General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference
General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
Press Conference – February 1, 2022
San Francisco 49ers
I’m just going to start right off with a QB Jimmy Garoppolo question. I’m assuming both of you have met with him after the season, after the final game and what promises have you given him? What’s going to be your approach as it pertains to how you’re going to handle his situation?
General Manager John Lynch: “Yeah, I think you know from being around this business, the finality of this thing. I think we’re all creatures of habit. And no one wants to face the reality that this thing may be ending. And so you kind of put things like that off after a season and man, this was a ride that had so many different turns in it. And I think it was special just to be able to sit down with Jimmy and let him know how appreciative we are as an organization of the way he handled everything, the way he played, the toughness that he exhibited and just expressed my admiration for him and the way he handled everything this season and during his time with us. The commitment was just that we’re going to communicate, as we always have. And we’re going to be completely upfront and honest and that Kyle and I, right now it’s an evaluation stage. And while we talk all the time, again, the season just ended. And so we’ve got we’ve got a lot to think about, with our team in general and certainly at that position. And the commitment was just that everything we do will be communicated in a very straightforward manner as I think we’ve always done with him.”
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan: “Same as John. Like if we knew exactly what was happening, we would’ve told Jimmy, but this season just ended and we’ve got a great young quarterback who was a rookie and we have a great quarterback here who’s a veteran. We’ve had Jimmy here for five years and he’s got to play in two of those seasons fully. And before this year, it was only one out of four years, and that was our big worry going into it, that we could not go into another year where he didn’t make it through. And I think he only missed one game this year. And the two years he’s played, he’s taken us to a Super Bowl and he’s taken us really close in NFC Championship Game. So I’ve got the ultimate respect for Jimmy, and I’m very excited about [QB] Trey [Lance]. And that’s where we’re at right now. Jimmy’s made it a lot harder, because he stayed healthy and he played like he is capable of playing, which is to me one of the better quarterbacks in this league. So we’re in a tough situation, not a tough situation, a situation where you have to make some tough decisions that won’t be easy, but I’m happy about that. That means you’ve got the best scenario going, and that’s why we have put a lot of thought into this. John and I talking to [CEO] Jed [York] and Jimmy will know everything as we go.”
John, I hate to blow my one question on a rumor, but There was a big one this morning from former NFL QB Boomer Esiason on his radio show, I’m sure you’ve heard it by now, that you were contemplating going back to TV. I was hoping that you could address that?
KS: “I thought he was talking to me. I was like, I’ve never been on TV.”
JL: “Yeah, I have not heard that that rumor. From time to time, opportunities are presented and I can tell you and tell everyone that that my commitment right now is to this organization. We’re just coming off a season, but my commitment is to the 49ers, to the York family to Kyle and standing up in front of that team yesterday and just getting an opportunity to reflect on what we have. I do think we have something special and we’re here to win championships. And we fell short of that, but I think both things be true that that’s our standard, but also the amount of pride and feel like it’s a real blessing to be a part of this organization. So my commitment is right here and that’s where I’ll be.”
Kyle, I know no one died and I know you have perspective on adversity, building character and all that, but you’ve had to endure three pretty brutal postseason losses now in a pretty short span. Obviously, you’re going to get critiqued for this one, fairly or not. As you start the process of recovery, does it help to have gone through this? And just how difficult is it emotionally?
