Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – December 14, 2020

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“All right guys, injuries from the game, [OL Daniel] Brunskill had a shoulder sprain. He’ll be day-to-day. See how the week goes. [RB Raheem] Mostert, ankle, still doing some further imaging. We’ll know more by Wednesday. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] had a hamstring strain. He’s going to be out a while. Not ready to put a timeline on it yet. Then [LB] Fred [Warner] with a stinger, also like Raheem, still doing further imaging. We’ll know more on that by Wednesday. Go ahead.”

What is the quarterback situation? Are you going to stick with QB Nick Mullens or is that a situation that will involve some discussion with you and the coaching staff?

“Yeah, I think after the way the game went yesterday, we’ll think about everything. Today I met with the players, met with the staff, met with the team. Just finished meeting with the offense then came in here. So, I haven’t really had a chance to discuss that with anyone, but I’m up for anything right now. So, we’ll see how that goes over the next couple days.”

I don’t know if you saw this, but the other day Raheem was talking and he was asked about high ankle sprains and he said that QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s sprain was a little bit more than that, alluding that it could have been more serious than a high ankle sprain. Is there anything to that and any update on Jimmy’s timeline, opening up a practice window, anything like that?

“Yes. We’ve had a number of high ankle sprains on our team this year, but Jimmy’s was definitely the worst. That’s why we thought he was going to need surgery for a little bit, but he didn’t. That’s why he needs longer rest than most of the people, but Jimmy won’t be back this week for practice. I’m hoping to get [TE George] Kittle into practice a little bit this week. We’ll see about Jimmy, if he’s ready for some practice the following week, but I think this week just, we have a chance of Kittle for practice and that’s it.”

What are you looking at in terms of the quarterback debate? Are you looking to see whether QB C.J. Beathard’s ready to kind of step into a starting role again, what he can do these final few games? Is that one of the things you’re considering?

“No, I’m just trying to consider what will give us the best chance to win and that’s pretty much what I try to decide on that every week based off who plays. Just the way we’ve been turning the ball over so much, I need to decide if changing quarterbacks will help or not. So, that’s something we’ll look into, but regardless of what’s going on in any situation, it’s very tough to win football games when we’ve been turning the ball over.”

When you’re going over film with Nick Mullens, what is he like? Does he understand, does he see where he is making a mistake and knows how to correct it?

“Oh yeah, definitely. Nick’s smart guy. He’s very accountable. I think I’m pretty hard on him, but he’s harder on himself. So, that’s why he’s fun to coach. You don’t have to beat around the bush with anything. He sees it, probably knows the answer because he watches on his own before I get to him and then he hears it from me. So, Nick’s great with that stuff, but the game’s just not about knowing. It’s hard out there and you’ve got to play well and he didn’t play his best. I know he missed some open throws and stuff, but it also was compounded when you’re not throwing your best and then you also have nine drops to go with it, you know? So, I definitely, definitely don’t think we helped him out very much, either.”

I know you said you didn’t want to put a timeline on it, but with Deebo being out for a while, does that mean there’s a chance he could return this year or are you not expecting him back?

“I think we’d have to make the playoffs for him to come back.”

What’s been the biggest progress that you’ve seen from WR Brandon Aiyuk this season? In what way has he evolved the most from a coach’s perspective when you’re watching him develop and starting to have all these big games?

“I think he’s still going through it. I thought he had one of his better games last week. I know he had some good stats, but I’ve got high expectations for Brandon and I just want him to keep improving each week. Each week’s a different situation. He is a rookie. He handles himself more like a pro than most rookies I’ve been around. So, I think he’s got a great future with that, but I still think he can play a lot better and I think he could have last night, too. So, I think he took a small step back last night and hoping he’ll take two forward next week.”

Are you confident that Jimmy Garoppolo will play again during the regular season?

“I wouldn’t say I’m confident. I think it’s up in the air. I’m waiting to hear from the doctors. It’s something that, when you have the high ankle sprain that he had, that was worse than everyone else’s and was so close to surgery, the only way we’re going to put him out there if it’s completely healed. I’m not going to risk him having to get surgery on it. I don’t want to put him out there for a last game or last two games for him having the chance to reinjure it and have to have surgery in the offseason. So, until the doctors tell me that there’s no chance of that and that has to do with Jimmy pushing himself like he has been doing, having no soreness and things like that, that’s when we’ll do it. That’s why it is a week-to-week thing right now. We’ve gotten over the hump, but it is a risk and we’re not going to do it if there’s a risk. So, we feel talking to Jimmy and the doctors there’s a risk this week, so we’ll put it off another week, see how it goes. He’s rehabbing, him and George, as hard as anyone can and then we’ll reevaluate it next Monday.”

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that DL Kevin Givens would have to be back, start going through the COVID protocol today in order to be able to play Sunday. So, is he back and do you expect him to play?

“Yeah, he’s been back, I think, since like last Thursday or something. He’s been back. So, I’m hoping to have him available for practice on Wednesday. I forget the days, but he had to go through like six days, so I think that’s Thursday to Wednesday.”

