Bring Me the Head of Johnnie Morton

Well, I stand corrected. I thought our WR coach was the ex-Detroit Lion WR Johnnie Morton. He’s John Morton, a training camp casualty and World Football Leaguer. He got so far as the Raiders practice squad in 1993 and never got on an NFL  field. He has been the Niner WR coach for 3 years. He worked with Turner an Gruden with the Raiders, did some good work with Payton in Nawlins, and at USD with Harbaugh, so his creds seem fine.

But really, what the hell is wrong with the WR corps on the 49ers? Never has a group been so underwhelming for so long. The list of WRs that failed to catch on (unless you are Anquan Boldin) is too long to list, but Randy Moss, Braylon Edwards, Mario Manningham, and Ted Ginn are recent washouts. No to mention Kyle Williams. Granted, some of this is by design as the Niners want to run, and rarely use more that 2 WRs at at time, but, Moss’s time here was especially frustrating as he was almost always covered 12 yards off the line, and the Niners rarely exploited the fact that they could have thrown 10-yard comebacks all the way down the field with little resistance.

Throw in the fact that the 3rd WR position has produced miniscule numbers in recent memory. Galling is the facat tat Ted Ginn caught more passes last year as the 3 in Carolina than he did in 3 years here. What did that get him? Well, a one-way tiket to AZ, but the point remains that we didn’t do very much with him as our speed guy. Once he lost his effectiveness as a PR, he was toast here. But obviously, for all his disappointmnt as a 1st round draft choice, and subsequent horrible numbers as a Niner, he’s a viable WR who is better that what we got out of him.  Manningham sort of follows suit.  He started well, and was beset with nagging injuries, and never got rolling. Swett Brain campe in and had little impact. Bye bye. The rookies? Well, AJ Jenkins may be the bust of this decade draft-wise, but others haven’t fared well wither. Ronald Johnson didn’t make it through camp, Quniton Patton looked promising, then he got hurt. He came back late and made a couple nice catches. Now we have Bruce Ellington. He looks like a guy weith speed to burn.  A guy wh0o can open up the top on a defense. Alas, he just hit the PUP/Non-NFL injury report.

Yay. Another guy who looks to red-shirt his rookie season. At what point do you turn to the coaches to find out why the 49ers fid it so hard to integrate WRs into their offense? Is it incomprehensible blocking schemes that they are required to learn?  This certainly must play a part because it has a lot to do with why Frank Gore is so hard tounseat as the go-to RB on the Niners. Gore may have scored a 6 on the Wonderlich, but his knowlege of the 49er playbook has reached Einsteinian levels. Is this the reason? Is it our rudimentary offense? Our 1-2 WR formations that appear to be nothing more than 12 yard outs (which occasionally get jumped for pick 6’s) and mid-range come-backs? We certainly don’t show a lot of double moves, slants, or deep routes for our WRs. The deep balls go to VD. Slants? A relic from the past. As are screens, unless its the dreaded bubble screen to the WR.

Which brings us to John Morton. What the hell is he actually doing? Either he’s been given shit to work with (not likely as some guys leave here and still produce) or he can’t elevate these guys to play better than they’ve shown. We’ve all heard about the new-age passing offense that is coming. The multiple-WR sets. In the immortal words of Steven Tyler, “same old story., same oldsong and dance, my friend.” Seeing Carlos Hyde drafted in the 2nd round gives me even more pause to think this is all preseason babble.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

About unca_chuck

Lifelong SF 49ers, SF Giants, and Golden State Warriors fan
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49 Responses to Bring Me the Head of Johnnie Morton

  1. NoFear49er says:

    It’s been about the QB for the past nine years, pure and simple.

    • NJ49er says:

      Short and to the point NoFear49er.
      I’d concur.

      Need to improve timing, not just with the WRs but the QB has to speed it up too.

