Posted September 04, 2013

State of the Option: Jim Harbaugh doesn’t like Packers’ tough talk about his quarterback

Green Bay Packers, NFC North, NFC West, San Francisco 49ers, Uncategorized
The Packers couldn't stop Colin Kaepernick in last season's playoffs. This time, they have a different plan. (Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)

The Packers couldn’t stop Colin Kaepernick in last season’s playoffs. This time, they have a different plan. (Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has had a contentious relationship with NFL officials since he left Stanford and accepted his current position before the 2011 season. In 2012, he said a few things about the replacement refs that many other coaches were thinking (and the NFL did not want them to say), and he spent a decent amount of time talking about what he considered to be sketchy officiating after the 49ers’ 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

Now, with the Green Bay Packers looking to avenge their divisional playoff loss to the 49ers in the 2013 regular-season opener for both teams, Harbaugh has engaged in some pre-emptive lobbying on behalf of his quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. In that 45-31 playoff win, Kaepernick ran wild through a Green Bay defense completely unprepared for his speed and agility, rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns, and throwing for two more. The Packers famously consulted with a number of college coaches in the offseason to better deal with the new wave of mobile quarterbacks, but as outside linebacker Clay Matthews said this week, one of the best ways to stop a running quarterback is to make him think twice about the effects of his mobility.

“We’re always trying to get after the quarterback,” Matthews told the Bay Area media Wednesday morning on a conference call. “It’s not like this game is any different as far as hitting the quarterback. But it does provide a clearer picture in regards to when a quarterback can be hit.

“It looks like – and, obviously, we’ll see in Week 1 – it looks like any time that quarterback is carrying out that play fake, he loses that right as a pocket passer and the rules that govern that. So we’ll see. We’ll see the hits that are legal and aren’t legal … But we feel like our game plan fits within the scheme of the officials and what we want to do.”

Matthews and the Packers are invoking the NFL rule indicating that when a quarterbacks takes off as a runner, he should be treated as any other runner, and is not protected as he would be in the pocket.

Harbaugh’s response? The rules contain too much of a “gray area” and leave the officials to make too many judgment calls.

“My opinion is before the quarterback’s declared being a runner, then he should be afforded the protection that all quarterbacks are afforded until he declares and gets out of the pocket and starts running with the ball. Or running an option, or carrying out a bootleg and attempting to run or pass when he’s outside of the pocket. But when he’s in the pocket, I believe that he’s a quarterback until he declares that he’s a runner.”

Harbaugh said that he will speak to the referees before Sunday’s game, and that he has asked the league for clarification on the rule. He does not expect to hear from the NFL this week, and he is laying the groundwork in other ways — for one, he appeared to compare Matthews’ comments to BountyGate in a passive-aggressive fashion.

“You’re hearing a lot of tough talk right now. You’re hearing some intimidating type of talk. Kind of things – same things we were hearing a couple of years ago. It sounds a lot like targeting a specific player.

“You definitely start to wonder. A man will usually tell you his bad intentions if you just listen. You know what’s being said publicly, you wonder what’s being said privately. You hope that their intent is not going to be anything that’s not within the rules.”

Kaepernick, more reserved than usual on Wednesday, made it pretty simple.

“It’s football. You’re going to get hit.”

50 comments
Nick25
Nick25

Let's smoke the packers. Goo niners

john134
john134

Clay Matthews never made a "threat", he was merely talking strategy, Harbough like to talk smack and make something out of nothing. I hope GB smokes them. I live 1.5 hours south of SF, and I am really sick of Harbough and now all the Kapernick commercials making him out to be a 3x SB winner on the way to the HOF....HE PLAYED EIGHT GAMES. Teams will be more prepared for him now that they have film on him.

Old_guy
Old_guy

Harbaugh's a hoot!  Complaining about Matthew's comments while he's coaching his defense to do the exact same thing...this is merely posturing, and he knows it.

evil.aaronm
evil.aaronm

What's this "declaring" crap?  Does he have to file a form with the refs or something?  Does he shout to the defense, "I'm gonna run, now!"?  Is that actually in the rules, someplace?  "A quarterback must declare before he becomes a runner.  If not, no touchy da qb.."?

Tom_Weiland
Tom_Weiland

Undoubtedly the Game of the Week.  Go Pack!

