Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – November 24, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Injuries today. Mo [DL Maurice] Hurst, out. [RB JaMycal] Hasty is out. [RB] Elijah [Mitchell] is limited. [CB] Josh Norman, limited. [OL] Laken Tomlinson, limited and [T] Trent Williams will have the day off, vet day.”

Is there any update on LB Dre Greenlaw or even DL Dee Ford?

“Yeah, Greenlaw we activated him. I think this is his second week practicing, maybe third. He’ll go today and hopefully he’ll be ready to go this week. Dee Ford, we should activate tomorrow. We’re not going to practice him today, we don’t like him to go three days, so he’ll get out there tomorrow and hopefully be good to go for Sunday.”

Minnesota has issues right now, obviously, with Minnesota Vikings DL Everson Griffin, but they’re missing other guys on the defensive line. How does that adjust your guys preparation going into this game?

“Not at all. They’re two good players, so it’s unfortunate for them if they don’t have them, but it’s not going to change what they do.”

Obviously, every week is important for you guys, but when you have a game like this where it’s another NFC team and you’re kind of in that playoff conversation, does that enter into your conversation? Is that a talking point at all with the team?

“It’s not a talking point. People are aware of it, I would assume so. Usually you have an idea of the other team’s record going into it, but no, I think they’ve been battling back this season, just like we have. Two teams that are probably playing their better ball of the year right now. And so I think our players are very well aware from the film, from what they’ve been doing, their numbers in a bunch of areas, it’s going to be a real tough game.”

There was a play on that first drive down near the goal line where every skill position guy was playing a different position from what he typically plays. TE George Kittle was playing fullback, etcetera, etcetera. I know that’s not novel anymore, but it used to be like your running back is your running back and he always stayed there. For you, was there an influence as far as a coach or somebody that, where you saw like, ‘Hey, maybe your tight end can be a fullback or your running back can be a wide receiver.’ Was there a big influence for you? Or is that something you came up with on your own?

“I just think it’s been that way for a long time. I remember stories I heard growing up, that play that was just because of man coverage and to see where everyone lines up is hard when they’re nowhere it’s expected, but a lot of people do that in the league. I remember back a long time ago when my dad had to come out here and live for two months without us and learn the Niners playbook, the [former 49ers head coach] Bill Walsh west coast system. He got fired from Denver and came here as a coordinator. And I just remember stories of him telling me that he had to learn their whole thing, which was awesome because they have it all on video and he could just watch all those guys coach it over the years. But then he started changing some personnel groupings and stuff like [former 49ers WR] Jerry [Rice] had ran for a while, then he’d have [former 49ers FB] Tom Rathman run it. And he said for a while there was a revolt because it was Jerry’s play, not Tom’s or vice versa. So then he had to explain that you can just change the personnel grouping, so I wouldn’t say that in particular because I think that’s how football is for all of us. But I don’t know if it always was.”

I think you said earlier that this might be the biggest wide receiver group that you’ve ever had. I’m just wondering whether you’re seeing the results of that in sort of the downhill blocking, that sort of gritty element of that position?

“Yeah, I think our guys have been pretty gritty since we’ve been here in terms of blocking all with that mindset, but when you have that mindset with some bigger guys, especially all three of them. Not all height, but just weight and their attitude and how gritty they are. It definitely has an effect and I think you can see that on tape this year, especially in these last few games.”

When WR Deebo Samuel is in the backfield, what kind of confusion can that create with the opposing defense, just like getting lined up?

“It depends what coverages they are in. Man coverage, who’s got him when he’s outside, who’s got him in the backfield, those are different run fits, can confuse linebackers on the runs and the passes. You just have to account for everything. Same with motions, same with where guys are going to line up, there’s a lot of different stuff for it.”

The wide receivers, with WR Devin Funchess coming in, is the plan as a veteran guy to just kind of get him up to speed in case you need him for later?

“Yeah, the personnel department, [general manager] John [Lynch], all those guys, they try to stay up on all that stuff. And they bring guys in almost every week and they liked his workout and we’re going to give him a shot here and see how he is this week.”

Do you see the practice squad as kind of a rotating group? What’s your philosophy on what you want to accomplish with the practice squad?

“You always would love guys to develop on practice squad, a 53-man roster isn’t enough. We have five receivers, one guy gets hurt, the practice squad guy is dressing the next week and being a part of that gameplan. For a while we’ve only had four linebackers with Dre being on short-term IR so, the next guy up. We’ve only had three safeties, which means our backup safety at one position has been practice squad each week, so that’s why you always wish there was a minor league. That’s why it’s hard to develop a practice squad quarterback too. There’s just not enough backups, so most of those guys, they’re labeled practice squad, but they’re usually your third-string because you don’t have that at every spot.”

I think Funchess is around 230 pounds. Any thought about doing a TE Jordan Matthews with him to see if he could convert to tight end at all?

“No, we haven’t seen him for a few years and I think he had an injury in training camp and it sounds like he’s healthy now. So, we’re just going to take a look at him, see how to use him.”

Are you getting out of WR Jauan Jennings kind of what you thought you might get out of former 49ers WR Jalen Hurd just in terms of a bigger body and kind of the mentality out there?

