Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – January 27, 2022

San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center 

Opening comments:

“[RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.] will be limited. [T] Trent Williams will not practice. [CB] Ambry Thomas is full. [QB Jimmy] Garoppolo, full. [RB] Elijah Mitchell, limited. Go ahead.”

The other day you were talking a little bit about the emphasis on finishing, coming from that Super Bowl and how it’s kind of a big deal just in general for all of you guys. I’m wondering, for you, how much do you think of the Super Bowl? How much of a motivating factor is it for you? You’ve had a lot of players who’ve said that they think about it quite a bit. Just what has it been for you over the last couple years?

“Yeah, you always think about that stuff. Just like anybody, when you have big moments in your life, whether it’s really good or really bad, those are things that you think about from time to time. I was pretty committed when I got in this profession, doing everything you can to have an opportunity to someday win a Super Bowl. Losing those, it’s hard to say it makes it stronger because I feel like that’s how I started off. But you know how hard it is to get there. I think that’s the biggest thing, how hard it is to get there. And you just want an opportunity to get there again because you feel, if you can get there, you can do it. But I know the road that it takes to get there and it’s not easy, and you’re looking every second you can to get that opportunity again.”

I’m sure early on with WR Deebo Samuel you recognized his vision and his running ability. I think you said, maybe the final piece for you to saying he can actually do this kind of as a running back in the backfield was the way he finished off some screens and the violence and the way he attacked defenders, is that right? And is that maybe for a running back in your offense or for you just a must have piece, that willingness to take on contact?

“Yeah, I don’t get how you can make it in this league, in general, if you’re running back who won’t take on contact. It’s a matter of time. You can get away with it for a little bit, but if you’re worried about the contact as a running back in this league, to me, you’re almost on your way out. I think the biggest thing with Deebo with the screens is that’s what we saw in college. It was abnormal how physical he was, even when there was nowhere to go. Guys run hard, but when he had nowhere to go, he looked for someone to impose his will on before he finished everything. And that’s a guy who’s not doing it just because he was asked, that’s a guy doing it because he’s probably been doing it since he was five when his dad gave him the nickname Deebo watching him doing it in the backyard against everybody. So that’s just who he is. And it’s a lot easier to just hand it to him than throw him screens. And then once we’ve started doing that to him, the vision that he’s shown, the natural vision, has kind of opened our playbook up for us and allowed us to do some runs that receivers normally don’t do.”

TE George Kittle now has an impressive body of work as far as one-handed catches. I’m just wondering, is that part of practice at all? Is it something that they just do kind of fooling around at the end of practice? Or do guys actually work on that as part of their routine?

“I think some guys do. I’ve seen guys do it, especially watching [Los Angeles Rams WR] Odell [Beckham Jr.] that one year. He had that infamous one his rookie season. And so I know guys work on it. I’m not a big fan of it. I think when you work on one-handed catches you train yourself not to run through the ball and I’m about the mindset that it’ll never be a one-handed catch, because I’m not going to slow down at all and I’m going to run through every single ball and make sure I get there. And if that’s your mindset on everything and then you react to a one-handed catch, because it has to be that way, that’s kind of what I like. But if you sit there and you practice one-handed catches all the time, you’re going to attempt a lot of one-handed catches because you’re not going to practice running through the ball with the same 40 that you’re running with before the ball was in there.”

My question is about the Trent Williams play where he lined up at fullback and went motion twice. Just when did you guys kind of come up with that idea? How often did you practice it? And then just in general, when you’re going to put in a new play like that at this stage of the season, do you have a lot to choose from that you’ve been working on throughout the year that you’re waiting to spring on somebody?

“No, we just look at it as the same play that we’ve been doing for 10 years and just what’s one more piece we can add to it. It used to only be [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice and then we added the tight ends and then we added running backs and then we added receivers. Trent mentioned it to me a long time ago kind of halfway joking. And he was the only guy left and he’s probably the best guy you can imagine ever doing it. I can’t believe it’s legal. It’s scary for me to even watch. But no, we did it once. We did it in a walkthrough the night before we left here and it’s not something that Trent had to practice too much. He had to just time out the motion with the snap count and run full speed through the D-gap and clean up whoever shows. And when they showed, they got out there pretty fast. I thought it was was one of the cooler plays I’d seen, just because of who was on it, not because of the play we ran.”

Did he get hurt on that third-and-one conversion?

“No, I don’t think so. I thought he got hurt in later in the game on that. I didn’t ask him that, but I know he popped up from it like he wasn’t hurt. Yeah, I don’t think he did.”

I’m curious what stood out to you about DL Arik Armstead over these last three weeks in particular and just maybe beyond that recent stretch, how valuable he’s been to the defensive line that’s had a lot of moving parts this season?

“Oh, I think Arik is never fully appreciated enough. I’m just glad he has numbers. He’s gotten some numbers, which helps him get appreciated a little bit more, but I don’t think people realize how important Arik is to our D-line. The physicality that he plays with, the fact that we can gameplan him and move him to different positions to stop certain run plays. I know how much I hate dealing with him in camp, running the ball at him when he is on our tight ends and then trying to have a pocket when he is pushing inside and just how tall he is with his length. So I think Arik, even when he’s not big on the stats sheet, like just watching the film and just how he affects a game to me is so huge. And that’s why I think he kind of is a little underappreciated. He doesn’t always get the huge numbers, but when we’re rushing as a group well and you have the presence of him, he ends up getting those numbers eventually, because he is always a problem. And if they’re worried about other people, he can get those. But what he does for us, even when the numbers aren’t there, offenses have to– you can’t just not worry about Arik Armstead. You have to have a plan on how you’re running the ball verse him and you definitely have to have a plan how you’re throwing the ball.”

