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Grant Cohn: Get ready in the red zone

  • San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, right, talks with offensive coordinator Greg Roman during practice on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in New Orleans. The 49ers are scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game on Feb. 3. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The 49ers' biggest need this offseason is not a player.

Not a wide receiver. Not a cornerback. Not a safety.

Talent isn't the Niners' problem -#8211; they might have the most talented team in the league. Sure, they could use a speed wide receiver, but they need something else. If they had what they needed, they would be Super Bowl champions already. They would have beaten the Ravens last season, and they would have beaten the Seahawks for the NFC championship this season, and they'd be preparing for this year's Super Bowl.

The 49ers need Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman to improve their game management and play calling in the red zone, especially during the last few seconds of the game. This is called situational football. All great coaches are masters of it. Tom Brady continually says coaching situational football is one of Bill Belichick's strongest skills. And you know that Bill Walsh was brilliant at situational football. All you need to think about is "The Catch."

Two seasons in a row, Harbaugh seemed to forget he could use timeouts when his season was on the line. In the last Super Bowl, the Ravens sent an all-out blitz on fourth-and-goal. Harbaugh could have called his last timeout and Roman could have called a good play. It was the last play of the game. What were they saving a timeout for? Harbaugh didn't call it, and Kaepernick chucked a prayer to Crabtree and the 49ers lost.

On the final drive of this season's NFC championship game, Vernon Davis caught an 11-yard pass and got tackled at the Seahawks' 18 with 50 seconds left. Harbaugh had two timeouts. He should have called one right then, right when Davis got tackled. Harbaugh, Roman and Kaepernick could have figured out a clever set of plays to methodically work the ball into the end zone and win the game. Harbaugh could have said to Kaepernick, "Make sure you don't just chuck it up to Crabtree like you did in the Super Bowl."

Harbaugh didn't call timeout. He let it ride. Go for it, guys.

The offense ran to the line of scrimmage, no huddle, Kaepernick frantically yelling instructions over Seattle's berserk crowd. Kaepernick dropped back and chucked it up to Crabtree, just like last season, and the 49ers' season ended in the red zone, just like last season.

Last offseason, the 49ers hired former head coach Eric Mangini as an offensive assistant. The man has no offensive background -#8211; he was a defensive coach before becoming a head coach. He probably can't help the 49ers' red-zone offense. If he can't even improve the 49ers' clock management, the Niners need another offensive assistant.

The 49ers need coaching help. Someone needs to tutor them in situational football. What to do from the opponents' 20-yard line to the 12. What to do from the opponents' 11 to the 3. What to do on third-and-goal inside the 3. You get the point.


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