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What keeps the offense from begin elite

When healthy last year, we had one of the deepest, most talented offenses in the league.

Morgan, Edwards, Crabtree, Ginn, Davis, Walker, Gore, Hunter, Miller. That's a deep group of very solid offensive skill players. Obviously, we had major issues with health and the WR corps was reduced to Crabtree and scrubs by the playoffs. Nonetheless, I and a lot of others felt we had the talent to be an elite offense, as we should be next year adding a couple WRs in FA and the draft. Instead, we were average at best. There were some great moments (Philly, Detroit, Saints), but for the most part we plodded along, couldn't score in the RZ, and couldn't convert 3rd downs. Is that due to Alex or play calling? I'm more inclined to fault play calling, and here's why. (Disclaimer: the unique offseason necessitated a conservative offensive approach the first few games; I'm talking about once we got to mid season)

Alex Smith demonstrated that he can be a competent, game managing QB who makes the crucial play when he has to have. Look at Philly, DET, NO for proof, along with big-time throws against PIT, at SEA, etc. He did enough to get us to the SB if not for KW's first bout of ineptitude and idiocy. He has his faults, but he made a gigantic leap under Harbaugh in year one and only figures to get better with a full offseason and first-ever year in the same system (I still find it unbelievable that we can't evaluate Alex in year 2 of an O and he's entering his 8th year). If Harbuagh can get Smith to play the entire game with the same urgency as he displayed in his comebacks, he's going to be very dangerous.

Given Smith's demonstrated crunch-time ability, I believe more of the fault lies with play calling. Now, Harbuagh's "every possession must end with a kick (KO, FG, or Punt)" philosophy is a great strategy and won us a lot of games. It also cost us the Dallas game, and forced us settle for tons of FGs that should have been TDs. How many times did we reach the RZ only to run 3 consecutive times up the gut from the start of the season up to the AZ loss. For example, I attended the game vs. the Skins where we reached the RZ 3 times but ran on each play. Later in the season, we seemed to become too pass-heavy, eschewing the run when it was working well for us. This was never more glaring than the NFCC, where Gore and Hunter were gashing the Giants, yet Roman/Harbaugh opted to put the game on Alex's shoulders, forcing him to throw in the face of a strong pass rush to a double-covered VD, an off-his-game Crabtree, and scrubs. Over the course of the entire season, we rarely ran screen plays, despite facing a lot of pressure and having Hunter, Davis, and Walker as proven threats on these routes. We called questionable trick plays in crucial games, such as the failed half-back pass vs NO and the KW fumbled reverse vs NYG. We just never seemed to get in to a good rhythm as an O, pounding the rock early in the season and then forgetting about it late; too often we got away from going with what was working in games.

I know I'll probably take some heat for criticizing play calling, as every fan imagines him/herself as a better OC than the guys actually doing the job. I still have the utmost faith in Harbuagh and his staff, and the glimpses of greatness (for example, the 2 late TDs vs NO) give me hope that they will adjust the game plan and make better use of our considerable offensive talent going forward.
I just think for someone to blame any aspect of coaching, after taking a 6 win team to a 14 win/NFCCG team, is absolutely absurd.

But maybe thats just me.
a) offensive line is below avg
b) best offensive weapon (VD) is inconsistent game to game
c) no good WRs, and definitely no dangerous WRs
d) RB is good, but no longer great
e) lack of elite QB

yeah, i think mostly e), but everything else as well, sums it up. BTW, listing Ginn and Bruce Miller (both great players in their specialty) as offensive weapons, tells you exactly how much our offensive talent is lacking
A Home Run Hitter.

Davis was a home run hitter during the playoff run, but generally we were a dink and dunk team that had trouble in the redzone. But most teams have trouble in the redzone (not as bad as us, but still not great). If we have a home run hitter who can score a 60-70yd touchdown 5 or 6 times a season, that will keep an opposing safety deep, open up the TEs and WRs underneath and relieve some of the 8 and 9 man fronts on running plays.

And honestly, it could be a HB, TE, or WR. I think all three could be possibilities.

I also think Crabtree will be incrementally better next year (still sub-1000yd) but getting very close, and Morgan put up 700ish.

