Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
Press Conference – December 13, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
“The injuries for today. [DL] Arik Armstead, foot and knee, won’t practice. [TE Ross] Dwelley, ankle, won’t practice. [DL Javon] Hargrave, hamstring, won’t practice. [CB] Charvarius Ward, groin, won’t practice. [LB Oren] Burks, knee, won’t practice. [LB Dre] Greenlaw, hip and ankle, won’t practice. [OL Spencer] Burford, knee, won’t practice. [RB] Elijah Mitchell, knee, will be limited. And [CB Darrell] Luter [Jr.] is full, back.”
With that, how difficult does it make it to practice when you have seven guys out?
“Not as bad at this time of year, just because we’re going half speed anyways on Wednesdays regardless. If this was early in the year, we’d probably have to go half speed just by default.”
It obviously helps with the couple years ago, adding the 16 to the practice squad.
“It’s everything, yeah. That’s helped in so many ways. So, it’s been crucial.”
You obviously don’t want DB Deommodore Lenoir to get kicked out of games, but he is notably feistier this season, in a good way. Does that come with confidence, just growing up in this league or what are your impressions of him?
“Just knowing Demo’s history, I think just how he was in college and what we had on him coming out, he’s always been a pretty feisty guy. I think the more in this league you learn to play with an edge, whatever that edge is, you need something. He’s found that. A lot of guys do it that way. Some guys do it separate ways, but you’ve got to have an edge in this league to kind of get you over the top. Demo’s found a good way of doing that because he’s playing at a higher level each and every year. But that’s the line you can’t cross. That’s something our team takes a lot of pride in our team. We feel we are as physical as you can be, but we don’t think that’s something we ever do. So that was disappointing with him. He knew it, our team knows it. But that’s never the goal. If you get a penalty, you’re wrong. If you get ejected, you’re twice as wrong.”
When he apologized, how did he reach out to you?
“How they all do. Text.”
You didn’t get him on FaceTime after you got the text?
“No, that’s usually what I do to them. Sometimes they don’t answer, but they’ll call back and just be like, ‘I have bad service’ or text back. I do it to my kids sometimes and they’re like what the hell is this? We don’t look at each other. We text.”
You mentioned recently that RB Christian McCaffrey is the best player without the ball in his hands that you’ve ever coached. How would you assess WR Deebo Samuel in that department?
“I think he’s getting there. I’m not giving him the best ever. First of all, to be that good without the ball everyone’s got to be concerned with you. People are concerned with Deebo all the time. That’s why we’re constantly stressing to him the importance of doing stuff on the backside because people will watch him hard. I think Deebo has struggled with it when he is been banged up. Anytime you can’t practice and stuff, it’s hard to do that play in and play out. That’s why I love when he can string together some weeks, stay healthy, be able to continue practicing, which he’s done here for about a month and now he’s a big effect without the ball.”
You said one of the favorite passes you saw out of QB Brock Purdy was the checkdown to Deebo, but he also had a pass where he rolled to the left and shot it over to WR Brandon Aiyuk down the side. What makes him so proficient and able to move to his left and make that throw?
“I think he knows where he is going with the ball. Then sometimes when color flashes and you don’t have time to wait for that to show, you’ve got to take your eyes off the look and find a way to buy time. Once he does buy time, he already saw where to go. So then he goes to a spot and now the timing’s a little bit off so he did a great job of fading him away because you want to catch that at about 20 yards. Brock was late to it because he had to be, but it was the right spot to go. Then he had to fade him to turn it in about 30 something. That’s what was so huge by [WR] Chris Conley just continuing to run down the field. It was a three-level throw where they’re separate from each other, but because Brock broke, Aiyuk had to go deeper and Conley was still so deep so we still got those three levels and worked out good.”
He mentioned the one throw he made, I think it was to Deebo where he noticed that the safety was flatfooted. How next level is that? At what point in the quarterback’s NFL development is he not just looking at a blurry picture and he can actually see a guy’s feet?
