Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
Press Conference – November 1, 2021
San Francisco 49ers
“Alright guys, the injuries from the game. [RB] Elijah Mitchell ended up having ribs, he’ll be limited in practice this week. [T] Trent Williams, his ankle, we’ll continue to manage. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] same deal with his calf, we’ll continue to manage. [S] Kai Nacua had a hamstring, he’ll be out a few weeks. [DB] Jimmie Ward had a quad, one-to-two weeks, outside chance of this week, but not real optimistic about it. That’s it from the game, go ahead guys.”
Do you know what exactly the Ward injury is and when it happened in the game?
“Yeah, I think it was like a grade-one quad strain. It happened, I think, it was the beginning of the fourth quarter, maybe slightly at the end of the third. I’m not sure, I know it was in the second half.”
There was a report, maybe a couple of weeks ago, that you guys were at least kicking the tires as far as trading for a veteran running back. I think your injury issues at running back were worse at that point. Is that still the case? Is that of interest to you or has what Mitchell has done the last couple of weeks kind of satisfied you about that position?
“Yeah, that report I don’t think was anything that big of a deal. When you have a personnel department, those guys talk on the phone to people all the time. That doesn’t mean anything. I mean, we do our due diligence with every player and every position. So that never was the case to where, ‘hey, we were thinking about trading for a guy.’ If it was, I think I would have known about it. And obviously, I’m real happy with how Elijah is doing, but we also got some depth back. At that time, we were nervous. We had to get guys off other people’s practice squads just to dress enough backs. Right now, our guys have been healthy and hoping to open up [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.]’s window this week, so he should be back at practice this week. And it’ll be his first time playing football in a long time, so I don’t know if he’ll be ready to go this week, but at least we know he’s coming back soon too.”
A lot of rookies this year have taken some time to get their feet underneath them in the league. Elijah Mitchell isn’t one of them, you’ve trusted him with a big role in the offense since Week 1. Is there something about him? Like a maturity or an intangible that sticks out or is it just that he’s really good?
“I think that all goes together. I think he is a very talented guy but to make it in this league, especially as a rookie and the situations he’s been in, you can’t just be talented with your physical skills. You’ve got to be made with the right stuff too. He is an extreme pro in terms of, he doesn’t say a lot, but he takes coaching. Bobby [running backs coach Robert Turner Jr.] coaches those guys very hard. He never takes it personally. He always is trying to get better. He’s extremely tough. He’s had to play through some injuries here since he’s been going and so far, he’s showed he’s got what it takes to make it in this league.”
Not too long ago, Jimmie Ward kind of mentioned, ‘hey, you kind of wonder how the Los Angeles Rams can keep adding people like that with the salary cap.’ Obviously, the Denver Broncos trade with Los Angeles Rams LB Von Miller, there was salary that was taken. But do you sometimes think how the Rams adding all these guys and what did you think about the Von Miller trade?
“I heard it while I was in meetings going through our game from yesterday. It’s like anybody who has got to play against them, you don’t want to add Von Miller to the mix. But that’s part of this league and it’s part of what happens. You have to be ready for anything. I know Von’s a real good player and he will definitely help them. I don’t know exactly the details of cap wise or money, what they did for it, but that’s going to help them right now. That’s for sure.”
Where are you guys with your roster and is there a possibility that you guys could make a trade by tomorrow’s deadline?
“There’s always the possibility, those guys talk through everything. I’d be surprised if we did, you know those trades aren’t always as easy as they seem. That’s why I think there’s a lot of talk through all 32 teams, but when it comes down to it there’s not many that actually happen. We’re open for stuff that we think that could help us now, but we don’t want to do that to the expense of hurting us in the future and there’s a lot of things that go into it. So I won’t say never, but I’d be surprised if something that happened.”
You mentioned yesterday that you were probably not going to play QB Trey Lance yesterday, just because you want to be careful with him. Was it also the situations though? When you look back on it, would have it just been really hard to get him in there? And is it going to be hard to get him in there if Jimmy is playing that well?
“I don’t really look at it that way. I’m not just putting in a backup quarterback just to get them experience. That’s great and all, but that’s not totally what you do. I put in a backup quarterback because he’s got a little bit of a different skillset. So if you think that makes sense in a certain down and distance or a certain situation, I love having that option. People use a Wildcat in certain situations and I look at it no different. I think what helps a lot more is when your wildcat is not a wildcat. That you could call– he is your backup quarterback and he could throw it at any time. That does help you in a lot of schematic situations. Most people lean towards red zone and short yardage, but at any time. And I thought Jimmy was playing pretty good versus Detroit and we did that. Same thing versus Green Bay down there on the goal line. So it really doesn’t factor into it just with him being out those last few weeks, not even sure if he was going to dress and him getting better throughout the week. I wasn’t going to just throw him out there and do that stuff, just for situational plays.”
