San Francisco 49ers: How Pivotal is Greg Roman to the Offense?


Jan 12, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman (right) talks to running back Frank Gore (21) before the NFC divisional round playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have consistently been one of the better defensive teams in the NFL over the last few years. The 49ers are known as a very physical football team.

Thanks to Greg Roman, the offensive side of the ball is living up to that description as well.

The 49ers were wise to give him a two-year contract extension. It is only a matter of time before Roman begins to be considered for a head coaching position again.

49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman said, “I was surprised he didn’t get a job this year, because I think he has everything. Not only does he have the X’s and O’s down, but he motivates his players. He’s a real leader. Players love him. He fits the mold of some really good coaches.”

Last year, the 49ers averaged 155.7 yards per game which ranked fourth in the NFL. Their postseason average jumped up to 218 yards per game which was the most in the NFL. They also led the NFL in total yards in the postseason with 473.3 yards. Even with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, the main objective of the 49ers was to run the football.

Coach Roman has an offensive line that is built for physical play. Anthony Davis is known for his physical style of play at right tackle. Mike Iupatti is looked upon as one of the better guards. Jonathan Goodwin is a veteran center that has a Super Bowl ring. Alex Boone at six feet five inches is one of the bigger guards in the game. Lastly, Joe Staley is a very athletic player at left tackle.

The thing that I like about Roman is how he is able to use so many formations. He has done an excellent job of mixing in the pistol formation. The transition from Alex Smith to Kaepernick was a smooth one because Roman was able to put Kaepernick in situations that would allow him to feel comfortable in the offense.

As the season went on, you began to see more and more get added to Kaepernick’s plate. In my opinion, the culmination was the road game against the New England Patriots. He threw four touchdowns and made some eye opening throws including a perfect shot to Michael Crabtree for a 27- yard touchdown.

Roman is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL today. It is very interesting watching how he will set up a defense and then make the perfect play call that results in a good play.

Joe Staley elaborates:

"I’ve never been around a coordinator who understands everything. Not just X’s and O’s and how you draw it up, but the bigger picture, too. Watching games [on tape], I find myself saying, ‘This is a perfect call here.’ It seems seamless to him. There are a lot of guys who are really smart with plays and who run creative schemes, but it’s the way you call those plays that makes all the difference. He’s great at both. He’s very innovative. He’s a genius when it comes to football. He comes up with crazy stuff you don’t see anywhere else — and he calls it at the perfect time."

The way the 49ers shift into different formations and attack from different angles confuses defenses. He is very good at dictating what he wants to do to opposing defenses. The shifts and motions that the 49ers use create some pretty favorable mismatches for their playmakers such as Vernon Davis.

July 30, 2011; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman (center) instructs guard Mike Iupati (77) and guard Daniel Kilgore (67) during training camp at the Marie P. DeBartolo Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Often times, Roman is able to get Davis matched up one on one against a linebacker. This was on display when Davis made a 44-yard catch in the Divisional round against the Green Bay Packers. He was matched up with A.J. Hawk and ran right by him. Kaepernick saw him and dropped a perfect ball right into Davis’ hands.

Roman sums it up when he says, “Play-calling, it’s week to week, but sometimes it goes beyond that, too. But here’s what it is: I orchestrate sequences of events. I don’t just grab plays. Everything I do has a purpose. I’m thinking big picture.”

This year will be a very interesting season for the 49ers. The injury to Michael Crabtree has been cause for concern. So far in OTAs, A.J. Jenkins and Quinton Patton have looked like they’re poised to take over at the X position while Anquan Boldin will slide of to the Z spot vacated by Crabtree.

Some have made the crazy assumption that Davis should play primarily at wide receiver. This would be a senseless move as it will defeat the purpose of Coach Roman’s ability to dictate what he wants to attack especially using the 12 personnel (double TE) formation, which also allows Roman to create angle blocks to open up running lanes.

Vance McDonald was an excellent draft pick that will be called upon to do everything that Delanie Walker did. He will line up next to Kaepernick in the pistol formation and is already experienced with blocking in read option plays. He even recorded two 100-yard rushing games from the read option at Rice University.

Many defensive coordinators have gone back to college football to study how to stop Kaepernick the read option offense. Some claim that this will result in the pistol and read option slowing down. That may be the case, but a coach with the swagger like Roman will take that challenge head on.

He told Mike Silver of Yahoo Sports that he will be ready for it.

“Oh yeah, they’re gonna find ways to stop it,” said Roman. “It’s gonna go back and forth. And we’ve gotta predict what they will do and figure out how to counter that.”

Predicting what defenses will do is exactly why the 49ers hired Eric Mangini as an offensive consultant.

Roman went on to reveal a key factor in overcoming the defenses when he said, “The reality is, if you’ve got a guy who can throw the ball like Kaepernick can and run it like he can, it eventually becomes a numbers game. What do you want to stop? Then we turn to something we call play-action, and it’s a huge advantage. So yeah, they’re gonna be spending a lot of time on this. They should. This is real. And we’re just getting started.”

Coach Roman will have the offense ready to go for the 2013 season. His creative and timely playcalling will produce the results that will be needed for the 49ers to be successful.

Look for them to remain one of the most physical offenses in the NFL. This team is explosive with Kaepernick at quarterback.

It will be very interesting seeing the new ways that Roman will go about frustrating defensive coordinators like he did last year.