Through part of your struggles early in the season, George missed a couple of those games and I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence or not, but can you quantify his energy and obviously playing we can see what he does, but him in the locker room and the enthusiasm he brings when he is on the field and on the sidelines for you guys?

“Yeah, we love George and everything he does off the field, but what he does the most is on the field. Because the energy that you guys see off, that doesn’t help unless you have that same energy on the field and what’s cool is you can see it off the field and on the field. And that’s what you miss. Not just the games that George missed hurt, but even when he came back, he wasn’t totally himself for a while. He’s had to battle through a lot of stuff this year and I think he’s kind of getting there. I think he started to get a little healthier by the Seattle game, had a couple setbacks and now I think in the playoffs, these last two weeks, I thought he’s gotten healthier than how he finished versus the Rams. So when George is going and feeling good, he’s one of the more explosive tight ends in this league. He’s got the willingness to block as good as anyone. And when he gets the ball, he can make some plays.”

Over the last few days a number of your players have shown a lot of social media support for Jimmy Garoppolo. What does that say about him as a leader and how have you seen him grow as a leader since he came here in 2017?

“It shows what our guys think of him. And it also shows our guys probably are on social media. They probably feel a need to stick up for him. I know his social media probably hasn’t been that great, so I’m glad they’re sticking up for him because what they say is the truth. Jimmy is one of the main reasons we’re here. He’s done an unbelievable job. People don’t give him enough credit. Yeah, we win as a team and that’s why he doesn’t always have the same stats that some of these MVP candidates have, but Jimmy’s a very good quarterback and he doesn’t worry about any of that stuff. He doesn’t worry about social media. That’s why he’s a little similar to me, he probably doesn’t have as much of an idea as that stuff. And he never really changes and I think that’s what people respect the most about him. He’s gone through some ups and downs while he’s been here, like most quarterbacks do, but he’s the same guy. And that’s why people, first and foremost, respect him as a human as a person. And then the way that he goes and battles on the field, everyone knows how tough he is, everyone knows how hard he’ll compete running with the ball and our guys also know he can throw pretty well too.”

Yesterday, Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay was asked if you are in his head and I’m not going to ask you the clunky question, but do you sort of enjoy that he has to answer that question right now?

“Not really. I think that’s kind of silly. I think a question like that is just giving Sean and myself way too much credit. We’re coaches, like watch what’s going on that field and some of the players out there and the people that are competing. To think that it’s about Sean and I, I know he doesn’t feel that way and he knows I don’t feel that way. So the entertainment of this business is cool because it brings a lot of fans and brings a lot of money for everybody, but I think that’s kind of pretty ridiculous. I don’t give coaches that much credit.”

Yesterday, LB Fred Warner spoke about how defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has been calling blitzes and when he doesn’t call blitzes, he said that he’s been so great at his play-calling. How have you seen that develop throughout the season and where he’s choosing to make those moves?

“DeMeco has the skillset to be very good. Anybody who’s been around him has always known that since watching him as a player. Then he has the work ethic, he has the people skills, so you know he is always going to get better. And then it just becomes about experience. When you’re prepared to do it, you go, but I don’t care how good you are, you’re going to have some good calls, some bad calls. And the people who are good have to have that skillset. They have to be talented, but they also have to learn as they go. And ‘Hey, why didn’t I win this?’ You can’t just say, ‘Well the player didn’t get it done here.’ No, ‘Why didn’t he get it done?’ Did we not teach him right? Did you ask the player to do something you didn’t couldn’t do well? I know we want to win this game this way, but did you see how it changed during the game? And DeMeco is a dude who’s not going to sit there and BS himself. He’s not a guy that you have to point a lot out to. He’s very hard on himself. He’s trying to figure it out all the time and he’s only going to get better as he goes through all types of experiences, good and bad. But when you know what you’re doing, you’re made of the right stuff and you’re willing to always work to find the right answer. He’s only going to get better and Fred’s right on. He’s a lot better now than he was at the beginning of the year and he’ll be better next year also.”

Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp seems to have taken his game to another level this season. Is that, from where you sit, because he’s doing something different or it’s the way they’re utilizing him or both?

“I don’t know, he’s been pretty good since he got in. Football isn’t always about taking your game to another level. It is, but it’s also about opportunities too. And he’s two years off an injury, I think. Usually in your second year, you’re a little bit better than your first year off the injury, but I know how good he was before that. And I know how good he was last year. They’re throwing the ball a little bit more. [Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew] Stafford has helped him some, but he was pretty dang good when [Detroit Lions QB] Jared [Goff] was there too. And also, the more experience he has, everyone knows how smart he is, how talented he is and he’s a guy that as long as his skills aren’t diminishing, which they’re no. He’s only going to get better because, to me, it’s not just his body, it’s his mind and how he prepares and kind of his natural feel of the game. And usually the great ones are like that.”

How impressive or hard is it to establish the kind of rush defensively you get, while also being so formidable stopping the run?

“I think it’s a fine line. I personally hate going against D-lines, running the ball, that play like ours. It’s hard to go against guys who, yeah, you’re rushing the passer, but it’s not just rushing the passer, you’re just penetrating every play, which is a lot easier to get to the quarterback when you’re penetrating. But you still have to be able to react to the run and when you can blow up O-lineman, whether you’re in the gap or not, sometimes you’re knocking them into the gap. And it allows things kind of to be defined for our linebackers. So it puts a lot of stress on an O-line when you’re like that, but you have to have good linebackers who can feel and play off them because those gaps aren’t always just set in stone. And I think we have three good linebackers who can feel it very well and I also think our D-line’s pretty good.”