How did it come about that general manager John Lynch spoke to the team Saturday night? Was that something that he wanted to do, that he offered to do? And what was the message that he relayed to the team?
“No, that was something I asked him to do. Being here for the fifth year, I’ve asked him to do it a few times. Haven’t asked him for a couple of years, probably. He might’ve done once last year, I can’t remember. But I was just thinking about all the stuff that we’d gone through during the week and I thought it’d be great just to hear a different perspective. John does a great job when he talks to the guys and anytime you can have a guy who’s a general manager talk that also is a Hall of Famer who played the way he did, I think it goes along the way. I thought just getting him up there and he kind of addressed every player, every position and what he thought about guys and he kept it real with a bunch of people, the good and the bad. It was cool to hear him talk. I think he fired us up and gave guys a lot of perspective and you can ask the players a little bit more about it, but I asked him to do it hoping it would be good. And it was even better than expected.”
Are you guys planning to open the practice window for TE George Kittle this week also?
“Yeah, we should open it up for Kittle and [K] Robbie [Gould] and Jeff. And then [LB Dre] Greenlaw, we’re still not sure of. We’re hoping we can by Wednesday, but he’s got to pass a few more things before we do that.”
On Sunday, it definitely felt that the cornerbacks were giving a lot of room, maybe even on the third downs. Was that part of maybe being aware of the D.P.I. stuff or was that just happening and it wasn’t part of anything, it just was happening?
“No, I agree with you. I thought we gave him a little too much room on a couple of plays in particular. Gave them a couple of easy first downs, especially on that second-and-long, I think it was second-and-long or first-and-16 where they got right back to it right away. So, we definitely have to be a little bit tighter. I was happy that we didn’t give any big ones. Didn’t have the P.I.s, we had that holding. So I thought we took a step in the right direction, but can’t give them those easy completions either.”
First full game for S Talanoa Hufanga, how did he do?
“I thought he did real well. I was excited about Huf. He’s played a certain style every time he’s been out there. The guy only knows one way and I thought that was one of the cool things. That’s kind of why I wanted John Lynch to speak because I didn’t know very well until we got here together. But I always felt like I knew who he was just by watching him on tape. And when you watch Huf, the way he plays, the energy plays with, it feels similar. I’m not trying to compare him to Lynch or anything, but you can see the passion he plays with. And I bet you guys notice that, I bet the fans notice it. And usually when you have some talent and you play with that type of passion, it gives you a chance to separate yourself. And I think he’s doing that here the last few weeks.”
When you guys made the trade to move up for Trey, you had mentioned sort of that other teams had been trading first-round picks. Just in light of the Von Miller trade, how do you view the way these trades have sort of changed over the last decade or so with team’s willingness to trade future draft picks maybe for a little bit more certainty in veteran players?
“Yeah. It is definitely a lot different, I think, than when I grew up paying attention to and I think what you guys all did too, that’s why it’s so surprising. And that was kind of the point I was trying to make during the trade, as I agree, that used to be the biggest deal, but over these last five years, I just see so many teams do it. And I think a lot of teams it really helps and sometimes it doesn’t and it’s all a risk in this league. Whether you’re trading future picks for stuff you can think can help now, but it’s also a huge risk on every person you draft. You never really know until people get in the situation. There’s a lot of things that tie into that. So, I don’t think there’s any right or wrong answer going into anything, but usually based off the results, you have an idea at the end. And I do think it adds a lot more competition to this league and the more one person’s risky, the more it makes a lot of people be risky because you got to compete and you got to keep up with those things. But they all work out differently.”
As well as you guys played and as satisfying as yesterday’s win was, how much more of a challenge are these next two weeks, obviously against division rivals who are both playing well, how much will you kind of learn about your team do you think these next two weeks?
“A ton, you learn a lot about your team every week, and I know the Rams and the Cardinals are I think as good as anyone in this league. The film shows it and so does their record. But in the NFL, you don’t really look at it that way. You can play a team that’s winless and they can play an extremely high level on any given week. So anytime you start to look at games like one is harder than the others, in my experience of it, it comes back to haunt you because it really doesn’t matter. It comes down to three and a half hours, usually on a Sunday, and everyone’s got talented people, everyone’s got talented coaches and you have to be ready week in and week out.
When you say WR Brandon Aiyuk has had a good week of practice like you did or good a couple of weeks, I think you said. Can you just say generally, what does that mean? Is it meeting room stuff? Is it on the field? What alerts you that Brandon Aiyuk is having a good week of practice?
