Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – November 29, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening Comments:

“Alright, the injuries from the game. [LB] Dre Greenlaw, irritation of his core muscle, same injury he’s had. He irritated it. He’ll be day-to-day, we’ll see how this week goes. [DL] Kentavius Street had a wrist sprain, he’s day-to-day. [LB] Fred Warner had a hamstring strain. He’ll be out this week. Hopefully he’ll be back the next one. [LB] Marcell Harris, he’s in the concussion protocol. [WR] Deebo Samuel has a groin strain, really similar to Fred. I’m expecting him to miss one-to-two weeks. [RB] Trey Sermon had an ankle sprain. It’s not high, but it was a pretty bad one. He’ll be out for a little while. That was it from the game. Go ahead.”

Is that news on Deebo and Fred somewhat of a relief that it wasn’t anything worse?

“Yes, that’s what I was kind of telling you guys last night, that I hoped that it was just a strain. Strains are usually anywhere from one-to-two weeks, which I think was very good news, considering what it could have been.”

What happened with Marcell Harris? Did he go back into the game and then afterwards get diagnosed with a concussion?

“Yeah, he got put in the tent for us to check. The league put him in there. He passed that. He went back in. After the game, he passed all that too. The after the game evaluation this morning, he came in with symptoms and when you come in the next day with symptoms, you get put in it.”

Was Deebo’s groin injury– he had something in 2019 I think that kept him out of a game. Was it similar to that where you feel that it’s not as serious?

“Yeah, I believe so. Talking to him about it, I think he was comparing it a little bit to what he had in the Rams game in 2019. He missed Washington the next week and was back the week after that, so hopefully it plays out similar to that.”

How do you go about filling in for a guy like Deebo, even for a short period of time, given how much he does for you?

“He’s been a big part of our offense, but I think we’re in a spot right now that we can overcome that. [TE George] Kittle came in yesterday and made a huge play. [WR Brandon] Aiyuk’s been stepping it up each week, doing better. You guys see [WR] Jauan [Jennings] coming along. I’d love to give [WR] Travis Benjamin more opportunities anyways, having his speed out there. Kittle’s getting healthier and better each week. And our run game has been doing well too.”

How did RB Elijah Mitchell come out of the game? I know he’s been dealing with a lot of injuries.

“Yeah, I got no reports on anything new from him. So I think it was a success with his ribs and finger. I’m sure he’s a little sore today, but no injuries.”

And what does it say about him and his ability to like continue on with those injuries and dealing with the pain?

“It shows that he has the ability to be a true NFL running back. That’s what’s so hard about that position at any level, especially at this level. Guys hit hard, it takes a lot out of guys, but he’s a dude who doesn’t act like he feels that on gameday. He plays through that stuff. He plays hard. He makes them keep bringing it. I feel like he gets stronger as the game goes. And those are the type of guys that last.”

Would you expect Trey Sermon to have to go on IR?

“Yeah, I think most likely it will be short-term IR because it sounds like it’s going to be a few weeks, but we haven’t decided that yet.”

I wanted to follow up, when you said you went to the field judge before the up and out route to Deebo and just saying you thought Minnesota Vikings CB Bashaud Breeland was going to have the pass interference. I don’t say this unkindly, but that’s a pretty brash move to assume that that’s going to happen. Why were you so confident that play call and that route was going to work?

“We just know where the ball is usually going based off the coverages. And when we get in a lot of our tight splits, it can get real hard for the refs. Who’s the outside guy? Who’s the number two? Who’s the number three, especially with your switch releases? So when you’ve got a route that’s in a bunch that’s going to end up being outside guy and you know, it’s a double-move type thing, you always try to give the ref a heads up on it, so he can anticipate what’s going to happen before the play and get his eyes in the right spot. And then it’s more, they’ll call it if they see it, usually. But it’s more about making sure that they watch the right guy.”

A couple of weeks ago you said the only game you really went into committed to playing QB Jimmy Garoppolo the whole time was the Bears game, I believe. Since then, obviously, it’s gone the way it’s gone. Have you gone into other games saying it’s only going to be Garoppolo?