KS: “It’s difficult, but that’s what you sign up for. Yeah, it’s hard. And I compare it to a fan, usually when I go to fans, I go to my wife, because she’s the biggest fan of the Niners. She’s so excited with going to the playoffs and then you lose when you get that close, she’s so heartbroken. She’s like God was it even worth it, this makes it so much worse when you get here. And yeah, it is worth it. Yeah, it’s tough and I think it’s tough for a lot of people to deal with. But I feel like I’ve been dealing with that my whole life, even growing up, my dad went to three Super Bowls as an assistant coach with the Broncos and they got their butts kicked in every one. I remember watching him after those games. I remember how our family felt after those games. I remember my dad getting fired after losing an AFC Championship game, they got an onside kick in Buffalo, had a chance to win it, they fumbled the ball and they were one fumble short of the Super Bowl. And I remember him coming home the next day and us getting fired and having to move. It’s just what you sign up for. And also, when you get out of it, it’s what you miss. There’s something that’s really cool about chasing something as a team and putting yourself out there and going through all the ups and downs. And that’s why I feel we’re very fortunate in this situation where we get to go experience stuff that I think no other people get to experience, not many people. Because what we get to go through in this sport with the players, the coaches, John, everybody in this building, it’s emotional and it hurts. But it does make you stronger and it makes you that much more excited for next year and it makes you want to keep fighting. And especially when you believe in what you’re doing, when you believe in why you’re making decisions, the people who are doing it, you don’t believe that you’re just getting lucky. You believe you’re doing things the right way and doing things the right way gives you a chance, but the sport is hard and it comes down to just where the ball bounces a few plays here and there. And I understand that, I have perspective of that. It doesn’t mean I accept any of it. I’m going to keep going for that until I’m not around here anymore. But yeah, it’s hard, but you move on because it’s time to prepare and go back at it again. And we’ve got a chance to do that. It’s going to be a long road and I’m going to take a couple weeks before I start going there. But it’s what motivates you to keep working.”
A couple follow ups on Jimmy. I know you guys said you’re just starting to dig into it. How important is it though to get resolution on that quickly, just so that you can kind of plan out your offseason financially and all those things and also given your respect that you guys both talked about for him, how much will you let him kind of maybe be involved in the process in terms of maybe where he lands, if you go that way?
JL: “Yeah, I think we’ve talked about this before. Kyle and I, there’s always ongoing conversations, but Kyle’s got a job to lead a team during a season. So, it’s hard to really wrap your arms about big decisions until we have those opportunities. And so now that starts, and the way the league year is structured, there is some time. Obviously, that will start in earnest right away. And it’s not like we’ve been pushing it aside. It’s just that I think one thing we both feel incredibly fortunate is that we have an ownership group that, for instance, last year when we presented that idea, I think a lot of ownership groups would’ve laughed in our face. Hey, we got this we want to make a trade to move up to here, but we’d also like to keep our starter at a relatively high number. And instead, you know, it was Jed said, ‘Hey, do you feel like it’s the right deal? Can we do it? Have you run through all those scenarios?’ And the answer was yes. And so I think now we just need that time to really start focusing on the implications of every move that we might make and that will start right away.”
KS: “Yeah, the way Jimmy played, the way our owner is, the way Jimmy’s contract is, it’s not like there’s a big guarantee next week. And we don’t have an owner who, from what he just said, is going to just say, ‘Hey, no, you have to do this because of A, B and C.’ It’s pretty simple with Jed, he wants to do whatever’s best for this team. And when you have a quarterback who played like Jimmy did last year, we have a young guy waiting to eventually get an opportunity. There’s a lot of good options there and that’s why all cards are on the table. And it’s cool that we’re in a place where all cards can be on the table, because usually they’re not in that situation. And that’s why we’re going to make sure to try to make the best decision for this team, which is always still an educated guess because you’ll see the results after it happens. But we’re not going to be in any rush to do that, because we want to make sure to get it right.”
I’ve got two questions, so one is going to be quarterbacks about Trey Lance and Kyle, what your kind of directive is for him in the offseason. And then John, if you could maybe address how you approach WR Deebo Samuel’s contract and his increased role, how that might affect his value?
KS: “I’ll go yeah with Trey, he needs to take a couple weeks off. He’s been going since pre-Draft stuff, getting ready for the Combine and all that. So Trey’s going to take a couple weeks off and then he’s going to go down to Southern California and work with some guys throwing the ball, isolate on that, just his throwing motion, working on that all the time, which I’d say 80-percent of the quarterbacks in this league do that. It’ll be real good for Trey to kind of get away from us and just focus on those things. And we’ll be in touch through the whole thing and we’ll get him back here and start talking X’s and O’s and scheme and footwork, just preparing him hopefully to have a good phase one, two and three of OTAs.”
