Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – October 19, 2020

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Alright guys, the injuries from the game. [OL Ben] Garland ended up with a calf strain. He’s going to be out awhile. Will go on IR most likely later this week. [RB Raheem] Mostert, high ankle sprain. We’ll see how it progresses. Most likely IR. [S Jaquiski] Tartt, groin strain. We’ll reevaluate him later in this week. [T] Trent Williams had an ankle sprain, he’s getting more imaging this afternoon, so we’ll wait and see on that. Go ahead.”

In terms of the running back situation, with Mostert likely being out for a few weeks, where do things stand with RB Tevin Coleman and would you basically be looking at RB Jerick McKinnon and RB Jeff Wilson Jr. and maybe even calling up RB Austin Walter on the practice squad?

“Yeah, hopefully Jeff returns this week. He had a tight calf last week, so hopefully he’ll be good to go on Wednesday. We’ll see. Tevin, I think, will be a long shot. I know he’s eligible to come back this week. Have a feeling it’ll be another week, but we’ll wait and see. Hold out hope for the end of the week, but yeah, those are our choices.”

If you don’t mind me jumping ahead with a Patriots question, I think you’ve faced Patriots head coach Bill Belichick three times as a play caller and you had different teams every time. They were a little different every time, but what about those Patriots teams, was the defenses, was similar? What did you know you had to accomplish each of those times and would you admit that your teams moved the ball pretty well against those Patriots teams?

“Yeah, from what I remember, but it’s always pretty similar. They mix up their fronts, they do a lot of different things and they usually always focus on taking your best player away. So, they usually do it on third down. They do it in the red zone. It’s very similar to a lot of styles we’ve gone against the last few weeks, whether it’s Miami or the Giants, things like that, but they base their stuff the same way.”

With Mostert out, what did you like about what you saw from RB JaMycal Hasty yesterday, especially the way you used him at the end of the game?

“I just like he came in the game and the moment wasn’t too big for him. We like to keep our guys fresh. Once we lost Raheem, Jet had been going for a while, it was a perfect time to change the pace and bring in a fresh guy. He was the guy that we had left and he came in and was ready for the occasion. He looked good in practice. Did a good job, I believe, with the Giants when he got a couple opportunities. So, we didn’t hesitate to put him in there. It took a while until we lost those guys, but when he came in and gave us a little bit of a spark and helped us out.”

What’s the term you use for those forward handoffs that are passes? Do you consider that as part of your running game and with Mostert out, you do have guys playing the wide receiver position that can be running backs too, WR Deebo Samuel and WR Brandon Aiyuk. I know, a mouthful there, but have at it.

“Terminology-wise, usually it’s just the same as the run plays. They’re all run plays. When we do it to a receiver, we just pitch it to him so he can hit it full speed. When it goes to Deebo, we usually have a Deadpool type of word that goes with it, because that’s how it all started. It was called X-Force, which is a run play and we shortened it with Deadpool because that’s Deadpool’s group that he put together in the movie. I think he called them the X-Force, so we just changed it to Deadpool and then we have plays off of it. So, that’s the word we use, but it’s the same stuff that we do throughout the game between [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice and Raheem. Then sometimes we do it between Raheem and Deebo. You just switch some guys up and whatever runs look good versus the front you’re going against.”

Coming up on the three-year anniversary of when you were traded for QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Obviously, he’s going back to New England this week. What have you learned about him in the three years that you’ve been with him and are there still things that you want to learn about him and maybe haven’t had a chance to just because of injuries or whatever?

“Yeah, the more things you go through with a player, the more situations, the different types of years you go through with someone, the more you guys grow and the more you learn. I think our first year was weird. We just had six games together and he came to an 0-9 team. That year was just trying to learn each other and figure what things were out and figuring out how to get him to the field with knowing what to do. Then the next year we were all excited to go into it and he tore his ACL. So, almost felt like last year was our first year together. Coming off his injury and having that whole year together, where he played a hell of a year and got us all the way to the Super Bowl and now we’re here. So, it’s almost like we’ve been with each other for four seasons, but it almost feels like kind of just one, one full one. You always want more time with that. I think you get closer and you learn more about each other through all the experiences you go through and we’re still trying to go through that. This year is a different year and I’m excited. He played a hell of a game last night. I know he’s pumped to go back to New England. I haven’t been there for a while either and looking forward to watching him there.”