“I haven’t said it for sure. We still always have that stuff up and always carry it, but it’s been more about me. Like to tell you the truth, in terms of just calling plays. We get into a rhythm of attacking a defense and what fronts they’re playing, what coverages and so every play kind of plays off the next play and you get a feel. Our players do and I, of kind of what we’re going to. What’s been hard on me, that I didn’t realize, is when you do bring in a quarterback who gets a different set of plays, then it’s almost like it’s the first play I’ve been seeing of a new defense. Because now yeah, you see what fronts the coverages are doing, but they’re doing it completely to a plan of a threat as a runner at the position. So I don’t know what to anticipate with it. And then I’ve got to stay in it for a while to get a feel for that. And then when you go back, that feels kind of off for the last guy. So it kind of hurts my rhythm a little bit of understanding what the defense is getting. And that’s why I personally, as the year has gone, I’ve gotten a little bit more away from it because I like to get a feel for what that defense is doing.”

Has it helped Garoppolo get into more of a rhythm too?

“I don’t think so. I think what we were doing at the beginning of the year, he was looking like the same he does now. So you could ask him, but I never felt that way. That’s not what made me go with it less.”

I know that statistics don’t always tell the whole story, but since the Bears game, Jimmy ranks first in quarterback rating in the league and he’s also first in yards per attempt. Are those statistics a reflection of what you’re seeing from him on the field?

“Yes, he’s playing very well right now. And our whole team is, so usually with those guys, everything feeds off each other, especially when you go into ratings. You’re put in some more positions when you’re running the ball well. And I think our receivers have gotten a lot better. I think our receivers just as a whole and our tight ends and our running backs as a group are playing better now in this last month than they did. Much better than they did earlier. And obviously when that stuff happens, usually the quarterback will too. So it’s such a team sport with that stuff. And Jimmy, I do think is getting better each week. But also the guys around them have a big deal with that too.”

Where is DL Dee Ford in his rehab?

“We tried him out last week. Hope to ease him in a little bit and hoped he’d be able to go and he wasn’t able to. So we’ll try the same plan this week and see if it goes better.”

When you look at TE Charlie Woerner and the way he’s been able to block the past couple of weeks, is this what you envisioned for him and what has he been able to contribute to the offense in that way?

“Yeah, Charlie has been a real good blocker. All three of those guys have done a real good job for us. Everyone knows how good Kittle does and [TE Ross] Dwelley does a lot of the dirtier work and does things similar to what Juice does. And Charlie he can do some of the things a little more similar to Kittle. Which is the bigger guys on the line of scrimmage and we went into the year hoping and expecting him to be good. And he’s lived up to that and he’s gotten better each week. When we’ve asked him to make some plays in the pass game, he has and I know he has the ability to make more. He just hasn’t gotten a ton of opportunities at it. But I thought he had a big one in the game too on second-and-eight, where he cut it in the seam and fell forward for an 11-yard gain.”

In that Cardinals game a few weeks ago, you ran it nine times and afterwards you said that was mostly predicated on what the defense was doing with six defensive linemen. And it seemed like yesterday the Vikings were loading the box a lot and you were still insistent on running the ball. What’s changed philosophically for you the last few weeks in terms of your commitment to the running game, or is it just a product of those guys playing better like you mentioned a little bit earlier?

“No, I’ve already said way too much schematically. I tend to do that too much, but what Arizona was doing at that time was way different than what Minnesota was doing. It was just an eight-man front compared to six D-Lineman and it was the same coverage every play with it. That was kind of just daring you, because we showed that we want to do it. So that was a totally different case that we wanted to end, that obviously didn’t work out, but that’s not what we’re going against now. But I do think we’re running the ball a lot better now. I do think we’re doing a lot better on third down right now. And some of those plays that we started out throwing the ball on those looks versus Arizona, a lot more confident that we’d make those now too.”

You had said after that Colts loss that you didn’t feel like you had yet to get into a sustained play calling rhythm. I know you mentioned just the stuff about different quarterbacks, I assume that you have felt like you have gotten into a play calling rhythm. What are some of the factors that’s led to that do you think?