JL: “Yeah. I would just add, first of all, beautiful kitchen, great hood, I see the fruit, that’s cool. Yeah, but on our wideback Deebo, first of all, what a spectacular season and I think a lot’s made of the creativity, the innovation which I think was supreme in finding a way to feature one of our best players. But I think, not that it’s a sacrifice, but a lot of players wouldn’t necessarily buy in and all Deebo wants to do is win. And I think his skillset, his will is the thing that I marvel at and admire so much. And so I think, first of all, just paying respect to what he brings to us and the way he approaches the game, he’s a guy I sure would love to have had the opportunity to play with and we’re fortunate to have him. And so, just to get it out of the way, with he and [DL] Nick [Bosa], we fully understand these guys are pillars of what we’re trying to do here. We’ve been blessed that we’ve been aggressive, because we’ve had a lot of players that we believe are some of the best in the league at what they do. And these guys are no different. And so we have really good lines of communication with their representatives. Those will continue, I’m not going to put any timelines on it, but obviously, planning has been done to account for those guys. And yes, there’s some interesting dynamics with Deebo playing multiple positions, but the bottom line, he’s an excellent football player. And so, I’m sure that we’ll find a way to get that done and like I said, it’s been budgeted for.”
Kyle this is a fourth down question. I know you’ve talked about making those decisions in real time and you take into account analytics and all that stuff, just going back to the game on Sunday, when you rewatched the fourth-and-two sequence, did you feel any differently about it in terms of considering going for it there? And given that you guys were 24th in the league, I believe, in fourth down conversion rate, is fourth down going to be something that you take a hard look at in the offseason, maybe as a project?
KS: “We look at everything, so I’ll probably look more at what type of fourth downs those were, maybe it’s short yardage. If it’s fourth-and-five, I look at that the same as third-and-five. I didn’t think we were the best on third down this year. So I’d like to improve in that area. I don’t remember where we ended up in short yardage. I don’t think that was the best either, but that’s fourth down, fourth-and-one is third-and-one, fourth-and-five is third-and-five. Back to that game, yeah when the game’s over, you know the result I can evaluate that. I mean we lost, so if you’ve got to do anything over, you’d do everything the opposite, because you know what the end result was. But I have no problems evaluating myself and my decision there. We would’ve gone for it, if we got into inches or a sneak situation, it was second-and-one, we called a play on second-and-one, we lost a yard to get to third-and-two. I remember when I called the play, asking the offensive staff like, ‘Hey, if we get inside of a yard, what do you guys like for the fourth down call?’ We were discussing it, I hear their suggestions and I’m taking it all in, but then we lost half a yard on the third-and-two call. So it got to almost third-and-three and I think you guys saw how those two run plays were. They were blowing up the line of scrimmage pretty good. And we also had a lead, I didn’t mind changing the field position with a three-point lead and making them go down there all the way to try to tie it up with a field goal or touchdown to win. And I strongly feel that was the right decision. Now you lost, so yeah, if I know the future I’ll do everything the opposite, but just the way the intent and the way we made that decision, I would do that same decision again if I didn’t know then result.”
Trey Lance question. What do you think you learned about him this season specifically, where did he improve the most? And did you ever think about getting him in there for two, four, six plays, even at the season?
KS: “Yeah, I think what I learned most about Trey is I learned that he was the person that we were banking on him being. When you go through a Draft process, especially with the COVID rules we had where you weren’t allowed to really be with someone in person, you’re allowed to watch him at a distance from a pro day, you’re allowed to have zooms and talk to him, so we got to put a lot of time into that stuff, so I felt like we really had a good feel of who he was, but you never know until you really get with someone and just being with him this whole year. He’s the good person, the good human that we thought, he has the work ethic we thought, he’s as smart as we thought, he’s got a natural charisma to him that I believe as a leader. He’s kind of the baby on the team this year, just in terms of his age, but he has a presence to him that people will gravitate to when he has that position. Stuff I thought he learned the most of was this was his first time playing in almost two years. And we asked him to do a lot of different things and just watching him play in the pocket, watching him work on play actions that he didn’t get to do as much in college. He had never done a seven-step drop before, which is how a lot of play actions are. He’d always done five and trying to mess with his feet and timing of all different types of plays. I thought it was great for him. It was great experience for him and I think it was good that he could kind of sit back and watch all that and not get forced into stuff where he’s learning it and doing it for the first time at full speed versus NFL defenses, because it’s a lot harder. But yeah, towards the end of the year, I never thought about just trying to get him in because I knew that was about to come. When we were 3-5, that was kind of the breaking point where I knew it was getting close. I know everyone else thought it was there, which I agreed it was getting close to there, but once we won that game and went to 4-5 and ended up winning four in a row, I thought we had a chance. And when you’re doing that, you don’t want to mess with the team. I would’ve done it for strategic reasons, if I thought it helped, but I wasn’t going to do it just to help Trey get 4-6 plays and ease him in at that time, because that’s not what we were thinking about at that time. We were thinking about how we can get our team to the playoffs. And once we got to the playoffs, we were thinking how we could win each game, because we knew only one team was going to be happy at the end. And we’re not that happy.”