Put it all together, we will be an above average offense with a stellar defense, a combination that will carry us to the playoffs!
Continuity, chemistry & very good WRs'
You can't be an elite Offense in the first year of the offense. Even Vernon Davis said he was lost for the first eight games and started to get it down the stretch and blossomed in the playoffs.

I agree with your statement on the Giants Championship game. I really wish they had stuck to the run. I think Frank was hurt and hunter should have played more, but with their pass rush they wanted frank in there. But I can't fault Roman too much.......we had our chances to win that game. Ted Ginn being hurt really hurt us in that game, his speed opens up so much and Delanie was only 80% of his self.

The team made adjustments after it's losses like the Baltimore game, and got better and better throughout the season.

I think Frank Gore wasn't at full strength later in the year. But he still gave his all.

Give Baalke and Harbaugh a chance to work their magic in the offseason and the offense will get more weapons (1 TE, and 2 WRs) and probably a RB too. Having some more weapons and a full offseason with the same playbook. I think we will move into a top 13 offense (up from 29th).

The line needs to get better but they are young and finally they won't have to learn a whole new playbook.
Originally posted by 80sbaby24:
I just think for someone to blame any aspect of coaching, after taking a 6 win team to a 14 win/NFCCG team, is absolutely absurd.

But maybe thats just me.

Nah. Your conclusion is absurd.

I don't know what Harbaugh could have specifically done to make our 3rd down and red zone offense better. But there is no doubt there is room for improvement in those categories. Players and coaching are both to blame.

To say that any coach who led his new team to a remarkable turnaround has zero blame in that team's few imperfections is absurd. It's just not possible. And I'm confident that Harbaugh would be one of the first to tell you that.

To be clear: I'm not suggesting Harbaugh is what keeps our offense from being elite (as the OP asks). I'm simply debating your logic.
[ Edited by okdkid on Feb 27, 2012 at 11:21 PM ]
Originally posted by calinig4life:
Continuity, chemistry & very good WRs'

+1

How many of the top 5-10 offenses in the league last year started the year just implementing a new offense?
[ Edited by Youngb on Feb 27, 2012 at 11:58 PM ]
Seriously, I don't know how you can describe Edwards and Ginn as solid offensive players.

Edwards was just a huge disappointment. Ginn is a great returner. But not a receiver.

So that may be your answer.
Originally posted by Youngb:
Originally posted by calinig4life:
Continuity, chemistry & very good WRs'

+1

How many of the top 5-10 offenses in the league last year started the year just implementing a new offense?

these
Originally posted by okdkid:
Originally posted by 80sbaby24:
I just think for someone to blame any aspect of coaching, after taking a 6 win team to a 14 win/NFCCG team, is absolutely absurd.

But maybe thats just me.

Nah. Your conclusion is absurd.

I don't know what Harbaugh could have specifically done to make our 3rd down and red zone offense better. But there is no doubt there is room for improvement in those categories. Players and coaching are both to blame.

To say that any coach who led his new team to a remarkable turnaround has zero blame in that team's few imperfections is absurd. It's just not possible. And I'm confident that Harbaugh would be one of the first to tell you that.

To be clear: I'm not suggesting Harbaugh is what keeps our offense from being elite (as the OP asks). I'm simply debating your logic.

Our third down and red zone offensive play calling had everything to do with our personnel, not the coaching. And if you arent suggesting that I am wrong in my assessment, why the need for the debate?
[ Edited by 80sbaby24 on Feb 28, 2012 at 12:54 AM ]
There are other things, but I just read the pro-football-talk article about Alex and was thinking about him and the offense and I can't remember the last time the announcers said something like "he has all day" etc, like Tom Brady has about 25% of the time and others often have when they drop back. I don't entirely blame our OL, other teams just jam the middle to cover the run and come after Alex every play, so it's tough.

I think a little success in the passing game will snowball the success of our offense.
Every player on offense
Originally posted by RonMexico:
Every player on offense

Agreed
1) An offense needs all the key positions to perform at a high level consistantly. After a while the confidence gained makes you damn near unbeatable.

2) Great play calling and an incredible amount of luck( few injuries in general and none to key players, also getting the bounce on loose fumbles or catching tipped interceptions can't hurt). Ability to make adjustments during games.

3) Have a great defense to give the offense the ball more often and sometimes on a short field. Great field position makes all the difference.
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