“I was just asked if I felt like I’ve gone into great rhythm for a whole game. I think at that time, I hadn’t felt like I did for a whole game. I get worried answering some of those questions because it sounds so much like talking about me as a play caller and when it’s been good and when it’s bad, like stuff goes hand in hand. When I’m doing good as a play caller, it has to do with that we prepared the players right. That we’ve got them in the right looks and it takes everyone in this building, coaches and players going through all this stuff and it’s all tied together. And when I’m doing bad as a play caller, it’s on some bad looks and we haven’t gotten the guys ready to get out of all those bad looks. It’s not just succeed or fail. It’s about, ‘Hey, it might not be a premier look, but you still get four yards. You don’t have a turnover, you still stay on the field, you still get to call another play.’ And I just think as a whole group, we’ve done better and that’s coaches, players, everybody. But this whole getting in rhythm as a play caller, it’s a lot easier, I think, when you stay out on the field longer. And I think it has been abnormal with us these last few weeks of having some drives where we’ve been out there for a long time. And when you get to do that, you can just kind of unlock the defense, see everything they’re doing. And that really helps you have ideas on how to counteract those plays. And I think it also helps the players get a lot more comfortable and into a rhythm and stop pressing so much when you have some three-n-outs. We were about to go three-and-out, when we were down 14-7 and we hit a third-and-13 and right after the third-and-13, I think we had about four runs in a row for a touchdown. And whether that’s because you got into a rhythm or we just hit a big third-and-13 picking up a big blitz, whatever that is, that’s what we needed. Our one 20-play drive, I think it was 13 passes and seven runs. Even though it felt like we were running it most of the time, it was majority passes. So each one has been done differently. You just work each week to try and do it the best you can.”

It seems like you’ve asked more out of Jauan Jennings in recent weeks. At first, it was just like a screen here and there and now he’s catching seems, slants, like he’s getting red zone targets and you even ran a double move in the red zone for him. Have you always had this confidence in him to run the full route tree and can you just talk about his development during the past month as you continue to call his number?

“Yeah. He’s getting his number called more because he got an opportunity when [WR Mohamed] Sanu [Sr.] got hurt. So that’s made him out there a lot more and you call certain play, you get certain coverages and then that game after we hit that third-and-13, they didn’t blitz the rest of the game on third down. And when you don’t blitz, it’s a lot easier to cover Kittle and Deebo out over the middle. And a number of those, twice in particular, two of the ones you mentioned, lead to Jauan getting it on the outside. You don’t just call it saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to Jauan.’ You call it to put guys in the right spot. And then you have to see what defense they’re playing. But we’ve believed in Jauan, we’ve been hoping he would come on and string some more weeks together where he’d stay healthy and get more consistent. And I think that’s really been picking up here this last month in, he’s definitely taken advantage of his opportunity.”

When Juszczyk tried to get into the end zone by hurdling from the five-yard line, was that a reflection of the confidence he has in his athleticism?

“I feel like that question was a set up, but maybe I guess, so. I love when he tries so hard, that’s what Juice is made out of. But on that one, in particular, there’s a very small chance of jumping over eight people in front of you for six more yards. I’d rather him eliminate the risk of a fumble. Just cover it up with every point of pressure and lower his head and go forward. But I’m not going to be that mad at him for trying, but I thought that one was a little not worth the risk.”

With Fred Warner being out and LB Azeez Al-Shaair taking over the MIKE role, what have you seen from him? How has he taken over with this extra responsibility?

“We’ll see how he does at it this week. You don’t do it right away in the game, but Azeez has been ready for anything we’ve asked him to. And I think you guys can tell. He always runs around and plays like his hair is on fire and that he loves playing the football game, but that’s not changing. But he’s just getting more and more confident of where to be, what to anticipate and he’s just playing at a real high level right now. And that’s why he got his hand on the ball twice, one with the pick, which was an awesome job keying that quarterback. And then just being around after [DL] Kevin [Givens] got that strip. Azeez, he’s been playing at a high-level all year, whether he’s inside or outside. I expect it to continue. We needed it to continue because it’s one of the reasons why we’re playing pretty good right now.”

Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was getting criticism a few weeks ago and obviously, less so now. How do you think that that’s gone with him? Have you talked with him and has it all been similar to like [New York Jets head coach Robert] Saleh’s first couple of years where he was getting some heat, just dealing with that stuff?

“Yeah, I think it’s similar for all coordinators. That’s what’s nice, the more experience you get doing it, the more you get kind of harden a little bit, because that happens to everybody. It’s part of the job and part of the business and we weren’t playing as good as we could. And DeMeco knew that, but just me watching him go through it for the first time, it was pretty cool to watch him go through it because he acted like he had been there before. He didn’t let it wear on them. Sometimes that stuff does on people and it wears on their family. You kind of feel it on them. And I don’t feel that at all from DeMeco. I just felt him hunker down. I felt him go to work. And you see his energy as you guys probably have seen. It’s always pretty positive. His energy never changed. And when people know you’re getting attacked and you can still act the same way and treat people the same way, I think it goes a long way for players. I thought it was impressive to me how when adversity hits, that stuff should make you better if you handle it the right way, because it gets you to focus harder. It gets you to attack things a certain way and DeMeco is made of the right stuff. So, I think he’s been successful in whatever he’s done. You just got to give him some time and he’ll figure it out.”