Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – October 26, 2020

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Alright guys, the injuries from the game. We had [WR] Richie James has an ankle sprain. He’ll be day to day this week. We’ll see on Wednesday. [WR] Deebo Samuel had a hamstring strain. He’ll be out this week, most likely with the Thursday night game, most likely Green Bay, also. Then [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.] had a high ankle sprain. He’ll go on IR most likely later this week. Go ahead.”

What’s the status with RB Tevin Coleman? Will he be back this week for you guys?

“I hope so. I’m not sure yet though. I know he can’t go today. I’ll be surprised if he gets out there fully for Wednesday, but I think that’ll be a late, end of the week decision.”

You almost take pride sometimes in your lack of kicking knowledge, but I wanted to get to the bottom of what’s going on with the kickoffs. Why was K Robbie Gould instead of P Mitch Wishnowsky kicking off on Sunday?

“We had a few reasons for it, most of it’s schematics. There’s some differences in what they do and what we like about it. [Special teams coordinator Richard] Hightower thought it would give us some different stuff with the kicks that he wanted Robbie in there for, so we went with it. That’s as specific as I can get.”

With you guys opening two roster spots today, safe to assume one is for the defensive end Jordan Willis. Do you know what that other roster spot will be used for?

“No, not exactly. We’ve got a number of options coming through. We also are probably going to get another one open with most likely Jeff Wilson going on IR also. But, no, Willis is the only thing for sure that we’re adding and we’ll see how this week goes. Hopefully we can get [CB] K’Waun [Williams] back, possibly Tevin too. We’ll see how it plays out.”

LB Fred Warner has been used a lot in coverage. Was that something that you saw from him when you were looking at him before the draft?

“Yeah, before the draft, it was easier to see him in that stuff than truly playing linebacker. They played him as basically a nickel back in college, so we didn’t have any clips of him outside the box. So, he always played as an outside backer, which basically was the nickel. The same thing like K’Waun does for us and what [CB] Jamar [Taylor] did last night. So, that was the easier thing to see him do. It was harder to project him inside, which he’s been pretty good at doing that since he’s been here. So, he’s having a hell of a year.”

How much do you lose when Deebo Samuel is not on the field? It seems like even when he’s not getting the ball, when he goes in motion, opposing defenses freak out a little bit.

“Yeah, Deebo is a huge part of our offense, huge part of our team. When you have a threat of someone who can hurt you, whether it’s blocking, whether it’s catching or whether it’s running, that’s always is an issue for defenses. I truly believe the, I’ve always kind of said this with the offenses, the mentality of a receiver group can really add to the mentality of your offense because I always feel running backs, O-Linemen don’t have a choice. They have to be physical all the time and receivers somewhat do have a choice. They can get away with a little bit and the physicality our receivers bring to the game, and starting with Deebo, really helps our offense. We’ll miss him when he’s out. That’s for sure.”

This is a bit random, but kind of follows up and I apologize if it’s stupid, but a lot of your guys talk about yards after catch and the fundamentals that you teach in terms of drop stepping and some of those things. Can you tell me how you coach something like that? Is it like looking like post players in basketball? Is that kind of what you’re talking about with drop steps and what are kind of the finer teaching points of coaching that?

“Just the fastest way to go North and South. Drop steps, we’ve said it a lot of ways. We used to say turn in your shadow. Then that kind of didn’t work because shadows were all over the place based off the sun. Sometimes people take it too literally, but drop step is to go exactly, if you’re facing the quarterback, is to drop step and go exactly that way when you turn around and get up the field. You get so many athletes from college who are used to diming people up and making moves and reversing the field and it’s very hard to do in the NFL. If you try 20 times and you’re really talented, you might get it once or twice, but you’re usually only getting three yards after the catch when there’s the chance to get eight, just going straight ahead. So, it’s something we preach to everybody, regardless of what your skill set is and I think our guys really have taken ownership of it. They watch each other do it, and I think they kind of all feed off each other. We’ve got some talented, physical guys who don’t mess around. They get up the field and we feel, the same as telling a running back, you don’t sit and dance in the hole and try to make all these moves. You go North and South, and that’s kind of how we try to coach people who catch the ball also.”