Last night you mentioned that having more runs than the opponent was one of the things you wanted to do specifically in that game. You obviously had a lot more. You’ve said other similar things. I think after the Vikings playoff game, you said you wanted to get 30 runs. Is this something that’s a goal of yours in every game? You mentioned kind of the totality of the game, what it shows you. Do you know or care that the analytics community hates to hear stuff like that? They say, ‘Oh, you’re just saying you just run the ball and you’re going to win, which is not the way it works.’ Again, a Matt Maiocco style question there, but have at the same way.

“Yeah, no, usually when you run the ball over 30 times, I think you do win. I think we’re, I want to say we’re like 11-0, I think, when we’ve done that. I know someone can get the stats, but I think we’re undefeated when we’ve done that. Whenever we’ve had less than 20, I don’t know if we’ve won or our record’s like 5-12 or something like that. You’re right, you don’t just run the ball to win. If you come out and try to get all those runs right away, you’re going to be pretty one dimensional and you’re going to be pretty easy to stop. But, when you are running the ball that much, that usually means things are going well. It means you’ve converted some third downs. It means you’ve stayed on the field for a while. It means you’re getting the ball back. It usually means they’re not running the ball that well because you’re getting so many opportunities with the ball and staying on the field. To get that many runs sometimes, you don’t get as many explosive runs because you’re going on longer drives, which also slows down the team and rests our team. I just think when you look at the number of carries, it’s a very good team stat. Sometimes it seems like, ‘Oh, you must have ran the ball real well. The O-Line did good. The running back did good,’ and I don’t always see it that way. I think it’s a full commitment just to play very good complimentary football. It really helps you stick with the run as a play caller. I thought we had a number of times there in the fourth quarter that we could have kind of finished them and we didn’t. We came up a little bit short and it’s nice when you’re playing good defense and you can stick with the run that, even though we missed our opportunities to finish them, we punted the ball there. I think we had a drop on third down. I think it was third and eight, then we punted it. [P] Mitch [Wishnowsky] had an awesome punt, got on the one-yard line. Then our defense went three and out, we got it again. So, you feel you’re able to run the ball again. We take our shot, just missed it. Jimmy scrambled on third down. I think we ended up kicking a field goal, but you keep doing those things to where you don’t feel like every time that you have to get that big play or you’re going to lose the game. You can kind of stay balanced, help your players out. It gives the O-Line confidence, the quarterback confidence and the only way you can do that, though, is if you take the whole totality of the game in. You understand how the defense is playing and stuff, and that’s what’s fun for a play caller when you can keep sticking with that because you’ve got a lot of confidence in your whole team and not just what you’re doing on offense. I don’t know if I answered that right, but I tried.”

Your offensive line played much cleaner last night. What was the difference between this week and last week? Where was the communication breakdown last week versus the better communication and better execution this week?

“Well, I think if we threw it a ton and they were at 11 guys walking around, doing some third down blitzes on first and second down, there probably would have been some miscommunication then because that just is what happens. When you get one dimensional like that and you’re going against some fronts that you don’t draw up much and guys are moving around. Defensive guys get paid too, and that’s why they’re good at confusing you. I thought, that’s as good of a scheme as you can go against with the Rams, but we weren’t in as many bad situations. We were able to stay much more balanced. Really the way we came out, running the ball at the beginning, even some of those are passing stats just because we tossed it, but it was run plays. The way we did that really settles everyone down, allows our O-Line to kind of tee off and get into the groove of the game. You ended up not having to throw it nearly as much. So, when you have less bad opportunities or bad situations you put guys in, of course they’re going to do better. It’s also a little bit why, I think we haven’t played great in all these games by no means and our O-Line can definitely play better at times, but I think they have gotten a little bit of a bad rap here over the last few weeks and taking most of the blame for a lot of stuff. They have been doing a lot of good things, too. And I think that’s been missed for obvious reasons, because we haven’t played good enough as a team. We limited some of those situations we put them in and I think they did the good things they have been doing and they did it throughout the whole game, which got to show a lot more and when you do that, you have a lot less mistakes.”

That was obviously a very successful offensive game plan last night and it made a lot of sense and you do have a lot of guys that can run after catch, et cetera, et cetera. I guess my question is, is there anything to the idea that Jimmy came in to that game perhaps not brimming with confidence and there was an element of maybe have a little safer game plan for him, just to make him feel comfortable?