Was there any doubt in your mind that this situation would work? Because obviously, from our angle there’s questions over whether it’s tenable to bring Trey into this situation with the dynamics. So what was your level of confidence going in that it would work? Why were you confident?
KS: “You just try to make football decisions and when you do something that you don’t have the exact answer to and you can’t tell everybody, this is what we did, so we’re going to cut this and just make it very simple. We wanted to do what’s best for the Niners. And sometimes you’re forced to make a decision, whether that’s because of a salary cap reason, contracts, an owner then you do, but none of those situations forced our hand. So we truly wanted to let it play out. And you’re confident because of the building you’re in, the people you’re with. When dealing with John, a guy who’s not going to just come and as soon as something goes bad, tell me the opposite, which you deal with a lot in this league, same with the owner. So yeah, you have confidence you can pull it off because of the people. But you know you’re only going to pull it off from a perception standpoint, if you win. And if you lose, you’re not. So you understand the reality of that. I’m not mad at anyone for that, but I also understand that’s not the reality of what happens. You have to do a lot of stuff that goes into winning and usually, whether you win or lose, the head coach, the GM, the quarterback and the coordinators, those are the things that are going to get evaluated very hard, but there’s so much that goes into it. And you’re just trying to make the best decisions as consistently as you can to give yourself the best chance to win football games. And that’s why I really, and I talked about it a lot, that’s why I like being here, because I feel out of any place I’ve ever been, that’s never an issue. I always feel like we can do that 100-percent, it doesn’t mean you’re always going to be right. But when you work at it and you got good people, talented people, I feel like you’re right the majority of the time and the more you can stack that up, I feel we’ve got a better chance to continue to have a winning team and eventually get to what our only goal is and that’s winning the championship.
JL: “Yeah, it’s a great answer. And I think really what Kyle hit on, it’s trust. Trust is earned in life. Trust is certainly earned in this league and I think the trust, the equity that we had put in with Jimmy, with his representatives and frankly the way that both sides have communicated and been nothing but completely upfront. And then I would point to, I think Jimmy Garoppolo deserves a ton of credit because of the way he handled the situation. I said it to the team yesterday, that the way not only he went about competing, competition brings out the best in everyone, it certainly did with Jimmy, but the way he also welcomed Trey and helped him along the way, it was a really nice thing to see. And I think it speaks volume to who he is. Trey’s obviously, they’re both very similar in that they’re both Midwest guys who kind of have Midwest values, they’re good people and that showed itself and I think was a great example for our team that you can compete at the highest levels, but still all be working for the same goal and that was especially true. And so I’m real proud of the organization and those individuals for pulling it off.”
Following up on that somewhat, Trey told us yesterday that Jimmy will be one of his best friends for the rest of his life. How did you see that relationship develop from the beginning of the offseason program to the end of the season?
KS: “They’re respectful guys, so you knew how they would act when they met. Neither of them are going to be the immature one. They’re competing against each other, they know that. They’re competitive as can be, but they’re always respectful. And then when you start like that, and I think you’re in a decent environment and you are the type of people that John was just saying, it just grew. I believe Trey when he says that. It sounds like a 21-year old comment and I know he means it. And I think Jimmy feels the same. Like I’ve been in a bunch of good quarterback rooms. I’ve been in some bad ones. But I can’t think of one that was better than this from those two to [QB] Nate [Sudfeld] to [quarterbacks coach] Rich Scangarello to [offensive passing game specialist] Bobby [Slowik]. Myself in there a bunch. It was a really genuine, cool room where we enjoyed each other. When we were done with football, the meeting didn’t always just end, sometimes we would just sit there and hang out and that was genuine. So what Trey said, he meant. And I know Jimmy feels the same way and that’s one of the reasons we were able to do something like this.”
