Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
Press Conference – June 4, 2020
San Francisco 49ers
With everything that’s going on in the Bay Area and the country right now, can you share how you’ve addressed that with the team, with the players?
“Yeah, we all started talking about it on Monday. It’s really continued all the way up until today. Not one day’s gone by where we haven’t discussed it. On Monday, we’re all on different meetings with our zoom meetings, different position groups and stuff. Monday, I talked to all the skill guys about it and I think the O-Line, then the next day I think I hit up the D-Line and the DBs. Then yesterday, [general manager] John [Lynch] and I got on a call with about 12 guys, just some of the veteran guys and things like that, just to continue to talk about it. It’s been great just being able for all of us to talk about. As I always say, we’ve got an impressive group of guys and they’ve been very impressive throughout this whole situation and it’s been very open and it’s been good to hear all of them through all this.”
Why is it important for you to talk during this time and what has struck you in those conversations with your team about how they’re feeling collectively as a group?
“People are hurting and black people, mainly, are scared. The disturbing thing is they’ve been scared for a long time. This is it. This is the cry for help that they’ve been giving for a long time and people don’t totally listen. I think everyone’s at fault for that. I’m not saying black people are because they’re the ones who have been screaming and I think everyone’s at fault for not totally listening. I think one thing that bothers me the most, just throughout this all and throughout my own life experiences and stuff is racism is a big deal in our country right now. That’s a fact. That’s not debatable. It’s always been a big deal. It is today just like it was a hundred years ago. I think something, just as a white person, that bothers me is that I don’t think all white people realize that. There’s different parts of this country and stuff, but a lot of white people, if they don’t see it, they don’t think it’s happening. They associate racism with slavery and stuff from a long time ago. They’re in certain parts where, if they don’t see it, they don’t think it’s happening. That’s the problem. Racism’s all over. This is what black people deal with every day. White people are very sheltered to that and ignorant. That’s why I think that’s the message that’s been missed. I can’t tell you, like growing up and stuff and being in situations that bothers me the most, that resonates throughout all this and hearing all our players. I’ve been in sports my whole life and I’ve had white friends, black friends, Asian friends, all types of friends my whole life. I’ve been fortunate to be in situations where I was in communities or teams and stuff or where it wasn’t a big deal, the same stuff I see in my kids. And I’ll keep my kids in those types of situations, so it is never a big deal for them. It wasn’t for me, but there’s stuff as I got older, like with my black friends and stuff that I can promise you is consistent with all black friends, wherever I had them. I moved everywhere in my life, never lived anywhere longer than four years. I’ve been all over this country and I’ve had all types of friends. One thing I can tell you is it’s consistent. Some of my friends, some of my black friends, some of the toughest guys I’ve been around, just awesome dudes, who I’ve never seen get scared of anything. I can’t tell you how many times I’m with one of my black friends and we’re around a cop and I can feel something different in those guys. They’re scared. It’s something that has always bothered me. I’ve been in some situations worse than others, but regardless, I don’t know how they feel, but I can feel that they feel different than me. That’s something that is a fact. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a black guy in California, a black guy in Atlanta, it doesn’t matter. That’s something that they all feel. I don’t know [former NFL CB] Champ Bailey very well. I know my dad does, I know John Lynch does. When he gave his Hall of Fame speech last year about this stuff, and I could see the passion in Champ’s voice and the fear that he had for his kids and how real it was, and that’s the same stuff I’ve seen in my friends since, you know, I was 17, when we got caught sneaking out. There was a difference between the black friend who was scared and me who actually wasn’t, because I thought I had rights. That’s a white privilege that not everyone realizes and people need to know, just because you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. White people have to acknowledge that this is a fact, this isn’t debatable and there’s nothing more apparent than what happens to, numbers-wise, with black people and what’s going on with the police force. The numbers say it. Also, the life experiences of all black people say it. That’s something that isn’t debatable and we can’t confuse that with anything else or any individual. That’s a fact. It’s gone on way too long and I think now, I think white people are listening more than I’ve ever heard before, which is good. That’s the starting point, because it’s happened too long and it’s very clear. I don’t want to debate it anymore. No one does. Open your eyes.”