You obviously haven’t had a ton of production from WR Trent Taylor this year. I’m wondering in your eyes, is he healthy? He’s had big injuries last year and smaller ones this year. Is he healthy and can you find ways to get him more integrated in the offense?

“Yeah, Trent is healthy and I definitely could find more ways to do it. I’ve got a lot of respect for Trent and I have a lot of confidence in Trent. I thought he got a couple more opportunities earlier on in this year, but we think [WR Kendrick] Bourne has played at a pretty high-level and we thought he played at a very high-level last year too. Once Deebo and [WR Brandon] Aiyuk got healthy and they got back, it was a tough decision. We didn’t want to have to take Bourne off the field. We felt he had earned that and he does some good things in what we call the F-role that Trent does too. So, that kind of wasn’t really as much about Trent. It was about Aiyuk and Deebo coming back and we felt that KB had earned the right to stay out there. So, Trent has still been our fourth guy, using him and Richie, depending on the spots and we get them in there. Anytime that does happen, you lose a lot of your opportunities, but I know Trent’s ready. Once his opportunity comes up, my confidence in Trent hasn’t changed at all. It’s just been more about the other guys.”

How do you think the safeties played yesterday and what’s the latest on DB Jimmie Ward and S Jaquiski Tartt?

“I thought they played very well. Those guys always come in, fly around and hit. I call them our goon squad because when they come in, they’re a hundred miles per hour and they’re trying to run through everything, which is really fun to watch. Sometimes when you’re like that, you get a little amped up and make some mistakes and those guys limited those yesterday. They were on their stuff, they were on their reads. They never hesitated. They were a physical presence out there and didn’t leave many holes in the coverage, either. Then Tartt and Jimmie, I’m hoping they’ll both come back this week, but they’re in the same boat a lot of other guys are. We’re going to try, but we really won’t know until the end of the week.”

A couple of weeks ago when you guys were struggling, I think it was TE George Kittle who said that he thought that once the run blocking gets more consistent, the confidence will kind of shift to the pass blocking. I’m wondering if you’ve seen that dynamic with your pass protection and if so, is that going to set up some more downfield strikes moving forward?

“Yeah, anytime you’re running the ball well and staying balanced like we’ve been able to in the last few weeks, I think that adds confidence to everything. It makes guys’ jobs a lot easier, not just in the run game, but also the pass game. So, it’s been great with the guys. Just the more healthy we got, the more consistent we have being out there. Just playing through some of these games and fighting through some of how we felt a little bit, I think we’ve gotten over that hump. I just think the conditioning of our team and the aggressiveness of our team has really showed and that started in the run game. I do think that leads to other stuff. I think it’s helped us a ton in the pass game, too, these last couple of weeks. It depends how people play us, but I thought we had some opportunities to go down the field yesterday, hit a couple of them and the more people want to get aggressive, the more we’ll do it, but we’ll take what they give us. Whether we have to go short or deep, I think our guys are pretty good at getting the yards regardless.”

Last year with Deebo, it seemed like early in the season, just getting him integrated into the NFL was sort of about getting him involved by running plays or some gadget plays and you did some similar things with Aiyuk when he first started playing. Then, obviously a hundred-yard game yesterday, more throws down field. What’s your philosophy on altering your game plan to where you think receivers are in their development in terms of just getting them the ball and on those running plays or swing plays, whatever, and versus going downfield?

“I try to do whatever I think is going to work. I wouldn’t give the guys those run plays if we didn’t think they were good at it. It’s not like we just do that for everybody. That’s the skill set those guys are good at and they can handle, so it’s makes it a lot easier for us. You’re going to get the ball if you can do that because the coverage and stuff doesn’t matter. We can just hand it off to you and when you can do that, it gives you more opportunities to make plays because you’re touching it, but the more you can do in the routes and the more you’re consistent at it, the more opportunities you get. I think those guys are both, they’re not there yet, but I think they’re both getting better in a lot of ways and I think they’re both – Deebo, when he came in as a rookie, had to play a lot for us right away. The more he played, the better he got at all that stuff. It’s cool when you have more resources then just running routes because that’s what allows you to be out there as you develop in other areas. A lot of receivers who come into this league, it takes them a while to develop how to beat NFL coverages and to beat man-to-man in the NFL. These guys have been able to do it right away, but as you wait for them to reach their full potential, it’s not hard having them out there because they can make so many plays in so many other ways, which allows us to keep them out there more consistently.”