“I mean, I think that’s stuff that he does very naturally. I think that’s the talent in Brock that you can’t always judge. I think vision and stuff is very important and doesn’t just go into like, is he 20/20? There’s different types of vision of like looking outside, wide coming in, like just the words I never know. But, it’s a big deal how your eyes see things. I think Brock recognizes stuff and the speed of things and levels and he knows the hole and the defenders and what they should defend. But it’s always like, there’s a progression. It’s like, ‘yeah, this play’s going to go to here,’ but that guy might not do his job. So you’ve got to feel that, make sure if he does his job, we’re going to number two. That’s what he usually does. Brock went to number one, which hadn’t been there on tape, but he wasn’t backing up and we had a fast guy in the slot and you better back up. He hesitated a little bit and Brock saw that. So he doesn’t memorize and guess, he kind of sees it and reacts and that’s the coolest thing about him.”
You’re talking about when the defense is playing soundly this is what this guys should do but there are times where it makes it more difficult on the offense because the defense isn’t doing that?
“That’s how everything is. There’s always a progression, but you might call a play where this guy’s number one in the progression but the coverage that they play he’s never open. So you should see he’s covered and that means number two is open. But if you get that coverage and you just go right to number two and he’s covered, you can’t go back to number one. So, you’ve got to verify things. I mean, if I got in there and played quarterback, I wouldn’t know anything that’s going on. I’d memorize coverages and I would try to program before and be like, ‘all right, I think it’s this, let me go to number three.’ Then you get fooled and once you try to come back to number one, you’re throwing picks or getting sacked. So it’s knowing what’s going on, but also still playing the game and trying not to get overwhelmed with coach talk or film and all that. You’ve got to be in a pocket and read things and react. That’s why it’s really tough to play the position.”
He said on the radio yesterday that he talked to Minnesota Vikings QB Nick Mullens and Mullens told him that his arm might not be fully normal again until halfway through the season and Brock said that indeed happened. Can you see that on film with his throwing?
“Yeah, it’s not that you can see it on film. It’s not like ‘wow, he’s got a lot more zip. He’s throwing a lot farther.’ I think it’s about being in shape and like when receivers go like a month without catching a football, they come back and they drop balls and it’s not because their hands aren’t in shape, it’s because their eyes aren’t. They’re not used to running full speed and tracking things that fast and so they just don’t see it as well. If a quarterback’s not throwing in the offseason, they’re born to throw and he throws it right and he can. Once he was cleared, he was throwing it normal but it’s not in true shape. He’s not just doing it day-in and day-out and putting all those reps in. That’s why sometimes guys get hurt and they can’t throw for a few weeks and they come back, they still have their arm strength but it’s just not consistent. I think Brock, his consistency’s there. I think trying to get his arm back in shape and building up and ramping all that up with just the number of throws and stuff eventually catches up to you. I think that’s why that week off, he just didn’t do anything. I remember him coming back after the week off and he was rusty that Monday, just didn’t throw it that great, but by the end of that Thursday I thought he was throwing it better than he had all year which means it’s just part of getting in shape. We know how we can throw, but when you take a whole offseason off, the conditioning is not quite there. It doesn’t mean his arm’s not, but just the consistency over all the throws has changed. I think it’s back.”
In what ways do the Cardinals look different than when you saw them earlier in the season?
“They’re doing the exact same stuff. They’re just better at everything. I’ve got a lot of respect of how they’ve done this year. I thought they were real tough at the beginning of the year. I thought we had to play flawless on offense to beat them, but that was a real tight game. Since then they have how many ever games it is, nine more games of reps. They’re playing very hard, they’re playing together. They’ve added some really good players, especially [Arizona Cardinals S] Budda [Baker] who they didn’t have. I think they’ve always been real talented on special teams. They’ve also gotten a very great talented quarterback back. They remind me a lot of us our first year where we started out 0-9 and finished 6-10. I think everything they’re doing is the right way and I think they’re a real tough football team.”
Do you use a lot of the same defensive principles you did to keep Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts in the pocket for Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray or are they different?
“They’re different. I mean, he’s still a huge threat to run every time, but there’s a little different style in how they play and stuff. He is a problem. We all know how fast and quick he is and if you give him, no matter what you do in coverage, if you give him those open gaps, he’s going to get 15 faster than anybody.”
Brock is very much in the MVP conversation, but when you have someone like Christian on the team, how hard is it to decipher that? What are your thoughts on that?