RougWarrior
RougWarrior

If he fakes a handoff and is still in the pocket, he's a runner in my eyes. If he did handoff, then there is still a certain amount of time at which his is still a runner. Because the defender coming from the backside can never know if the QB still has the ball(fake handoff). This is the grey zone Clay asked the official about and the grey zone Harbough wants eliminated? If so then the QB might as well start wearing those red jersey's all year and not just at practice.

Madcity
Madcity

This is a red herring imo.  The 9ers wont run read option unless the Packers shut down Gore and Kap in the pocket.  Harbaugh is posturing to make the Packers think they're going to use the same game plan as last year.  If I'm wrong and Kap runs, there's nothing wrong with smoking him as long as it's legal.  It's a risk that running QB's take.  Beyond that, what team goes into a game without the focus being to pressure and hit the QB?  It's not like a defensive plan is centered around hitting the FB!

Beachdude
Beachdude

Harbaugh is a cry baby, was as a  college coach and is as a NFL coach. Can't stand the guy.  Legally hit the QB if he runs.  I don't see a problem here.

x72
x72

Kap will truck Ghey Matthews like he did last season.

JordanSchatz
JordanSchatz

Even if the team starts taking penalties, if Kaepernick runs with the ball, hit him repeatedly. Hit him low, hit him high, hit him late. It's cheap but it will make him think twice about running. 

x72
x72

lol Clay Matthews you ghey, shut ur pie hole you roid freak sissy boy.

BY
BY

I'm sure the 49er defensive staff never emphasizes "hit the qb"

AlMartin
AlMartin

if Kaepernick goes down sf can say goodbye to 2013

Stigmata
Stigmata

I think the Packers should be more worried about Aaron Rodgers not getting killed by the 49ers defense...this game could be over by the 2nd quarter

mailbrown
mailbrown

Haha... they can't catch him, how are they going to hit him?  Too funny.  This is not news.  This is silly.

BudPhyte
BudPhyte

If the QB doesn't have the ball he shouldn't get hit.

andy10
andy10

The read option isn't long for this world. Only those read option QBs who also have elite passing games (see: RG3) will still be relevant down the road.

Travis R
Travis R

This isn't targeting talk so much as it is the perfect way to combat the read option.  For all Harbaugh's fantasizing about a QB needing to "declare(d) to be a runner", he's a runner as soon as he takes the snap, no different than a running back taking a direct snap or a team running the wildcat.  Teams that run these offenses should be viewed as the QB needing to "declare himself as a passer" not the other way around, otherwise there's no way to defend them because otherwise the defense is sitting on their heels trying not to get a roughing the "passer" penalty when everyone with a brain knows he's a runner.  Harbaugh's complaints are paramount to Nick Saban's complaints about no-huddle offenses, it's a self serving position because he knows teams have figured out the best way to combat their teams' strength, it has absolutely nothing to do with safety or the proper interpretation of the rules.

RobbyBuff
RobbyBuff

Don't want your QB hit? Don't run the read option! Quit whining.

MollyBrown
MollyBrown

Hey, where is God All? All this "targeting" talk sounds a lot like what got the Saints screwed last year! Oh, wait, I forgot, we can't screw the "glory" franchises like GB or SF or NY or.......... you get the picture!

tom50mal
tom50mal

I don't see the Packers taking cheap shots on Kaepernick, because they know that SF could come back and do the same thing to Rodgers.  Matthews didn't say anything provocative.  He simply stated a reality that if a QB takes off with the ball he can expect to get hit.  That applies to Rodgers, too.  How is this "intimidating"?  Isn't this what football is all about?  Harbaugh's the one stirring the pot here.  He ought to pick up some cheddar cheese to go with all that Napa Valley whine he's so fond of.

gthanet
gthanet

For all the media love about what a great coach Jim Harbaugh is, he is wrapped way too tight and is becoming the whiniest coach in the league. Matthews basically said that the packers are going to hit Kaepernick hard within the rules.  What is Harbaugh's problem with that?  His problem is that he knows that's how you slow Kaepernick down.  I hope the Packers legally knock the crap out of him.