Obviously, the NFL is so week to week. If you guys have a bad performance in Seattle where you’ll be back to stinking again. Just, not because you didn’t have confidence in your team, but just because the injuries and the way the Eagles and particularly Dolphins game went, do you ever have like at least moments of doubt, like maybe this isn’t the year for us at any time during that stretch?

“I understand the challenges that happen just like everyone else does and when you do have injuries and stuff, it’s not like you get more confident. You understand that those are big issues and you’ve got to find a way to work around them. What I can honestly say in those two games, for Philly and Miami, I thought there was a lot of things that I thought we did better than it seemed, especially in the Philly game. I thought that was a game that we should have won, especially having the lead there in the fourth and we ended up giving up a bad drive on defense where they got that go route and a couple of quarterback runs. I think we ended up having those three turnovers, one as a pick six and one in the red zone, that just really cost us. So, I understood why we didn’t win those games, but it wasn’t anything to panic about. It was just frustrating. We let the game get away from us that I thought we should have won. Then the Miami game, obviously we shouldn’t have won that game. We got blown out and as I’ve said a bunch, it was a very embarrassing loss, but when you watch that tape and I wasn’t trying to BS the players, there was a lot of things to be encouraged about. There were some things that I did like and that I thought we had gotten better at. You saw some stuff that, guys, this isn’t as bad as it seemed. We’re going to get better or worse from it. If we sit here and we feel sorry for ourselves and start trying to point fingers and don’t go to work, then this Miami game will be the start of something that is going to be bad. If you can look at the stuff we did good and we can go to practice these three days and work on it and get better, not just to be where we were at, then I think we can surprise a lot of people versus the Rams. That’s why I was impressed with our guys. You never know how they’re going to act until they get to practice and that week I thought was, that Miami loss, like I’ve said, it didn’t make us go harder, but it made guys really respond the right way. I think that game made us a lot better.”

The Seahawks seem to only play weird games and they seem to always be in close games. You have a lot of guys who’ve experienced that. Is there any way to prepare guys, especially rookies, who haven’t experienced the Seahawks for that sort of intangible weirdness that comes with playing the Seahawks in these games that always seem to be close?

“Yeah. I’m sure we’ll mention it more to them. I didn’t talk to them today about the Seahawks, but I’ll start doing that on Wednesday when they get here. Our guys, they’re very familiar with that. Most people who have been in the league know that. Any game that [Seattle Seahawks QB] Russell Wilson’s in, no matter what happens, they have a chance. I think that’s why you see so many weird endings, because he can always pull something out of the bag and pull something off crazy. So, we’ve seen that a number over the years. I know people have been seeing that from him and their team since they’ve gotten in the league and you saw another one last night, so our players are ready for it. It’s always going to come down to the wire, regardless how that first half goes with the third quarter and that’s what you’ve got to expect. You try to expect that in every game so you’re never surprised by it, but you’re right. It happens a lot more with the Seahawks than it does everyone else.”

George spoke about enjoying being on a team with a bunch of psychopaths last night, saying that he also has heard from you that you like players to find the dark side. Can you share that mentality that you’re looking for?

“Yeah. I think we’re at a level where everyone’s pretty talented to be in the NFL and I think what separates people is what’s inside. In order to bring that out on the football field, you’ve got to be in a pretty aggressive mindset. It’s a very aggressive sport. I don’t care how tough you are. Those hits hurt and they hurt people. If you sit there and you think about it and stuff, you’ll ease up as the game goes. But, if you can go to kind of that dark place and get your mind right, it can take you to a whole other level, but it’s a very fine line with that stuff too. I always will say like usually the most aggressive team who messes up the least will usually win and sometimes when you’re very aggressive and you’re trying to go to that spot, a lot of people tend to mess up a lot. That’s where you make penalties. That’s where you do some stuff you shouldn’t do. You don’t really hear a call and just are little over aggressive. So, it’s trying to find that even line of where you can take your mindset to a whole other level, whole other aggressiveness, but still do your job. Still execute. Still not have penalties. I think we’ve got a lot of guys who are like that and when they watch one guy act like that, I think they all feed off each other. You see Kittle do it a lot. Everyone does it in their own ways. You see Deebo do it a lot, just in how he plays. He’s usually giggling half the time, but he’s still a little off out there if you watch how he plays, just like Kittle is. You can see it with Jeff Wilson last night a bunch and I see it on our defense left and right. So, you need that from people to be successful and the more you have almost everyone on your team like that is usually when you have a chance to have a special team.”

