Before the 49ers headed to Atlanta for the NFC Championship Game this January, head coach Jim Harbaugh called offensive coordinator Greg Roman “a shining star.”
“The job that Greg has done this year is really in so many ways just one of the best I’ve ever seen,” he told the New York Times.
In helping steer the 49ers into that game against the Falcons and then the Super Bowl, Roman did something most offensive coordinators don’t: he became well-known, even to non-hardcore fans.
His offensive schemes – weaving the pistol formation and the read-option into the existing playbook and tailoring the offense from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick – made the 49ers offense one of the most interesting and dynamic in the NFL.
If he continues to work his magic in 2013, however, Roman may be putting the Niners in a hole for 2014 and beyond. This is likely his last season in San Francisco as what offensive tackle Joe Staley calls the team’s “mad scientist.”
Roman went into this past offseason as perhaps the NFL assistant coach with the best chance of getting a head-coaching position. But as the Niners continued to win in the postseason, Roman’s opportunities to interview for openings quickly closed. By the time the Super Bowl was over, there he was, still employed by the Niners, who also retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, also considered a prime prospect.
That’s good news for San Francisco in 2013, with Harbaugh again retaining his key coaching lieutenants. But it can’t last forever. Sooner or later, Roman will be gone and take his creative mind with him.
Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports wrote an in-depth profile of Roman that was published this week, analyzing the impact Roman had on the 49ers offense in 2012. In it, Jacksonville Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell says the only reason Roman hasn’t been nabbed by another team is timing.
Caldwell is a big believer in Roman and sees him as a success story waiting to happen.
“As a head coaching candidate, he has a lot of things that are intriguing,” Caldwell told Silver. “He’s worked on offense and defense and even strength and conditioning. In San Francisco he’s had great success with two very different quarterbacks. He’s dealt with a lot of adversity. He’s definitely stayed ahead of the curve. I think the biggest thing is that he puts his players in a very good position to succeed.”
Of course, Harbaugh – with whom Roman also worked at Stanford – is a creative mind himself, and also knows how to put people in position to succeed. Should Roman leave after 2013, Harbaugh no doubt will replace him with another offensive coordinator capable of guiding an attack that features Kaepernick.
But what Roman has done is special.
Certainly, even if the 49ers advance through the postseason again, Roman’s stock will have risen far too high to be ignored. There will be some team out there eager to snatch him away. Pencil in 2013 as Roman’s last in San Francisco.
“I would envision him being one of the top (candidates), with his track record of success, his experiences both at the college and pro level and his offensive IQ and his defensive IQ,” Caldwell told Silver.
Roman, however, isn’t focusing on that.
With an offseason to dream up more schemes and bring in new offensive talent, Roman’s offense could be even better in 2013.
As Roman told Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter before the Super Bowl, he’s having the time of his football life.
“We try to be creative, try to keep people off balance, try to have fun,” he said. “I think what we do stimulates our players. When they come in every week there’s always something new and they get really excited about what’s next. It’s a lot of fun.”