Here is the opening to my Thursday column about 49ers’ offensive coordinator Greg Roman who has a tendency to be a smarty pants:

Last Sunday, just before the 49ers’ first offensive play against the Falcons, I said out loud to myself, “Colin Kaepernick is going to throw a pass to Michael Crabtree.”

Sure enough, Kaepernick threw a dinky little pass to Crabtree for one yard.

The game before that against the Packers, Kaepernick threw a pass to Crabtree on the Niners’ first offensive play, this one for nine yards.

Get this. In six of the 49ers’ last eight games, the first offensive play was a pass. And that first pass went to Crabtree three of the past five games.

This is what you call a tendency. If I, a mere writer, can spot this tendency, you can bet defensive coordinators and head coaches around the league can spot it. You can bet the Baltimore Ravens know all about it.

To read the full column, click here.

Be Sociable, Share!



  1. lameduck

    Could he have been using the west coast offense philosophy to do run plays to see what is working and what isn’t? Would that explain the typical slow first quarter>

    January 23rd, 2013 10:09 pm

  2. George

    Is it just possible this is a set up for their first play in New Orleans? I read someone else say this, and it makes sense.

    January 23rd, 2013 10:36 pm

  3. Jumbo Shrimp

    Sometimes I shudder when I read your analysis pieces because I think you may not be yelling this stuff loud enough at Greg Roman. YELL IT AS LOUD AS YOU CAN the next time you see him, PLEASE!
    Great piece if writing. Really troubling sense of doubt I’m stricken with.

    January 23rd, 2013 11:29 pm

  4. RC

    Roman has had great success this year, and is an above average play caller, and offensive strategist.
    The quick hitch used to be a west coast staple, it’s safe, get’s a reciever involved early in the game, gives the D something to think about, makes a CB suceptible to the go route etc later….Throwing to Crabtree early is most likely done because he is open.

    I find this column a little on the arrogant side Lowell, as far as I know you have never played in the NFL or called plays… but yet you feel qualified to call out and NFL offensive coordinator.

    January 24th, 2013 10:28 am

  5. Dennis

    So I guess you didn’t like my previous post so let me go at this differently. Isn’t it the least bit possible that the reason Gore was able to run once the 49ers were down by 17 points was because the Falcons thought we would be passing? There is nothing anywhere that I have read or seen that suggests if the 49ers handed the ball off to Gore 3 straight times to start the game the outcome would have been any different.

    January 24th, 2013 11:10 am

  6. Neal

    The thing is LC, if Roman gets too cute , they have the ability to change things up and adjust for the second 1/2.

    January 24th, 2013 12:00 pm

  7. Mark M

    Early points for the Niners equals wins, frequently easy ones. So I think your point is well taken. He likes to get a little too cute with the bizarre toss plays and generally over complicates things. But I give him credit for the overall diversity of the running game. It certainly is a strength yet the defense rarely seems capable of reading it properly. Gore appears to be adapting to the read option stuff which is a huge relief. James is a weapon already despite not playing much this season.

    The only way Roman can blow this one for us if we get a bad turnover or two on bizarre play calling. The meat and potatoes of this offense are good enough to score big against the Ravens. So bottom line, I agree.

    January 24th, 2013 12:02 pm

  8. Mike

    Yes, the lateral in the Rams’ game was very strange. However, do you recall that previous regimes called Gore up the middle on the beginning of every series? Now that’s a tendency. Mix it up Greg!

    January 24th, 2013 12:19 pm

  9. Stan

    Greg Roman is the illegitimate son of Jonathan Winters..

    That’s a funny observational joke for certain age groups..

    January 24th, 2013 2:15 pm

  10. KauaiRobert

    ‘If I, a mere writer, can spot this tendency, you can bet defensive coordinators and head coaches around the league can spot it. You can bet the Baltimore Ravens know all about it.’
    Well, if they didn’t know before, I guess they know now.
    I’m sure Roman appreciates you pointing that out to the opposing team, Lowell.
    Thanks alot.
    Let’s just hope no Ravens are reading your stuff.