What about WR Jauan Jennings? Any chance that he can be back from his hamstring this season?

“I did not get to talk about Jauan today, which makes me think no, at least this week. He pulled his hamstring very bad, the worst one on our team this year. Almost ripped it, so I know he’s trying to get there. Hopefully he’ll maybe get a week or two here at the end, but that’s just to get him a little more experience before we head into this offseason. This offseason will be big for Jauan.”

It appears there’s a deadline looming of sorts, kind of a decision to make on K Robbie Gould and his contract and keeping him for next year. Has a decision been made on that?

“I’m not exactly sure. When’s the deadline?”

I believe, you know, you’re getting your information from me here, but I believe it’s Week 16.

“That’s where I get most of mine. I’m not sure of the date of it, but I know we’ll have a decision by then.”

There was word yesterday before the game that offensive line coach John Benton had tested positive for COVID. Did that set off any kind of concerns or alarm bells that you might be without offensive linemen during the game? And just kind of what’s the status of that right now?

“No, it was a scary thing to wake up to because we had that and then he’s got to go through to make sure it wasn’t a false positive, because we’ve had some false positives before that end up freaking us out and then it’s just a false positive. So, once it got confirmed and the NFL goes through all the close contacts and everything, so it takes a few hours and we were real good with it. I mean the close contact they had, there was only one or two and they were all in mask situations or they were six feet apart. So, they ended up getting passed for it, but it’s been pretty easy to not be too close here. Everything’s a Zoom meeting. We’re not together even though we’re at the hotel together. Even though we live together, we’re not together. So, it’s mainly just the practice field and we’ve been pretty good outside.”

It seemed like the offensive line got a bad rap for yesterday’s performance. You guys did run the ball well, but it also seemed like Mullens ran out of just a handful of clean pockets. What are some coaching points for a young quarterback like that just to make sure he’s keeping his eyes down the field when it comes to pressure?

“Yeah, you’re going against a very good front, but I thought we did block them pretty well, but they also got after us a few times, kind of like I expected the game to be. Then the number of times you throw it, I don’t care what your O-Line is, when you go against a D-Line like that, there’s going to be times you get off on the snap count and they have good plays and that’s where you hope the quarterback can get rid of it, not take a sack, but worst-case scenario, take a sack. I thought a couple of times, the pocket was bad and he escaped and gave us a chance to make a play and then there was a couple of times in the game where we picked it up and I think he got a little spooked and got out of there just because of how it was going. Nick’s a tough guy. He has no problem hanging in there and taking hits, but you’ve got to be careful holding onto that ball. That was my biggest disappointment in the pocket is when stuff did break down and people were around him and he’s trying to make a play and get away, not having two hands on the ball because it’s a matter of time you turn it over and that’s happened too much.”

What was the coaching point on the pick six?

“To throw it away. I mean, his number one read, I was trying to call it verse man coverage and called it a verse a zone, so it wasn’t a premier look. I told him, I wish he still threw it to [RB] Jeff [Wilson Jr.] because I think it still would have been a catch, tackle. And then he went to the other side and the pocket was getting there and I guess he didn’t see the guy totally on [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice and he tried to complete it to Juice. Once he bypassed number one, he needed to sail it, throw it to me on the bench.”

I know you probably sit down and talk about this stuff in the offseason, but you look at the Eagles game and yesterday’s game as games you guys easily could have won. Obviously, there were mistakes in there and not to just dump on Mullens, but do you have to look at upgrading at backup quarterback, just if you find yourself in this type of position again?

“I look at a whole season and then you evaluate it when it’s done. Whether it’s a backup quarterback, a starting quarterback, whether it’s your O-Line, the defense. You look at your team, you go through the season, you try to win as much as possible, then really in February, just watch all the cut ups. You watch all cut ups and then you get ready for free agency and then you go to the combine for the draft and you know your team inside and out, what they just did, their ages, where they’re at. Then you see what’s available in free agency and through the draft. Then you try your hardest to upgrade your team, however that is. So, it’s every position that’s at. So, there’s nothing to where, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get better here.’ You’re always trying to get better. I do think we have guys that we can win with who have gotten it done, but you’re always trying to look to get better guys. It’s just part of this business and I think our players know that and that’s why, no matter who’s out there, there’s pressure on you every day. Sometimes, some backup quarterbacks don’t get in for 10 years or they just get a couple of quarters over 10 years and that’s why they have a 10-year career. And then some guys get in a ton and they only have a three-year career. Usually backup quarterbacks, when they get in a lot, they don’t last that long because of how hard it is to play for even starting quarterbacks. So, Nick and C.J. both have been in some really tough positions for backup quarterbacks. I think when backup quarterbacks tend to play the majority of the year, they usually struggle. That’s why, when you have a backup quarterback, you’re always hoping the guy’s capable of being a true starter. I think we do have two guys who have the capability for different reasons, but they haven’t been playing like that and I don’t think we’ve been playing like that around them. So, I still do feel they have that ability and that’s why I’m always confident to have them on our team, but yeah, you’re always looking to upgrade in every situation.”