Piggybacking on that a little bit, one thing that’s evident the last couple of weeks is it that the team is having a lot more fun and of course winning is more fun, but I think that was something that seemed to be missing in the beginning of the season, especially with all the injuries. How important is that for a team to be successful?

“I think it is very important, but what you said is right. Winning is fun and so playing good football is fun, but in order to do that, you’ve kind of got to embrace what sucks about it. Just the grind every day, the physicality I was just talking about, going to practice and having to bang against a bunch of big guys when it’s not going to count until Sunday. That isn’t always fun. That’s why growing up, going to basketball practice was always a lot more fun than going to football practice, but there’s something that you accomplish at the end of the week that is fun. In order to get the most out of just the sport on a day to day basis, you have to fully embrace all of that to where it becomes fun. I think our guys do, do that. A lot of guys, you’ve got to fake it until it becomes real, but I think it is real with our guys. We have football players who enjoy being out there. If we didn’t have football, if you weren’t able to play this season, I think most of our team would be sick. I think there’s parts of it, everyone has a living and wants to support their family, but I think our guys really love what they do and love the game. When that can show in your work and how you practice and it shows on the field on Sunday, I think it inspires your teammates, inspires your fans and inspires everyone. When you’re inspired out there, you’re going to play a lot harder.”

You guys averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 36 attempts and QB Jimmy Garoppolo was only hit once. I was wondering, do you think the offensive line is starting to gel just due to the lack of preseason or what would you describe the reason for the last two weeks of how you guys have controlled the line of scrimmage? Is that just because they’re playing with more confidence?

“I think it’s how the games went. I think in that Philly game and the Miami game, two games that they took a lot of bad pub over, which I totally understood. But, also, like when I watched the tape and everything, I thought they were blocking fairly well. Obviously, with the stats and how much we got hit and stuff like that, it doesn’t come off that way, but that’s a little bit what I expect when we’re that one dimensional. We’re throwing the ball too much. We’re not moving the chains much on third down. We’re getting in some bad situations and that’s something that, from a game plan standpoint and as a team standpoint, something we’re always trying to avoid. I didn’t do a great job avoiding that, our team didn’t do a great job of avoiding that either of those two weeks. When that happens, my experience is that’s usually what the result is. Usually your O-Line’s going to look bad or your quarterback’s going to look bad because those are just tough situations to put them in. I think we’ve done a great job as a team. The way all three phases have played together, where we haven’t been in that situation and committed more to the run and doing that stuff. When that happens, usually the results are what they have been.”

It seems like it was part of the game plan to get the ball into FB Kyle Juszczyk’s hands a healthy amount of times. What does it do for the offense when he’s involved in that way and not just used as a blocker?

“It just gives them more things to worry about. I think Kyle had four runs, which I think was his personal record, but he’s got two touchdowns two weeks in a row on the same play, which was cool for him. Kyle has always, the way he blocked in that game was unbelievable. The catch he made that Jimmy threw to him. Jimmy stopped that high snap and barely got it off, but Kyle being able to make that diving catch was huge, but it wasn’t really a part of the game plan. We always have those in, but it just depends on the situation, what fronts we’re getting, how it’s going and we’ll try to mix him in here and there. It just came up with what they were playing that we liked him a couple more and Kyle continues to do a good job when he gets his number called, though.”

You guys were probably somewhere over the Midwest when the Seahawks were losing to the Cardinals in overtime. Were you watching the game at all? Did you watch it today? Then when you look at the NFC West standings, I imagine it’s a lot more exciting to do so. Do you guys talk about the playoff picture as you’re approaching the halfway point of the season?

