George Seifert's influence felt in 49ers' new defensive scheme


George Seifert's influence felt in 49ers' new defensive scheme

The last time the 49ers won a Super Bowl, Kyle Shanahan's father, Mike Shanahan, was calling plays as George Seifert’s offensive coordinator.

A year later, Seifert hired Pete Carroll as 49ers defensive coordinator.

As was the case during in the 1980s and '90s, whenever the 49ers hired a coordinator from the outside, the prerequisite was that the person would not install his own playbook. He would be required to learn the system already in place.

Carroll had already been a defensive coordinator and head coach with the New York Jets, but he was hired with the understanding that he would be running Seifert’s defensive system.

“When Pete Carroll came in, he basically adopted our system,” Seifert said on the latest 49ers Insider Podcast on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Pete had a unique way of injecting his own philosophies to a point where we could see that things he was doing certainly fit in with our system but took it a step further.”

Seifert added, “He got to a point he was pretty much running his own ship and I pretty much backed off.”

In two seasons with Carroll as defensive coordinator, the 49ers ranked Nos. 1 and 3 in the NFL in total defense. Carroll parlayed his success with the 49ers into a head-coaching job with the New England Patriots, then later at USC and, since 2010, with the Seattle Seahawks.

The 49ers had the “elephant” position – a player who generally lined up at defensive end and was designed to mainly rush the passer. The 49ers now have a derivative of the position called the “Leo.”

Saleh picked up the position from Carroll. The system Saleh brings with him is based in large part on the scheme he learned under Carroll’s direction. Saleh spent three seasons on the Seahawks staff as a defensive quality control coach. The system has many similarities to Carroll ran during his time with the 49ers.

“The aggressiveness and the way that secondary plays, I certainly see the Pete Carroll who was with the San Francisco 49ers and the Pete Carroll with Seattle all coming to fruition,” Seifert said.

“He’s taken it a step further in the way he actually coaches the players and individualizes what they do to get the best out of each of them.”

The prototypical “elephant” was a smaller player who could line up anywhere and use speed and agility to get to the quarterback. However, the 49ers’ top “Leo” is Arik Armstead, who stands 6 foot 7. He dropped 15 pounds to increase his quickness and explosion.

However, Seifert said the original “elephant” was a college player at Stanford who had similar size to Armstead. Brian Holloway stood 6 foot 7 and weighed approximately the same as Armstead's current 275 pounds.

“He eventually became an offensive lineman in the NFL,” Seifert said of Holloway. “He was a big, talented athlete and we needed a pass-rusher. We created a fourth lineman and moved him around to rush at our advantage.

“When we got to the 49ers, we started doing the same thing with Fred Dean,” Seifert said.

Then, Charles Haley became a dominant player in the same role.

“He kind of became the anchor point of the defense. He was a great pass rusher and we put him in an advantageous position. And our coverage, wherever he was, would revolve toward him.”

Both Dean and Haley were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In the podcast Seifert also talked about:

--Seifert said his defensive philosophy was to balance variation with simplicity. The 49ers appear to be enacting a similar plan on defense this summer. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks said the 49ers have only about 10 defensive calls.

“You didn’t want the opposing team to get a real handle on what you were doing, so you tried to come up with quite a few variations,” Seifert said. “And that sounds fine, but the trick of it was, at the same time, make it simplistic with what we did in our design so the players didn’t have to think a lot. Initially, it might be trying but eventually it would all fall into place where they could turn themselves loose.”

--Terrell Owens’ first coach in the NFL was Seifert, who quipped, “We had him before he became T.O.”

Seifert remembered Owens as an unassuming rookie who kept his mouth shut and worked hard.

“He came into camp, and he worked hard and he was quiet,” Seifert said. “He was not a real consistent receiver at the time, but over the next few years, he became this wonderful, talented player.”

Does Owens deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

“Yeah, absolutely,” Seifert said. “There’s no question his athletic abilities and his performance on the field as a player and what he accomplished, his receiving ability and overall strength, he’s one of the great receivers to ever play the game.”

--Seifert compared Owens to Deion Sanders, who was the league MVP in his one and only season with the 49ers. But Seifert said the man who saved his job as 49ers defensive backs coach in 1981 was the best he ever saw.

“I think the best cornerback I ever coached was Eric Wright, but the best cover corner I ever coached was Deion Sanders,” Seifert said. “But he had this other theatrical part of his life, as well. But as a player, on the field, game day, Deion was phenomenal."

Wright, then a rookie, made a gave-saving tackle of Dallas Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson after "The Catch" to prevent a heart-breaking loss. Seifert is certain he would have been fired if the Cowboys had scored on the play in the NFC Championship Game in January 1982.

--Seifert grew up as a fan of the 49ers and attended games as an usher at Kezar Stadium. In 2014, he was inducted into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame after winning two Super Bowls and compiling a franchise-best .766 win percentage.

He said he likes the direction CEO Jed York charted with the hirings of general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.

“I don’t know either one particularly well, but I certainly know their backgrounds. You couldn’t get more impressive,” Seifert said.

“So the three of them are kind of tied to the hip and it’s a sink or swim," Seifert said. "There’s a lot of brainpower there and a lot of experience. I’m excited to watch them get the team back on track.”

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine


49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.

Ronnie Lott: Chance to show Dwight Clark how much we care


Ronnie Lott: Chance to show Dwight Clark how much we care

SANTA CLARA – In less than a year since a group of former 49ers players came together to form the Golden Heart Fund, the non-profit organization has provided valuable assistance.

“We’ve made some progress with the idea of knowing there are some people in need, so we’ve been able to make some grants to some of the ex-Niners,” Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott told NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We’ve been able to respond. This is more about us being able to give guys the ability to know they can have, as (former 49ers linebacker and Golden Heart Fund board member) Ron Ferrari says, a hand up not a hand out.”

The organization is in the midst of a fund-raising drive this week in conjunction with "Dwight Clark Day" on Sunday. The 49ers face the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium, and Clark will be the guest of honor. More than 35 players from the 49ers' first Super Bowl championship team are expected to be in attendance.

Clark played nine seasons for the 49ers and provided the most memorable play in franchise history with “The Catch” against Dallas in the 1981 NFC Championship game, which propelled the organization to its first Super Bowl. Clark served as a front-office executive for a decade after his playing days.

In March, Clark announced he was diagnosed with ALS. He is scheduled to attend Sunday’s game and make some remarks at halftime from a suite.

“It’s unbelievable we are having an opportunity to celebrate an incredible day for this gentleman,” Lott said. “We can all say there was a moment in time in which we stood on his shoulders after making that catch. Now, we get a chance to lift him up a little bit and let him know how much we all care.”

Lott said Clark has been a champion of the Golden Heart Fund from its inception. Past and current 49ers ownership has supported the organization, which provides financial support for former 49ers players in times of physical, emotional and financial need.

“It’s the spirit of Dwight,” Lott said. “It’s more about the funds going in through his efforts. He’s paying it forward.”

--The public can made a direct contribution to the fund at GoldenHeartFund.org.

--Proceeds from the 50/50 raffle at Sunday’s game will benefit the Golden Heart Fund.

--Twenty-five percent of proceeds from the sales of Dwight Clark apparel purchased on game day will go to the fund.

--Half of all proceeds from admission to the 49ers Museum at Levi’s Stadium throughout the year will go to the charity.

-- On Sunday, Nov. 19, Levi’s Stadium and race grand marshal Roger Craig will host the first Golden Heart 4.9K Run with all proceeds from the event going to the Golden Heart Fund. Runners can register GoldenHeartRun.com.