player”.

        1. Watch his stride and his knee lift. It’s aggressive and high until he hits the 20 yard line, then he stops sprinting. Kaepernick hasn’t begun to throw and Williams is still back pedalling.

  31. The Niner’s Offense (part II)

    Play Action Much of the Niner’s passing game is based off of play action. That should be obvious because they are such a run heavy team. Play Action usually has less receiving options built into it. But when the run game is working and in non-obvious passing downs the advantages of play action out weigh the option of a full field of receiving options.

    Half Field Reads There are more options in the passing game than you give it credit. Half field reads most of the time does not mean that an entire half of the field is shutdown. Much of the Niner’s passing offense has it’s coverage reads split in two. So that on one side of the formation you have routes designed to beat zone and man beater routes on the other side. So if zone vs. man coverage is read (or expected) than the QB has an advantage as to where to go with the ball from the snap. THIS IS THE SECOND REASON THAT IT OFTEN LOOKS LIKE KAEP LOCKS ON TO HIS RECEIVERS. He’s locked on to the side of the field where the type of coverage and the play dictates him to go with his read. Half field reads does shut down the number of option once the read has been made. But there are a full number of receiving options open before the read.

    <Blitz Pick Up Adjustments and Dump Offs One adjustment that I’ve seen made over the past 5-6 games is that the check-release responsibility by the running back has been changed. I mentioned this a couple weeks ago and someone here mentioned that it was a to counter green-dog blitzes. The check release has the RB read the defense and stay in if an extra pass rusher is identified or go out into a pattern if the defense just rushes 4 or 5. But defenses can disguise their intentions and fake dropping back into coverage and then blitz (green dog) or fake blitzing and then drop back into coverage there by making the RB useless and giving the defense extra coverage. So the Niners have begun to have the RB slip underneath the coverage as an immediate dump off option. And we’ve seen Kaepnernick more and more take the safer option when given to him.

    When developing a QB you can either ease him in with a simplified playbook or throw him in the deep end. The Niners have simply taken numerous steps to structure the plays and the playbook to help the QB develop. Innovative offensive coaches like Roman and Harbaugh will certainly use more full field reads and on field adjustments when they feel their QB is ready. In fact the fact that the RB is no longer almost strictly an extra blocker and is more often a receiving option bodes well for Kaep’s development and the coaches’ evolution and trust in the Kaep and the offense. The way I look at the way the offense has been structured is that it has some “training wheels” and as Kaep masters more and more of the playbook and his reads he will be able to instantly recognize coverage and know where to go with the ball which will open up even more of the playbook. But remember that Harbaugh is still a run first “grind the meat and rattle the molars” kind of offensive philosophy. So the backbone of the offense will always be run first and play action passing. But once he feels comfortable with Kaep and the rest of the offenses’ abilities; he has the knowledge and experience to open up the offense WHEN NECESSARY (his offensive mentor Lindy Infante opened up the Colt’s passing game with various run and shoot type option routes).

    As for Newton, I don’t see anything that much more complex in the Panther’s playbook. Newton isn’t that much further along than Kaepnernick. Newton’s progress this year has been patience in taking more of what the defense is giving him much like we were griping about Kaep’s limitations during the Niner’s mid season slump. The Panther’s passing game simply has a few less “training wheels” in it and more full field reads. Newton simply has another year or more of experience over Kaepernick, that’s all.

    1. Wow…. this has to be the most in-depth, yet fully comprehendible analysis I’ve read about our offense, by anyone let alone a reader. No matter what others say on here that was some great info Allforfunnplay thanks.

    2. This is good stuff affp – good posts. I hope you are right and that as Kaep develops they will entrust him with more complex processes. Give Harbaugh credit, he has a track record of getting his QBs playing at a high level quickly. Part of that is having a system that doesn’t put more on the QB than they can handle.

      1. AFFP
        Great posts, part one and two. Great detailed breakdown that was informative yet entertaining to read. Thank you for reaffirming why i come to this blog beyond the usual ‘”my team is better than your team” fanboi stuff we actually get tactical explanations for whast we see on the field. Strong work

  32. I’m just thankful Carlor Rogers is not playing this week. He’s been the weak link in coverage this year and his ability to tackle is non existent. If we are solid in coverage this week and not let the tight end have a career day, we will win by 10-14 points. Our offensive line needs to step up and protect Kap!

    1. Interesting, doesn’t sound right. The Panthers convert 44 percent of their third downs, so that stat means they convert 10 percent of their third downs by running. If that’s true, it must be tops in the league by far.

      If it’s true, it shows how good a scrambler Newton is. He rushed for a third-down conversion in the first quarter against the 49ers when Bowman was spying him. Newton just juked him.

