The Buffalo Bills hired former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman to the same position under new head coach, Rex Ryan. In order to get a feel for what type of offense he’ll bring to the Bills, I chatted with 49ers blogger and SportsNaut’s Content Lead, Vincent Frank (@VincentFrankNFL).
Greg Roman comes to the Bills with a history of fielding strong rushing attacks with a dominant offensive line. What elements of his rushing attack were successful, and how much of that can be directly attributed to Roman?
As the run-game coordinator at Stanford, Roman built a bully. This continued with San Francisco until the team decided to get all pretty with some confusing formations. Though, I am certain that this wasn’t all to do with Roman, especially considering many individuals called plays for the 49ers. His primary strong suit is a downhill rushing scheme with an ability to emphasize on different blocking schemes out of the same formation. This is a huge asset, especially with Buffalo’s current offensive line make up.
Colin Kaepernick seemed to regress in 2014 under Roman. In your opinion, How much of this was due to injuries along the offensive line, compared to Roman’s coaching?
San Francisco’s offensive scheme didn’t play to Kaepernick’s strength. And watching the tape of each game throughout the season, it became abundantly clear that this was the primary issue. You can’t take a player’s strength away and expect him to be successful. I think it had as much to do with Blaine Gabbert being the team’s backup. Same issue in 2012 when Colt McCoy was backing up Kaepernick. Much different scenario than when Alex Smith was sitting behind CK. Injuries and Kaepernick’s inability to progress definitely played a role. But with the talent on this offense, all coaches deserve blame for what was a disastrous scheme.
Tell me about the 49ers pass game under Roman. What concepts did he employ, and do you feel he maximized the weapons he had?
Roman was Harbaugh’s run-game coordinator at Stanford. And while he was the offensive coordinator in Stanford, some of that responsibility went to other assistants on the offensive staff. With that said, San Francisco failed to utilize its weapons to the best of its ability. Schematically, the team never really ran out trips formations, which made absolutely no sense. In those formations, the QB has an ability to fit the ball into a larger window without going through his progressions, which is something that seems to work well with Kaepernick. More than that, San Francisco just didn’t have the personnel to push the ball down the field. That’s not going to be an issue with Sammy and what Buffalo has, at least from a skill-position perspective.
What was the biggest negative of Roman’s tenure as OC?
Play-calling. Bills fans will understand soon enough just how atrocious Roman is at calling a game. Three plays inside the Ravens 10 with a chance to win the Super Bowl. A Hall of Fame running back and an elite running quarterback with the best run-blocking offensive line in the NFL. Throw three straight passes. First down just outside Seattle’s 20 with the NFC Championship game. Pre-snap read to throw a fade to Crabtree against Richard Sherman. Two specific examples of major issues with play-calling. For someone who boasts an amazing scheme on the ground, Roman struggled as a game caller in the grand scheme of things.
This reared its ugly head over and over again during the 2014 campaign,. Multiple times, San Francisco would run out three-wide sets on third and one, run a draw on third and 11, throw to the full back on a designed call short of the distance to gain. In reality, playing uptight. Need to let his QB do his thing.
Most casual fans see Vernon Davis as one of the premier talents at tight end in the NFL. Why was he such a non-factor in recent years?
That’s ALL on Davis, and I think he knows this. Holding out during the offseason program for more money. That really impacted Davis’ ability to continue building a relationship. It also seems that Davis suffered from a lack of effort. Over and over again, he refused to put the effort out there as a blocker, something he was among the best at in the NFL in previous seasons. He simply didn’t have the drive that we have seen. Besides this, Davis is one of the worst set of hands in the NFL for a tight end.
Which players on the Bills offense will benefit the most from Roman?
Anthony Dixon. Roman loves the ground-and-pound attack with bigger running backs. This pretty much eliminated Spiller from the equation. Just look at Toby Gerhart at Stanford…that’s the RB Roman likes. He also has a solid relationship with Dixon, which will work well. Expect the RB to play a bigger role in 2015. Robert Woods is someone else to keep an eye on. San Francisco’s attack (and actually Stanford as well) benefited from that possession guy. In SF it was Crabtree or Boldin. At Stanford, it was Doug Baldwin. Woods should play a huge factor in 2015.