  2. unca_chuck says:

    So, Ginn getting very little playing time is the QB’s fault? I never particularly liked the Ginn signing, but he had his uses as a PR. But the Niners rarely used him as a deep threat. Is a product of the QB? No. Curious. Most #3s get around 40 catches. If our 3 gets 18. I’ll be amazed. Moss was a decoy for most of his time here. QB’s fault? No. Williams I get. He [pretty much sucked. He couldn’t get open. but Moss was regularly given an 8-15 yard cushion, yet still didn’t get many throws. This is a product of the coaches design, not the QB.

    Why did Ginn catch more balls in one year at Carolina than he did in 3 years here?

  3. Spitblood says:

    Charles…. You’re smarter than this. We had Alex Smith for the last decade…. who sucked. Last year was Kaep’s rookie year and despite Berger (and to be fair I did it too in the beginning) spinning that Greg Roman was to blame for our anemic offense, the reality was that Kaep was a rookie (I really don’t want to debate Kaep’s status…. that’s not the point), and Alex was Alex. You put a rookie qb together with 8 years of Alex Smith and our passing attack is going to suck. Like NoFear said, it’s about the qb.

    To make matters worse, like I wrote four months ago, our rushing attack was limited with zero backs who could do it all so scouts and DBs knew what was coming with certain personnel groupings in the game. You give Kaep one all-purpose back in Hyde, with a second year reading defenses at the line of scrimmage under his belt (not in the classroom), and our receivers will finally start to develop. After year one with Kaep at the helm, Crabtree was starting to develop nicely Do you remember the Green Bay game, week 1? Kaep is gonna scorch the league this year. Only question mark I have in my mind is Vance McDonald. That little pretty boy better start gettin’ his nose dirty.

  4. unca_chuck says:

    GB’s 4 DBs couldn’t cover one guy that whole game. That is an indictment of GB and their shitty defense, not an endorsement of the Niner passing game.

    The Niners run a rudimentary passing game. They rarely put 3 WRs on the field on 1st or 2nd down. I’ve been bitching about this since 2006. Nolan, Singletary, Hostler, JjimmyHat, and now Harbaugh and Roman have all said that they were going to open things up. Martz was the only one to do it some, but he want too far the other way. Last year they were hamstrung by injuries, I’ll give you that. This year they MUST alter their formations and get the ball out more. They have way too many weapons to run their stone age offense.

  5. unca_chuck says:

    Besides, NoFear. if I wrote the sky was blue, you’d disagree.

    Back to you, Spit If Harbaugh proved anything, it’s that Smith wasn’t as bad as he appeared. And the decision to stop throwing to Gorew was strictly on Harnaugh. Look at Gore’s receiving numbers under Nolan/Sing. He was catching 40-50 passes a year. Our 2 barely gets that now.

  6. Spitblood says:

    Jane you ignorant slut. The Green Bay game didn’t show our passing attack was good but rather that Kaep can sling it when receivers are open. Later in the year our receivers didn’t get open not because of GRow but because we didn’t have any offensive weapons. That’s my point. Follow along.

    In addition, if Harbaugh proved anything it was that he was an excellent judge of horse flesh. As soon as Kaep was ready, Alex Smith was down the road. Alex Smith is a serviceable NFL qb but he’ll never win you a Super Bowl and that’s what we’re here for.

    I disagree with Dennis about Harbaugh because I think Harbaugh will win a Super Bowl. Dennis would be concerned with how much carnage we’d have to endure to get another ring (lost Super Bowls and such), but I’m not that concerned about it. Harbaugh and Kaep will win Super Bowls – maybe a few.

  7. NJ49er says:

    Chuck the way I see it is, Alex was limited in the arm strength department.
    No deep outs, nothing deep middle/seam seemed to fit his skillset.

    Defenses knew where to squat on him and, cut everything off, normally around 15yds downfield between the numbers.

    Kaep can spin it.
    He’s got the juice to hit every piece of real estate sideline to sideline to goal line.

