September 17 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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Sometimes I wonder whether the 49ers have the wrong idea. Itís rare that I criticize what the coaches or players are doing. I usually look for the silver lining, but after two pretty poor offensive performances I really have to wonder what has happened to the 49ers offense. The talent is still there for big plays, and for an aggressive front. In fact, the coaches promised us this off-season that an attack style offense is what we would see once the season kicks off. So far though, thereís been little attack and even less originality.
After the 49ers first loss of the season, Mariucci was quoted as saying: "We're never going to be a team that chucks it down the field with a hope and a prayer." Mariucci believes instead, that the team should have ďrhyme and reasonĒ to everything it does. I donít disagree with that. I donít think anyone disagrees that the 49ers should have a well thought out plan, with check downs and smart decisions from the quarterback.
What I do disagree with though, is the 49ers longest pass play of week two, being for less than fifteen yards. I disagree that Garciaís second option should be a three yard dump pass. I disagree that the 49ers should simply take what their opponents are willing to give them.
The 49ersí receivers should be running patterns ten to fifteen yards down field. If after Garcia believes that one receiver is not open, his second option should be the other receiver, not a tight end or running back. Of course, Garcia canít jump through his progressions either. He needs to have confidence that his receiver will make the play, and often he needs to pass the ball before the receiver is open to a spot where he knows that receiver will get to before any other player on the field (after all, that is what makes a quarterback great).
If after going through his first two receivers, Garcia still finds no one, he should have a third option, seven to twelve yards down the field, and a fourth between three and seven yards down the field. Only after looking down field first, should Garcia be taking what is left to him by the defense.
Mariucci and his staff need to realize that to have a successful offense you need to make use of all of your weapons, and dictate a game. By letting the defense tell you where to throw, you are not dictating the game. Defenses will be happy to leave the short passes for any team, and the 49ers canít be happy to take those or they wonít put points on the board.
To reorganize its progressions, and push the ball past the first down markers, the 49ers need protection from its offensive line. The line has done a decent job so far, permitting just two sacks in two games, but Garcia has rarely had to take the time to survey the field. If the 49ers truly have confidence in their offensive line, they can afford to keep Garcia in the pocket a second longer to help a receiver make a play down field. If they donít have the confidence in the offensive line to do that, Garcia should be rolling out more often, and the team should be looking for an upgrade at the position as soon as possible.
No Mooch, this team does not have to chuck it down field and pray that it will be caught, but certainly it needs to be throwing in the air for more than seven yards. When Mariucci learns to call that type of play, and reorganize the progressions, the 49ers will become an effective offense - not before that.