Since head coach Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2011, the San Francisco 49ers have taken on a new identity. After eight long years of sub-par football, Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke deserve a lot of credit for the quick turnaround. But working behind the scenes, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio have much to do with the team’s success.
Roman, along with Harbaugh, have revitalized the 49ers offense. After ranking 24th in points scored in 2010, the offense jumped to 11th over the past two years. Their rushing attack also noticed steady improvement. San Francisco has finished among the top 10 in rushing over the last two seasons with Frank Gore making the Pro Bowl roster in each.
Alex Smith was essentially on his way out of town after 2010. But due to Roman and his coaching staff, the group was able to showcase his talents, allowing him to succeed. While the 49ers are ranked in the lower half in the passing department, Smith still enjoyed a career year in 2011, which included a trip to the NFC Championship Game.
Once Colin Kaepernick took over, the offense still relied on the run, but implemented read-option plays, which utilized his speed and quickness. Despite shifting from a traditional pocket-passer, to a mobile quarterback, the offense never lost a step. It’s safe to say that Roman knows how to play toward his players’ strengths.
Roman’s name was thrown into the hat as a head coaching candidate during the 49ers’ run to the Super Bowl last year, but nothing materialized. If San Francisco puts up another year of stellar play, the offensive coordinator will receive multiple offers from college and NFL franchises.
On the opposite side of the ball, Fangio has shaped the 49ers into a top defense. There are very few holes that can be exploited. Since he took charge of the unit in 2011, San Francisco has ranked inside the top five in total defense. Two years ago, the 49ers were tied for the league lead with 38 forced turnovers.
But from 2006-10, Fangio joined the Baltimore Ravens, taking on a new role as a special assistant to head coaches Brian Billick and John Harbaugh. During Fangio’s stay, the Ravens finished in the top three in points and yards allowed in three of his four seasons.
After his stint in Baltimore, Fangio became the defensive coordinator of the Stanford Cardinal, where they fielded one of the country’s best units. Despite his numerous stops, Fangio’s stock is trending upward.
Harbaugh should feel lucky to have the two coordinators by his side. It’s scary to think how the 49ers would fare without them, but one thing is for certain: They’ll be intact for at least one more year.