Shooter McGavin 19711
Shooter McGavin 19711

Funny Harbaugh doesn't mention the terrible officiating that helped his team beat the Falcons.  Without it - no Superbowl loss to whine about.  Grow a pair Jim...

help4mac1
help4mac1

Crunch and there go all the ta2s.

walshjoey4
walshjoey4

Harbaugh is a whiny b....    the rule is the rule.  best way to slow the QB down is to hit him hard and hit him often.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

Harbaugh himself is laying the groundwork for doubt in Colin's mind.  All his blabbering and whining will cause his QB to have his head on a swivel wondering where a hit is coming from.  The rules are the rules Jim Crybaby.  You fake as a QB like you might run, you WILL be hit.  All there is to it.  If you don't want to be hit, don't call those plays.  

beekay31
beekay31

Asking whether you can hit a QB or not is "talking tough" in Harbaugh's eyes?  Before you get all adamant about hitting a QB, make sure that's not the identity of your own defense first.

David G
David G

Running QBs have always been hit.  They put themselves in that position.  Historically all running QBs eventually become pocket passers due to the hits and the results of those hits.

jinxster247
jinxster247

well if he gets hit late thats 15 yards, and i do agree all this talk about hitting qbs if they try fakes or use the read option is like the bounty program but its legal. besides you still get personal fouls for late or un neccasary hits

MrTeebs
MrTeebs

Truth is, if you're putting hits on the QB after a read-option fake you're just not doing your job and the ball carrier is headed to the second level. Kaep is a big boy, he can take the hits; and he'll be happy to take a hit if it means his fake worked and his RB is on his way to a nice gain.

J57
J57

49ers 28, Green Bay 13. Rodgers still won't have an answer for the amount of time he spends on his back. Doesn't matter what Harbaugh, Kaepernick, or Matthews said.

ParishToni1
ParishToni1

For being such a so called tough guy, Harbaugh sure does cry and moan a lot.

Watchwolf
Watchwolf

@x72 Heh... I'd love to be there when you say that to his face. Meh... who am I kidding? You would not have the nerve.

lukeortman
lukeortman

@BudPhyte  If a QB is fake running with the ball, what would you like the defender to do? Stop and ask to see the ball before he tackles him? 

waltercolindres
waltercolindres

@andy10 Um, if you think RG3 is an elite passer, you are smoking some great stuff. Kap is a better passer, has the better arm and accuracy. 

ThomasAsiano
ThomasAsiano

@RobbyBuff 

You missed the point of Coach Harbaugh.  He's saying if he is not running but is in the pocket handing off you cant just hit him . That's the whole reason we see roughing the QB flags. If he's running and out of the pocket he's fair game. Not running.. shouldn't be hit. 

lukeortman
lukeortman

@Shooter McGavin 19711 How about the officiating that gave the Seahawks the victory over the Packers? If the correct call is made there, the 49ers play in the first round of the playoffs and the Packers have the bye. What's with this guy???

beekay31
beekay31

@MrTeebs False.  If you've ever played football, you'd know that on option-type plays, one defender gets assigned to the QB, another defender gets assigned to the RB.  The read option is designed to take advantage of exactly this, as the QB "reads" what the defender is going to do and either keeps it or hands it off.

beekay31
beekay31

@J57 SF's D is no longer that good.  See 2012's 2nd half.

x72
x72

@Watchwolf @x72 Let me tell you this watchwolf, I'd take his lunch money and use it to buy a cold 6er. Nothing he could do about or he'd be kissing pavement. I'd say I'd give his women a thorough onceover but he's into guys so I'll pass.

beekay31
beekay31

@ThomasAsiano @RobbyBuff Sorry, you can hit any QB handing off.  Why?  BECAUSE HE'S THE ONE WITH THE BALL!  And I'm not even going to mention the possibility of play action.

Travis R
Travis R

@beekay31 You're half right in the way you're describing the defense of a traditional option play run from the wishbone but that's not how teams have been defensing the read-option.  

The whole "read" part comes from "reading" the DE/OLB to see if he's crashing on the RB or defending the QB.  All the Packers have decided to do is play the read-option as teams play the option from the wishbone and assign the DE/OLB to the QB and hit him whether or not he has the ball, no different than a RB on the play-action pass, since the indecision of determining whether the ball was actually handed off or not is a death sentence.  

Harbaugh knows this is the best way to defense the read-option and also knows there's nothing wrong with defending it in this manner, his comments were merely a thinly veiled attempt at maintaining the moment of hesitation that enables the read-option to work in the first place.

sidbrown210
sidbrown210

@beekay31 @J57 See healthy Justin and Aldon Smith who were both injured 2nd half of 2012.  I'd be really worried without Bulaga - and Willis can rush the passer too..... edges and the middle.... bad boys whatchagonna do .....