Following up on that a little bit, just in the conversations you’ve had with your players over the past few days, have there been discussions about ways that you guys can take more action, use your platforms, things like that, even going into the season and if so, what do those look like?
“Yeah, we have lots of discussions. I think we throw a ton of stuff out. I mean, there’s so many different ways to go. It’s such a deep thing, so it’s not like you’re going to just see change tomorrow. It’s got to be every day and it’s got to happen through generations and it’s got to be, we’ve danced around it for too many generations. I think what’s very apparent when you talk to our players, I think, we always talk about the generations and how all our grandparents, white grandparents, black grandparents, they usually don’t understand it as much as our parents do. And our parents don’t understand it as much as we do. And then I look at some of the 22-year-old rookies, and that’s a generation that’s different than some of our 32-year-old veteran players. Then I look at my kids and what they’re coming up and they don’t see it at all. That’s the stuff that we have to keep doing. So, how do you do that? You’ve got to vote, you’ve got to change all that stuff, which takes time. We had talked about that being the most important thing. So, how can you educate people on that? How can we make a difference in that? That’s stuff our players are looking into, but also, everybody wants to put money in the right spot, but you don’t just want to throw your money somewhere, because people have thrown a lot of money at this stuff over the last 20 years and I don’t think anyone sees a ton of progress. It’s not enough, not until this doesn’t ever happen. We talk about that, all that stuff. What I hear the most with the players, which I believe in a ton too, is what we can do for the youth and setting examples. If all kids could watch how our players interact with each other, that’s how all people should interact with each other, but when some people grow up in an all-white neighborhood or some people go grow up in an all-black neighborhood and the first time they hang out with the other side is in college and now they’re both trying to deal with all this stuff that they’ve dealt with because they haven’t hung around anyone in their life and they’re uncomfortable. Then it just goes longer. We talk about, in our locker room, that’s why we, I feel very privileged or fortunate that I’ve been around these situations because in a football locker room, since I was born, you’re around everybody and it makes it a lot easier and it makes it comfortable. The stuff that I think everyone’s born with, it doesn’t leave. That’s what our players, and I know I’m rambling on this, but it’s because there’s so many ways that you can help. I think our guys are all going to do it in some different ways. We’d like to do something collectively as a team and that’s something we’re still discussing. But the main thing is, is how do you do it now? How do you do it a week from now? And how do you do it every day of your life? I think everyone has to do that somewhat individually and people have to be aware. They have to admit what’s wrong. They have to talk. We have to break through whatever the awkwardness that’s between races because that’s not there with everybody, but it’s there with way too many people I know our players are so passionate, so passionate, black guys and white guys, about trying to fix this. I think we all know it’s not an easy answer. It’s the whole country admitting what is wrong, which isn’t debatable. So, people need to come out from being sheltered or ignorant, whatever it is, and whoever those people are, kids need to help their parents. The parents need to help their parents. We all need to speak about it and do stuff. I know you asked me a question what we’re doing. I’m going to do a lot, but it’s not specific yet, but I know our guys are working at it hard.”
I know obviously some of this discussion was being held throughout the NFL after Charlottesville in 2017. Do you feel, just the conversation with your players, that this is different, whether just the tenor of those conversations, the passion you’re hearing, that something has changed?