This is for John. Throughout all five of your years, I noticed there’s been a recurring emphasis on, in the roster building component, not only on talent, which is obviously the top priority, but also on how well the person fits into the locker room. And I think this was obviously evident this year when the team was– all those nice words that players were saying about each other and they kind of credited that for being able to walk the tight rope at the end of the year. So my question is how big of a role do you think that emphasis over the past five years cumulatively had on the turnaround this season, and what’s your plan for perpetuating it, given all these tricky dynamics with Jimmy and the salary cap and all the maneuvers that you’re going to have to make?
JL: “Yeah, it’s at the heart of our core values. I think one thing that Kyle and I did when we got together, first of all, I think that’s what brought us together. We seem to be aligned on our thoughts on how you build a championship team, but then when we took it a step further, what do we really believe? And there obviously has to be the requisite talent. As Kyle says, ‘You’ve got to be in the club.’ And there’s very few people that are, but on top of that, I think what allows people to deal, this league is hard. I talked about that in my Hall of Fame speech. It’s what attracts people to it. Everything about it is hard. It hurts, so you better love, it first and foremost, and you better have good people that you surround yourself. Don’t need to be choir boys, but need to have resilience and toughness, both physically and mentally. And so we do put a lot of stock into that. I think every year you get a little better on how you identify that. And I think it did serve us well this year and we obviously have to find a way to get even better now. And that’s what you’re constantly searching for and that will always be right at the heart of our core values.”
After the game, you spoke about a second-and-one play that you said was going to stick with you for a while. Could you talk about that? And then also, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans declined the second interview with the Vikings. I don’t know if you guys spoke to him before that, or if you what your thoughts about are on that. And then if you plan on seeing any coaching changes amongst your assistants?
KS: “Yeah, the second-and-one play was just so big, because I thought that’s where the game changed. I thought it was the exact type of game we wanted. The type of game we needed it to be. And that drive, I think it was our third to last drive in the fourth quarter, I believe. It was our third to last drive of the game. And we were moving the ball. I think we started inside the 20 and we were moving the ball very well and I just felt we had them on their heels and we had a first down run on first-and-10 where we got nine yards, flipped it and called the same play the next way. [Los Angeles Rams DB Eric] Weddle was just on the line of scrimmage and our receiver wasn’t in a position he could block him, so he met the back right in the backfield. So there was no chance to get a yard there, which got us to third-and-two, and then the third-and-two call, they blew up and Juice [FB Kyle Juszczyk] didn’t have a chance to move those. So it was just how quickly everything was going and we had them on their heels and I felt very good that running it twice, we would get a yard. But I didn’t think we were going to lose one on that first down, so I just knew that was a tough one and just with where he was, we weren’t able to get to him. So that was a tough one that you know affected the game a lot. And then I know exactly what happened the play after it and then the next first play on defense was we had that opportunity to intercept the ball and we didn’t. Then the play after that, [Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew] Stafford made a hell of a play, moving the safety, throwing it down the sideline in the hole, getting about a 30-yard gain. And then we got the personal foul on top of it and that’s when it kind of changed and became the game that we didn’t totally want it to be. And what was the other question? Oh DeMeco. DeMeco didn’t tell us before. He told us on the bus heading back from LA and I was kind of messing with him on the loud speaker and he just sent a text up to me that he had declined it and that’s just that’s DeMeco. I’m proud of him for doing it. Minnesota’s a great place, but DeMeco is a stud. DeMeco is going to be a head coach. He’s too good not to be, whether it’s this year, whether it’s next year, whether it’s anytime, but DeMeco’s going to be a head coach. And I think it helps all people the more experience you get at every position. It only helps you, it makes you more prepared for when you get that moment, not to say if he wanted it this year and he’s ready. But he’s only going to get stronger every year that he coaches, regardless of what he’s coaching. But it was cool that he had the confidence to make that decision. Whatever he thought was best for him and his family. And I know we’re very gratefully did because it makes the Niners better and I think it’s going to make him continue to get better also.”
What gives you two confidence that Trey Lance is ready to take over as the starting quarterback, if that’s the route you choose to take?
KS: “Just being around him all year. I thought he had the ability we saw in college. We knew it was at a different level and we knew we were very limited on the amount he got to play, especially missing the last year of COVID. So you have to go off what you see on tape and believing in the person and we did. Having him here for a whole year, I feel stronger about that. He’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mind to do it. And I think he’s the type of person who can handle all the stuff that goes with it.”
