Coaches are constantly talking to other coaches, looking for something they can steal.
So when 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman was coaching at Stanford, he made the trek to Reno to learn about the “pistol” formation from its master, Chris Ault of Nevada.
Ault had developed the formation in 2004 (a shorter drop than the traditional shotgun formation, with a running back behind the quarterback), and had a skinny legged quarterback named Colin Kapernick running it when Roman dropped by for a visit.
“About three years ago, made the trek to Nevada and visited with him and his staff,” Roman said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “That was very valuable time spent. He was very accommodating and it was very interesting as a coach to go really learn something totally new. And he’s a very good football coach. . . . So it was good.”
Watching Kaepernick clearly made an impression. He was the only Division 1 quarterback to throw for 10,000 yards and run for 4,000 in his career.
So they’ve tried to implement some of that into their current offense, which has many fathers. Roman grew up working on George Seifert’s staff in Carolina, and there’s a heavy West Coast Offense element.
But incorporating the “pistol” — the 49ers call it “Q” because they want to keep play calls to one syllable — began in training camp. It can now grow with Kapernick starting, thanks to the time Roman spent with Ault.
“I think you can gain a lot if they’re willing to tell you,” Roman said. “You can gain a lot with an upside, the downside, what other teams do to try to stop it. When they do that, what do you do? Every little nuance. It’s just so much in terms of how you might sequence things, the downside, the upside. And definitely what people have tried to do to combat it or defend it, and then the next logical step for them. So, [it was] great information.”
The fact they’re looking at others puts them ahead of the game. Like Patriots coach Bill Belichick trying to incorporate spread elements he learned from Oregon’s Chip Kelly, the best coaches are the ones who recognize they don’t know it all already, and continue to learn.