“Yeah, it gets stronger and stronger. I think you put anyone in a situation, when there’s a big deal going on that is fundamentally wrong for a human being. People aren’t born with racism. They’re not, and when there’s something going on that’s happened for a long time that is wrong and a whole community recognizes it and the other part of the community doesn’t, that has to be brought to attention. I think it did come up hard in 2016, it comes up hard every couple of years this stuff happens. The problem is it happens again. I say for myself, if I’m screaming for something that is wrong and it keeps happening, you’re going to do whatever you have to do to get people to hear you on something that messed up. So, each time, hell yeah it gets worse, because black people are fed up and we’re all, I know I’m fed up with seeing this. How do we stop it? Yeah, it takes a really bad person to do something like this. The problem is percentage-wise, there’s a little too many bad people and a community has to fix that. Not one thing. That’s, everybody’s, the collective consciousness that we have to do. The only way you do that is by hanging together. That’s what I think is just cool with kids. I think that’s what’s cool with sports and that’s what’s cool in colleges. There’s no big deal at all, but when you spend your whole life not around a certain culture, that’s not good and it should never be that way. It’s been that way too long in this country, and there’s lots of reasons for that that I’m not educated on, whether it’s laws, whether it’s some of the voting stuff. Whatever it is, people who know a lot more than that, what they’re saying and they’re screaming for is for people to listen because they’re trying to educate them. All you’ve got to do is watch a documentary here and there, listen to someone here and there, or also just listen to what almost every black person I’ve ever met has been complaining about since I’ve hung with black guys, which is almost my whole life. Also, what I feel. They don’t have to complain about it. What I feel from them when I’m around them and we’re around cops and things like that, or when a situation where you can tell we’re just at a party and for some reason, the white people aren’t that cool here. They feel that their whole life. I’ve gone to a black party and felt that before, like, man, maybe people don’t want me here for this, but I’ll tell you what, it felt like crap. What if I felt that way almost my whole life, every time a cop looked at me. Whether the cop is or not, that’s how they feel because too many have been like that. It’s a fact. People have to know and just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
Obviously New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees has been in the news the last couple of days for what he said and Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio had some comments saying he hasn’t seen racism in the NFL, which he apologized for and sort of walked back today. I’m wondering if you could speak on, from a league perspective, what you think the league is doing or how the league is doing in terms of having African-American coaches and people in power and obviously the numbers indicate that that’s sort of an issue, just how you think the league is addressing that?
“I think they’re trying to address it. I think they’re talking about it. I saw what Vic said and I saw him apologize for it. It’s tough, because white people don’t feel it. You’re not going to think that person’s racist, but you know what, how the heck are there only four black coaches out of 32 head coaches? How are there only two GMs. I mean, we’re in a predominantly, the majority of our players are black. So, the fact that there’s that few, that’s not debatable. I don’t know if people are openly thinking they’re doing it, which I think that people resort to that, but that’s what the problem is. That number is not debatable and that is an issue. I think we talk about it a lot and it is something that has to get better. I know they’ve thrown out a bunch of stuff. I only speak for myself, I try to hire people that I’ve worked with that are prepared for it and fortunately, that’s worked out well for me. I’ve got a Muslim coordinator, we’ve got a black coordinator. We have a lesbian on our staff. We have everything and it’s not just to show people that we’re trying to be diverse. It’s just because I’ve been around these people and they are really good at what they do. We can’t win without these people and that’s just how it works out. I don’t know why the numbers aren’t like that, but the numbers are wrong. That’s stuff that, hell yeah, we want to fix, but it’s not an easy answer. It’s continuing to talk, continuing to, the whole thing with society, everything. It’s all very similar on different levels and that’s why those numbers don’t lie. That’s what makes it a fact. That’s what white people have to admit.”
As a parent, can you talk a little bit about how you’re talking to your kids over the last week and a half about what’s going on in the country and just everything that they’ve been seeing?
