Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – January 26, 2022

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Alright guys, the injuries for today. [RB] Jeff Wilson Jr., ankle, will be limited. [T] Trent Williams, ankle, won’t practice. [CB] Ambry Thomas, knee, will be limited. [QB] Jimmy Garoppolo, thumb, full. [RB] Elijah [Mitchell], knee, won’t practice. Go ahead.”

I just want to ask you about WR Deebo Samuel. Obviously his role as a running back has been very good for the team and him as far as he’s set records and shown everything he could do. But I was just wondering, is there an element of sacrifice to what he’s doing as far as the way he runs and often between the tackles? Maybe it’s not, I don’t know, but the physical punishment he’s taking, is it a sacrifice in some ways and is it ever something you had to kind of discuss with him?

“Yeah. It’s something that you talk about before you do, you talk about it during it and always talk about it, but yeah, the more you get hit, of course, the more it’s a sacrifice. And the more handoffs we give him more, the more passes he catches, he’s going to take some hits, but Deebo’s handled it well. He’s one of the main reasons we’re here and I think it’s one of the things that’s given him the opportunity to be one of the best players in the NFL. So the more you do that, the more risks there is, but I think our team and Deebo are very happy how far he’s taken us here so far.”

You didn’t mention the shoulder with Jimmy. Is that no longer an issue?

“I’m just reading what’s on this injury report, so I’m sure it’s pretty good. I hear about the thumb more than the shoulder, so that’s off the injury report now, so I guess we’re good.”

As you look back at the season thus far, what has been the biggest surprise to you about this team?

“I don’t sit there and have a lot of foregone conclusions. I don’t decide things before they happen. I try to live in the moment and we just go as hard as we can. I can’t say I was surprised how we rebounded. You go expecting that and that’s why we try to stick the course. I think some of how the younger guys, the way they started out, what I’ve talked about earlier, guys like Ambry and how much they’ve come up later in the year. He did surprise me with that, so I’d say that was one of the bigger ones, especially how drastic of a jump he made. But yeah, not much else.”

The other night after the game, you mentioned that one of the reasons you think your team is able to kind of fight back in adverse situations is you have a bunch of guys who love football and you’ve talked about that before in the past. When you’re trying to put the team together, what are the things you’re looking for that help you identify what a guy who loves football looks like?

“I think usually it’s how they look on tape. Just how they play. There’s a certain style to it that you can tell the energy they play with down-in and down-out that they’re not doing it. because a coach asked them, they’re not doing it to earn a scholarship, they’re not doing it to try to make money and get in the NFL, they’re doing it because they have a passion for it. And usually you can see that passion on film. Sometimes you can hear it from people, but you can also get fooled with that. The tape usually says it all and I’d say that’s where we start with.”

What are you seeing out of the pass rushes for both your defense and the Rams defense for how well they’re playing this postseason?

“I think we’ve done a real good job with it, and I think we’ve gotten stronger as the year has gone and I thought we did a hell of job versus them last game, which was huge for us, especially in that second half. Their past rush it’s as good as it gets also. The individuals that they have, especially. It all starts with [Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald] 99 who is just a generational talent and what he attracts to give someone a chance to stop him. You have to worry about that, but then you add in all the guys around him and some pretty good coverages with it. So usually the teams at this point in the year all have good pass rushes. I think it’s pretty hard to get to this point when you don’t have one. But I think we’re two of the top.”

What’s your communication been like this week with Trent Williams and how is he feeling? And as a second part of that, Week 18, when you had to turn to OL Colton McKivitz how impressed were you with how he was able to step in, first time suiting up for a game this season?

“I haven’t seen Trent yet today, I’ll see him here in a little bit when we go out to the field. Trent’s the same as he was that game. In Trent’s mind, there’s no way he is not playing. Now that’s why he was so crushed last game because he believed he would and his body wouldn’t let him. So hopefully we’ll have some better luck this game. But I know he believes he’s playing and so do I, so we’ll see how that pans out as the week goes. If he can, he will. And Colton was unbelievable that game. I was living in hope, thinking Trent was going to be able to go and finding that out pregame and just going right up to Colton, Trent was sitting with me and we were like, ‘Colton, you ready?’ And just the look on his face. He looked ready, whatever that is and Trent and I both laughed and were like, ‘all right, we’re good.’ And then he went out and played like that. And the other game that he played the year before was versus the Rams. He ended up having to start at guard for us when we went there the year before and got that win, right before we went to Arizona. So Colton stepped it up huge and we wouldn’t be here right now if he didn’t play the way he did in that game.”

