One simple way Kyle Shanahan, 49ers can fix their offense

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers hands off to Jeff Wilson Jr. #22 (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers hands off to Jeff Wilson Jr. #22 (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images) /

The 49ers offense is in a major funk despite having plenty of weapons, but Kyle Shanahan can go back to his drawing board for one easy fix.

An offense that boasts four All-Pro players — left tackle Trent Williams, tight end George Kittle, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and now running back Christian McCaffrey — should be able to muster more than just a shade over 20 points per game.

Yet that’s precisely what’s facing head coach Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers after seven weeks of action this season.

To date, the Niners are averaging 20.7 points per game, 20th in the NFL, and that includes defensive scores, too. Regardless of whatever outside factors at play here, the cold reality is San Francisco boasts far too much talent to be scoring so few points per game.

Yes, much of this falls upon quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And a lot of it also falls on Shanahan, too.

And while Shanahan will never listen to us when it comes to influencing or directing his offense, perhaps he should pay attention to what we have to say about fixing the 49ers offense right now.

Kyle Shanahan must remake 49ers into a play-action offense

From 2017 through most of 2020, Shanahan’s “bread and butter” was the play-action offense.

For the football novices out there, play action usually involves a fake handoff to a running back that forces defenses to bite against the run, only the quarterback then drops back to pass and usually is able to do so with his receivers gaining an extra step because of the fake.

Got it? Good. Moving on.

Shanahan has gotten away from play-action offenses in recent seasons, and his offensive tree (including Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay) has evolved somewhat from the heavy play action it used to deploy, mainly because of so many other teams willing to use six-man defensive fronts to set the edge on outside-zone rushes.

Regardless, going back to a play-action scheme would be beneficial to both Garoppolo and the Niners for a number of different reasons.

For starters, during Garoppolo’s 2019 season most view as his finest, Shanahan called for nearly 32 percent play-action passes, according to Pro Football Focus, and Garoppolo’s passer rating on those throws was 109.3 compared to 98.5 on standard dropbacks.

Related Story: Jimmy Garoppolo is holding onto the ball too long

This season, Garoppolo is engaging on play-action plays just 10.8 percent of the time — 20 play-action passes on 185 overall attempts.

It would be one thing if Garoppolo and the offense had a banged-up running back room, or one that was wholly ineffective. But, as Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report argued, the presence of McCaffrey gives Shanahan, Garoppolo and the rest of San Francisco’s offense that much bigger a reason to use play action:

"The presence of McCaffrey in the backfield only emphasizes the need to utilize the run game to set up the passing game from a scheme standpoint. With an explosive runner like McCaffrey executing the fake it forces the defense to honor the run, allows Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk an extra second to break free on their routes and gives Jimmy G the opportunity to throw in rhythm.He’s done it incredibly well in a small sample size. At this point, Shanahan needs to take what is working and magnify it."

This isn’t rocket science. Opposing defenses will respect McCaffrey even if he’s facing a five- or six-man defensive front. And that alone will be enough to increase the number of play-action plays where Garoppolo has historically performed well.

Granted, simply using play action might not resolve every single one of the 49ers’ offensive issues, but it’ll certainly help point Shanahan and Co. in the right direction in a very strong means.

Next. Ranking 49ers' 10 best quarterbacks in franchise history. dark