JL: “Yeah. I would just echo that. He is who we thought he was and probably even stronger. You have to have a lot to you. You have to have a lot of substance to play quarterback in this league both physically and from just a who you are standpoint. And I think Trey checks both those boxes and what you know is the things that Kyle and his staff have identified for Trey on things to work with. This guy’s focus, his work ethic. He’ll have a plan and it will be a comprehensive one and when you have the talent and you have that ability. Then I think what he showed me is that in the moments, and there were few, but when he had an opportunity to go play, I saw that competitive greatness that you look for in people who are going to lead your organization. And so even though we saw it, however brief it was, I saw it. And so it gives me a lot of belief that it’s there and that he’s exactly who we thought he was when we picked him. And we’re really excited about that.”
Given that former NFL QB Tom Brady is officially retired as of today, I’d love to hear both your thoughts on what his career has meant to the league and then any reflections you might have on what it was like to face him as an opponent?
KS: “Yeah, it’s as big of a retirement as there’s ever been. I thought this probably 10 years ago, but he’s the best quarterback to ever play. The best football player to ever play. To me, one of probably the best athletes. I grew up with Michael Jordan as that guy and now I see Tom Brady as that guy. And it’s been so cool for me because when I got into the league and really started studying. All I remember when I was younger, didn’t have kids, and I’d get like that itch to go just study football, I’d go up to One Buc when I was working in Tampa late at night. We weren’t in the playoffs and I would just go up there and watch all late night games of Tom Brady and [NFL Hall of Fame QB] Peyton Manning and the battles they always had with the Colts and Patriots. And really, I was so obsessed with the receiver play growing up because that’s what I always tried to play. And basically, I credit Tom in just how I view quarterbacks. Just the style he played with watching him. How he played in the pocket, how he played with his base, how he threw, the mechanics of how he threw, kind of just developed on how I started coaching guys. And then you realize everyone’s wired differently and you have to have lots of different ways to coach people. But that was kind of my first, that was how I saw a quarterback. It was because of the timing of when I started studying football at my age. And I think I was pretty fortunate to be watching something like that, because he was great early. But man, to be studying that and to end up knowing that that’s something I was going to get to see for 20 years or whatever, it’s made me such a better coach and it’s made so many people better players and he’s had as big an effect on this game as anyone.”
JL: “Yeah, no doubt. I had an interesting lens coming in the league in ‘93. I think back often, my first preseason game was against [NFL Hall of Fame QB] John Elway, second preseason game, I believe, against [NFL Hall of Fame QB] Dan Marino, third preseason against [NFL Hall of Fame QB] Jim Kelly. And then we opened with [NFL Hall of Fame QB] Joe Montana and the Kansas City Chiefs. So it’s like, ‘Whoa, you know some of the greatest ever to play,’ and so lived in that era. And then played long enough that I got to be a part of the era competing against Brady and Manning. They were just the guys and their teams were going to go deep every year. And saw Tom at Pro Bowls and stuff from the time he won his first Super Bowl and had the opportunity to compete against him. You always wonder with a guy like that, what makes him so great? And then at the end of my career, I got to spend three weeks with the Patriots as I kind of was trying to decide whether I wanted to keep playing. I got an inside lens there, but probably all came just crystallized when I was watching something special he did. I was doing some brain training that we do here, you can throw on a show and watch it. And he like looks in the camera and he says, ‘If you’re going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your life because I’ve been doing that for 20 years,’ and the focus and that’s exactly what he did. I pride myself on the way I attack that, but I know I didn’t do the diet stuff like he did. I like to have a few drinks from time to time. He committed anything and everything, and it was reflected in the way he just kind of separated and distanced himself and then his flare in big moments, being able to make the plays and make his team better. It’s why they call him the GOAT and he he’s earned that.”
I know that Deebo Samuel’s role this year was a bit born out of necessity, but as you go into this offseason, do you see his role in 2022 being what it was at the end of 2021? That’s my main question and Kyle, I was just hoping that you could elaborate on how you were messing with DeMeco on the bus and the PA system?
KS: “I was just trying to loosen people up. It was a pretty down crew, so I always like to embarrass people who’ve got some big things ahead of him. So I kept messing with him for resting that he’s got interviews coming, so he’s focused. But quickly, he didn’t mess with me back out loud, I just got a text that he declined it. So it was just real cool of him. And what was the other question?”