As far as Jimmy and some of the throws to the sideline on Saturday, how do you balance his desire to make plays in those instances versus being safe with the ball and sometimes maybe just throwing the ball away and taking the incompletion? And if that was an issue, did you discuss that with him after the game?

“Oh yeah, you discuss it every, that’s what coaching is. Any play that you don’t think was the right play, you speak about it and you point it out. Sometimes they make unbelievable plays that you don’t think was the right play and you tell them great job doing it, but you also say, ‘Hey, if you keep doing this, it’s eventually going to cost you.’ So that’s just how you watch film and evaluate guys. And that’s why Jimmy’s fun to coach. He knows the answer before I get to him. He knows that he shouldn’t have let that ball go. He had it early, but he couldn’t. People were in the pocket and then he tried to get it there late, which he knows that he was too aggressive on that play. But that’s something you work with all those guys on. And it’s going to happen at times, they’re the quarterback, but they’re the ones that are responsible for it and sometimes the best play is a sack.”

You still hear some of your players talk about last year, the stay in Arizona in December as like a unifying moment. It could have been horrendous and maybe there was a unifying thing about that. Do you remember your emotion, your reaction when you heard you were going to have to stay in Arizona for a month and do you think it was something that kind of helped bind the team together and maybe still has an affect this season?

“Yeah, I was not in a very good place when I found that out. It didn’t make sense to me and it took me a while to accept it, but I had no choice. But I do think it has affects on us this year. At the time I didn’t, I didn’t think it was the best bonding experience. I was afraid we were going to hate each other more, because we were stuck in a hotel and couldn’t get away from each other and things weren’t going that right with the season as it was. So it was just such a challenge like mentally, physically, everything. That was a really tough month, which I think everyone will tell you about. And a lot of guys, it was hard on everyone, but some people it was a lot harder on than others. And I don’t think anyone was in a great state there. But looking back on it now, I feel like it helped us so much because I feel like it hardened our team. It hardened so many individuals and then now coming back the year following you realize the whole team was hardened in a good way to where we made that run in the Super Bowl where we started 8-0 and not many things went bad that Super Bowl year until the end of the Super Bowl. And I think everyone came back so fired up and thinking it was just going to be a fun year again and it quickly turned out to not be. And then to end it with Arizona, it kind of reminded guys that man, this isn’t always that fun and this can be a challenge and that’s kind of what I think is good about it because I don’t think football ever has to be fun. It’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s a challenge. And when you succeed in something and you can pull together and pull it off, that’s what’s fun. Kind of once you accomplish something and you can look back and just feel something and be proud of who you became and who your team became, but that doesn’t mean it has to be fun. And if you’re going to change when things get bad, then you’re not going to be able to overcome anything. And I think looking at us when we were 3-5 this year, no one was having fun. It wasn’t fun to come to work. It wasn’t fun to deal with a lot of that stuff, but people didn’t look at it like it had to be fun. We just had to focus on our job. We had to get better at what we’re doing and we still have time to do it. And man, that’s a hell of a lot easier when you’re doing this here than being stuck in a hotel in Arizona. So I feel like that stuff hardens you and allows you just to be stronger, more battle tested and I think that was individually. And when you get a bunch of strong individuals, then it does end up affecting the team.”

How many times has Deebo actually called a shot maybe that we don’t know about with you? And how do you marvel at what he’s doing outside the tackles as a running back right now? He’s leading the league in yards per rush outside the tackles with nine touchdowns outside the tackles.