    Where he (Kaep) needs to improve is in the pocket and short dump-offs.
    Touch passes for him aren’t Pro ready IMO.

    Once he pieces that together, we’re golden.

    As for Morton?
    I’ve voiced my concerns for him several times.
    Either we take the position that Harbaugh/Roman don’t allow much operating room in the playbook for him or, he isn’t bright enough to devise routes that compliment the Offensive scheme.

    For me, they need to add some of the WCO elements of timing.
    It would force Kaep to dial up the clock in his head and, have WRs looking for the ball on time.

    • NJ49er says:

      Where I do fault Morton is on the route techniques.
      Rice was never going to beat coverage with speed.
      He did it with precise routes and timing with the QB.
      Get to your spot, look for the ball, turn and go.

      Perhaps Morton isn’t the best option on teaching technique?

      Waiting for a guy to separate typically relies on speed.
      Boldin and Crabtree won’t ever succeed in that regard.
      Those guys know when to look for the ball.

      Patton and Ellington could change that for us, we’ll see how they’re utilized.

  8. NJ49er says:

    Too often we’ve seen WRs bunching up and bringing those DBs to the party with them.
    Whether that’s on the Coaching or the players, we’ll probably never know.

    Just makes me wonder why we seem to have so many challenges with the younger WRs.
    I’d have to say Coaching needs to be considered as much as the GM that selected them.
    They can’t all be that inept, can they?

  9. NoFear49er says:

    NJ49er, too many times I saw the wideouts carry themselves in a sloppy/lazy manner indicating to anyone looking, like the defense, they wouldn’t be involved in this particular play. They might as well have stayed on the sideline. I think every coach from Harbaugh down to the position coach should have their asses for that type of play/effort. This includes Crabs, too. Maybe now with a bunch of guys trying to prove themselves for playing time things there will improve.

    A lot of the passing concepts we’re trying to pull off are going to fall flat without the required precision and effort from all eleven players.

    Kaepernick has to see more of the field and understand more of the defense he sees, too. If he stays with a one man read on defense, pre-snap at that, and primary only on offense, we’ll see too much of Gore again and that can’t be blamed on the play caller or a coach that’s not trying to get more passing offense going. If you have an alternative that works and wins, you’ll go back to it and PDQ.

    • NJ49er says:

      I hear you NoFear49er.
      Something just doesn’t smell right with our passing game, including the position Coach.

      Agree completely about each guy doing his job.
      Can’t be productive otherwise.
      One thing I’ve always loved about the WCO was the rhythm.
      We don’t seem to have that element.
      Everything is slow to develop, including all the pre-snap motion that doesn’t seem to effect anyone but us.

      If we just managed to get plays off quickly and keep a Defense guessing, we might manage to improve.
      A Defense can practically sit on their heels and watch the play clock tick down to :01 and pin their ears back.

      Kaep should have a better handle on the Offense this time around too.
      Seeing the entire field has been something many of us have ragged on him for.

      Just hope we see something positive from Stevie too.
      He can be a distraction but, he manages to beat some of the better CBs in this League when he decides to put some effort into it.

      The big factors for me this season are Vance and getting something from Patton or Ellington.

      Also looking forward to the battle at Center.
      Be nice if we didn’t have the Boone distraction too.
      Though I like the depth in that regard, having a cohesive unit on the OL matters a lot.
      Hopefully he’ll come to his senses and realize the team appreciates him and, will likely consider his contract concerns, without the holdout drama.

      Should be an interesting Camp.

      • NoFear49er says:

        I hope so, too, regarding Boone. It’s fine that he wants to make a statement and let the team know he’s played well enough to get a nice re-up check but better make it to camp or let someone else have the chance to step up and make you more dispensable than you are. There’s always Snyder, too.

        I don’t know what doesn’t seem right to you but I’ve seen three levels of receivers and a check down on many plays all being ignored when the primary is slow or unable to clear his defender. How long do you think a guy with a big guarantee is going to stay excited by running up and down the field on every play and the QB never even looks his way?