“No, that’s something that, and we don’t have DirectTV on the plane. I’m trying to not say a bad word. I complain about it, going on four years in a row now, so we can’t watch it there, but it’s not bad. We always grade our film and stuff, so it helps us for today. No, I haven’t watched it yet. As soon as I’m done with this, I’ll get on to Seattle and that’s what I’ll be doing the rest of, until next week of this time. It’s way too early to look at that stuff. That’s stuff that I leave for my wife and for friends and for people to do, but yeah, for you. There’s so many things that change. I’ll start to watch it the last few weeks because you’re trying to think of certain things and scenarios, but that’s something you don’t think at all about right now.”

One more dark place question. George was saying that he remembers watching former San Francisco 49ers WR Pierre Garçon in 2017 get into his dark place before games. Was that something that Pierre was known for and is that one of the reasons why you sign a guy like Pierre when you’re rebuilding a team in 2017, so that young guys like George, can sort of see that transformation?

“It definitely is. It’s a good question. Pierre was one of my favorite people I’ve ever coached in terms of what we’re talking about right now. He did that for us when I was in Washington like no other receiver I’ve been around and the mentality he brought to our team. I remember our 2012 year where we got to go to the playoffs and we were number one in the league in rushing and had a real good offense, just what Pierre brought to it week-in and week-out on the physicality he played with. People didn’t want to mess with him. They could feel it from him, the anger he played with and the energy he played with. That’s something that is hard to get to rub off on people. That’s why Pierre always had a close spot to me and why I wanted him here. Even though he didn’t get to play here as much as I would have liked, he had some unfortunate injuries in his two years here, but I love that George brought that up because that’s something, that was my favorite thing about Pierre. I’m glad George remembers that.”

Regarding Juszczyk getting the ball, he has in his past an inordinate amount of fumbles for a guy who doesn’t touch the ball very much. Is that, in the past, made you hesitant to use him in that way? Have you done anything as far as ball security with him?

“Nope. He’s going to be so mad that you told me that. Now that I know that, we’re not giving him the ball anymore. I’m just joking, but Juice will be upset about that one. No, I haven’t looked into the history of it. I know when he does it for us, and we talk about ball security all the time. We give a presentation on it every Thursday in the ball meeting and his coach, every day it changes. We’ve gone from five points of pressure to like 20 points of pressure when it comes to [running backs coach] Bobby T. [Turner Jr.]. So, that’s something that he definitely hears a ton of.”

I’m sure you spoke about Jeff Wilson Jr. last night. After watching the film, how impressed were you with the anger and aggressiveness with which he ran?

“He was unbelievable. You look at the second pay of the game. It’s a very little play. Their backer hit the gap hard and we couldn’t crack on him, and so he hit Jeff solid for a zero-yard gain. Just watch how hard Jeff tries to get two more yards because you can’t even notice it, but just what he does to get two more yards on the second play is why Jimmy’s allowed to scramble for just a yard past the first down in the third play, which leads to the whole drive. You can see on the second play how hard Jeff’s fighting and then watch every single play of him the whole game. Every time he gets hit, it looks like the goal line is right in front of him and he’s doing everything he can to cross that. You can see it on the field. I went to try to talk to him during the second quarter. He barely could communicate with me because he was in that spot. So, I didn’t try to mess it up, but I was very happy for him and how hard he played. It was extremely unfortunate he got hurt. I know he was really disappointed in that because of how good he was playing, but at least he’ll be able to come back. It’ll be a month most likely, but he’ll be back from it.”

I’m wondering if you had to make any special arrangements with the players, give them a day off or whatever, just given the travel and how that impacts the start of your week?

“No, it’s nice when you’re on the West coast, because even though we left at nine at night, we got back here at about two in the morning, so you gain those three hours, which allows us to get enough sleep to come in today. It’s victory Monday, sometimes nice for those guys, but it adds to a very long Wednesday. So, it’s much better when we can knock some of this stuff out. We just finished up. They’re going to be out of here and we’ll see them on Wednesday, ready to go. I kind of like it a little bit more that way, so right when they come in on Wednesday, it’s all about Seattle and we don’t have to address anything from the previous Sunday.”