JL: “Deebo’s role, will it be similar to what it was.”
KS: “Oh, yeah, very similar. We have to be careful with that. Running back is different, but he’s also built like a running back and runs like a running back. And he just happens to do stuff at receiver also that is really good. If you look at his body, he looks more like a running back. But man, we never want to stop using him at receiver and just the threat that he can be a running back at any time is a huge advantage for your team. And it’s a huge advantage for Deebo too. It’s a way you can make sure that he gets touches and you can do that at receiver, but not like when you just hand the ball to a guy. So we always have to keep that threat, that’s what separates him. And Deebo knows that too. But these last few weeks, you don’t take anything to account. It’s one game or you go home. So Deebo knows that, I know that, so we’re doing what we can to win. And I also think we get some more backs too, you can balance that all out, but we all know how good Deebo is at it and the defense does too. And so knowing that he can be there at any time, just like knowing when a quarterback can be a threat to run at any time. All that stuff is unusual in how to treat personnel groupings and things like that. And that’s why that’s something I don’t see going away for him.”
You guys last year were able to keep a lot of your free agents that maybe you didn’t expect to. I know it was kind of different under the pandemic and all that, but a lot of those guys will be free agents again this year. I know you can’t predict that, but how do you go about prioritizing who you want to keep, who you don’t as you kind of go into this year?
JL: “I think you go about it, like what we’re doing right now, our staffs are in there. Upstairs, we’re doing what we call the mine and we have our program. It’s our player development program and we’re evaluating the season, hearing from the coaches, hearing from the medical staff, hearing from our health and performance staff, on where everybody is. So you first evaluate, there’s obviously planning and then you have to prioritize and you have to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And I think that just takes communication from, we’ve spent years building our team, so that we’re always ready for these moments. It’s a blessing and a curse that we’ve got a lot of really talented players, but the reality is the whole league’s really tight. We’re still coming off the economic realities of the pandemic and what that did to the cap. And I think we’re also equipped to keep people. So it’s going to start with our people that are on our roster. And it’s conversations. It’s prioritizing, who’s most important for this team. And that is always ongoing, but we’ll start a new in earnest to come up with the decisions that need to be made.”
Kyle, if you were messing with DeMeco, I can only imagine what you were doing with offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel on that bus. So I don’t know if you want to speak for him, but what is he looking for? What do you kind of feel about where he is in his coaching career? And do you have a succession plan in place in case he were to move on?
KS: “Yeah, I think he’s interviewing Thursday with Miami. So, if he gets the head coach job there, I’ll be very happy for him and his family. Obviously, I don’t want to lose Mike. Mike, I think people made a bigger deal out of Mike this year because he had the title all by himself. But Mike did the same thing this year he has been doing the last five years. So Mike’s always been such a big part of what we do here. Yeah, he always focuses on the run game. That’s his area of expertise, but Mike helps me in all aspects of offense. We brought Bobby Slowik, who kind of took a little bit of [New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike] LaFleur’s role. But that didn’t change what we do with Mike and he was just a big in 2019 and as he is this year. So Mike’s always been good at what he does. He always will be and he deserves to get some of these opportunities people are talking about.”
KS: “I did want to say one thing because I forgot after the game, and it’s not just kissing up to them. What our fans did in L.A. was not just the coolest thing for the head coach of the Niners, it was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in sports. To watch the commitment of a fan base try to go take over another stadium and to watch how hard they were trying not to. And for me to sit there on Saturday night and my wife to show me videos of the airport. For my friends to send me videos of the coffee shops and the streets. And then for me to go in there and see the stadium, it gave me, it gave our players, it gave us chills. It was not just cool because I’m the coach. I haven’t ever seen that. And I’ve been around sports a long time and I’ve been a lot of different places. And I can’t tell you guys how cool that was and how much we appreciated that. That’s not normal.”
JL: “Yeah. well said. It was in L.A., it was in Dallas, it was in Green Bay. It’s everywhere we go. And the faithful is such an appropriate name for what our fan base is all about. The passion. They stuck with us when things were going rough and Kyle said it really well. We’re very appreciative and look forward to seeing that only grow stronger moving forward.”