It started with Joe Montana and was carried on by Steve Young. It was the West Coast offense, a finesse-oriented passing scheme devised by Bill Walsh.
Since the West Coast offense became vogue, the media has classified the 49ers as a finesse team. This was the image of the team, except during the 49ers' unsuccessful smash-mouth run under Mike Singletary.
The media looked at Jim Harbaugh, himself a quarterback and a proponent of the West Coast offense, and immediately the idea of the 49ers' being a finesse-oriented team was perpetuated.
Prior to coming to the 49ers, Harbaugh was the head coach at Stanford, another team with the reputation of being finesse oriented. Stanford, with it's high avcademic standards, it was theorized, could not get enough big, strong athletes to play in a more power oriented system.
However, even with quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm, Stanford was far from being a finesse team.
The exact same thing is true of the 49ers.
Harbaugh has built his offenses around big, strong offensive lines. The 49ers offensive line fits right into this profile.
The 49ers use a powerful one-on-one blocking scheme in which they try to physically impose their will on opposing defenses. Harbaugh loves to incorporate multiple tight ends into the offense in order to create mismatches, both in the blocking scheme and also in the passing game.
The 49ers offense also ran plays last year in which offensive tackle Joe Staley or defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga acted as blockers in the 49ers backfield. These jumbo-type formations were designed to simply out muscle the opposition.
Harbaugh kept the defense guessing, by actually throwing to both Staley and Sopoaga, out of this formation. Those plays were implemented simply to keep defenses honest.
All of these strategies are designed for the 49ers to overpower their defensive counterparts.
In Frank Gore, who rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2011, the 49ers have a strong, powerful back who can wear down opposing defenses. Nothing excites Harbaugh more than to see his offense power through an opposing defense.
Although the passing game is a weapon the 49ers are sure to utilize more this season, the ability of the San Francisco offense to impose its will on the opposition is something Harbaugh cherishes.
Defensively, the 49ers are strong, athletic and fast. They have several big hitters and play a tough, intimidating brand of football.
The 49ers are strong and physical on both sides of the football.
Do not allow the media to trick you into thinking that the 49ers are a finesse team, because that most certainly is not true.