“No, Jalen was different just because Jalen was a college running back, so we knew he could have played there. We also thought he was going to be a tight end, eventually. Also could be a fullback and a receiver, so that was a little bit different. Jauan is a receiver all the way. It’s nice that he does have a big body in that size he’s similar to [WR Mohamed] Mo Sanu [Sr.] and how he’s wired. And Mo did a hell of a job for us throughout the year. And it’s been nice that he allowed Jauan to get more ready and Jauan has done a good job when his opportunities have come here these last couple of weeks.”

What do you mean by how he’s wired, how they’re similar?

“Just how they’re wired in terms of how they create separation with their size, their speed, their agility, their hands, just certain ways that they are wired to get open. It kind of depends on the type of routes you choose for people. Each one of our guys is wired a little bit differently.”

Annual Thanksgiving question. What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions and then also do you or your family participate in Black Friday, Cyber Monday stuff at all?

“No, I don’t. I really don’t get much of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is awesome for us because we speed up the whole schedule. And so it feels like we get a little bit of vacation because on Thursdays usually you get home at 10. But we speed up the schedule so we can get home by like seven. And then usually, when I walk in the door, I see about 12 people very upset with me and very hungry and very irritated because they didn’t get to do it at two, like they usually do. But when they come to visit us, they’ve got to wait until I get home. And then I go to bed pretty quick after and they get annoyed with me and I tell them, just let me go to bed because if we win, then I’ll hang out a lot more on Sunday night.”

One more Thanksgiving question. Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving dish?

“Yeah, growing up my mom always made this noodles dish that was really good. And my wife makes this really good green bean casserole.”

After you made the trade in March, you said QB Jimmy Garoppolo is better when he’s ticked off. And if Jimmy plays really well and stays healthy, that would be a great problem for you guys to have. You have to make a decision after this season and do you stick with Jimmy, is there a chance he stays here in 2022 and remains your starter?

“I think there’s a chance for anything, but I think we made it pretty clear that [QB] Trey [Lance] is our guy of the future, whenever that’ll happen. But it was also nothing against Jimmy that we took him, but we do believe Trey will be our guy of the future. And like I said, I think it’ll be really hard if Jimmy’s on it for him to beat them out right away. So it is kind of going like that right now and I’m not thinking much past that.”

Teams change so much year-to-year in the NFL, but are the 49ers and the Vikings in terms of coaching-style, personnel, systems of football, pretty similar to the teams that faced each other back in the playoffs after 2019?

“Yeah, I believe so. [Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer] Zim has done what he’s done for a long time and so has our coaching staff, and I know we have a different defensive coordinator, but still very similar style and very similar defense. So schematically, I think it’s very similar. And usually there’s a lot of turnover in three years, but you go back and watch those games and they’re still some of the main guys, especially on their side of the ball and you can see our guys too.”

I have a football philosophy question. You mentioned you wished there was a minor league. Do you think it could work, like a spring league?

“Yeah, anything could work. I don’t know if it could make money. I don’t know how that could go for anything, but that’s just what’s tough. It’s tough to develop guys when you get only OTAs and training camp and those are getting taken away a lot. So it’s really good for veterans who’ve made it, who don’t need to be developed, but everyone else needs time. And especially at certain positions like quarterback, but it’s almost impossible to do that with just the practice squad.”

How close did you guys look at Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson in that draft last year and what have you seen from him? Why has he been playing so well?

“Oh yeah, we looked at him real close. We looked at all those receivers real close. And we were huge fans and I think he’s one of the best receivers in the league, if not the best. So, I think he’s been unbelievable. I love his style of play, he reminds me a ton of [Buffalo Bills WR] Emmanuel Sanders back in the day. But he’s a hell of a player.”

Arden Key has come on with sacks, I guess the last three games. But were you seeing things before the sacks actually came that showed progress with him?

“Yeah, Arden has got good movement and he can create some edges on guys, so when you get some one-on-ones in there, depending which way the center goes, he’s got as good of a chance to beat a guard or tackle one-on-one. So he’s got those pass-rush skills and I think we’ve been playing a little bit better coverage here lately. We’ve been aggressive in our man, more aggressive in our zone and I think that leads to our D-Line also good more opportunities.”

OL Laken Tomlinson, is this his best season?

“Maybe. Usually I can’t tell you until after. Lake’s been pretty consistent for us. He shows up every single week. He’s been a very solid foundation for us over the years. He is having a good year, but I think it’s similar to his other years that he’s had, but I’ll tell you after the year when I study all the cut-ups.”

Can you shed some light on Trent Williams’ performance at this point in the season and what you expect from him in Sunday’s game?

“I expect Trent to be one of the best players on the field every week. Everyone knows how talented Trent is and the way he plays, he enjoys playing. And he’s been playing at an extremely high level this year. I probably would say it’s probably the best year that Trent’s had just up to now. Just consistency and playing up to that level every week, but we’re just past halfway there. So, he’s got a lot more to go and we need him to play like an A-player this week too.”

Are you talking about versus his entire career that this is the best he’s played?

“Yeah, I would say so.”

At this age, does that shock you?

“No, because we see him in practice. You look at his age, he’s still to me the most talented guy. I don’t see many people more talented than him. So usually when, as you get older in age, the talent goes and you still can execute a level with wisdom and experience. But I see the same talent and I think he’s got a lot more wisdom and experience.”