Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference
Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks
Press Conference – November 9, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
“It’s been a little minute since I’ve seen you guys, it’s good to be back into the fold. Most importantly coming off the Bye Week, I think it was at the perfect time for us as a team, particularly as a defense. Getting back this week, I saw a difference in the guys, just a great level of energy. It seemed like they were recharged, refreshed mentally, as well as physically. I think they’re ready to go. We’ve had a good week of practice thus far. We’ve got to finish on the right note today and tomorrow before we get on the plane. We’re playing a good football team, a real good football team, a playoff team that I think is well coached. They have some dynamic football players. [Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis] Etienne [Jr.] in my opinion, is one of the top backs, he probably doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves, but three-down back that can make it happen in all phases of the game. When you look at the tight end, he’s phenomenal. [Jacksonville Jaguars TE Evan] Ingram, what can’t he do? When you watch him on tape, he does it all. He’s out at number one receiver. They put him in a slot, in-line blocking for the run game. I think he’s phenomenal. Of course, [Jacksonville Jaguars WR] Christian Kirk, had drafted him in Arizona, still playing at a high level. Definitely got to know exactly where he is at all times. I think really he has revitalized his career going down there with [Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Doug] Pederson. He is doing some good things. When you look at the quarterback he does a great job, number one, protecting the football. He doesn’t turn it over and I think they have a great balance in running and passing and not trying to put a lot on him. He does an extremely great job as far as getting the ball out quickly. So giving an overview of those guys, we’ve got to go execute. It’s about everything we do up front, number one, stopping this run game and when they are in opportunity where they’re going to pass the football, we’ve got to execute on the backend. So with that, I’ll take your questions.”
You mentioned the energy this week, looking back before the Bengals game, was that noticeable to you that there was a dip in energy at that point?
“You could say that I noticed it, but we’ve got a good group and sometime fatigue sets in. So again, I thought it came at the right time. It has definitely never been a question of effort from our guys and how we practice. I think they go out and give us everything each and every day. But, when you look at nine weeks into it, I think it came at the right time.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan told us yesterday that you would move down to the field. What was kind of your input into that decision and how do you think it can help?
“Oh, I mean guys to me, just very candid, I think we’re making a bigger deal out of it than it needs to be, to be honest. I just want to be able to communicate with the guys a little bit more during the game. Certain things that I’m seeing, I’d rather be able to talk to them directly than to communicate with coaches. I think our coaches do a great job, number one, throughout the week, but also in-game adjustments. That’s one of the things that I’ve really pride ourselves on and how we communicate as a staff and making the right things throughout the game. So, it is just really with me just wanting to be able to communicate with those guys a little bit more.”
You mentioned in the spring that you get a little too emotional or you wanted to kind of reign that in or whatever when you are on the field. Do you feel like maybe that can be a good thing though, that you can bring some of that emotion kind of back?
“Well to be honest, when you look at our guys, and I’ve been doing this for a while, I don’t think that’s part of what they’re missing and what they need. Sometimes it can be good. I think we all feed off each other, coaches, we feed off one another. I feed off the players. So, it depends. But, I think it’s more or less in the communication part that we can have that dialogue, direct face-to-face and try to make the adjustment that we need to make throughout the game.”
With Etienne as you’re looking at the film, what do you think has made him so successful this season?
“I think again, I think coach Peterson, Doug, does a good job just with the scheme and the things that they’re doing. He has a lot of weapons around him that sort of complements him a little bit. Like I said, I rant and rave about the tight end and the receiving corps that they have. And he’s a powerful runner and has the ability to be able to also take it outside and has good speed. So again, three-down back.”
What does this game mean to you, given what’s happened in the last three weeks?
“You know, I try to stay out of the past. When I say that, the obvious is the obvious, but dwelling on the past three weeks is not going to really change what we’re trying to get done. And our focus been since we’ve been back it’s just one at a time. Let’s just go refocus ourselves to do what we’ve got to do to get this game. I think we know in the previous games we were there, we played hard. We’ve got to go execute. We’ve got to make plays when given the opportunity. I’ve got to do a better job again just putting them in better positions, which I think is going to help them go execute. But, third down has been hurting us. We’ve got to get off the field. We’ve had those guys in both games third and long, and all of a sudden, [Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe] Burrow great job of him being athletic, he gets out of it, third and long. Going back to Minnesota, opportunity to get off the field and we didn’t and just sort of spiraled right there with the first drive. So those are things that we have to correct.”
Two things if you could just clear up on the communication stuff. One, when you are upstairs, when you would be calling plays, you have to go through like linebackers coach Johnny Holland to get the plays into LB Fred Warner, correct?
Was there any communication issues with that in terms of timing or anything?
“No, none whatsoever. Again, the coaches do a tremendous job in communicating with those guys. I just felt the need to be able to want to communicate directly, nothing with the coaches have been doing. Like I said before, doing a great job. I just want to feel a little bit more presence on the sideline.”
Another part of that is in terms of different position groups, obviously you work a lot with the secondary and so I’m imagining those are the guys you want to speak more directly with?
“To be quite honest, I want to talk to all the guys because I have certain thoughts that are going through my mind as I’m sitting here going through the game and trying to call things. I’m looking at my call sheet and I say, ‘man, okay, I’m thinking about this.’ Well now I can go right over to the D-Line and say, ‘okay, I’m looking to change this stuff, next series you know it could be with the back-seven for us, the pass concepts where we may be getting hurt on a certain route and it could be empty and I went, ‘okay, I want to change this.’ So again, it’s just a little bit more dialogue coming directly from me.”
It’s not breaking news that the defense has not quite looked like itself the last three games. You’ve been receiving criticism or skepticism. You’ve been doing this for a while, I’m sure this is not new to you, but how are you handling this level of kind of personal adversity?
“I can honestly say I’m sort of built for this. Not in an arrogant way, but I’ve always believed, it’s two things, it’s what you hear and what you listen to. So, I hear a lot of the outside noise. I don’t listen to it good or bad. As you mentioned, I’ve been doing this for a while and I understand the emotions of this game and what we play at this level. I try not to be emotional. We’re five and three, the standard is so high here, right? We lost three in a row that everybody feels like the ceiling is collapsing on us. We’re in a good position. We need to turn it around. We’ve got a lot of football ahead of us. We want to start progressing, get better in November and start playing our best in December. I’ve seen this, I’ve been around this, I can take it. I’m the new guy in. It is what it is. I have confidence in myself. Most importantly I have confidence in those players and the coaches that we’re together and we’re going to come through this.”
How is DL Chase Young and how has his relationship with DL Nick Bosa helped him come along?
“Great relationship. Those guys, of course, as you all know, played together. I think he has truly come in and fit into the culture that these guys have set. I think Bosa has made that transition seamless for him. I think he’s excited just because he’s in a different climate, different element. He came in Washington and was thrust in a situation where he had to be a leader as a rookie and that’s tough when you have no one to really look to the right or left of to try to pattern yourself out of. So, he has a lot of guys here in this locker room that he can lean on.”
How are players able to communicate to you? Do they have to go to a coach or are they able to directly communicate with you when you’re up there?
“Well, there’s a lot of times either I talk to them either on the phone or I have the coaches put the headsets on. Again, it’s just a great opportunity for me to be able to look at certain things on the Surface, the iPad, and then I can go directly to that guy and say, ‘okay, this is what I’m seeing’ and then we can have that dialogue and communicate and talk. I like to also know how they’re seeing things in the flow in the course of a game. So that’s going to allow me to be able to call certain things differently according to how they see it as well.”