“Oh yeah, I kind of go both ways with it. We don’t watch a lot of news here and we’re in quarantine, so it’s not like we, we don’t have all these news channels on all day. My kids aren’t on social media, so they’re not freaking out about it because they’re not aware of a ton of it. They have seen it. I talked to them about that I’m going on here with you guys to talk. So, I’ve been talking to them about it about the last hour. One thing that’s tough with my kids is, I think it is so cool watching a human being when they can have a black friend over and a white friend and they don’t know that they had a black friend over and a white friend. They don’t know. It’s not in their consciousness. It hasn’t been taught to them that there’s an issue. They have no clue. I see that so genuinely in all three of my kids, and I saw it right away when they’re two, three, four, but now they’re 12, 10 and seven and that hasn’t changed. I don’t want a situation like this when they are innocent and I love how they see life and people. I don’t want to get on the news and show them all this stuff and them be like, ‘Oh my God, do black people not like me?’ And I’m like, no, that’s not it because my kids are comfortable as can be, and I don’t want to change that for them. I think most of the youth is like that and we’re better than our parents and our parents were better than their grandparents. But, the stuff right now, I’m worried about our kids. Our kids are already better. Look at the millennials or whatever. They’re so much better than even we were. I don’t want to mess up the younger generation right now because they’re good. We just can’t mess them up and that’s every generation before us has messed up the younger ones. We can get better, but our kids are already good. So, I like that they’re not asking me a bunch of questions about this and they’ll know about this. They’ll learn about it. We just talked for an hour on it, but I like where they’re at and I want to keep that, hopefully, for the rest of their lives.”
I just wanted to follow up on the report this morning that the coaches are being allowed back into facilities around the league and you guys seem to be the only team that aren’t. I know that’s kind of out of your control, but what are your feelings on not being allowed back when other coaches are? Do you feel like it puts you at any sort of disadvantage and how are you kind of working through that right now?
“I mean, it is what it is. I’m not too upset about it. Yeah, you want every advantage possible, but our county is not there yet and it doesn’t bother me that much because I do understand. Plus, the players aren’t allowed in. Us coaches, we can meet like we’re doing right now on zoom. We can go to the office and do it also. So, it doesn’t bother me if coaches want to go up to the office right now and get some stuff done because we haven’t been there in 90 days. That’s all good, but the players aren’t there. So, you’re not getting a big advantage. Nothing that we can’t do on zoom meetings. So, I would feel differently if other players were allowed in the building in other places. That would be a huge disadvantage for us, but until guys can start working with players, it doesn’t bother me.”
So, obviously with everything going on, we’re seeing a lot of protests across the nation. Now, once the season rolls around, obviously we don’t know how everything is going to play out in terms of fans and whatnot because of COVID, but if you have players who do want to openly protest in there in their own kind of way as we’ve seen in the past with QB Colin Kaepernick or New Orleans Saints S Malcolm Jenkins, how will you and the organization support them or just see how they do their protests?
“The same way we always have, but even probably with more passion. We understand it more and more, but I think our organization supported that as well as anyone. I think that we’ve done a great job of that. I think our team has represented that very well. I think people understand it so much more now than they did three years ago and I’m all for protests. I’m all for change. I hope the protests cause change. I hope whatever we’ve got to do to get the change, I’m for it and I know our organization is. I know [CEO] Jed [York] is, I know our players are. We always have been. What’s different now and then, it’s embarrassing to say, probably, but I think white people are more passionate about it now than then. That’s our ignorance and that’s what upsets black people. They have every right to be upset because they haven’t just been telling us this the last few weeks. They’ve been telling us this since our grandparents and I’ve been hearing it from every one of my friends since I was 14. Then I hear Champ Bailey talking about it in his Hall of Fame speech. It’s all the time and it’s too long. Whatever’s got to get changed, let’s do it.”
Switching gears a little bit towards QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Just curious, I know you mentioned in one of your media appearances you had earlier this offseason that you were happy to have the conversation with Jimmy about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady thing and thought he handled it well. I’m just curious how you think he’s been doing this offseason now? I know you guys aren’t doing any on field work, but just the differences for him this offseason. I know he mentioned that he won’t have to relearn how to run again this off season like he did last offseason. Just how he’s doing within the program, whether or not you’ve seen him take any steps from a mental standpoint in terms of grasp of the offense or anything like that?
