Who’s To Blame For The 49ers Passing Failures?

Nov 20, 2013 at 9:47 AM


For the second time in the 2013 season, the 49ers have lost 2 straight and the offense has struggled. Many fans have begun calling for Greg Roman to be fired. For them, it is his fault that the passing offense has averaged only slightly over 150 yards per game over the last 8 games.

Those that don't blame Roman are blaming the front office for not being able to bring in offensive weapons, a problem they say has been magnified by the loss of Michael Crabtree to injury and Delanie Walker to free agency.

The one guy that most don't look to is Colin Kaepernick. After all, he burst onto the scene in the second half of last season and led the team to its first Super Bowl trip since 1994. He torched Green Bay during week one for 412 yards, and had 2 games with a QBR of over 90. It can't possibly be him. Or could it?

What many don't pay attention to is that when the 49ers have needed Kaepernick to make plays this season he hasn't done it. When the 49ers went on their 5 game win streak they did it mostly on the back of their run game, running the ball on 65% of their offensive snaps. By comparison, in the 4 losses this season the 49ers have tried to throw the ball on more than 60% of their snaps.

The problem is simple, Kaepernick is struggling to make throws when forced to play quarterback, and by that I mean actually read the defense and deliver the football to the open receiver. This is what has made the absence of Crabtree such a big factor. Last season, Kaepernick knew that Crabtree was going to get open most of the time, so he was able to drop back and wait for Crabtree to come open and throw it. He didn't have to play quarterback.

This showed up throughout the game on Sunday. On their first 3 possessions, the 49ers tried to throw the ball on 7 of 9 plays because the Saints had 9 and 10 men in the box. The result was three straight 3 and outs. The 49ers had only one long sustained drive, a 12 play drive at the end of the 3rd quarter and beginning of the 4th. This was the 49ers most balanced possession of the game with 5 runs and 7 passes and also Kaepernick's best, until they reached the red zone. That success was mostly due to the 49ers coaches taking the reads away from Kaepernick by giving him simple 1 read throws to Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Bruce Miller early on.

Before you decide who you want to put the blame on, I suggest you take a minute to look at the plays below taken from the all 22 coaches view of the game.

http://ninerchatter.blogspot.com/2013/11/is-roman-to-blame.html

Jack Hammer is the writer for ninerchatter.blogspot.com
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


