Why I think Harbaugh is a passing genius.

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  • So shut-down his option like we have done with Boldin and now need to do for Boldin and Crabtree and he either makes mistakes or takes off running

    I think this game will come down to running bot for Kaep and Gore
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  • Chris Cooley breaks down the All-22 for the playoff games (and Redskins game in season). He said that Kaepernick is a two-read QB. If those reads aren't there immediately, his check down "throw" is actually a scramble. He was pretty unimpressed by what he saw.
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  • Jac wrote:Chris Cooley breaks down the All-22 for the playoff games (and Redskins game in season). He said that Kaepernick is a two-read QB. If those reads aren't there immediately, his check down "throw" is actually a scramble. He was pretty unimpressed by what he saw.

    There is a lot of truth to that. Some of his worst downfield throws are when he actually does make that 2nd or 3rd downfield read.
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  • There's no question Harbaugh runs a simple passing game paired with a complex running game. What's less clear to me is whether that is just his core philosophy? Or is it a reflection of his QB skill set? This is a conversation Niners fans have been having too. The consensus there (which is likely wrong) is that it is Greg Roman's fault. (our version of BEVELL SUCKS!!!!!)

    If you look at the plays the niners run now it isn't that different from what Harbaugh ran at Stanford. It isn't that different from what Smith ran last year and the year before. The passing concepts are simple. Dilfer once called them remedial. To go back to my initial point: is the passing game simple because of Kaepernick's limitations? Or does Kaepernick look confused and flustered at times because the simple passing game doesn't give him many options?

    It doesn't appear to me that Harbaugh has dumbed down the playbook for Kap. Rather it seems that the passing game just never gets super sophisticated. The run blocking and run plays are complex and versatile. But the passing plays do seem vanilla. I'm not trying to come off as defensive about Kap's abilities etc, I'm just not sure what the reality of the situation is.

    Harbaugh does expect a lot of mental checks from the QB pre-snap. This has been discussed in depth in earlier posts. My sense is that his basic approach to football is to have simple schemes that can be run without optimal personnel, but focus on picking the best play to run on each and every down. That's why you see the late shifts, delays and clock issues in less than ideal environments.

    TL/DR: This may be more about Harbaugh's philosophy, than Kap's ability.
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  • Canuck49 wrote:There's no question Harbaugh runs a simple passing game paired with a complex running game. What's less clear to me is whether that is just his core philosophy? Or is it a reflection of his QB skill set? This is a conversation Niners fans have been having too. The consensus there (which is likely wrong) is that it is Greg Roman's fault. (our version of BEVELL SUCKS!!!!!)

    If you look at the plays the niners run now it isn't that different from what Harbaugh ran at Stanford. It isn't that different from what Smith ran last year and the year before. The passing concepts are simple. Dilfer once called them remedial. To go back to my initial point: is the passing game simple because of Kaepernick's limitations? Or does Kaepernick look confused and flustered at times because the simple passing game doesn't give him many options?

    It doesn't appear to me that Harbaugh has dumbed down the playbook for Kap. Rather it seems that the passing game just never gets super sophisticated. The run blocking and run plays are complex and versatile. But the passing plays do seem vanilla. I'm not trying to come off as defensive about Kap's abilities etc, I'm just not sure what the reality of the situation is.

    Harbaugh does expect a lot of mental checks from the QB pre-snap. This has been discussed in depth in earlier posts. My sense is that his basic approach to football is to have simple schemes that can be run without optimal personnel, but focus on picking the best play to run on each and every down. That's why you see the late shifts, delays and clock issues in less than ideal environments.

    TL/DR: This may be more about Harbaugh's philosophy, than Kap's ability.


    Here is the outlier: the first three games of 2013 SF tried to help Kaep be a more advanced passer. Looked great at first, but then collapsed when he couldn't make those extra reads successfully vs a properly prepared defense.

    I agree that his offense has always had simple designs, which makes me wonder how he would have adapted if Peyton Manning had gone to SF.
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  • jlwaters1 wrote:............For all the "expert" talk about how they are the hottest team, their season should have been over if Micah Hyde could just catch- what was a horrible decision and throw on CK's part..........

    This ^^^

    And don't forget "they're the hottest team in football" but likely would've lost to Atlanta at home in week 16 if Harry Douglas could catch.
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  • You also have to look at the personnel and the defences in those games. Boldin rocked against the Packers. Davis was healthy. He opens up so much space. The other receiving options were the immortal Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore. YIKES!

