SANTA CLARA -- Greg Roman studied at the Jim Harbaugh School of Media Relations.
One of its tenets is that you never, ever criticize one of your players, no matter how poorly he plays or even how badly he acts. The closest Harbaugh has come in nearly four seasons with the 49ers was this spring when he said that holdouts by Vernon Davis and Alex Boone were not the “49er way” or way back in 2011 when he said Braylon Edwards' spot on the bench was based on how he performed in practices and games.
That's as rough as the criticism has been, and it hardly gets the needle flickering.
Roman, the 49ers’ offensive coordinator, usually sounds like a duplicate version of Harbaugh, trotting out gushing praise – Davis has been a fantastic blocker this year! – when asked about a player's performance. On Thursday, however, he broke out of that mode when asked about Joe Looney's start at center Sunday in Seattle.
“He had a tough game,” Roman said . “There were some things there that fundamentally he could have done better. You know, first start as a center, in that environment, against that crew which is pretty good – that’s tough duty. But I think he could have played better.”
At JHSMR that qualifies as a verbal paddling. Just how badly did Looney play? Pro Football Focus – an objective scouting service that rates every player in the league – agreed that Looney did not have a great game. The service gave him a -1.9 grade.
But that's hardly horrendous, especially considering it was Looney's first-ever start at center and he was doing it in Seattle's notoriously hostile Century Link Field. Looney gave up two quarterback pressures and was called for an illegal-man-downfield penalty. By comparison, PFF gave Davis a -2.9 rating for run blocking.
The team's regular center, Marcus Martin, missed the game with a knee injury. However, he's practiced in full this week and figures to play against the Chargers Saturday
“We’re still hoping to get Marcus back for this game,” Roman said. “He’s done some things in practice pretty well. And I think Marcus’ performance -- he has earned the right to be the starter there.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.