14 Comments

  • AJ Bolino
    Nicely written piece, and I concur. Kap is still learning to be an NFL QB. Coaching can help with this, but there is a fine line to walk. Allowing "Kap to be Kap" will get you wins, but could curtail his development as a pocket passer. Any way you look at this issue, the season's last 6 weeks should be telling as it pertains to the 49ers QB situation.
    Nov 25, 2013 at 9:44 AM
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  • Niner
    How many shotgun qbs won Super Bowls? Hint...none. As Montana said about Alex, it will take him a year just to get use to taking snaps from center. Don't think d coordinators aren't going to try to fool a guy who is not use to reading while falling back? Only idiots drank the koolaid last year.. Greatest ever bs. Kap is light years behind Wilson, and I can't stand Seattle or their coach. The bigger problem is the team has regressed on offense st and defense in 3 years. What happens if you lose talent in the future due to salar cap. If you can't win with this when can you win. ( we can't beat even one team with a winning record?) my main concern is not kap is overrated ( heck he could go on and make commercials or pose for play girl) but what if Harbaugh and his staff is overrated? Can't help but wonder what Reid, grudin, shanahan or holmgren would do with this talent. Betcha they won't be last in passing!
    Nov 22, 2013 at 8:27 AM
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  • Mike
    I will blame the coaches and here's why. When a QB struggles you design plays around his struggles. Alex Smith couldn't throw a deep ball so plays were designed on his strengths. Kaps confidence is shot so you design some short passes and easy completions to raise his confidence. Putting a WR in motion or a quick slant will do wonders. 9-10 man in the box is perfect for a play action or a screen. We have scene none of this from the coached. Car played the run all day and blitZed repeatedly. What's the perfect play for a blitzed? A screen. We ran one screen to our full back when we were pinned back on the one yard line. That's the only screen we called all day. Plays aren't being properly called. The creativity that Roman and JH had last year in play design is missing. Kap is struggling no doubt but the coaches aren't doing anything to help him. He's a mobile QB yet they abandoned the read option. Makes no sense.
    Nov 22, 2013 at 8:15 AM
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  • ttime1
    Your argument is akin to saying that a NASCAR driver who took second place last year by with speed over 200 MPH can now only drive no faster than 50 MPH. Kaep owns Play-off and Superbowl records which were acquired without gimmick plays. This is `100% on the coaching and this best can be depicted by this team's inability to even get a damn play called in time. Have you ever seen a team with this much difficulty getting plays called and snapped? They did a poor job in drafting receivers and McDonald is a wasted pick. He is not much different than Celeck and thay have not shown the ability to coach him. This is all coaching.
    Nov 22, 2013 at 1:13 AM
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  • overthemiddle
    Jack don't you think its more of a team problem then just a QB, or WR, or pass protection, or coaching problem. Seems to me mistakes from all offensive personnel have contributed to the demise of the offense. I hear what your saying about CK and I do agree but I think it goes further then just CK.
    Nov 21, 2013 at 12:47 PM
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  • mbniner
    I don't care who's to blame. The bottom line is that Kaep better start producing if we want to make the playoffs. If that means Harbaugh taking a bigger role in the offense, Roman changing his approach, the OL playing better or Kaep acting like the offensive leader (or all of the above) then do it. I'm tired of all the hand-wringing. Time for results.
    Nov 20, 2013 at 7:49 PM
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  • Niner
    Is it my imagination or is it the coaches job to prepare him? Duh , since the nfl started no shotgun college qb has won a Super Bowl . Didn't anyone learn anything from Alex smith? But wrs being bad 3 straight years, third downs bad 3 straight years, st worse than 3 years ago, d worse than 3 years ago, that is not the personnels fault. Harbaugh inherited a talented team due to pitiful play for years. Now it's time to do some coaching. Justin smith mentioned you can't keep all these probowlers together, the salary cap won't allow it. If you can't win now , what happens when you have less talent. Harbaugh should seriously look at Walsh tapes not Dikta tapes. So far he hasn't shown the ability to adapt or change like his brother did last year. How sad!
    Nov 20, 2013 at 5:56 PM
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  • Monsterniner
    If we want a great offense we need a great QB and our last great QB was Steve Young which means that we have 14 years with mediocre to bad QB's and that includes Kaepernick. We can blame Roman but we could have the best OC ever and it wouldn't matter because Kaepernick can't read defenses and can't see beyond his first option. As simple as that.
    Nov 20, 2013 at 5:53 PM
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  • Margo Coffman
    I think the bad offense this year is a combo. For one, Eric Mangini and Greg Roman . One more thing I might add is why with such a winning combination last year take away Delanie Walker and also forbid Colin to not be able to run and to stay in the pocket. He can get hurt in the pocket also!!! I may not be right but something needs to be taken a good look at on the offense side fast.
    Nov 20, 2013 at 2:30 PM
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  • luluc.
    This makes no sense, you are asking us to believe that 21 games later, Kap has been exposed as a fraud. He really doesn't know how to be a QB, kind of makes the 49er management look stupid for elevating him to starter and letting the other QBs get away. Assuming Kap needs remedial passing skills, why not just program the simple one read short pass then, why do are they calling elaborate down field plays that require 30 seconds of game clock to initiate.
    Nov 20, 2013 at 2:24 PM
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  • David richardson
    There does seem to be a problem with using wr talent. Keeping Kyle Williams and letting go Ginn shows that their evaluation is flawed. Also there are not enough high percent passing plays to RB's and no screens. They seem to have expected Colin to read like Peyton Manning this year. Harbaugh needs to dial things back and also throw a deep ball early to stretch the D.
    Nov 20, 2013 at 12:03 PM
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  • Niko
    I respectfully disagree with Jack Hammer. The only thing that Kap is the blame for is waiting around in the pocket too long looking for his 2nd and 3rd progression to open up and they seldom do. To top things off Kap needs to understand that he is playing "QB" a little too well. He needs to understand that the line isn't giving him enough time to look for 2nd and 3rd receivers and he needs to run more instead of wait for someone to get open. There are a lot of factors. If Kap takes off more it will actually open up the passing game. That's the difference between last year and this. Crabtree isn't the greatest receiver he's not even top 10. He has little speed but makes up for it with sound hands and excellent route running. He came up cause Kap bought time for him to get open. Kap is the answer. Crabtree and Mario Man are coming off injuries and they are not going to be the same right off the bat. I really think the 49ers organization messed up not addressing their receiver problems after the pre-season proved they really needed to.
    Nov 20, 2013 at 11:57 AM
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  • Paul A.
    Jack, This has been my take from the get go. I know it has not been the popular point of view. Going foreward , is Kaepernick able to become the QB that some many think He already is or will he be just another player with unfulfilled promise!
    Nov 20, 2013 at 10:34 AM
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  • MauiDave
    I think you've uncovered the proverbial Smoking Gun. Think McCoy would make those reads? The actual throws look easy if the read is made on time. Maybe a benching for Kap would send a message. Right now he isn't "managing the game." As Montana said, being a QB is 70% mental.
    Nov 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM
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