Roman learned from Ault, Kaepernick

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Roman learned from Ault, Kaepernick

SANTA CLARA -- Greg Roman learned the "pistol" offense from the master. And he studied by watching the college player who perfected it.

The 49ers' offensive coordinator, then an assistant at Stanford, sought to learn all he could about the system from Nevada coach Chris Ault, who developed the formation and basics in 2004.

"About three years ago, (I) made the trek to Nevada and visited with him and his staff," Roman said. "That was very valuable time spent. He was very accommodating and it was very interesting as a coach to go really learn something totally new. And he's a very good football coach. . . So it was good."

And the quarterback he watched on film was, obviously, Colin Kaepernick, the only NCAA Division I quarterback to throw for more than 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards in a collegiate career.

And what was Roman's impression of Kaepernick when he watched him on film with Ault?

"That's a long time ago," Roman said. "Productive."

The 49ers run a varied offensive attack because there are a lot of influences.

Roman, who spent time on George Seifert's coaching staff with the Carolina Panthers, learned much of what he knows about the West Coast Offense from Seifert and watching installation film of Bill Walsh. The 49ers run more split-back formations than other teams. That's an element he learned from Seifert and Walsh.

Last year, coach Jim Harbaugh said he learned the "fly sweep" from spending time with Pete Lavorato, head football coach at Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton. The 49ers found some success last season Ted Ginn going in motion and taking a handoff at near full speed.

Roman used the "pistol" a little at Stanford, but now he has the perfect quarterback to incorporate it into his play-calling. (The 49ers call it the "Q" formation because they try to keep their play calls to one syllable.)

The 49ers used formation in training camp. The offense has not changed, but certainly Roman's play-calling has been altered since the Kaepernick unseated Alex Smith as the starter.

And the pistol has become a larger part of the 49ers' attack.

In the pistol, Kaepernick lines up in the pistol (4 yards deep, rather than a typical shotgun formation of 5 yards behind the center) with a back directly behind him to add the threat of a power running game to the typical spread attack.

One of the basics is a variety of the veer in which the line blocks down to the side a run is going. That leaves the defensive end or outside linebacker on the other side unblocked. That is the player Kaepernick will watch to determine whether to hand off to the running back or keep it himself and attempt to beat the unblocked defender around the edge.

Last week, the 49ers featured a new wrinkle with a "full-house pistol," in which there were a combination of three backs and tight ends along with Kaepernick to create a completely balanced offensive approach. Coach Jim Harbaugh said it was a plan the club used to "balance off Miami's defense."

Of course there are many variations of bootlegs and play-action passes that the 49ers can execute out of the basic pistol formation.

And Roman spent his time with Ault to get a handle on all the variables and adjustments, based on how the defense adapts. So what did Roman learn from Ault that he could not have picked up just from watching film?

"I think you can gain a lot if they're willing to tell you," Roman said. "You can gain a lot with an upside, the downside, what other teams do to try to stop it. When they do that, what do you do? Every little nuance. It's just so much in terms of how you might sequence things, the downside, the upside. And definitely what people have tried to do to combat it or defend it, and then the next logical step for them. So, (it was) great information."

Nevada, the inspiration for the 49ers' pistol offense, will conclude its season Saturday at 10 a.m. (ESPN) in the New Mexico Bowl against Arizona.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.