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Checkdowns: Jerry McDonald’s interview about the Pistol and Kaepernick with Chris Ault

by Chase Stuart on January 15, 2013

in Checkdowns

The Packers could not stop the Pistol offense.

The Packers could not stop the Pistol offense.

I have not done a good job fulfilling my pledge to point you in the direction of good football articles. But here’s a great interview by Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News with former Nevada head coach Chris Ault. Ault is the pioneer of the Pistol Offense, and his prized pupil was last seen rushing for 181 yards against the Packers on Saturday night. The whole article is worth a read, but here are some good excerpts:

Q: How similar was the stuff the 49ers were running to what you ran for Kaepernick at Nevada?

Ault: The read plays that they’re running, that’s what we ran. That’s what we did and what we still do. The play-action passes, which I was really excited to see out of the pistol, are things that we did here in Kaep’s senior year. The routes, I can’t tell you the routes are the same, but I thought that was the one thing I had not seen the Niners do, that I saw the Redskins do, was throw the ball with play-action out of the pistol. I thought the play-action passing really helped with the read itself out of the pistol.

Ault: … Obviously the pure dropback guy, in the NFL’s eyes, if he can throw it, he’s going to get a lot of attention. But I think because of what’s happening now — the NFL’s been a copycat league, as you well know — and they haven’t really diversified much through the years other than maybe a special formation now and then, with their passing game. But I think what the pistol is bringing to the table is there is something else out there. And you can do a lot of different things out of the pistol. But I think, in my personal opinion, what they’re seeing out there, is these quarterbacks that can run in this day and age, they can also throw. It used to be, if you could run, then you couldn’t throw very well, so you’re not going to make it, you’re going to go to defensive back. But these kids now, they’re such good athletes and the offenses at the collegiate level, have become so diversified, they’re more complex, and the guys are just that much better to go to that next level.

Q: Seems like common sense to take advantage of the athletic skills these quarterbacks have . . .

Ault: Absolutely. I’m not here to tell you that the 49ers should run the read 16, 17 times a game. You can’t do that in the NFL. But I think by running the read play, it’s in your offensive system and you’re going to run it five times, nine times a game, it’s one more thing you’ve got to defend. And then when you throw the play-action pass off it, that’s another thing. So it’s not just one dimension that you’ve got to look at, it’s a couple of things. You see Kaep run that 56-yard touchdown, and you say, great, that’s the read option. And it is great. But I think one of the things that set that up was a couple of the play-action passes out of the pistol.

Ault: [On whether teams can take away the quarterback from running on the read option] That’s exactly right and that’s what happened in college. They would load the outside and take Kaep away, and that’s why it’s the read. You give the ball off. We really designed our pistol offense, where we want the running back to carry the football. That is first and foremost in our thinking. But all of a sudden, you just fall asleep, just like Green Bay, you’re handing it, and handing it and handing it, and he might’ve been able to pull it a couple of other times, but he waited until the right time. No question, they might just say, ‘We’re not going to let this Kaepernick run the ball.’ And we had that in college. Then, it gives you an opportunity to run the read and the play-action pass.

You can check out the full article, including Ault’s thoughts on keeping the quarterback healthy in the Pistol, here. I also recommend some of the articles Chris Brown has written about Ault and the Pistol.