Mornhinweg and Knapp 01/27/00
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Things don't change too much in the NFL. Years ago, team would turn to the 49ers to supply them with head coaches. Descendants of Bill Walsh were prized possessions to a NFL team - after all these coaches new the 49ers way, they new the 49ers system, and they new how to win. The trend continued with George Seifert, a Walsh descendant himself took over the 49ers. This past week, Steve Mariucci affirmed his place as a coach "groomer", when 49ers offensive coordinator, coveted by two teams, was signed by the Detroit Lions to be the head coach.

This should be encouraging news to the 49ers organization as even after two losing seasons teams are still looking to the 49ers for their coaches. Clearly, Steve Mariucci is doing something right, and despite his 10-32 record over the past two seasons, there is reason for optimism within the 49ers organization. The departure of Mornhinweg means the 49ers will have to make a few changes on the coaching level this season.

I really do respect what Mornhinweg was able to accomplish with the 49ers, he took a team with good offensive talent, and made them into an offense that was solid, and could compete with any team. Thus, you would think I would be really up set to see Mornhinweg leave the team. Truth be told though, I believe the 49ers offense may be even better without him. Now don't get me wrong, I wish Mornhinweg a prosperous future (except when he's facing the 49ers), but I think the team may benefit from a change.

The 49ers have already promoted quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp to offensive coordinator. I fully support this move. Knapp has been with the 49ers for six years and is responsible for Steve Young's best statistical year, and for changing Jeff Garcia into a Pro Bowl, record-breaking quarterback in one year. While Knapp will split the play calling with Mariucci for at least the first season (as Mornhinweg did), I believe having Knapp calling the plays may bring back a dimension to the 49ers that has been missing for some time.

Coach Knapp knows Jeff Garcia better than any other person on the team does; he has been working with him for two seasons, and knows all of his strengths and weaknesses. This should mean that in game planning each week, and in calling plays over the course of a game (particularly on third down and in the two minute drill), Knapp should be able to select the best play possible for Garcia to run. Knapp will likely try and bring back the tight end and full back into the offensive mix. Over the past two seasons, the ball has been distributed to these areas less and less, and when working in a West Coast Offensive system, that is not the way to go.

One of the problems with resorting to a three receiver set so often, is that all three receivers should break open at approximately the same time, and thus the quarterback needs to make three reads at the same time, rather than going through the progression from receiver to running back to tight end - for example. Of course, it also becomes easier for defenses to predict run or pass as the offense is constantly shifting out of the base two back, two-receiver set. Thus, this season we should see the 49ers utilizing more of Garcia's mobility, and we should see better ball distribution from the base offense, and if all goes as planned an even more potent and surprising 49ers offense.

Knapp should fit in perfectly to a 49ers offense that I hope will be more versatile in the coming years. It may be a little rocky at first, given the uncertainty at running back, but overtime Knapp will mold his offense into one of the best in the NFL and in turn, Knapp will find himself as a head coach candidate.

The 49ers now have an opening for a quarterbacks coach, and though there is no immediate need to fill the role, as Knapp can still work with the quarterbacks (especially Giovanni Carmazzi) until mini-camps and training camp start. The 49ers have publicly expressed interested in Steve Bono and Bill Musgrave who they say are just two of over ten people they are considering for the job.

Talk about it in the 49ers Forum

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