“Oh yeah, I can tell his thoughts are a lot clearer because he’s not worrying about an ACL and rehabbing like you just said. He’s 100-percent focused and getting better mentally from knowing the offense from just knowing defense. It’s not just, everyone says, learning the offense. Jimmy’s learned the offense. He’s fine with that. It’s just being automatic, it’s understanding coverages, going through everything where, I can’t tell you how much more I know as a coach in year 17 or whatever then I did in year two. That never stops. So, to go through an offseason where you don’t have to rehab the whole time, it gives you a chance to take that to another level. I think Jimmy’s fired up for this year. Last year was his first year to play a whole year and he had a hell of a year and got us very close to winning the Super Bowl. When you have to talk to Jimmy about one of the best quarterbacks of all time being available, I know Jimmy has a goal to be that. I know Jimmy, I believe Jimmy has the ability to be that and that’s what both of us are going for. If we can get him there and he has the ability to do it, we’re going to be pretty happy with who we have for a long time.”
Are you concerned that your rookie class won’t be as ready or as far along on September 13 as they would have been in a normal year? Can you do extra work with them now during the classroom sessions to sort of at least attempt to bridge that gap?
“Yeah, it will definitely have a huge effect on them. It’ll affect each guy a little differently depending on what their makeup is, but we’re over meeting. We don’t have a lot to do. I can’t go to a restaurant, can’t go anywhere. Our position coaches are the same thing. Rookies, we’re allowed to meet with more than just eight to 12. Those guys have gotten more meeting hours than are possible. I mean, you only can get so much, but it gets to a certain time where, yeah, they can almost coach the route because that’s what we’re doing, but then they’ve got to go apply it on the field. We need to see them do that. We need to film it. We need to come back in and watch how they move. ‘I’m articulating it this way, but obviously you’re running it this way, so you’re hearing it different.’ That’s just coaching and that’s what we’re working through and our rookies don’t get any of that. So, they might think they have it and they’re going to get to camp and they’re not even close. The problem is, you usually work that stuff out in OTAs and stuff, and then the rookies get away for 40 days and they have a chance, when they come back to training camp, to make the team. Where I’m still worried about guys now is how do you make the team in training camp when you’re on the bubble and it’s going to take you three weeks to figure it out? Well, you only have one week left and now earn it. So, those are the guys that I worry about a lot more, but this is how it used to be with quarters, the quarter system. We didn’t get [DL] Solomon [Thomas] and [WR] Kendrick Bourne our first year until training camp. They were allowed to come to a minicamps, so they got two days of practice, but that was it. It always sets guys back and then some guys, just the way they think, the way they learn, the way they work, doesn’t affect at all. Very few of them, but that’s what we’ll find out what our guys when we get to camp.”
With the amount of time you guys have had at home with the quarantine and stuff, what have been the best parts about being with the family, having that extra time? You obviously don’t get that in a normal offseason. Any good stories that you have about things you’ve been able to do this offseason with the family that you haven’t had to in the past?
“Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. Dad’s not as cool as he used to be because now I’ve been home 90 days straight. So, it’s getting a little bit older. I mean, I am at least. It’s just been so fun though, to kind of be on your own schedule, to actually have breakfast with the kids, to sit there. My kids race down in the morning and they watch “The Office” so we’ve probably watched “The Office” for about half an hour to start each day. We’ve been through all nine seasons about three times and it gets funnier each time. We’re always playing basketball. I’ve got a good backyard. We go skateboarding a lot. I got really bored and built a zip line for my family. I tried to do it myself and I tried to build it over the pool, but I had it attached to a Palm tree and I found out Palm trees don’t have deep roots so I had to take it off the Palm tree and off the pool. Then I had to call someone to help. So, I needed help. But, we’ve got a cool zip line up, my family has been doing that, so that’s been fun. My puppy now is a bigger dog and he actually listens to me because I’ve been here disciplining him 90 days in a row where I had no chance with this dog if I wasn’t home this much. It’s been cool being able to hang around the family. But man, we’ve got to go to a restaurant or something. I would love to take the kids somewhere, go see a movie, Dave and Busters, anything. Hopefully we’ll try to go to the beaches here and there, but that’s tough, too. Only can walk back and forth so much. I want to sit and post up somewhere. So, hopefully it’ll get a little bit better here, but I promise when this ends, there’s going to be stuff about quarantine that we did miss because it’s very rare you get to hang around with your loved ones this much.”