      I wonder what Newton’s passing conversion percentage would be if he had Boldin.

    2. Thanks for posting that Albert. What that tells us is that a lot of the 3rd down conversions for Carolina were short yardage situations and Cam is great at getting a yard or two.

  33. Grant you wrote “you never hear Harbaugh talk about Kaepernick that way” Thats because Harbaugh does’nt talk that way to the media. He never breaks his offense down to its component parts, whether he is talking about Boone, Gore or Kaepernick. He uses general flowery adjectives to explain his players performance. They are mighty men or warriors etc. He very seldom if ever breaks his players performance down to X’s and O’s. So in reality no one outside the team really understands the structure of the 9er passing game, like the rest of us here you are just guessing.

  34. Niners packer Game
    12:48 (2nd and 4) First passing down.

    Passes to MC, on a hitch route from the slot. If he had looked from left to right he would have found Vernon open after the safety bit left. Vernon was open for possibly a touch down. Obviously Crab would have been his primary receive on this one. It is also very likely that this play being the first passing down that it was meant to be a quick hit so that the defense would respect the pass and also to get Kap into rhythm.

    Ill be doing this for the whole game bit by bit for only the passing downs. I have all 22 film (coaches film). You can find it here Google Drive link (

    What are your thoughts?

    1. It is also important to note that when he released the ball he had LB 59 in his face who Blitzed untouched. So he had to let go of the ball there immediately or would have gotten sacked. Initially i though a pump fake would have released 85 free, but not enough time.

  35. I don’t know if he rates Top 5 Head Coach, probably not, but I’ll give a shout-out to John Fox. Part of coaching is getting the most out of the guys you’ve got. He adapted to milk a playoff appearance and one PO win out of Tebow. So they sign PM and he adapts again; if nothing else by not letting his ego get in the way of letting Peyton do what he does. His team’s play hard. He comes up with good game plans for all three phases.
    Looking at 2013 so far, a few guys have done rather well:
    BB for keeping his team in the hunt
    McCoy turned around Chargers
    Reid turned around Chiefs
    Kelly turned around Eagles
    Payton turned around Saints (turned back around)
    Ariens ‘grew’ the Cards
    Jim H./Carroll/Pagano/Fox/Rivera steered teams to playoffs

    1. McCoy, Arians, and Kelly might be one hit wonders or really good coaches. A year sample is never enough to tell that’s why I would wait on the “turning them” around analogy.

  36. This is a dilemma, I can’t stand the Saints but I loathe the Seacheats, hope they both knock the crap out of each other. I don’t care who we play, I just want to play.

    1. I think it’s interesting how a lot of people have talked themselves into the Saints winning that game in Seattle. Kind of like people talking themselves into the Packers beating the 49ers anywhere.

      1. lol… very true and i’m included in this category. In my mind i envision Brees lighting up that secondary and the defense playing more physical than the hawks…. but i know the saints will be decimated once again.

        I just hate them so much

      2. I can talk myself to death, and I don’t see the Saints winning Grant, however it appears that the Hawks may have peak early, and that would be the only hope that their is a major upset. As I said I really do not care, who wins, I just want to play next week.

      3. I think Harvin will be rusty and not a factor, plus he has been out the entire year, and does not have the game situation playing time with Russell.

      4. I have my reservations on whether he’ll finish the game. When you have to be threatened with IR to get out of the whirlpool and out on the field…..

      5. I’m hoping Sean Payton can pull off the greatest out coach job against Carroll the NFL has ever seen. If there is one coach who can do it, its him. NO will be ready to play, they wont get blown out.

  37. I wonder if our propensity to burn time outs because we can’t get the play off is a derivative of what the article is highlighting. Greg Roman is essentially giving two play calls each snap, one of which is often killed, to attack a very specific element of how the defense is lining up rather than letting Kaep make the read. As such the plays may be coming in later than otherwise? I feel like we burn 2-3 timeouts a game as a result. In fairness to Kaep and the scheme, maybe one doesn’t need to go thru more than 2 progressions. Often it’s a matter of deciding whether the safety is doubling VD or Boldin/Crabs and going the other way.

  38. I agree with a lot of what Grant wrote, although the “run like hell if the first option is covered” is overdone. Obviously Kap has thrown to second or third options at times. And the offensive line hasn’t always given him a lot of time. Kap isn’t a quick decision maker yet, so especially against Carolina I don’t know that he will have time to go through his progressions, even if he were good at it. Maybe next year he will be better at that aspect of the game, and maybe we’ll have a new offensive coordinator who will help him develop as a decision maker.

    Against Carolina, quick short drop passes, creative screen pass plays, outlet receivers, and don’t be predictable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>