Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – October 28, 2020

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Alright guys, the injuries for practice today. [LB Kwon] Alexander won’t practice, ankle. [WR] Richie James won’t practice, ankle. [WR] Deebo [Samuel], hamstring. [S Jaquiski] Tartt, groin. We’re going to give [CB Jason] Verrett a vet day. [DB] Jimmie Ward, quad, and [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.], ankle. Go ahead.”

With TE Jordan Reed, opening his window, is maybe a little bit ahead of schedule? Is there any chance for him this weekend? What’s the plan?

“I think all three of those guys have a chance this week, but they’re not going to be going today, so we’ll see how much, I know [RB] Tevin [Coleman] will get a little bit today, but not very much. So, we’ll see at the end of the week with him. I’m hoping more for the Green Bay game, but I’m still holding out hope for this week.”

LB Fred Warner’s obviously gotten a lot of praise for the way he’s playing it. How would you describe just the value that he gives your defense and how much he holds it together given all the injuries?

“A ton. Just from a mental standpoint, he’s the quarterback out there. The calls he makes, all the confusing things that people do offensively with the motions and change of strengths and how he gets us lined up. When you play zone defense a lot, you better have some good guys inside who look at the quarterback and I think Fred is as good as anyone.”

When training camp began, San Francisco 49ers vice president of communications Bob Lange read us the riot act about being too detailed in our reports from training camp. I think we all wrote that RB JaMycal Hasty was looking good and we wrote that consistently. Was there ever a point that you guys were concerned that other teams were coming for Hasty to sign him off the practice squad? What was your worry level as far as losing Hasty?

“No, there was no worry. Bob just got on you for no reason. He just didn’t like your article. No, I’m just joking. The best thing about camp this year was that people weren’t going to do really good in preseason that had a hard time to make the team just because we had some depth there. Guys aren’t ready to all the time and you’d like to keep them on practice squad until they’re ready. The problem is other people steal them off of your roster. We didn’t think we’d have to worry about that this year, since we didn’t have games, but your articles were written so well, we got nervous about it. So, we sent Bob on you, hoping you would chill out a little bit. People have tried to come for him, too, this year. The guy has been committed to stay here. We have expressed our plans for him and the guy had to make a tough decision a few weeks ago, whether to stay here on practice squad for another week or go to another team and he chose to stay here. He believed he’d eventually get his opportunity. We told him we didn’t know when, but it ended up happening the next week. So, he was ready and I’m glad he’s here for it.”

I’m going to try to make this question brief. You obviously generally have preferred kind of a classic drop quarterbacks and you’ve stated your reasons why that is. I don’t know if it’s an increasing number of guys, kind of in between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady and Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, like a Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, that can extend plays, but still they’re not classic running quarterbacks. They’re looking down field and still looking to pass. Obviously, Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, as he’s gotten up in years is increasingly like that. Do you see that as any sort of a change in the NFL and does it make you at any times consider like, hey, maybe I can incorporate something like that in my offense?

“Oh, definitely. I have incorporated it before and it gives you a huge advantage when the quarterback’s a threat to run. If you have to pick one way or the other, I always feel no matter who you are, especially when you get in those playoffs, eventually a team’s going to make you sit in that pocket and make you make some big throws to win a game. So, you have to have that ability, but anyone who has both always has the chance to exceed everybody. Tom Brady’s the best to ever play the game and if he could run and do all that other stuff and still be the same way he is, that would be impossible to stop. The more you can have both, the more things you can do as an offense and the less things the defense can do just having to defend everything. I think there are a lot more coming up, guys who have seen guys run around and make plays and have stayed at the quarterback position their entire career, starting in Pop Warner to high school, to college. I think more offenses have incorporated a bunch of things that allow guys to develop as pocket passers, even though they’re unbelievable athletes and can make plays. I think some of the challenges over the last, at least in my career, is you get some of these unbelievable athletes who’ve never had to sit in a pocket and really go through that because they could just win games in Pop Warner just running around. They can win it in high school just running around. They can win Heismans and do whatever, just running around in college. Then eventually you get in the NFL and there’s times that you’ve got to do that and it’s really tough, but I think there’s more and more guys coming out who have been doing both forever. When you have that, then you’ve got a chance to do both and that’s why you can see that the league is finding more and more of those guys.”

How tough was it to see Jeff Wilson get hurt after the type of game that he was having on Sunday?

