49ers’ Johnson offers glimpse at plans for offense

49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson held a news conference Thursday, giving Bay Area reporters their first crack at questioning his offensive philosophies.

Johnson won’t be able to make wholesale changes, but he said his focus was on getting the ball in the hands of playmakers, forcing the defense to defend the entire field and diversifying packages and formations.

I’ll get out of the way on this one. Here are some excerpts from the Q&A that give a glimpse of changes that might be in store for the 49ers:

On what he plans to do with the offense: “Well, the way I look at that is Jimmy Raye left a great foundation here. Jimmy Raye is one of the best football coaches that I have ever been around, and I kind of correlate it to two women wearing the same dress. You know you have football players, you have an offense, but you can have two women wearing the same dress, and they look totally different, and what I’m going to do, try to do, is to get the ball to the players on our offense that can make plays. To utilize the talent and the potential that we have here as an offense and get our quarterback and get our people, the skilled athletes that we have here, the ball in space where they can do something with it and run.”

On whether he is leaning toward the spread offense: “Well, I believe that you have to be multiple and be diversified. I think you have to have multiple packages. … One of the basic philosophies that I believe in is that I think you have to make a defense defend the entire field. I think you can’t let a defense squeeze you between the numbers, and we’re going to do things to make them have to defend the entire field.”

On emphasizing getting Frank Gore the ball: “Well, I think Frank is a very good running back. I think he is one of the top five or so running backs in the league, so you definitely want to get him the ball. But I think we have other playmakers here that have the ability to make plays that will make Frank’s job of running the ball easy, and I think what we’ll try to do is just make sure that we get the ball to the people that we have, and then each game will be a little bit different. … So we’re going to look at each game and then decide, based on how they play us, what we’re going to do with Frank and make sure we get him the ball one way or another.”

On whether he has been given the freedom to run the offense creatively: “Yes, I have. Coach Singletary has a philosophy, and he has certain core principles that he wants to operate from, but he has given me the freedom to kind of do certain things within that philosophy to win the football game. And I think Coach Singletary has been misunderstood, to some point, about physicality and running the ball and only wanting to run the ball. That’s not the case. He wants to win the game, but he wants to be physical in everything that we do.”

The last section was particularly noteworthy, as Johnson says he has the freedom to be creative — a major criticism of the offense under Raye is that it was too predictable. Johnson indicated the spread offense, in which Alex Smith has flourished during his career, would be a portion of what the team runs.

– Frank Tadych

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