        The big reason Walsh could develop his WCO was Montana. The QB is more than critical, he has know all the routes on every play and where each receiver is in his progression. Kaep might get there but he’s the opposite of Montana right now. CK7 is a smart guy. Once he gets over himself he should learn the drop back QB system. I hope that happens this year but I wouldn’t be surprised if it barely begins this year. I would be happy just to see CK7 stepping up into the pocket more and spreading the ball out to more targets for now.

      • NJ49er says:

        I agree NoFear49er.
        It’s on the QB as much as the targets.
        If he’s not spreading the ball around, it’s very conceivable that guys would become disinterested.
        To that point however, it’s unprofessional to loaf and not sell your route.

        What concerns me most with Boone is the Mevis Agency.
        I completely put the decision to boycott the Camps on them.

        Bad decision if Boone figures he’ll accomplish anything by holding out.
        Didn’t work for Frank, sure as sh!t won’t work for him.

        Kaep definitely needs to buy time in the pocket too.
        Having speed is fine but, using your eyes and arm can get more big plays completed IMO.

        New year about to begin.
        Reason to be optimistic with the new pieces he’ll have to work with.

  10. unca_chuck says:

    The problem I see is that, like the last play of the season, when a pre-snap read is made, the play goes one way and one way only. The only guy covered really well on that fateful play was Crabtree. Colin didn’t bother to look anywhere else because he had the read he was taught to go with. Which leads me to the other issue. When plays are designed to go off the pre-snap read, as designed, the other WRS routinely half-ass their routes. Moss did it, KW, and all the rest. The first Carolina game, Eric Davis was railing on the WRs after the game, saying they never got separation. Whether a design of the WRs not giving a shit if their number wasn’t called, or they just plain sucked remains an issue.

    I’m pretty safe in saying our WRs sucked donkey balls last year. We have a much better group this year, but at what point do we actually go after defenses with them? Yeah, last year was Kappy’s 1st as the starter, but until they really give him the keys, we’ll keep coming up short.

    Little flexibility means shit like that happening again and again.

  11. unca_chuck says:

    The thing about Alex, if they were going to stick with the short passing game, they should have used more slants. The last 3 coaching staffs seem to be averse to throwing timing plays. Up to and including this one.

    All this talk of Kappy using his ability to read the defenses is predicated on his being coached to DO this. Designing plays where there are different reads. There’s plenty of footage of Kappy reading defenses and throwing touch passes in college. It’s not like this is a foreign concept to him. It sure seems to me as if they are telling him if you don’t see it in your first read, and maybe the 2nd, run. There’s no saying without being in the meetings. Teams like Green Bay, who drop a lot of guys to cover for their absolutely shitty DBs, get burned when he gets past the line. Even teams that don’t drop 5-7 DBs get burned by his legs. So, to pin this on only him is wrong.

  12. unca_chuck says:

    Frankly I’m surprised more teams don’t jump that 10 yard out route we always throw. Once in a blue moon, I’d love to see a double move off that throw.

    Kappy did get burned on that in the NFCCG and he almost got burned throwing it in the GB game.

  13. Spitblood says:

    Nobody knows what the 49ers passing attack will look like in 2014 for several different reasons. First off, GRow isn’t exactly a passing game wizard with most of his success coming from his knowledge of the run game. But we have the horses to make a ton of passing game plays. I don’t buy this idea that you have to win one-on-one in the NFL. Scheme is what gets guys open, and the better the scheme, the more guys go free because defenses are confused. If you have a qb with good vision (Montana might have had the best vision I’ve ever seen) guys don’t go unnoticed in the back of the end zone. How many times did Alex Smith miss Crabtree, with Crabtree crying like a baby? So if GRow’s scheme gets guys open, and Kaep has good vision, we’ll be the number one offense in the NFL in 2014 regardless if Boone or Vernon settle.

