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Digging Into Linehan’s Offense

Jan 16, 2009 at 8:56 AM

With the 49ers offering Scott Linehan the offensive coordinator position, many questions arise about exactly the type of offense that he runs.

There isn't as much material about the nuts and bolts of Linehan's offense as there is about Turner, or the west coast offense. But we can glean some things from the information that's out there.

1) Linehan runs a digital system, much like Turner and Martz.
This could mean that the time it takes to digest the system is minimized. If anything, it will be a simplification for the players based on Martz's traditionally dense playbook.

2) Linehan values the running game.
Unlike a West Coast Offense (which generally leans towards a zone blocking scheme), Linehan primarily runs a man-blocking scheme. This means each offensive player assigned to block is assigned to a particular person and is tasked with creating gaps for the running back to hit.

3) Linehan believes a tight end is critical to his offense.
With Miami, Randy McMichael (who Linehan later lured to St. Louis) had 60 receptions for 582 yards and 5 TDs. This was good for second on the team. Linehan even got 37 receptions and 393 yards (10.6 YPR) out of Jim Kleinsasser in 2002, a blocking tight end and full back during his time with Minnesota. This total improved to 46 receptions for 401 yards the following season. Without Linehan, Kleinsasser never caught more than 24 passes on one season.

4) Linehan emphasizes protection schemes and utilizes play action.
In this regard he is more like Norv Turner. This will be different than what the 49ers are used to, since Martz tended to flood defenses with as many receivers as possible, often leaving the quarterback exposed. Even then, Linehan's offense averaged nearly 46 sacks allowed in three years. In Miami, his offense only allowed 26 sacks. Considering the offense preceding Linehan allowed 52 sacks it is clear that his offense can protect the quarterback. (Incidentally, after 2005, the Dolphins allowed 41 sacks).

5) Linehan has improved offenses where he has been offensive coordinator.
He did so, though, working with talented rosters. In Minnesota he has Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper in their primes. As a result he never ranked worse that 4th in total offense. His rushing game worked well, but it could be a byproduct of a potent passing attack. A noticable dip in 2004 in rushing production is also curious. He had to rely on the likes of Onterrio Smith, Mewelde Moore and Michael Bennett to produce on the ground. This is the same Bennett who rushed for nearly 1300 yards under Linehan in 2002.

In Miami the rushing attack improved as well, but the Dolphins upgraded the position. Ronnie Brown is simply a better running back than Sammy Morris, the back under the previous offense. Nevertheless, the season prior to Linehan the Dolphins ranked 29th in total offense. With Linehan: 14th. After Linehan: 20th.

6) Linehan's offense is not exotic or extremely innovating.
This may be what Singletary likes the best about this offense. Torry Holt summed it up best in a 2006 ESPN article: "It's not a simple offense, but you know exactly what it is. There is not as much thinking. Coach Linehan wants you to go out and just play football."


Linehan has only been offered the position; he has yet to accept it. However, if he turns it down you have to think this puts the 49ers in a precarious position. Any other coordinator brought in would know they were not the first choice. What kind of dynamic would that set up for the most important hire of Singletary's tenure?

Also, what did Linehan see in the 49ers that caused him to turn it down? Will that be a red flag to other potential coordinators?

If Linehan doesn't accept the position, it might be indicative of deeper issues with the 49ers than we can see from the surface.
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.


  • RogerCraig
    Lineham seems is discussing this offer with his wife. I would think he had a good idea of whatever internal problems exist before he interviewed.
    Jan 17, 2009 at 10:17 PM
    Response: I agree. He seemed fine interviewing, perhaps he should have discussed it then.
  • jon hyde
    You're take on the whole Linehan deal is spot on. 1. This OC is not yet proven to be just what the 49ers (or any other team) need. 2. Offering the job to someone who wasn't already commited to say "yes" is one more major mistake by the 49er management (including Singletary). 3. The circus won't end until the York's succumb to reason and hire a top football guy (Parcells, Holmgren, etc.) to clean house and do it right from the beginning. The only way the 49ers will succeed with this group is with a lot of luck.
    Jan 17, 2009 at 9:00 PM
  • niner
    He wil not be the first to turn down the Yorks. Remember Carrol and others refusing to even interview. I sometimes wonder if Nolan, who everyone ignored, was just the best they could get. The yorks have the reverse Midas touch. They turn gold into pooh.
    Jan 17, 2009 at 6:04 PM
  • Dustin
    The only reason I can see for a turn down is money. Why? He came back for a second interview. If he came the first time and saw this "red flag," he wouldn't have came back for a second time. We can almost kiss I. Bruce bye. I'm indifferent to that though with the possible imergence of J. Hill and J. Morgan.
    Jan 16, 2009 at 12:03 PM
  • BP
    I'm going to guess that maybe they didn't offer Linehan as much money as he's wanting. After being a HC, he's going to be taking a sizable pay cut. Maybe more than he was expecting?
    Jan 16, 2009 at 11:48 AM
  • johnny martin
    Nice read, you pretty much touched on every point I was looking for. Great job, as usual. Thank you for the info. die hard niner fan, johnny m from florida
    Jan 16, 2009 at 10:25 AM

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