Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – December 16, 2020

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“All right guys, injuries for practice today: not likely to practice would be [OL Daniel] Brunskill, shoulder sprain, we’ve got [OL Hroniss] Grasu, knee, [RB] Raheem [Mostert], ankle and [WR] Deebo [Samuel], hamstring. Limited today will most likely be [DL] D.J. [Jones] with his ankle, [CB Emmanuel] Moseley, hamstring, [LB] Fred Warner with a stinger, [CB] K’Waun [Williams] with his ankle. That’s it. Go ahead.”

Have you made a decision whether QB Nick Mullens or QB C.J. Beathard will start for you on Sunday at Dallas?

“Yeah, I plan on Nick starting. We’ll always see what goes on in practice, but Nick’s the guy we’ll start out with and we’ll see how it goes.”

I’ve got kind of a, I guess, an obvious question because you always want to make great use of every draft pick every year, but a lot of focus is on your high-profile free agents. You’re going to be losing, likely, a fair amount of role players. I think you could have anywhere from eight to maybe 10 draft picks. Would there be extra pressure or whatever, I don’t know, to just kind of restore maybe the guts of the roster via the draft this spring?

“Yeah, I think that’s important every year. I think we built that pretty well our first couple of years, our first three drafts, and then we’ve made some risks to try to get our team over the hump to get to the Super Bowl, which obviously we did. Last year was tough because we had to deal with not having those draft picks from that. So, we tried to make the best picks that we had to fill some immediate holes, but that’s why this year’s draft is so important, too. We took one year basically off of getting a full draft last year because of what we risked to get to the Super Bowl and that’s how we had to come into this year. Yeah, you’re going to lose some free agents, but we don’t plan on losing all of them. We also know we’ve got to be very good with the draft and that’s usually what’s the difference in building a consistent winner.”

With OL Tom Compton’s issue and OL Colton McKivitz going on the COVID list, I’m having a hard time figuring out who the next guy is at guard. Is OL Tony Bergstrom able to play that position? Is he sort of a guy that can play multiple spots?

“Yeah, he better be or we’ll have to try [K] Robbie [Gould] there or somebody. No, that’s part of what people are dealing with with the COVID issues on top of the injuries we’ve had prior. So, that’s what just makes the COVID stuff tough for us because of where we’re at. So, we’ve got a couple of new practice squad guys in today, so we’ll see them today on the field and so that at least gives us some options, but yeah, we’ll see how the week goes with that, but that’s the challenge of this year.”

How is OL Ben Garland recovering from his calf injury and do you expect to see him back on the field this year?

“I don’t expect to. I know that he still has a chance. We won’t rule him out, but I’m not expecting him right now.”

You said earlier that basically you’d only bring TE George Kittle and QB Jimmy Garoppolo back if you guys were in playoff contention. If you were to lose this week, would you still want to bring George Kittle back?

“I would think about it a lot differently. I’m not saying for sure no. If I thought it would help him and I thought it would help our team, definitely. I mean, there’s more things to it than just making the playoffs. Obviously, that’s the number one thing, but it would have to do with what George, if he’s risking anything, then it’d be an easy decision. We wouldn’t even think about it, but if he could 100-percent come back and be normal, then that’s something I’ll talk to him about, talk to [general manager] John [Lynch] about it and we’ll figure out what’s best for him and the team.”

What did the additional imaging on Raheem show and when did he kind of re-injure that ankle, or is it a different injury?

“No, it’s kind of how all high ankle sprains are. He zinged it a couple of times in the game, which is going to happen to him a lot, but it felt just a little worse than normal. He’s not practicing today, but the imaging, basically we feel pretty good that he’ll be able to get there at the end of the week. So, it’s, I think, hurt a little bit more than usual, but the imaging was somewhat positive. We’re going to take care of him today and allow him to rest and hopefully it’ll feel a little bit better tomorrow.”

Have you considered letting OL Justin Skule or someone else get some looks at right tackle or what are your thoughts on that spot and how T Mike McGlinchey is playing right now?

“No, I haven’t considered that at all. Mike McGlinchey’s our right tackle and I feel very good about our right tackle. Do I think he’s playing the best he can? No. I get the attention he got, especially getting that holding call on the last play and getting beat in protection there, but also going against a good rusher, that doesn’t give an excuse of it, but I’m not going to sit and make a huge judgment off of that. McGlinchey played very good winning football for us last year. I do not think he’s the reason we’re struggling. I think it’s a collective deal and I’m very happy with McGlinchey here and I know John and I would do that all over again if we had the choice to.”

Wondering about the Cowboys. What can you say about them on both sides of the ball and how are you preparing for them this week?