    January 24th, 2013 2:43 pm

  11. CohnZohn

    KauaiRobert, You write as if I work for the 49ers. To me, the Ravens are not the opposing team. They merely are a team. Same goes for the Niners — not opposing, also not mine. You should know this.

    January 24th, 2013 3:20 pm

  12. KauaiRobert

    I was just teasing you a little bit there Lowell, but thanks for the shout-out. :)

    January 24th, 2013 4:15 pm

  13. htwaits

    Someone with football experience pointed out this week that for a fan, a good play is one that works. A bad play is one that doesn’t work.

    “This is not a Get-Greg-Roman column.”

    You sure fooled me.

    January 24th, 2013 4:28 pm

  14. Dennis

    What I find most perplexing is that you are complaining about the play calling abilities of one of the two offensive coordinators that made it to the Super Bowl this year. My goodness you must be tough to live with.

    So how about setting up a pool on what the first offensive play will be next Sunday? We will see how predictable Roman really is and who really knows (or can guess) how he thinks.

    January 24th, 2013 5:10 pm

  15. CohnZohn

    Dennis, I am quite easy to live with. But I do wonder about you.

    January 24th, 2013 5:35 pm

  16. RC


    Did you happen to catch that article on Espn regarding Bill Walsh’s book?
    Thought it would interest you.

    January 24th, 2013 6:06 pm

  17. Johnc

    That trick play against the Rams was a bad call and after the game the coaches acknowledged that it was not designed for that situation and field position.
    As for that first pass to Crabtree against the Falcons, it was just a probe and a message that Kaepernick was not going to rely on his legs to beat them. Also, the west coast offense is supposed to use the pass to set up the running game. At least that is what I understand Bill Walsh tried to do. He would script the first 25 plays to see how the defense would react. It occurred to me that the Niners might have been doing that in the first quarter until they fell dangerously behind.

    January 24th, 2013 6:44 pm

  18. Neal


    Who cares what the first play is, as long as the last play is a kneel down by Kaep, that is all that matters.

    January 24th, 2013 6:55 pm

  19. B-Rad

    “A good play is one that works. A bad play is one that doesn’t work.”
    I would add that an incredibly, almost historically stupid play is one
    where the possible downside overshadows the possible upside by
    99 to 1, or so, as with the Kaepernick/Ginn fiasco; and this could
    be determined in advance given the situation.

    I’ve nothing at all against passing on first downs to Crabtree. I
    thought Kap could audible out of the called play to the alternate
    play if he didn’t like the defense.

    I have everything against the refs who, on the safety, apparently
    didn’t know the line of scrimmage extended out of bounds.

    January 24th, 2013 8:00 pm

  20. Johnc

    We seem to be obsesssed with isolating one play today but in the NFL one play or several sequential plays are designed to compliment one another and/or set up kill shots.

    January 24th, 2013 9:19 pm

  21. Brady

    “If Crabtree had not fumbled at the goal line and if David Akers had not missed that easy field goal, the game would have been a blowout”

    This is what we call “fan logic” (though I know you’re not a fan). Suppose a hypothetical that proves team A to be even better than the score indicated, even though you could just as easily say that if Matt Ryan hadn’t fumbled a snap that was dropped perfectly into his hands, or if Harry Douglas hadn’t tripped in open space, then the Falcons would have won.

    January 25th, 2013 7:41 am

  22. Dennis


    I agree with you completely. That is my point. I think Roman is doing a fine job (he is in the Super Bowl) and he deserves better from Lowell.


    I have been married to the same woman for 38 years. She thinks I am OK.

    January 25th, 2013 8:07 am

  23. BHF

    Lowell says this is not a-get Roman- column and yet it is a get-Roman column.

    January 25th, 2013 9:50 am

Submit Your Comments


Required, will not be published