“It’s usually on the field. In the meeting, they’re listening a lot and you’re trying to teach, but, the results are usually on the field. And it has to do with just how you do everything. How you do individual and how you run your routes, how you compete in one-on-one, how you do on the plays that we just put in or trying to script in from a mental standpoint. Whether you do them right? How fast you are? We have the GPS on all these guys and track how hard they run each day. Things like that. And just being consistent with it. And Aiyuk’s strung together a number of really good weeks. And that’s what’s been encouraging about him. And just last week, doing just what he had done the previous few weeks, I thought he took his game to another level. And not just me, but I thought the players felt it, I thought he felt it. And just going into yesterday, you could feel that it was going to happen. And he was capable of doing a lot more. The game panned out the way it did. But when his number was called and the coverages took the ball to him, he made some plays. The play that he made on the third-and-four at the end of the second quarter allowed us to call the next play. The post to Deebo that ended up getting us three points and had a chance to get us seven. I thought he made an off-schedule play. I think on second-and-11, he got about 25 yards on it, which led to three points. And I thought he blocked his tail off too, whether he was catching balls or not, I thought he had his best game as a blocker, as a runner, as a punt returner and as a receiver.”
Is he going to remain the punt returner?
How close were LB Azeez Al-Shaair and DL Dee Ford to being ready in this game and are you optimistic about them being ready for next week?
“I am optimistic about them next week. They were close enough that we took it all the way until Saturday. But usually when it’s not looking good on Friday, that’s why we put them down as doubtful. We held out hope that’s why he took them with us out, but still a long shot this week. Much better today and hopefully that will be cleared by Wednesday.”
If Robbie can’t make it back this week, would you be comfortable with K Joey Slye as your kicker this weekend?
“Yes, I would. Obviously, we want Robbie to get back and I know Slye missed the extra point and I know he missed that kick. But I like how he keeps coming at it, man. He had the same kick a little bit ago and he hit that. Does a good job kicking off. He had that big one at the end that really allowed us to take a two-score lead with under four minutes to go. I’ve really enjoyed the guy. I think he competes and I think he’ll only get better. Last week, missing that extra point, or two weeks ago, in the rain and then coming back and drilling whatever that was, a 56-yarder in the rain, I thought was pretty impressive. It showed a lot about the guy and he’s got a chance to be successful in this league.”
What was working so well with your offensive line in the game on Sunday? It helped the running game, going so much faster.
“I thought they were tied together real well. They didn’t make many mistakes. The grit they were playing with. It starts with five, but the way that our tight ends just helped handle the edges cleared out some stuff. And when you’re able to do that stuff and also doing better on third down helps, a lot. Like it all ties together. We were a lot more successful on third down in this game, we got much longer drives and you get to keep the defense a little more off balance. You have to make them defend a lot of different things. And that makes the game, not just easier for them, but for all the positions. And we’ve been tough on ourselves lately because of how bad we’ve done on third down and if you’re doing as bad as we’ve done these last few weeks, you’re not going to do much unless you’re unbelievable on first and second and that’s not always the case. And yesterday, I know we got up to a slow start, I think one for five on third down. But then we came back stronger in the second half and I think it helped our whole offense out in every aspect.”
Did you watch the film today as a team?
“I always show things as a team. But then I broke up and we watched the entire film as an offense and then the defense goes together and they watch the entire film together.”
What was the reaction on the Elijah Mitchell five-yard touchdown run?
“That was one that I showed in front of the whole team. There was about 12 clips. I always make little notes on our computers that go with plays. That I always do just for myself. I write on plays. I just write W.I.T which means what it takes and what it takes to win football games. And we had a number of clips like that. I go back to like, Elijah’s second run on the game. I think it was the fourth play of the game. It was first-and-10 and ran power and he got stopped at the line of scrimmage, but him and Juice [FB Kyle Juszczyk] kept driving their feet and he got seven yards and made it second-and-three, and it’s a little play in the game, but that play to me shows everything. You need stuff like that, that’s what it’s going to take to win. From Deebo’s third-and-19, the first third down that we had in the third quarter, we got set back with the clipping penalty on that screen and just trying to call the screen to get back so you can punt and flip the field. But Deebo hide in that lane and just watch all 11 guys on that play, just how hard they went to not just get a first down, but to get a touchdown. And that’s the stuff that it takes to win and then finishing it at the end when, you think you’re going to get stopped there on the four-yard line, then watching 11 guys who are desperate for a win, doing everything they can. You can see it on the silent tape and watching them push it in there. I think that’s a very inspiring thing for a player, for a whole offense and for a team and that’s why it was fun to watch that together.”