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  • Greg Roman The 49ers' highly regarded offensive coordinator roomed with David Caldwell, Jacksonville's new general manager, at John Carroll University in Ohio.

  • Randall Benton rbenton@sacbee.com Fans react positively to Alex Smith as he leaves the field after the 49ers' victory over Arizona at Candlestick Park.

Matthew Barrows: 49ers coordinator, Alex Smith could join Jaguars

Published: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 - 9:45 am

SANTA CLARA – John Carroll University is a small, private, Catholic, liberal arts school in northeastern Ohio at which students can major in communications, education, political science and, as it turns out, X's and O's.

The school boasts one prominent NFL player, Redskins linebacker London Fletcher; a number of coaches, including Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels; and even more personnel men.

Two of the latter were hired as general managers this week. Tom Telesco got the job in San Diego, while David Caldwell was tapped to run the Jaguars.

And that's where things get interesting for another John Carroll alumnus, 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

Roman was a defensive lineman for the Blue Streaks in the early 1990s, playing on teams that included Telesco (a wide receiver) and Caldwell (an outside linebacker). Caldwell and Roman, in fact, were roommates.

Roman hasn't interviewed for any head-coach openings to this point, but he's suddenly a hot name, especially in connection with the Jaguars job.

On his first day as the general manager in Jacksonville, Caldwell did two things: He fired head coach Mike Mularkey and said in clear, read-my-lips fashion that Tim Tebow – who played high school football in Jacksonville and was long-rumored to be heading to the Jaguars – was not welcome.

"I can't imagine a scenario in which he'll be a Jacksonville Jaguar – even if he's released," Caldwell said at his introductory news conference.

One of the dumbfounded reporters in the room made him repeat it.

With those 12 words, Jacksonville suddenly became a more desirable destination for all coaching candidates, including Roman, and it raised the possibility that Alex Smith will join him.

Roman was on board with Jim Harbaugh in choosing Colin Kae-pernick over Smith this season, and Smith realizes that Roman has passed him over once already.

In trying to figure out Smith's destination, keep track of ex-Chargers coach Norv Turner, who will be considered for offensive coordinator jobs and with whom Smith has remained close since Turner was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco in 2006.

The bottom line for Smith, however, will be opportunity. And 2-14 Jacksonville, where starter Blaine Gabbert averaged a league-low 5.98 yards per pass attempt this season, appears to be one of the better spots to be a starter, especially if the guy who called your plays for the last two years is the coach.

Asked about Roman, Smith certainly didn't sound as if he held a grudge.

The quarterback said he has "tremendous respect" for Roman and that he has all the makings of a head coach.

"I think the thing that jumps out at me is his understanding of football, offensively and defensively, because he's coached on both sides," Smith said. "He has such great knowledge of the game. I know I've learned a tremendous amount in the last year and a half with him."

The theme inside the 49ers' facility this week has been opportunity – how rare and delicate it is and how quickly it can disappear. One of those with the best opportunities is Roman.

When the 49ers win, it likely means they scored a lot of points. They've already beaten four of the best quarterbacks in the league – Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees and Tom Brady – this season by scoring 30, 27, 31 and 41 points, respectively.

They'll probably have to top 30 points to beat Rodgers for a second time, especially considering defensive lineman Justin Smith, the team's indispensable man on defense, is not expected to be 100 percent.

Smith and the 49ers' dubious kicking game are two question marks entering Saturday. The biggest X factor, however, is Kae-pernick, who is starting only the eighth game of his NFL career.

If he outduels Rodgers – as he did Brees and Brady already this season – on the national stage, it will shine a spotlight on the guy calling the plays.

The only downside to winning Saturday? It means that Roman won't be permitted to interview in Jacksonville or for any of the head-coaching positions for another week.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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