    I went to the Carolina game last year and was thoroughly unimpressed with the routes our receivers were running after Vernon got hurt. In that game we had two guys running out patterns on various plays…. it was pathetic. It was almost as if GRow and Harbaugh said, “We lost Crabs, Vernon and Patton…. Q is doubled and we didn’t have a week to get other receivers ready so let’s just hope our D wins the game for us.” It was pathetic. That said, I honestly don’t think the 49ers will find themselves in that position in 2014. They better not. The 49ers now have more offensive talent than they do defensive talent, so if a guy or two gets hurt, next man up better play well because our defense won’t be nearly as stiff in 2014 unless Ward, Bathea, Moody and Tank are real, real gamers.

  14. unca_chuck says:

    Right, hence the ED call of him a=saying those were the worst group of WRs he’s ever seen. Some of that is talent, some of that is scheme. It looked to me as if the idea behind their routes was to run to the nearest DB and stop. This happens a lot.

    It used to be if the play broke down, everyone would go deep. While this sounds good, you need SOMEONE to come back to the QB. It used to be Eric Johnson back in the day. Or Gore. Under Alex, it was no one. People complained about him rolling right and chucking OB, but when all your WRs have their backs to you, it makes it a little harder to connect.

    Anyhow, whatever it takes to get more than one guy either designated as the go-to guy, scheming newer better plays to get guys open, or whatever the hell it takes, they need to open up this offense.

    I’m sick of all these close games coming down to the last possession. If the Seattle game was called better last year, we have a 21 point lead early.

  15. Spitblood says:

    4 wide, Pistol (obviously no TE) – I go with LaMicheal James, Ellington, Patton, Crabtree and Stevie. Why? Speed. That’s what the spread is all about. You can’t run the spread offense with slow players. You run the spread with Q and Gore and you might as well bring out Andy Lee on first down. The concept of the spread is to attack far corners, stretching out defenses and letting guys like La Micheal James win one-on-one with the ball in their hands underneath. Or, obviously, if the far corners don’t get guarded the qb goes there. Either way, if Roman is dedicated to creating a smart passing attack, LaMicheal James will be used more often. It’s clearly not Gore. It’s a choice between Hunter and James and to me the choice simply comes down to who catches the ball better.

    And don’t give me this…. you put Gore in the Pistol with Kaep because he can Pass Pro better. That’s like the argument that under Singletary Micheal Westbrook needed to Pass Pro… yeah, like he did in all those years in Philly. If your back is in the game to protect and he’s slow, he can’t be in a spread offense. It doesn’t work. Now in a pro style offense, yes. Spread? No. If you’re running 4 wide, 1 back in the Pistol and you’re worried about pass pro, you’ve lost the down before the ball gets snapped.

  16. unca_chuck says:

    Gore is fine running out of the pistol. The beauty of putting in 4 wide is you open up running lanes inside.

  17. unca_chuck says:

    I foresee more WRs, not a sea-change like you are proposing.

  18. Spitblood says:

    The minute Gore’s in the backfield with four wide or he’s in the Pistol is the minute that play fails. Especially in 2014 when Gore teeth are longer than a Spitblood diatribe…. and that’s a long ‘un.

  19. unca_chuck says:

    Yer full of shit. In the remote chance they go pistol,Gore will be back there.

  20. unca_chuck says:

    You act like Gore has lost a ton of speed. He hasn’t. He was never fast. Like you, he’s half fast.

  21. NoFear49er says:

    “The beauty of putting in 4 wide is you open up running lanes inside.”
    If that’s all there is to it, Denver won the SB. And Moreno/Ball got more than twenty yards all day.