“I think Deebo right now is playing like one of the best players in the NFL. So just to be able to do what he is doing, he’s obviously talented, but the will that he has it’s unbelievable. And Deebo is one of the most respectful players I’ve ever been around. He wants the ball because he believes he can change it at all times, but I think what he said to me actually was, ‘Kyle, I got you.’ And if he’s got me, I’m going to give him the ball. And Deebo is a very good person that our team loves and he cares about everybody and that’s why he is fun to watch because he does it the right way. He’s aggressive in everything he does, but yet he’s not out of control in anything, because that’s who he is. He doesn’t have to get himself real amped up for a game, which some people you see play with the physicality he does. They’re borderline blacked out on gameday. You can’t even talk to them because they have to go to a certain level just to get there. And Deebo doesn’t, it’s who he is and that’s, to me, what allows him to play at such a physical level, but to do it at a higher level than most people do. And that’s why he doesn’t really call a shot much. He just inspires. And he inspires me and he inspires our team and that makes it a lot easier to call plays.”

When Jimmy Garoppolo throws an interception, you often say you’d prefer him to take a sack or throw the ball away. I can’t think of many instances of him throwing the ball out of bounds in his career. Is that something you talk to him about? And is it something you would like him to do more of?

“Yeah. I always want him when no one’s open and there’s not a good play there. What are your options? If there’s a lane in the pocket, please scramble and pick up what you can, which I think he does has done that a number of times. I think one of the hardest things with Jimmy is when people are covered, he believes he can just put the ball in the right spot, which he does a lot. That throw that he threw to [WR] Jauan Jennings on third-and-five, we were hot, he didn’t have time to throw that ball and somehow, he created it, which is one of the most talented throws I’ve ever seen. And Jauan ended up dropping it. That was unbelievable. Was it the best decision? It was because it was right on the money, but that’s the stuff that not many people can pull off and that is risky. So that’s a fine line when you have someone who is as talented of a thrower as Jimmy. He doesn’t feel the same way always in the heat of the battle, that he can’t make that throw. Now when you watch it on tape and stuff, then he’ll see it. But you’re not thinking about that when you’re playing a sport, you’re just reacting and those are the things that I try to put him in better situations. And sometimes when it doesn’t go the right way, yeah, it’s disappointing. But I can’t tell you how many times that I don’t think anyone’s open and there is no play to be made and we need to make one or the game’s going to be over and he finds a way to make it. And I’m not then saying, ‘Hey, don’t do that.’ I’m thanking him for that. That’s playing quarterback in this league, so it goes both ways.”

Obviously, you guys and the Rams have played each other a ridiculous amount of times over the last few years. Is there an element of when you play a team three times and you guys know each other so well, is there an element of not overthinking things or trying to gain an edge, but not getting away from what you normally do?

“I believe so. You know each other so well. We hadn’t played Dallas for a while, so it takes a little longer to get a feel for the tape and whatever you watch, eventually when you get through the week, you’re going to feel different because you soak a team in more and you can’t do that in one or two days. It takes all week. But when you’re going against a team, like us going against the Rams or them versus us, there’s not much to soak in. We knew what the tape was going to look like before we turned it on. And they are the exact same way, so when you have something like that, I think it makes for a little bit more fun of a football game, because it’s truly what it’s about. It’s just a football game and everyone’s going to go out there and a lot is on the line. We’re going to play as hard as we can. They’re going to play as hard as they can and we are going to see who makes the most plays and who makes the least mistakes.”

What have you seen out of the Rams pass rush since they acquired Los Angeles Rams OLB Von Miller? How has he kind of changed that dynamic and how has he even enhanced kind of what Aaron Donald is doing?

“They were so good without Von, so I think it was the first time we got to play him, it was hard to even take that in because their rush was so good anyways. And then you add Von Miller and just watching him throughout the year, you can tell he keeps getting healthier. I know he was a little banged up when he came over from Denver. But you could tell he keeps getting healthier, is getting more comfortable and they’ve got as good of a group as I’ve ever seen. And to add Von Miller with the people they already have, with their scheme and everything, everyone saw it last week versus Tampa and that’s usually how it’s going to look. So hopefully you get them to play some other stuff and we can make it a different type game, but that’s what these guys are made for.”