“I mean, are you trying to get me in trouble with those two guys? That’s the only reason I wouldn’t overly comment on either one of them because I don’t want them to cancel each other out. But, if any non-quarterback’s going to get a MVP, I don’t get how Christian McCaffrey can’t. I mean, he’s amazing in what he has done all year. If it’s going to a quarterback, then I don’t have to talk about Christian. I can talk about our quarterback. If his numbers is all you see, then I think that solves it up. But, if you watch the film then it makes it even stronger, which to me is the most important thing.”
On more than one occasion we see Brock drop back and kind of use lefty footwork then flip the hips and back to his throwing side. I would imagine that’s by design? What’s the coaching point on the lefty drop for the right quarterback?
“Just parts of their action. Guards are pulling, where our backs are going. You’ve got to be able to move both ways. I’d rather him move to the left and throw left-handed, but he can’t do that yet so he’s got to turn around. But, you try to balance everything. You just don’t want to be one dimensional, so it’s probably easier to go the right but once you get used to doing it both ways it ends up being the same.”
What are your coaching points for your wide receivers when they line up? You see what happened to the Kansas City/Buffalo game. How do you coach them on that? What’s your expectation for them and the refs? Did you learn something from that play?
“That’s just how football always is. As soon as it’s broke, the whiteout’s got to sprint and get lined up as fast as they can. Sometimes the receiver doesn’t have the ball set, so they guess where it is, they put their foot there, they check with the ref and then they move on with their life. Then there’s a motion, something like that. But that’s why you’ve got to get up there, get set, look to the ref. Usually he gives you a thumbs up or something and then you go on.”
Your 2016 offense on paper seems like might be your best. You’ve got five top fives. How does this one compare to that and the best offenses you’ve had?
“I’m not sure at all with the numbers. I would assume they’re close. We’re still not done with this year yet so I don’t know, but it’s got a chance to be like that.”
The fact that Brock is in his second season with you and former NFL QB Matt Ryan was in the second season with you, are there similarities in what they can do with their understanding of the offense, what they can see within the offense now that they have more reps?
“Yeah, everybody gets better with reps. Matt was a lot more comfortable the second year definitely than the first year. But, I think one thing that was harder for Matt is that I think I got there his eighth year and he had played for like six different coordinators. So there’s a lot more football in his head. So you go through stuff and Brock was a pretty clean slate. Brock was always just doing the offense and learning and reacting and playing like he’s always played. It’s different when you do a lot more schemes before you get with someone.”
In your first match with Arizona, they played tempo in a non-two minute drill against your defense and it seemed to have some effect. Do you guys practice up tempo? Have you considered changing the tempo and with all the weapons you have maybe trying to play fast in the middle of a game as opposed to just the two-minute drill?
“Yeah, we used to do that all the time. In 2016 we did that probably as much as anyone. We do it sometimes we think it’s effective. We like what we’re doing right now, but it doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t do it. I think we have done it a couple times this year. It just hasn’t been that obvious because we don’t stay in it too long, but we have a whole turbo package that we can go to it any time. It’s just a couple words and we’re capable of running our offense on the line scrimmage anytime too. So, I feel like we haven’t done it in a month, but we’ve always mixed it randomly in the game, just not enough for you guys to notice.”
Brock missed a couple of deep throws in Week 2 in LA. Do you think that that is kind of related to what you were describing? Just maybe throws that he wouldn’t miss now?
“I don’t, but could be. They weren’t easy throws. I remember the one in LA he had to go all the way across the board to Deebo and just missed him on a post. But no, I don’t think that had to do with arm fatigue. Those are the few he hasn’t hit.”
When you guys audible and guys touch their helmet, why is that the thing to touch their helmet? And then the motion?
“This is pretty lame (laughter).”
The motion where McCaffrey or Deebo will loop back around the quarterback and go in motion but loop back around. That seems newish or not. What’s the idea behind that?
“No, I think the first time we did it was 2019. Yeah, the idea is just, is it slot? Is it trips? Is it pro? Is it two-back? Is he going back into two-back? Is he going across? Some people have calls out of the two-by-two, then the defense changes to three-by-one, then it’s empty. It just makes it hard on the defense and you just try to balance everything out and we’re just letting everyone know we’re on the same page changing our play. We used to go like this, and it was a little too drastic, so we just made it simpler in this. I think some people do this, it’s just whatever you decide.”