  22. Spitblood says:

    I think the 49ers’ 2014 quest for a ring is all about how little they use Frank Gore. If he gets more than a 1/4 of the workload, they won’t win the Super Bowl. I’ll make one amendment, though…. the 49ers could use Gore as a bell cow for half the season and then make a switch in their personnel and offensive philosophy mid season, putting Gore on the sidelines down the stretch and through the playoffs and the 49ers could win the Super Bowl with Gore getting more than 1/4 of the carries. But if Gore’s in there down the stretch, getting significant playing time, the 49ers won’t win the Super Bowl. Gore hurt the 49ers in 2013 against the Seahawks. Bill Walsh would have dumped him…. or traded him. Willie Mays hung on too long as well….

  23. unca_chuck says:

    Gee, NoFear, do we have better run blockers than Denver? The beauty of it we would be using our line, not Denver’s. Not sure of the mental gymnastics you are taking there, but seriously, what does Denver’s line have to do with our running game?

    You make this out to be rocket surgery. Certainly, you understand that if the Niners faced less in the box, and ran out of those types of formations, we could conceivably have more success inside? Do you think that if we lined up 4 wide, teams would pack the box? I’d love to see that, but it won’t happen.

  24. Spitblood says:

    If you go spread in the NFL, you better have fast players, a mobile qb, and a qb with great vision. Last year the 49ers didn’t have fast enough players and Kaep was younger, working on vision – plus GRow had a “Kaep’s young,” kinda mentality – to protect him. The spread was a few and fair between venture. They had Vernon and LMJ for speed, but unfortunately for James, Vernon was more effective out of pro style formations and Hunter got a lot of spread plays (which weren’t many).

    This year, Kaep’s working on being a better pocket passer (hopefully because Montana was critical of him last playoff run), and Kaep’s also going to be better at reading defenses and GRow will have an off season to anticipate this growth and create new plays. The key to all this, once again, will be keeping Gore off the field. Going spread in the NFL is riskier than going jumbo. So if you’re gonna risk going spread, go all in with spread players. And Frank Gore isn’t a spread player. Period. Frank Gore is Willie Mays on the Mets. Honestly…. Have we traded Frank Gore to the Mets yet?

  25. unca_chuck says:

    Not sure what the problem with Gore is. He’s as good an inside runner as anyone else in the league. He never had speed, so what is your beef? Other than your usual hyperbolic stance on any given issue?

    Gore’s going to be phased out this year anyway, barring the others completely failing. It’s up to the other guys to do better than Gore, not on Gore to simply go away.

    • Nipper says:

      BLEEP the critics!

    • Spitblood says:

      My problem with Gore is that he’s a one trick pony and he’s not an all purpose back. That’s my problem. When you’re limited, like Gore is, defenses know your tendencies and stop your strengths, forcing you to beat ’em with your weakness. That’s why you (Unca) thought the Seattle Defense looked so good, “Jim Brown couldn’t have run against ’em.” But the reality is that the Saints ran all over the Seahawks the week before because their backs weren’t “washed up” like Gore is.

      Trent Baalke agrees with me. The evidence: Carlos Hyde. My problem with Gore is that it’ll be hard for Jim Harbaugh not to make an emotional decision to start Gore over Hyde, when Hyde’s clearly the better option never playing a down in the NFL. Harbaugh’s an emotional guy – but emotional decisions are seldom good ones.

      Did we trade Frank Gore to the Mets yet?

  26. unca_chuck says:

    Well, the VD saga is over. He showed up to camp.

  27. unca_chuck says:

    Word is, he’ll suffer an ‘injury’ and not be able to participate.

    • Nipper says:

      Chuck looks ahead! There’s a hairpin turn ahead! The lights don’t work and it’s pitch black! Oh…. and the brakes are fading fast and the road is steep! Stay tuned …….

  28. unca_chuck says:

    Wow. Got to love Goodie Goodell. He gives Ray Rice a 2-game suspension for beating the shit out of his soon-to-be-dead wife and dragging her around Vegas by the hair. Get caught smoking a semi-legal substance and get a 4 game suspension.

    Good to see where his priorities lie.

    Aldon should have run someone over instead of hitting a tree. He’d have gotten a lighter sentence.

  29. unca_chuck says:

    New thread is up (comment 49)

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