    After that GB game everyone focused on Boldin, Davis pulled his hamstring and had some concussion issues. He wasn't fully healthy until mid- to late-season. And Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore continued to be Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore. Mannigham came back as a shell of himself. And Jon Baldwin is still a first round bust. I know you guys have had your WR issues too. But the passing game was severely limited by the personnel. Most of those guys just could not get open. In the superbowl last year Kaepernick had Crabtree, Moss, Davis and Delanie Walker as his top four targets. For most of this season only Davis returned. So that level of turnover and limited talent played a role. I don't offer these as excuses. But as reasons.

    AS to your point about Manning - I wondered about that too. My sense is Harb's adherence to his schemes - and Elway's presence in Denver - are the big reasons Manning went to Denver. If he had signed with SF I'm pretty sure that defence with Manning would have won the Super Bowl.
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  • Thanks for the analysis! I feel smarter after reading that.

    If we can get a two score lead we will win. The Niners are vulnerable and nervous when they need to take risks. Great team when in their comfort zone, when not...
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  • I've been saying all along that the Niners CAN fall behind in this game and still win. But they CAN'T fall behind by more than one score. Offensive balance is the key to the niners getting the W. Either team being forced to go one dimensional against defences of this calibre is a recipe for disaster.
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  • :49ersmall: Hi guys an old guy here, first time on your site so congratulations on a great season. The way I see it is that Greg Roman is a large part of the 49ers offensive problems, and they do have some serious issues. First are the wasted downs when he calls for runs up the middle with the opponent stacking the box to stop Gore, this happens continually on first downs and its pure stupidity and usually leaves them in 2nd and long. Second for all the multiple formations they show they run a vanilla offense that most teams can diagnose easily. Thirdly he is lousy at half time adjustments. Do I think that Harbaugh is a genius of any type, not hardly but he is an excellent coach and motivator and the results speak for themselves with three championship games in a row with two different QBs in his first three years as head coach. Now we get to Kaepernik who in my opinion he is an "average" QB with a huge gun and outstanding athleticism but with very little creativity. His reads are slow and he very rarely makes it to his second and third option in the passing game and chokes in the face of a good pass rush. I wish we could put Russell Wilsons brain in Kaeps body then we would really have something special.
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  • You had me at , " why I think Harbaugh is a passing " Then completely lost me when you added " genius "
    To the end of the phrase.
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  • Scottemojo wrote:I am going to start by saying something that Niner fans will hate. Colin Kaepernick requires simplicity. I won't call him one read, I won't say he isn't accurate. I won't say he lacks intelligence. If I did, I would be lying. But he does lack an ability to scan the defense during plays and always pick the best option.

    So Jim doesn't make him do it.

    It's that simple.

    Remember how bad Arizona made us look throwing the ball? Because our receivers are a bit small, they were able to line up a tiny cb, Jerraud Powers, 5'10, 187 on anyone but Kearse and not have a physical or speed mismatch.

    Powers has no such matchup advantage vs either of the Niner receivers. So, the Niners opened the game in Arizona by going at that matchup about every other play. Powers played off Boldin, so three step drop and quick hit outside to Boldin, easy 8 yards. If Powers gets up on the line, Boldin throws him around in the 5 yard area and makes space that way, and they even ran a fly sweep wit the slow Boldin so Powers would end up having to tackle one of the slowest receivers to ever run a fly sweep. But they knew one thing about Powers, he doesn't really tackle well. In fact, he looked to me like tackling was the furthest thing from his mind. Point is, every one of these plays was a pre snap read. No scanning the defense, no moving the safety with eyes, just take what they are giving. Also, even after they stopped targeting Powers nearly every play, they went right back after him in critical situations later in the game. And almost always, it was a pre snap read. 6 of the first 12 plays they ran targeted Boldin on Powers.

    So Harbaugh made Powers the target, and when Arizona adjusted, he went to the next easy to read and simplest read in the book, he targeted the linebackers spying his quarterback. SF would do what they do , lining up two or even three in the backfield with the QB, put those guys into pre snap motion, and see who on the D adjusted with them. Then flare one of those RB's out to the sideline after the snap. Didn't matter who, as long as it was on the side of the LB who had to keep eyes on Kaepernick. Kaepernick only has to figure out who the defense was ignoring so they could watch him, then make an uncovered throw. All pre snap reads.

    While Roman's offense is incredibly complicated pre snap, maybe too complicated sometimes when you see how against the clock the Niners end up, the whole point of that is to end up with a play that will be likely to take advantage of what the defense is giving away on that play.

    Two more plays that sum up how the complicated pre snap movement of the Niners is designed to give Kaepernick a single easy read. And take advantage of the spy assignment.

