Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Gore’s Comments Hold Merit, but Who’s Actually to Blame?

Al Sacco
Aug 6, 2015 at 11:14 AM11

If you've followed Frank Gore throughout his career, you'd know he's not the type of player who speaks out of turn in an effort to cause drama or take a cheap shot at someone. He's a passionate, intense competitor who leads by example and takes the game seriously. In turn, when Gore says something, people tend to listen, and with good reason.

So it shouldn't come as a shock that the San Francisco 49ers' all-time leading rusher made some waves recently when he commented on whether or not the offense he currently plays on (with the Indianapolis Colts) could be the best one he's been a part of in the NFL.

"I think if we keep working and keep going and get that gelled, I think by far it can," Gore said to Nate Burleson of NFL Media. "Especially with No. 12, man (Andrew Luck). I'm not knocking my other quarterbacks, I respect them other guys, but being around this guy a couple months, he's a different breed. He's smart. He makes me feel young. He runs the huddle. I never had that."

Now you can take what Gore said however you want to (personally I think he was trying more to compliment Luck than he was to knock anyone else), but no matter how it's perceived, you have to admit he has a point.

I could take a look deep into the play and statistics of all the quarterbacks Gore's had throughout the years, and breaking that down would no doubt back up his claims. But the truth of the matter is, Alex Smith isn't with the 49ers anymore, neither is Shaun Hill, or anyone else that was under center from 2005 when Gore broke in through 2012. The only quarterback 49er fans should be concerned about is Gore's most recent one, Colin Kaepernick.

In fairness to Kaepernick, I'm not so sure he's ever really had the opportunity to take full command of the huddle (or offense), since former head coach Jim Harbaugh had such a big hand in it all. It's been documented that Harbaugh would peer into the huddle during practice and call the plays, something that gives the impression that he wanted his quarterbacks to be an extension of him, and not their own entity.

Could you imagine him doing that to Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers? It's no wonder Peyton chose the Denver Broncos a few years back.

Regardless, Harbaugh was obviously not able to run into the huddles on game day, but you have to be curious if his approach to practices had a ripple effect.

Under Harbaugh, the 49ers were notoriously bad at getting play calls in and snapping the ball on time. How bad? Well, in the four years Harbaugh was the head coach, the 49ers were called for 42 delay of game penalties over 72 games (including the playoffs). That number was by far the most of any franchise. The league average is about 4.39 per year, and San Francisco more than doubled that by averaging 10.9 calls per season.

As bad as that sounds, it doesn't even take into account the number of timeouts that were wasted in order to avoid a delay of game from being called. And let's be frank, it's that exact scenario that probably cost the 49ers the game winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLVII.

Possibly adding to the confusion was the way the actual game day calls were made. Former offensive coordinator Greg Roman would send the play to Harbaugh from the booth, who would then relay them to Kaepernick.

So essentially, Kaepernick was expected to run the huddle one way in practice (with Harbaugh basically calling the shots), and then a completely different way during the game. In addition, he had to wait until two people got a play to him before he was able to get his team huddled up and set. It's no wonder the whole thing was a jumbled mess, and really wasn't ever fair to Kaepernick in the first place.

2015 will be the first season that Kaepernick will be the lone voice on offense, and we'll get to see if the new approach helps alleviate some of the aforementioned issues. Kaepernick will be calling the plays the same way in the game that he does in practice, however new offensive coordinator Geep Chryst will be sending the calls to his quarterback's coach Steve Logan before Kaepernick hears them. We'll have to wait and see if that middle man approach still causes a problem.

Will the change in practice guarantee improvement? That remains to be seen, but you have to give the new staff credit for recognizing an issue and working to get it rectified. The rest is up to Kaepernick and the offense to execute.

Al Sacco has covered the 49ers for various sites over the years. He's been a guest on multiple podcasts and had his work used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY. Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49


  • Will the new approach to play-calling alleviate delay of game penalties?
  • yes
  • no
  • 350 votes
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.


  • Jarred
    So who has mad it to the Super bowl>? am confuzed i guess.....Stop hating!
    Aug 10, 2015 at 9:58 PM
  • Tim
    The whole hoopla over this comment is ridiculous. Luck was the most pro ready QB to be drafted in a decade. And his coaches allow him to run the huddle like a seasoned veteran as a result. It was never intended as a shot across the bow of Kaepernick or Smith or anyone else. Kaepernick played a pistol option offense in college while Luck ran a more pro oriented offense. Gore simply noted that Luck was a man in total charge in the huddle which is great for Gore and Luck... Kaepernick is being eased into that role for obvious reasons. But the decision or reasons for that is most entirely coaching and experience. non story.
    Aug 9, 2015 at 11:51 AM
  • PJC
    Kaepernick's the 49ers' QB and I'll support him, but let's face it. Luck is special. Best case, Kaepernick is another Randall Cunningham, who was fun to watch and had a nice career, but Luck has HOF potential.
    Aug 7, 2015 at 9:39 AM
  • Kgfalls
    And how many SBs has Luck been to??? Crickets......
    Aug 7, 2015 at 6:46 AM
  • hawkspa
    My question is: did Harbaugh have the same approach when coaching Luck at Stanford?
    Aug 7, 2015 at 1:46 AM
  • Al Wharton
    Two people get to say the play before Kap gets it so what the difference, when JH was the HC and now. Excuses for Kap and delays of game. Luck is better than Kap except it and move on. Nothing going to change until we fix the OL.
    Aug 6, 2015 at 10:55 PM
  • Craig HR
    Making this way too complicated. Gore is basically saying that Luck is very special, and he is implying that Luck is better than Kaepernick. Shocker! The whole world agrees with that. That is not an insult to Kaepernick.
    Aug 6, 2015 at 3:47 PM
  • NinerGM
    As much as I agree with the system changing, what's missed here in a great article is that the plays went to more than just Harbaugh and Roman; plays would often get routed to Chryst, Drevno, Solari and others. This was offensive coaching by committee and explain the lack of continuity within offensive series. If anything what I expect to help Colin more is the time he'll be given to read defenses. Call a play, read a defense, possibly adjust a play all before the clock expires. Something so routine on other squads will now be routine in SF.
    Aug 6, 2015 at 2:54 PM
  • don
    No wonder the Harbaugh/Roman Offense disintegrated into a big pile of mediocrity.. What a joke. No wonder all that talent became a pile of slop on the field. At least Harbaugh was smart to realize he didn't have a chance coaching at the Pro level..
    Aug 6, 2015 at 2:49 PM
  • mbiner
    Frank Gore is the ultimate teammate and team player. He was stating a fact and, I'm sure, was not dissing other QBs. And your right, as good as Harbaugh was at getting a team ready and using his talent (especially defensive talent), he was a dinosaur in his approach to offense and did not allow the offensive talent to develop. It was amazing to me that we were able to run the ball at all when everyone knew what was coming and, due to play call timing, when the ball was going to be snapped. The passing game was also very predictable. That was the problem and it's very understandable that Kaep was not able to spend enough time in the huddle to "take charge".
    Aug 6, 2015 at 1:27 PM
  • Stephen L.
    NFL rules only allow QB to talk to a sideline coach via radio. They cannot talk directly to the booth. So unless the sideline coach is making play calls without input from the booth essentially there is always going to be a middle man.
    Aug 6, 2015 at 12:29 PM

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