Obviously, injuries have ruined your hopes for this season, but do you see the positive side of that in that you’ve been able to evaluate some guys you maybe wouldn’t have been able to and kind of know what you have in terms of depth, like TE Charlie Woerner, OL Colton McKivitz? Do you see the positive side of that?

“I mean, to a degree. You try to see the positive in everything or you try to make it a positive. They’re all pretty negative things that have happened and it’s been a tough thing for us, but like talking to Deebo. Deebo getting that injury in the offseason and him trying to come back where he didn’t get an offseason because of his injury and how hard that is to do. I remember talking to him this morning when he came in, just knowing about his hamstring and stuff and every time Deebo’s come back, he’s gotten re-injured and it’s because he hasn’t been in a position to really be in great football shape. I was just telling Deebo that, I know he was so down that he might end up missing the rest of this year and I was like, ‘I know it seems like a bad thing, but it’s a positive thing if you make sure that this hamstring injury is what you learn for the rest of your life on why every day in this league matters and how much you have to work in the offseason. How much you have to take care of yourself so you can play for a full year,’ because that’s the only thing that’s going to hold a guy back like that. So, you look and try to look at everything that way. Colton McKivitz is getting out there a lot more than we planned on this year. Charlie and [TE Ross] Dwelley having to play so much. We didn’t expect George to miss this much time. Those guys get some pivotal lessons that will really help them down the road and I think that’s what helped our team a lot our first two years. I think that’s why we have had some depth here, too, to where some guys have gotten out there that are backups and they’ve been starters for most of this year, but they’ve been through that before. [WR Kendrick Bourne] KB started a lot for us this year and he also did his first year because he was thrown in a position as an undrafted rookie where people got hurt and he had to play. So, all that stuff helps you later in your career if you don’t let it up break you and if you’re ready for the moment and you gain confidence through it.”

On the last drive on the T Mike McGlinchey holding penalty, I couldn’t tell whether it looked like McGlinchey was expecting Jeff Wilson to chip, sweat or not. Was that the responsibility of Wilson to chip him?

“They talk about it throughout the game. So, you’d have to ask those two on it. I didn’t get to ask them today. I think we chipped earlier with McGlinchey and he knocked a guy off that he had blocked. So, I think they were discussing they didn’t want the chip there because he was obviously in a position to do it, but that’s something those guys go back and forth throughout the game because sometimes chips sound good and all, but if you’re not expecting it when it happens, chips can mess a guy up. You overstep or something and then they hit a guy and you get beat on the inside move right away, which did happen on one of the plays earlier in the game. So, that’d be a good question for those two at that moment.”

Several of your defensive players spoke last night about liking the responsibility of a win or putting the win on their shoulders, going out there as a defense. What have you seen from the resiliency of them, especially coming off the Buffalo loss?

“I thought it was a big week for them. I thought we had probably our worst game versus Buffalo. I know how good of a team Buffalo is, but just the mistakes we made and all the freebies that we gave them, which made it hard to have a chance. So, it was a big week for them. Coming in, they had to work through a bunch of stuff and by Friday, I thought it was clicking. I was so excited after watching their Saturday walkthrough, just how they were communicating and stuff and then it carried over to Sunday. So, for them to work through all that all week, which wasn’t easy, because you’ve got some new guys in there. We were hoping to get [CB] K’Waun [Williams] back and then didn’t, but that allowed [CB] Dontae [Johnson] to get another week there, which I think helped with the safeties and him talking at the nickel position and made much fewer mistakes and the guys were able to tee off. I think they had probably their best game of the year.”

You’ve often said you’re not a raw-raw coach. You just like to keep it real. Do you have to be a little raw-raw this week or how do you handle the situation you’re in given all you’re up against?

“You can ask our players. When I say raw-raw, I don’t have my speeches written down for all 16 weeks and what to say after a loss, what to say after a win. I’m pretty reactionary and I just say how I feel. I’m pretty intense with that stuff, like I’m going to lose it a lot and then sometimes I’m not. If I have to get up and yell at people to get people going, which I do plenty, I just don’t plan on it. It happens naturally, but if that’s the case, then you’re kidding yourself. We’re professionals and all the coaches, all the players, we have a job to do. We have paychecks to earn and I think our guys are well aware of that. Sometimes you’ve got to remind some people, but we come to work every day and it’s a lot easier to come to work when you love what you do and you’re passionate about playing football and you’re passionate about winning, but that’s why I don’t care about our situation. I don’t care necessarily about the record, in terms of, yeah, I want it to be better. But, what I expect from guys, that starts with what is our job and what we get paid to do. I have a very high regard for the NFL in that way and I am always trying to earn my living the best I can and I expect everyone else in here to do it, too, regardless of what I say, but I will let them know definitely if I don’t think they’re following that.”