    1st and 10, at the SF 36. Pre snap motion shows Arizona with man cover on the two receivers, with zone from the two middle backers (translation, Dansby and Washington are supposed to guard the middle and eyeball Kaepernick lest he run). At the snap, the RB, Dixon makes a beeline for the sideline, while Crabtree runs a meaningless route that sets him up to block the only defender on his side, Peterson. The linebacker eyeballing Kaepernick stays right where he is supposed to. Dixon is wide open. The feint to Crabree by Kaepernick is a front, Crabtree never even looks back at his QB, his job was to block Peterson. Easy one read catch, gain of 19.

    1st and 10, at the AZ 30. Already in field goal range, this is the 6th time SF has lined up in a tackle eligible play, this time with Staley on the left side. As the play unfolds, Kaepernick appears to make a read to the right to Boldin, then spins left and completes a pass of 14 to Staley. There is no way the read to Boldin was real, he has 10 yards left in a deep curl route that he would never run against off coverage anyway unless he was the fake, and only on a trick play would the left tackle be the 2nd read. Like I said, it was a pre snap read, this play is intended to take advantage of the aggressive pass rush and the linebacker on that side intended to spy Kaepernick.

    While I do think Harbaugh's offensive system is very well designed for Kaepernick's strengths and covers up his weaknesses, I also think that the compressed field of the red zone exposes some of the things Kaepernick is not that good at, as well as a lack of team speed at WR and RB, thus the high number of field goals for the Niners, particularly vs fast team defenses.


    Excellent write up. As much as we loathe Harbaugh the person, to deny his greatness as a HC would be a mistake. Bro John may have been right in describing Jim as "the best coach in the league". 3 title games in his first 3 years?? That's just crazy and as ugly as their separation was, Alex Smith, for one, should be sending Harbaugh X-mas cards every year.

    I wish Jim would have taken the Longhorn's job.
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  • SoulfishHawk wrote:Until he puts together a good game in Seattle, I'm not worried about Kaep. His running is more of a weapon than his arm. And his decision making is not good at all. In fact, he has really gotten lucky on some sure picks in the playoffs. In the GB game, the guy drops a pick that would have likely iced the game for the Pack. In the Carolina game, the guy had a shot at an easy pick 6.

    IF they come in to Seattle and beat the hawks, they are the best team in football, period.

    But, I don't care about their stupid streak, this is our house.

    That's exactly right SFH, ALL "streaks" come to an end. and the whiners streak ends this Sunday.
    Touting the higher Wonderlic scores on a Quarterback, and equating that to success on the football field, is a fools game.
    Having the ability to speed read a Defense, and get the audible to jive with success, while not being able to hear yourself think? that's a tall task for anyone, just ask Manning, Breese, Rodgers, and Brady.
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  • Canuck49 wrote:There's no question Harbaugh runs a simple passing game paired with a complex running game. What's less clear to me is whether that is just his core philosophy? Or is it a reflection of his QB skill set? This is a conversation Niners fans have been having too. The consensus there (which is likely wrong) is that it is Greg Roman's fault. (our version of BEVELL SUCKS!!!!!)

    If you look at the plays the niners run now it isn't that different from what Harbaugh ran at Stanford. It isn't that different from what Smith ran last year and the year before. The passing concepts are simple. Dilfer once called them remedial. To go back to my initial point: is the passing game simple because of Kaepernick's limitations? Or does Kaepernick look confused and flustered at times because the simple passing game doesn't give him many options?

    It doesn't appear to me that Harbaugh has dumbed down the playbook for Kap. Rather it seems that the passing game just never gets super sophisticated. The run blocking and run plays are complex and versatile. But the passing plays do seem vanilla. I'm not trying to come off as defensive about Kap's abilities etc, I'm just not sure what the reality of the situation is.

    Harbaugh does expect a lot of mental checks from the QB pre-snap. This has been discussed in depth in earlier posts. My sense is that his basic approach to football is to have simple schemes that can be run without optimal personnel, but focus on picking the best play to run on each and every down. That's why you see the late shifts, delays and clock issues in less than ideal environments.

    TL/DR: This may be more about Harbaugh's philosophy, than Kap's ability.


    Nice post. I've been wondering if Harbaugh focuses his "mad scientist" (Lockette's description of the run game planning) part on the running game which leaves little time and brain power for creating a complicated passing gameplan. There is only so much time in a day so much room in memory for the majority of players.

    Remember, the entire offense has to remember their part in the gameplan and if they make both phases extremely complicated, that could lead to a lot of busted plays. "Oh shit! That was the formation for the run play, not the pass play!"

    I'm impressed by Harbaugh's coaching ability but think his extreme antics could backfire on him if his team ever struggles over an extended period. And I really hope that somebody hires away your DC and OC :P

    It's weird to me how one brother (imaho) is easily recognizable as a great coach, but the other one in Baltimore seems a bit whiny and soft yet still has success and beats his bro in the 'bowl.