“It was real tough. Just how emotional he was, how much I know it hurt him. He was having such a good game and every time he’s gone in there, he’s played very well and that was his best game yet. Just not being able to finish it hurt him a little bit. All of us did, just watching him. I remember watching [OL] Laken’s [Tomlinson] reaction when we scored and how excited he was and you can just watch his body language like, ‘Oh man, here we go again.’ I think guys just hurt for Jeff. We’ve got a number of guys that step it up and we believe in. The good news on Jeff is that it wasn’t a season ending injury. High ankle sprains are always a pain, but we know he’ll be back eventually to help us and he’s just got to rehab over this next month or so and we plan him to get back here in the end and help us out.”

A little off topic, and maybe with a follow-up if I can be let on a little bit afterwards. I can’t help but notice you being the quarterback in those kinds of defensive install drills, I guess they are. When did that start? What was your thinking to do that? What do you get out of that?

“It started out just when I first got here in training camp. I’ve never paid attention to the defensive periods as an offensive coordinator and just watching how their walkthroughs went, how they have like a linebacker coach or a quality control playing quarterback for them. Then I was always just watching it and I got so frustrated with where they were going with the ball, telling them that that’s not where they’re going to go. Things like that, just because I look at it more from a quarterback perspective. Then I realized, I guess I could go in there and try it since I was the head coach. I was a little nervous at first, because I’m not the best quarterback, but I try to go in there and just practice going where I tell our quarterbacks to go with the ball. I actually enjoy it a lot. It’s like my break in the day. I also like talking to the quarterbacks about stuff after it because I go through all the cards they’re about to go through when they compete. Mainly our scout team guys, but I get to go through the same looks that [QB] C.J. [Beathard] and [QB] Nick [Mullens] go through. So, it’s fun to do it and I try to give the defense somewhat of a realistic look based off where I think the quarterbacks are trying to get the ball to.”

Some defensive players and even general manager John Lynch mentioned you’re a little competitive about it. Do you think there’s a good, I mean, do you like being an offensive guy who can kind of get into the mix during a defensive practice, a drill?

“Yeah, as long as they can’t hit me, I really enjoy it. Yeah. Football is very fun when those guys can’t hit you. So, sitting in the pocket with no pass rush and watching guys play zone when I don’t have to worry about the D-Line and I can try some no-look throws and things like that, that you would never try with the D-Line coming at you. But, it gives me some false confidence and it’s always fun to mess with those guys.”

And Lynch did say he comes into your office sometimes and you’re going over the video of your throws. Is that what you’re doing? You’re going over your throws?

“I mean, only for teaching purposes. No, I do enjoy it. I love getting a chance to play sports. I just don’t get to do it much anymore and I’m definitely not very good at it anymore. So, playing quarterback, at least you get to stand in place and not show how slow you are and everything. So, that is a little more fun for me and I like riding the scout team receivers too, because I get all the equipment managers and some of the guys who don’t get out there, but they’ve quickly learned each week that we take it a little more seriously than they thought at first.”

It is such a huge pay increase going from practice squad to the active roster. So, I don’t think you can make any promises that in the future, you’re going to bring somebody up, but what do you try to do, specifically with JaMycal, to let him know that even though his wallet might be taking a hit on the short term, ultimately long-term, it’s the best decision for him?

“I really tell people the truth and it’s a lot easier when you believe in someone like we do with him, but guys are so excited to get a start in the NFL and make a little more money that week and stuff. I just try to tell guys that, a week’s paycheck, that might help your lifestyle for a little bit, but that’s not money that’s going to last you. If you want money in this league, you’ve got to make it and you’ve got to get to that second contract if you ever want to have some savings and stuff like that. So, are you looking at just trying to have a better lifestyle or are you looking at trying to change your life and maybe change your family’s life and your kids? If you want to look at it that way, you’ve got to be in the right situation, the one that you think will be the best decision long-term, not short-term. When you have a certain skill set and you fit, we can sell to a person how we think they might be better for us than other teams and they really listen and they’re trying to make the right decision, not just off of the check that week. I think sometimes guys make the decisions that they do to stay.”

This is a follow-up on the dark place kind of line of questioning that we talked about, but from a coach’s perspective, there’ve been several kind of famous pictures of you in the zone before a game in the locker room. I know you’re not actually physically playing in the game, but what is your mentality like as a coach? Do you have to enter a different head space to be able to go about that chess match in the most effective way possible?