“I think the Cowboys are figuring it out right now. They had some consistency on their offense over the last couple of years with the same coordinator, the quarterbacks, a lot of talent at wideout, running back and O-Line. Went through a ton of injuries, then lost their quarterback, which is a huge challenge for anybody. Then you look at their defense, I mean, just changing personnel and stuff like that and going to a new scheme and that’s a challenge on everybody when you don’t get an offseason. Now watching them, you hear early in the year with some numbers and stuff like that, but I’m watching it for the first time and there’s a reason they’ve been playing good football lately. I see a defense that has got a lot of talent. I know that their offense and defense has been hurt, probably as bad by injuries as anyone in the league, probably right after us. So, I know what that’s like, but I see guys playing hard and I see a defense that’s playing very good right now with some good players. Anytime you have an offense that is down to their second quarterback, which he’s a very good one in [Dallas Cowboys QB] Andy [Dalton], I mean, he’s played a lot of very good ball in his career. I know they only have one O-Lineman left from their first game of the year, which those are the challenges. Those are some things that I can relate to a little bit, but I think they’re coming together and playing the best ball they’ve played right now throughout this year.”

Back to Nick Mullens. Aside from his turnovers, what do you especially like to see from him and I guess how beneficial would this start and maybe the next couple of games be for him towards 2021, whether you want to bring him back or not?

“I think it’s big for him. It’s big for everybody. You evaluate a whole year as a coach. The taste that stays in your mouth a little bit is usually how it ends. That’s why as a coach just being through it, I’ve made some good decisions off that and some bad ones. So, you’ve got to really kind of get away for a couple of weeks usually. Let the emotions get out and take some time to watch 16 weeks of football and then you also look into what’s available and what you can get and how you can upgrade. Nick’s played some good football for us. He really has and he’s got some numbers to back that up. Some of the positions we’ve put Nick in and some of the plays that he has made are very impressive for a backup quarterback. I always feel that the backup quarterback, if they play too long, no one’s going to like them that much because backups aren’t the starter. That’s why backups are meant to come in for one to three games. Now, Nick and C.J. have both been in some tough situations where they got to play a lot and that’s why I try not to go too hard because I think some of these situations, the rest of our team hasn’t been there either. Nick, first and foremost, if he wants to stay out there, he’s got to stop turning the ball over, but I think when you look back to Sunday night, I think the other thing that sticks out the most is he missed a number of open throws, just throwing over guys’ heads, I guess, about four of them right now. I think that really sticks out to people and sticks out to fans and stuff, and it does to me, also. Nick needs to make those throws and he’s capable of making those throws, but I also know it doesn’t help when you have nine drops on top of that. So, to make one guy the center of attention and everything, I know emotionally how everyone feels. I feel that way too at times, but that’s why you’ve got to study the tape and really think about it and do what’s best for the team. As you guys know, I do believe in C.J. and I almost put him in in that game. He just didn’t have time to warm up and then Nick took us on a touchdown. Thought about it for two days. Nick’s going to get the start week unless something goes crazy in practice, but they’re both ready to play. C.J. gets plenty of reps and they’re in a situation like I kind of said all year, I see both of them as backups for us right now. They’re trying to prove that they’re capable of being starters and they haven’t proved that fully. They could be more consistent with that.”

I know you’ve spoken about DL Ronald Blair III and the issues with his surgery and that he had a follow-up, but as far as long-term for him, now that that secondary issue was taken care of, is he on the right track to be back for 2021?

“I believe so. I haven’t talked to Ronnie about it in a little bit. I know there was some negative things that happened with the surgery and stuff. So, Ronnie’s got to get that fixed and I’m not sure where he is exactly right now with that, but I really hope it does. Ronnie is a very good player, a guy who’s helped us a ton. I know a lot of people in this league think fairly highly of him and I know he can play football if his knee’s right. That’s something I hope he has better luck with here in this offseason.”

Going back to Mike McGlinchey and the offensive line, do you think that sometimes they get a bad rap because their mistakes happen at the most inopportune times at, let’s say, big moments?

“Yeah, I do. And it’s, when you get beat, you’re going to get called out. That’s part of our business. McGlinchey had a big holding call. We did some stupid things on offense that made it seem like we weren’t going to be in that game and we had a chance to show some light at the end and right when we got a little bit going, he had a big holding call. So, I get why that sticks out. Also, when you get beat in protection and the quarterback gets hit, that’s the only time they’re going to notice you, which is all right. I mean, it’s not all right, but it’s part of the business. We’re happy with what McGlinchey does for us. I think he does a very good job in the run game, really, almost as good as anyone. I think he’s getting better in the pass game, but by no means do I not think he can be a very good tackle for us, whether it’s right side or left side. He’s made of the right stuff and when you get beat in this league, it’s how you respond. I think you’ve got a tough enough man and I think you’ve got a guy who’s invested enough that everything he goes through, he’ll figure out a way to get better. His first two years in the league, each offseason he’s gotten better. I thought he came into this offseason better. He’s had a little setback here in the last few weeks, but I think he’ll step back big this week and I think this will lead to a better season in year four for him.”