“We game plan whatever we think gives us the best chance to win. It’s awesome if you can always make your quarterback feel comfortable or your O-Line or anybody, but you can’t do that just anytime you want. It has to do with what the defense is doing and everything we put together has to do with the fronts and coverages that we’re going against, the personnel that we’re going against, what gives all of our players the best chance to be successful in whatever type of scheme you’re attacking. Then you try to help the players out, whatever makes it the easiest, but they do a scheme that’s pretty specific that led to us wanting to do a lot of that stuff. When it is that way, I think it does take pressure off the quarterback, but by no means are we going into that game saying, ‘Hey, we have to do that.’ It’s what you see on tape and what you decide to go with.”

The trade deadline is coming up and just wondering whether you take a look at a position where you might’ve taken some hits, like defensive end? This year with a salary cap situation is trading for somebody a nonstarter for your team?

“Well, I mean [general manager] John [Lynch] and his group, they’re always looking into all possibilities on that stuff. They’re watching film on the whole league day in and day out. They’re always on the phone and stuff, whether it’s John or other guys, some of the scouts or whoever. They’re always having that dialogue to see where people are at, but action doesn’t always happen. I know we’re not in the mood to just giving up a bunch of our draft picks either. We had to do that last year to make a number of key moves that I think helped us, but we don’t want another draft to where we don’t have too many picks. So, it’s real important for us to keep our draft picks, but if we find any situation where the right guy’s there who we think can help us this year and without risking hurting us in the future, that’s something I don’t think we’d ever hesitate at and we’d look forward to doing it, but those things don’t always come up.”

You had mentioned the PUP guys being pushed back to likely Week 10 or 12. What’s the status of C Weston Richburg? You had said at the end of last season he expected to be ready for training camp. Did he have a setback?

“Yeah, Richburg, he had the knee from last year and then he had shoulder surgery that happened during the offseason also. The shoulder surgery really set him back. I’m not sure which one has set him back the worst right now, but I know we’re not going to get him until at least Week 12. There was two things that happened to him in the offseason, so there was another thing added that was different than the last day of the season.”

Along those lines, you’re going to be on your third string center here with OL Hroniss Grasu for at least a couple of weeks. How was he in Week 1 and has he been in the system training in the background now to make you comfortable that he can sustain that position for an indefinite period of time?

“He was a lucky pickup for us because having Richburg go down, then Ben, I think, had a high ankle sprain in camp. Then we had another center who opted out that we brought in, then another one who retired. Then we were fortunate to find Grasu late there. [Assistant offensive line coach] Chris Foerster had some experience with him in Miami, so he had worked with him before. So, him getting the experience throughout camp, even though I think he got about a week late start, really helped us. Ended up starting that first game for us, which I thought he played a very good game and he came in last night and filled it in great in a tough situation there in the fourth quarter. Never excited when you’re down to that situation, but we feel pretty fortunate to have him right now because he did a good job in Week 1 and he has played in this league and he’s going to get the reps because Ben’s going to be gone for a while. He’ll probably be, hopefully holding down the role until Richburg gets back.”

When Jimmy stepped to the podium yesterday, TE George Kittle let out a big ‘Whoo.’ There’s a clip that kind of went viral on social media. One, did you see that? And secondly, how important was last night’s win? George obviously was excited. The team was excited. So, what’s it like to have George be a leader and pick the guys up when maybe things are down?

“I didn’t see it, but I feel like I did just by hearing you imitate him because I know exactly that sound. George is awesome to have around. Everyone knows he’s one of our best players. He’s also, him and [WR Kendrick] Bourne are probably our team mascots. Just the way they act and their personality each day. George was fired up. He’s got to chill out a little bit. He’s way too aggressive when he celebrates with me. I can’t handle too many more of those hits. Him, [T Mike] McGlinchey and [OL] Laken [Tomlinson] are the worst. But, no, he’s like that with everybody. He never changes. You think even on a bad day he’ll be worse, but he always finds a way to be upbeat and positive. It’s like why he’s a true WWE, walking NFL football player.”

You were talking a little bit about continuing to learn things about Jimmy Garoppolo. How in the last week has he handled some of the criticism after last Sunday’s game? There were things out there about Garoppolo’s time may be done with the 49ers. He wasn’t worth the time. I think some of the worst criticism probably he’s seen during his time with your organization. How did he deal with all of that and what is his mentality and confidence like this week having bounced back last night against the Rams?