“Yeah, I think everyone’s different, but I definitely do. I get into a very kind of sharp, aggressive, quick. I don’t try to rev myself up. It happens naturally throughout the week and by kickoff, it’s kind of ‘ready to bite someone’s head off.’ It’s always kind of just attacking and going and that’s why I make a lot of apologies to people sometimes on Sunday nights and Mondays. That’s why I like working with people who we all know each other, so lots of times people don’t try to take it personally. We’re just all trying to win, but I say to people a lot, I’m not trying to be nice. I’m just trying to figure out the best answer as quick as I can with as few words as possible. That’s kind of the mentality you get into in a game with that clock going, calling plays and just attacking. You don’t really stop until it’s over and when it’s over, you try to relax a little bit, go home, watch the film and soak it all in.”

What’s the best answer then to describe Seattle’s defensive problems this year?

“They’re giving up a lot of yards. I know their numbers are real bad, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The way their offense is playing, their offense is playing as good as an offense I’ve seen. They’re putting up the points, they’re putting up the yards. Whenever you do have an offense playing like that, usually the opposing offense is trying to play a lot of catch up and stuff and they’re doing a lot of aggressive things. And they’ve given up some explosives, which gets the yards going, but they’re still third in the league in turnovers, which means they cause a lot of problems. They haven’t had all their players out there, which I know that’ll help when they get them back and I’m fully expecting them to get those guys back this week. I see some good players. We know how good their coaches are. I just think that’s how it’s gone a little bit with the balance of their games, but they’re playing good enough to win and that’s why they’ve only lost one. I don’t think the numbers tell the whole story.”

There’s been this whole notion with Russell Wilson, not restricting him this season. Have you seen that from what you’ve watched of their offense? Do you see him getting out there more, throwing more?

“Yes, definitely. Russell’s always been the man. You can’t take anything away from their philosophy and how they’ve done it. Usually, they keep it close until the fourth and then Russell kind of takes over and that’s why they’re hard to beat. It’s still similar to that, but they’ve been coming out right away and getting after people and throwing just a little bit more than usual. They still have a run that’s the same as something that you’ve got to respect that they can get after you with like they have to teams over the years, but Russell in the fourth quarter over the years, he’s looking like that throughout all four quarters. And not just by how he plays, but the style, kind of letting it go, and the way they’re calling plays. They’ve got receivers and tight ends playing at a very high level, too, with Russell. So, you can understand why they’re doing it.”

Quarterbacks have talked or I’ve heard former San Francisco 49ers QB Steve Young, maybe, just talking about quarterbacks that they reach a point in their career where their physical skills haven’t diminished to the point, but they’re mentally so sharp that they can toy with defenses. A lot of guys just can’t ever reach that point because they get too old or whatever the case is. Do you see maybe Russell nearing that point where he has that level of mastery?

“Oh yeah, definitely. When you’re an athlete like Russell is, but then you have the reps that he has over time. Going back to watching him at NC State, he’s always been such a poise player that the game just seems slow motion for. When you’re a player who it seems like you can play in slow motion, you see so much stuff, you let the game come to you and just how long he’s been doing it. Whether doing it in rhythm or doing it off schedule, he’s seen so many different defenses. He’s played with so many different players and when you have the skill set he does, you have the mindset he does, and then you have the experience he does, that’s usually what happens. That’s what you see with, Russell’s not there yet in terms of age and stuff, but that’s what you see with all the older guys, [New Orleans Saints QB] Drew [Brees] and Tom and [Pittsburgh Steelers QB] Ben [Roethlisberger]. They all are unbelievable talents still at their age, but it’s their experience and stuff that makes them really hard to deal with.”

To a layman, when watching your offense every week, it seems like there’s a handful of things you do that are different, maybe you haven’t done in recent weeks or even so far this season. When you’re doing things like that, is that just something you install early in the week or does the genesis of some of those things happen in the offseason program and you’re just able to call upon that when you install for the weekly game plan?

“No, that always happens from Monday night to Tuesday night, at least first and second down. Then we try to do stuff for third down and short yardage and goal line tonight, and then we’ll do all our red zone stuff on Thursday. But no, that’s what we work on when the players are away. There’s a number of us in here who do it. We’re always trying to balance things off with the formations and all stuff that try to make things look new and put the defense in binds, but it usually has to do with what we’re going against, what you see on tape. There’s lots of ways to do stuff. There’s tons of ways and we put pressure on each other, really, to try to come up with the best ways every week. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but we never just sit there and say, ‘Hey, this is it.’ It’s always someone in the room, starting with me, but then going to everyone else, like, ‘Yeah, that’s good, but can we do it better?’ That’s kind of the staff that we’ve got. We challenge each other that way and when you do that, usually, hopefully you can come up with some new stuff, but you’ve got to be careful with that too. You don’t just come up with new stuff to come up with it. That’s when you can water your offense down and water your players down and not let them play good ball.”