FB Kyle Juszczyk is a finalist for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. Can you just talk a little bit about what he’s brought to the team in that way over the years?

“Kyle’s as consistent of a person as I’ve really been around. He’s the only guy that, I kind of make fun of him a little bit for being a Harvard guy because it’s obvious why. When we Zoom meet with all our players, he’s the only one who looks like he got up, showered, combed his hair, shaved and is sitting right at his desk ready to meet, even though they’re still in their bedrooms. Everything he eats, I think he’s only been eating vegetables since he was eight or something. He’s just so by the book in all that stuff, that’s why he’s going to succeed in whatever he does. Not to mention, how good of a football player he is. I mean, the guy is fearless, he’s smart on the field. Most times you get people who are that smart and then they get to the field and they try to play with their brain and they just hesitate left and right because they overthink things. Kyle is one of the smartest guys, most prepared guys I’ve been around, but he reacts in plays and that’s why he’s a hell of a football player, too, and a hell of a person.”

On the broadcast the other day, they showed Jimmy sitting in the press box taking notes and things. I’m just wondering, what are some of the things that he can do during this to kind of stay involved, how much communication you have with him, things like that?

“I see Jimmy in all our Zoom meetings. Can’t have much in person. He comes to every meeting and most of it’s directed towards Nick and C.J. and [QB] Josh [Johnson], the guys who got reps at practice. Then he comes to all the game meetings and besides that, he’s rehabbing every time. So, he’s in all the meetings hearing us coach, but besides that, he’s working on his own, really, with George and a couple of guys trying to get back to where, I know he’s trying to at least get into practice. It’s a little different with the quarterback, too. Like George, we can get into practice today and it doesn’t affect as much, but there’s only one quarterback out there. We’ve got to get him in to where he’s healthy enough to come in and practice, but we’re not going to do that until we feel there’s at least a chance for him to be able to play and protect himself.”

It seemed like relatively recently everyone felt like it takes receivers maybe at least two years or three years until, I don’t know, they’re fully developed and ready. It’s not just this year, but I guess it’s most notable this year without really an offseason program, Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson and Dallas Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb and WR Brandon Aiyuk, and all these guys. Has something changed, I don’t know, with NFL offenses or these guys that allows them to transition a little better to the NFL, if that makes sense?

“Yeah. I know the thing is it takes receivers time, but I can’t think off the top of my head, but there’s definitely a receiver that can contradict any of that stuff. I don’t think anything’s changed with times. I think the players you mentioned are really good players, but they came out pretty good players. Aiyuk’s having a very good season, doing a good job for us and playing like more than a rookie, but Aiyuk has not arrived yet. He can get a lot better, a lot. I feel that way with Deebo. Deebo helped us a lot last year and he really didn’t get to go into a second year. So, this is almost his first year again, but we wouldn’t have got to where we got last year without our second-round receiver in Deebo. So, it depends on the type of guys you get. Some guys are ready for the physicality of the game because with receivers, sometimes it takes guys to toughen up for the league because you don’t get hit like that in college. Then some guys just don’t know how to run routes and everything, because in college you get away with it. I think some of the guys you mentioned, especially like Jefferson, just with the offense he was in and you got to see him run all the type of routes that he’s running now that very similar to Minnesota, the scheme with their coordinator. Aiyuk, you could just tell he was a pro. You could tell he was tough. You could tell how he ran routes, that you thought he would develop well, but that’s by no means, I mean, everyone hits and everyone misses. You don’t really know, but usually you’ve got a pretty good idea of how they handle themselves the first year. Then you’ll know if you got a good one just seeing how they respond in this offseason, that they come back next year like they’ve arrived or like they’re coming back to get better. Because the guys who come back like they’ve arrived are the guys that usually are going to go the opposite direction.”

Obviously, three games left in the season, but after the season, things happen pretty quickly. Have you had an opportunity or have you spoken to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh about, in the, some would say, likely event that he becomes a head coach, which assistants he can take with him as he fills those coordinator positions and his potential staff at his new team?

“Yeah, Saleh and I talk about everything. We’ve known each other for a long time. We obviously work together and he’s a good friend of mine. So, that’s stuff we’re constantly talking about. When it comes up, once you talk about it, there’s not much to keep talking about. You never know until you see what opportunity he gets and you see what his choices are. I keep telling him he’s not allowed to take anyone. Sometimes I can ease up a little bit on that, but I usually set the bar very low and then we’ll see what happens after.”