A couple of days ago, former NBA player Stephen Jackson said that he thought the NFL owed Colin Kaepernick an apology. Do you think that to be true? And if so, what would that look like, an apology for Colin Kaepernick?
“I think the biggest thing that is so hard with the whole Colin thing is people misunderstanding what he was doing. I think that’s why the reactions have been hard the last couple of days over things that people are still confused. I mean, regardless of whether you agree with how he did it or not, that doesn’t matter. What Colin was protesting was something that was, should be respected by all humans. That did take a lot of courage. It is something that is 1000-percent wrong in what he was trying to fix and bring light to. And gosh, it was hard to bring light to the whole country because people didn’t want to totally hear it. It got diluted with so much different stuff. What helped me was being in San Francisco and I wasn’t here with Colin, but I was here with a lot of his teammates who were here with him and guys who did that with them and continued to do it when Colin was gone. That helped us a lot. That helped John and I a lot because there was no debate. These were the guys who started it and it was very clear when they would articulate it, why they were doing it. So, the whole debate on all the other stuff, the flag, everything, people don’t want to hear that. What he was doing was a big deal and the reason, whether you disagree with how he did it or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s three years later and there’s still some people not understanding what his message was and that’s, regardless, too many people aren’t understanding the message that everyone’s been giving for a long time. Colin did it the strongest out of anyone and people should respect him a ton for that and admire that.”
Even prior to what transpired over the last week, we’ve heard stories about you jumping in on different positional zoom calls, keeping things light. Have there been any other special guest appearances aside from yourself?
“Some of the position coaches do it. I know [defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek, he has like a former D-Lineman come in there every week. I got to hop in there and he had [former NFL DL] Kyle Williams in there, so I got to see him. I didn’t even know Kyle Williams is on zoom and I didn’t recognize him, he looked like one of our assistant coaches at first, just a little bit bigger. So, I was like, ‘Man, you changed.’ Then I saw it was Kyle Williams. I think he’s had a number of D-Linemen do that. I haven’t had a big guest speaker or anything like that, me personally. We usually just get on there, spend about 10 to 15 minutes joking and making fun of each other and then we evaluate our season. It’s been awesome to go through all the cutups with the guys, to be able to just watch game tape with the guys. To be able to have an hour and a half meeting where I only talk about one play. Now, I showed that play 60 different ways and we go through all the variations of it, but I’ve never been able to do that. Usually I’ve got to talk about 10 plays in that hour and a half. What sticks when you talk about 10 plays? Not very much. It gets very diluted, so we’ve kept ours light. We have a lot of fun on it. Sometimes when it ends, we just sit there and keep talking because there’s not a ton to go back to, especially when my kids are homeschooling and the longer I can stay busy and avoid any part of that, the better our family usually did. We’ve just had a lot of fun messing around with each other. I think the zoom meetings have been very personable. I think people enjoy them, but we’re just at a time in our sport that we need to go to work. Usually, we’d be vacationing anywhere between June 11th to 15th and we’re almost there. It’s crazy how I almost feel like 2020 just started, but we’re almost right to that time where we’re a month from camp. It’s been weird just being stuck in here, but I know our guys are as ready as they can ever be mentally and we’ll see how they are when they show up at camp.”