By Justin Bradford
To survive in the NFL, teams must learn to adapt. This year’s Super Bowl teams, the 49ers and Ravens, have shown they were the best at adapting and are reaping the benefits. With the Lombardi Trophy on the line, the 49ers face the enormous challenge of both self-inspection and heavy reconnaissance of the Ravens through film study.
The Ravens made a quiet, but in my opinion significant, move this week by announcing they have hired former Eagles offensive line coach and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo as a consultant for the upcoming Super Bowl, and will be their run game coordinator for the 2013 season. There has been plenty of speculation about former Nevada head coach Chris Ault’s availability next year, and where he might end up, if anywhere.
Well, this 49er fan’s opinion rests on the principle that coach Jim Harbaugh should take a page out of his brother’s book; hire Ault as a consultant for the Super Bowl. Even if he doesn’t follow on for next year, why not add the inventor of the Pistol offense and reunite him with his QB Colin Kaepernick?
This could add a whole new dimension to the 49er offense and should place a nice spike of fear into that proud, experienced, and confident Ravens defense.
Of course, hiring Ault for the Super Bowl presents some possible added complications, such as over-complicating an already complex offense. However, Jim Harbaugh has shown the ability to make appropriate calculated risks this year.
Overall though, I think the hire would carry more reward than risk. Making that offense more powerful and unpredictable will be key to overcoming a Ravens defense that limited the 1st seed Denver Broncos offense to only 24 points, and followed that with only 13 points to the 2nd seed New England Patriots.
The 49ers offense is talented, but Manning and Brady are legendary QBs that came up short against the same opponent. The 49ers faced strong defenses this year in the Seahawks, Rams, and Cardinals, in addition to the Giants, Bears, and Packers.
The Seahawks, Rams, and Giants proved to be too difficult a challenge for the 49ers offense, as it only managed one win, one tie, and three losses against those teams.
As stated above, the ability to adapt and be unpredictable is the key to winning. The 49ers proved that in victories over the Bears during Kaepernick’s debut against the then top-ranked Bears defense, and embarrassing the Packers in the Divisional round playoff game.
The offense struggled a bit during the first half against the Falcons last week, but they were patient and were able to wear down the defense taking advantage of favorable field position late in the game.
They were also able to adapt to the defense’s commitment to preventing Kaepernick from escaping outside on the read option. Kaepernick was able to exploit the zone defense through the air by finding the holes in the middle of the field.
The Super Bowl is the final test, and probably the most difficult for the 49ers this season. Bringing in an expert Pistol offense consultant will surely help give the offense a critical advantage. Hopefully, the 49ers offense is able to be unpredictable enough to gain an edge over a stout Ravens defense.
The stakes have never been higher.