The 49ers team meeting room in Santa Clara featured a collection of people looking to acquire more knowledge on how the Xs and Os are used by the team.
But it wasn’t a room full of rookies participating, rather a room full of reporters in attendance for 49ers 101, an informative teaching session run by head coach Mike Singletary, special teams coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
For over two hours, each speaker addressed the group on how they teach their respective players and offered up tons of insight in the process.
Coach Singletary batted lead-off, speaking first to the group on where the 49ers are headed. He did caution the media members that presentation wasn’t set up to win reporters over, rather to inform them on some of the finer details of the 49ers three phases of football.
Singletary began my examining the conclusion of the 49ers 2009 season saying, “We were able to compete against good teams… great teams we had issues with.”
Singletary was firm in his beliefs in how the team can improve in 2010 and beat those great teams he spoke of. “It comes down to who’s executing it the best,” he noted.
Schottenheimer took the podium next, and began his presentation by expressing his fundamental beliefs for special teams. Some of the fascinating notes offered by Schottenheimer were focused on field position data. According to his research, 12.4 percent of possessions that start from your own 10-yard line result in touchdowns, while 24.1 percent of possessions that start from the 50-yard line result in touchdowns. As Schottenheimer’s chart demonstrated, the chances of scoring touchdowns and field goals went up with better field position.
Schottenheimer also showed some of the key objectives he stresses to his players. On top of the list was written this motivation message: “Set the bar high, set a standard for perfection.”
Jimmy Raye took the floor next and let the room know what he expects from his players, point blank.
“The number one criteria to play here is you have to have a degree of physicality. You have to be a physical player.”
Raye pointed out that physicality comes in both an aggressive run game as well as in pass protection. Raye pointed out how the team finished as the league’s fifth-best red zone offense. Raye credited much of that success to Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis, who “creates matchup problems” for the defense. Raye also had several memorable quotes from his briefing.
-What’s the most important thing for a quarterback to do? “Exercise the value of choice,” he said.
-According to Raye, stance, steps and angles are “the starting point of how we play… offensively, you have to have the ability to keep your poise in the noise.”
-The audibles in Raye’s offensive system are referred as a “workable toolkit” which allows the quarterback to adjust at the line to whatever the defense shows him before the snap.
Never shy of dropping a memorable quote or two himself, Manusky concluded the presentation by covering several aspects of his 3-4 defense. “We got tools too,” he said with a smile while looking in Raye’s direction.
Manusky unveiled pages out of his defensive playbook which contained this passage in the opening pages: “The trademark of the San Francisco 49ers defense is aggressiveness and physical play.”
Manusky went over some of his most basic philosophies, “I don’t care where they get the ball – we have to stop them!” to breaking down the reason he values holding teams to field goals and not touchdowns, “How many points if you give up five touchdowns? 35. How many points if you give up five field goals? 15… Five field goals, we’re still in the game!”
The coaches finished up by answering questions and thanking the media members for their participation.
After the event wrapped up, TV49 caught up with some of the key figures from the event to get their impressions.
“The whole point was to bring the media in and see our coaches in a teaching setting. If you look at most coaches, at the core, they’re teachers,” said 49ers Director of Public Relations Bob Lange.
It demonstrated that fact and much more.
“I think it gave them a little more insight into the particulars of an offense or a defense, and what goes into producing a game plan every week,” Lange explained. “I think they saw the passion that these coaches have and that they take it very seriously. Things don’t always go right on Sundays, but there is a lot thought that goes into those play calls.”
Walter Smith, 49ers.com’s Football 101 contest winner, told us it was the coolest prize he had ever won in his life. The San Jose native brought along one of his close friends as his guest to witness the once in a lifetime event.
“That was pretty amazing,” Smith said after he finished lunch in the 49ers Café. “It’s also interesting to see how the coaches interact with one another. That was probably one of the more interesting points of the day.”
The entire room left with more knowledge than before.
Comcast SportsNet Bay Area football insider Matt Maiocco was more than happy to be in attendance to pick up some of the finer details of the 49ers offensive, defensive and special teams units. He’s covered the team for over a decade and has seen the team change coaches, schemes and personnel over his career covering the team.
“It shows you that a young guy coming in from college, the stuff that they have to learn and the volume of information they have to attain to step on the field and not just run around like a chicken with his head cut off,” Maiocco said.
Really for the team’s beat writers, the afternoon was about understanding the process that goes into the big gameday decisions.
“It’s good every now and then to see what it is that we’re writing about. It’s so easy for the fans to say, ‘Why didn’t they throw the ball on third-and-one?’ or ‘Why don’t they use they plays?’ To take a step back behind the curtain and see it’s really not that simple, (you learn) there are a lot of complexities and coaches do spend hours breaking down the game planning.”
For longtime football writer Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle, hearing the coaches break down the nuances of their sport was certainly fascinating.
“A lot of it was new. I think that’s why covering football is such a fun thing to do,” Lynch explained. “There are all these trends that come along, and you can cover football for 50 years and in that 51st year, you’re going to learn something new. The game is so complex and you have those 11 different battles every play.”
Smith and Lynch both learned much more about the 49ers coordinators, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye in particular.
“I learned that he’s quite a funny character,” Smith said. “I learned he’s mellow from all the interviews, but once you get him outside of that, he’s actually a pretty entertaining guy. He had us all in stitches a little bit.”
“The biggest part was the Jimmy Raye part and how he broke down what a player has to go through to learn the offense, how complex it is,” Lynch noted. “It was really educational for us, especially what a quarterback has to go through to make a play.”
Tags: Greg Manusky, jimmy Raye, Kurt Schottenheimer
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