“Yeah, I think that’s one of the most impressive things about Jimmy. When you think the pressure might get to him and stuff, which you would think it does to everybody. It is human nature and it’s a very tough position. Whether you play good or bad, if the result’s not good, you’re going to get questioned a lot and people are going to point the finger at a quarterback a lot. The tough game that our whole team had verse Miami with him getting taken out there in that game. Yeah, it was tough, but the way he came into work on Monday, you couldn’t tell. He’s very mentally strong. When things happen like that, he does a very good job of not listening to it. I know everyone says that, but I think Jimmy really does simplify his world and not try to really- he’s not really involved in a lot of that stuff. The more narrow you can be, really, as a coach, as a quarterback and just focusing on what you do in the building and the family that you hang out at home, I think helps a lot that way. I think Jimmy does that as well as any quarterback I’ve been around. When you are having people on you like that and you come in to work on Monday and then you go into the huddle on Wednesday in practice and guys can hear it in your voice how you call a play, kind of how you walk around. He walks confident and tall each day. He doesn’t have the demeanor of a guy who’s worried about much. He has a demeanor of a guy who has a lot of confidence and believes he’s going to win. I think that’s the coolest part about him because whether he’s playing good or bad, our team believes in him and you can see how those guys are in the huddle. When Jimmy’s in there, you can tell the team believes. That’s one of the most important things with giving us a chance to win.”

You mentioned Belichick and taking the best player away. He mentioned Kittle, that if you try to take him away, then other guys on this offense can hurt you. Just given who Belichick is and kind of that chess match, like obviously you still want to use Kittle, but you can use him as a decoy. I don’t know, is stuff like that just kind of fun, trying to figure out what they’re going to do, particularly in that specific matchup?

“Yes. Me personally, that’s what enjoy most probably about the sport. I love dealing with the type of people we get to deal with. I love the athletes and I love the coaches, but what I enjoy is the X’s and O’s part and doing that stuff. There’s five guys to cover, you’ll see how many numbers they use to cover them and what, and you try to figure it out. It’s always fun, but it’s a lot more fun when it works. So, those are the things we work at, usually Monday and Tuesday hard and you practice it Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and you keep adjusting all the way up to kick off. Then you adjust throughout the game and when it’s all said and done, you live with the results.”

When it comes to Belichick, his success obviously speaks for itself, but within the coaching circles, what is it about the way he operates that other coaches envy and maybe try to replicate?

“I can’t speak for anyone else, but I just love his attention to detail. I love that he’s not a BSer. He is a very smart person who looks at football very hard in all three phases and tries to do what’s best from a common-sense standpoint and from his experience with teaching people. I love that he’s not going to sit there and try to make up some raw-raw story to get guys to go. He’s just going to keep it real, hold guys accountable and I think he has the experience and the preparation in what he’s done to be one of the most knowledgeable guys to ever coach in this game. His consistency has to do with him just being himself, which he seems like all the time. I think his players really respect him for it because he obviously knows what he’s talking about.”

I’m not going to ask you about your change of hat after you drilled me last week, but I will ask you about your change at backup quarterback. What was the thought process to going back to QB Nick Mullens and is this something that, is it open ended for the rest of the season?

“Yeah, I wouldn’t look too much into it. It’s stuff I’ve got to talk to both of those guys about each week because I respect the hell out of both of them and I think both of them give us a chance to win. After the Philly game, I knew we were going to try to get Jimmy going the next week and [QB] C.J. [Beathard] hadn’t gotten a lot of reps in a long time. I thought the way in that game it went, the way he played and the way Nick played, he deserved to get the week of the reps that Jimmy didn’t get. Because of that, I had those two going into the game. Then I reevaluated everything and looked into the game that we had yesterday and for whatever reasons it was, I wanted Nick up. I let C.J. know that. I think we can win with both of them. I think some weeks, one might give you a little bit more of an advantage than the other, but that’s almost splitting hairs. So, the hard thing with the backup position is I don’t want those guys competing every week on scout team. They’ve got a job to do on scout team to prepare our defense to play. Those guys prepare Jimmy to play each week. They’re always preparing themselves and I think that’s one of the real unfortunate things for both of them that they didn’t get a preseason. That’s kind of the only way, I mean they go back and forth in practice all the time, but we’ve all seen them play in some games. It’s been a while, it had been awhile for C.J., a little less for Nick, but I wish they could have had a little more preseason games so I could just give them a little more honest, not honest, but better feedback on why I’m going with which one. But, it’s so close that I really just decide on who we’re going against and which guy I think gives us the best chance if that happens.”