    I think Kap can be a smart young man but he lacks some self confidence and when things are going bad, that buries him on the field. His interviews with Seattle media, the pictures he posts online of his shoes and cars all speak to me of someone looking for approval and I think that comes out in the game sometimes. I mean the mocking of Cam Newton's TD celebration was juvenile and seems to me like a punk move.
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  • Canuck49 wrote: TL/DR: This may be more about Harbaugh's philosophy, than Kap's ability.


    If he did it at Stanford and did it with Smith and is now doing it with Kappy, then it's just his dumbed-down offensive coaching style.
    It fits his dumbed-down clothing style and his dumbed-down personality. :-)
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  • One read, if it ain't there RUN, brilliant offensive strategy.

    So, he used AZ's tape against us to make a plan against AZ., is he a genius for that? I think not

    Give him credit for the obvious. Lets see what he does against us this week.

    I like our chances.
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  • Rocket wrote:
    Canuck49 wrote: TL/DR: This may be more about Harbaugh's philosophy, than Kap's ability.


    If he did it at Stanford and did it with Smith and is now doing it with Kappy, then it's just his dumbed-down offensive coaching style.
    It fits his dumbed-down clothing style and his dumbed-down personality. :-)


    :177692: You go to far. I happen to like khakis. LOL
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  • Canuck49 wrote:I've been saying all along that the Niners CAN fall behind in this game and still win. But they CAN'T fall behind by more than one score. Offensive balance is the key to the niners getting the W. Either team being forced to go one dimensional against defences of this calibre is a recipe for disaster.


    In the NFC Championship game, the 49ers fell behind by three scores and San Francisco came back to win the conference and go to the Superbowl. The same thing happened in the Superbowl and San Francisco came within inches of winning the Lombardi trophy, against what was that year one of the better defenses in the NFL.

    Unlike teams like Green Bay, New England, or Denver, teams like Seattle and San Francisco do best when they have a two score lead and can pound the ball on the ground and control the clock. However, I have every confidence that both Wilson and Kaepernick have the ability to move the ball down the field quickly if necessary. I do not think it will be easy to do against the quality of defense that San Francisco and Seattle have, but both QB's have good arm strength and can score first downs with their legs.
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  • Agree with you're assessment of Frisco's passing O Scott. Would further suggest that unlike other teams, we just do not bite on motion. We just hand the guy off. Also, I believe we could well have the fastest quickest group of Lb's in the game. Kap just can't get outside on us, and with Earl coming up hard once the opposing Qb takes off, big scrambles don't happen.
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  • CandlestickBum wrote:
    Canuck49 wrote:I've been saying all along that the Niners CAN fall behind in this game and still win. But they CAN'T fall behind by more than one score. Offensive balance is the key to the niners getting the W. Either team being forced to go one dimensional against defences of this calibre is a recipe for disaster.


    In the NFC Championship game, the 49ers fell behind by three scores and San Francisco came back to win the conference and go to the Superbowl. The same thing happened in the Superbowl and San Francisco came within inches of winning the Lombardi trophy, against what was that year one of the better defenses in the NFL.


    Neither of those 2 defenses were anywhere near as good as this Seahawks defense.
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  • Chapow wrote:
    CandlestickBum wrote:
    Canuck49 wrote:I've been saying all along that the Niners CAN fall behind in this game and still win. But they CAN'T fall behind by more than one score. Offensive balance is the key to the niners getting the W. Either team being forced to go one dimensional against defences of this calibre is a recipe for disaster.


    In the NFC Championship game, the 49ers fell behind by three scores and San Francisco came back to win the conference and go to the Superbowl. The same thing happened in the Superbowl and San Francisco came within inches of winning the Lombardi trophy, against what was that year one of the better defenses in the NFL.


    Neither of those 2 defenses were anywhere near as good as this Seahawks defense.


    I think it would be difficult for either team to come back from a 2+ score deficit to win the game due to the quality of the defenses; however, I believe both teams are capable of such a feat. Seattle allowed the Buccaneers to score 24 points on them in the first half. Sure, it was an outlier, but if Tampa Bay can do it in the first half when the Seattle defense is fresh, San Francisco could do it in the second half when the defense is tired.

    That being said, I think it will be a close game and if one team has a 10+ point lead going into the half, they have a really good chance of going to the superbowl.
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  • I was at the Super Bowl last year. It was one of the single greatest experiences in my life. But also one of the most disappointing. If our defence had been healthy it would have been a different game. But, if if if. History is full of ifs.

    You're right that either team has the talent to com back from a multi score deficit. But agains that's defence, in that stadium, it is going to be extremely hard for the niners. That's why he offence ends to be balanced and get six instead of three. I'm more confident if winning this game than I have been in a while. But, at best, it's a pick 'em.
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