Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – December 28, 2020

San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center


Opening comments:

“All right guys, injuries from the game: [WR Brandon] Aiyuk ended up having a high ankle sprain, he’ll be out this week. [DB Tarvarius] T-Moore had an ankle sprain, he’s day-to-day. [OL Justin] Skule, knee sprain, day-to-day. [CB] K’Waun [Williams] had a shin contusion, he’s good to go. [T] Trent Williams, elbow sprain, he’s out this week. Doesn’t require surgery, though. [DL] Jordan Willis had a high ankle sprain, he’s out this week. [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.] had a stinger, he’s good to go. Go ahead, guys.”

When did Brandon Aiyuk suffer his injury and how long did he play on it after?

“I just found out about it today, so I know he told the trainers he thought he did it on the third play the game, on his drop that he had there. So, we didn’t know much about it because he just respatted it, but the way it swelled up, he came in and said it hurt worse than he thought and we just got an MRI and found out about the high ankle.”

Do you know how you’re going to approach QB Jimmy Garoppolo this week? Does he have a chance to suit up for Sunday’s finale?

“I haven’t talked to the doctors about Jimmy today. I know we plan on the same plan this week. I would be shocked if it’s changed. If it has, then we’ll give him the chance, but according to last week, it’s not going to change.”

In terms of Aiyuk, obviously the numbers were pretty solid for him, especially for a rookie. You’ve been hard on him saying he hasn’t arrived yet or whatever, but just what are your impressions from his rookie season and what do you want him to work on this offseason going into year two?

“I was real happy with Aiyuk. Obviously, we’d do it all over again if we had the chance to. I’m real excited about him going into year two and just even talking with him before the game yesterday and just understanding on what the expectations are for him. He’s here for a reason and it’s to really help us out, which he did this year, but him and [WR] Deebo [Samuel] have gotten both their rookie years out of the way now. Deebo didn’t get a chance, really, at a second year, but I expect both of those guys to have a very good offseason and come back ready to take it to another level to help our offense out.”

Is there any chance that WR Jauan Jennings gets in Week 17 or what’s his status for the finale?

“No, it just hasn’t recovered the way we were hoping. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge because of how bad he did pull that hamstring, but no, I was real excited to see Jauan get a chance. He might get into practice at the end of the week, but no, we don’t plan on playing him out there. Wouldn’t be enough time for him to be safe.”

How did TE George Kittle come out and just what is the impact he’s had on that running game? It just seemed to show up right again immediately.

“It’s huge. I think George would have impacted the game just by practicing all week, going through pre-game warmups and just being in our locker room. Just having him out there, the energy felt great. That first pass we threw to him off the bootleg and the shallow he caught, just watching him run with the ball, you could feel our whole sidelines get juiced up. Then just what he does as a player, he’s such a good blocker, did a really good job in the run game. Made some plays in the pass game. Can’t say enough about George.”

What’s QB Josh Johnson’s status. Is there a chance you get him back at practice? And if so, what would be that dynamic and what would you look for to be the backup quarterback on Sunday?

“Yes. I know Josh was bummed out because this was the opportunity he had been waiting for and he would have had that last week. I believe if everything stays on track that we can get him back Thursday. So, if he got back to that full practice, that would give him an opportunity. So, we’ll see where he’s at when he gets here and hopefully he’ll have a chance to be ready to prepare this week by coming to practice on Thursday.”

I think Jimmy Garoppolo played a little bit more than one game before he got hurt and otherwise he was playing with an injury for most of the season. That being said, can you say that there’s been progress? Did he take any steps forward this year or is it just sort of a wash out season for him because of the ankle sprain?

“Yeah, I think he would have taken steps forward and it would’ve been great for him to play this year. After what he got playing the year before, being able to go through his first full season, I think regardless of how it started out, it would have been a good experience for him to only get better. The injuries he had kind of took the year from him. Happened pretty early, I want to say Week 2 the first injury happened and by the time he came back, I think he got two full games in before he was out again. He was really just on his way back from that in those two games. So, it was unfortunate for Jimmy and for our team. So, I know it’s frustrating for him, but that’s why he’s got to go into this offseason and do everything he can in this offseason to get ready for Week 1 next year and hopefully we’ll get an offseason so we can make sure we give him OTAs and everything like that because that’s what he didn’t get his ACL year, which was tougher.”

I know you’ve said a few times this year how this has been a strange year, a difficult year for everybody in a lot of ways, but having made it here to Week 17, I know it’ll probably be more reflective after it’s all over, but how challenging has this season been for you just in terms of the injuries, the COVID, the relocation, even wildfires, all those things that have taken place this year?

“It’s been challenging. I feel like I get asked it almost every week, because something comes up. So, I’m not trying to sit and have a pity party every week, but I do want to answer your guys’ questions. It’s been the year, just one thing after another that you just said for us. I think that’s just tough when you’re talking to the team every day because the season’s tough on those guys, physically and mentally, and you need juice added throughout the year to keep the body doing that. Every time we get a little bit of juice, it seems like two things are taken away. I think that’s what’s been the challenge, just for the coaching staff and for the players, for everyone in here. That’s why I’ve been real proud of the players and the way they’ve acted, the way they’ve handled themselves and that’s why I’m truly not going to count this year as a negative. It wasn’t fun. It’s not what we or our fans wanted, but I believe the way we went through it, if you go through things the right way, I think it hardens you and makes you stronger and makes you better. I feel like, from an individual standpoint, I feel like that’s how almost everyone in the building did that. When you do that individually, it makes your building a lot stronger. Even our win two days ago was great and it was nice to have eight days so we could enjoy it on Sunday and you come in here today and you find out it was awesome, but you lost Trent Williams and Aiyuk, so it’s a little bit back after that, but it’s kind of used to it. That’s why I’m glad I’m not going to get any more bad news after this week because after this week it’s time to rest, regroup and get ready for next year, which I know our guys are going to be pumped to get to. I know I am.”

That time that Jimmy was on the Injured Reserve List, how did you guys go about keeping him engaged with what’s going on? I know they showed some shots during games of him in the booth, like charting stuff. What was he doing charting or what was he doing during that time?

“That’s just Jimmy being Jimmy. When he is watching something, he takes more notes than any person I’ve ever been around in my life. I think [Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB] Tom [Brady] did that a little bit too in meetings, but Jimmy’s always writing down. Sometimes I tell him to stop writing and watch just to mess with him a little bit. I don’t know how many notebooks he has, but Jimmy throughout this whole thing, usually you’ve got to go rehab and do a lot of extra with that, which sometimes when you do that, you’ve got to make a decision. ‘Hey, do I need to go to the install meeting this week? Or is it more important to get my rehab?’ That’s where players can miss out a little bit. I do think one benefit for Jimmy this year was, when he was hurt, we were pretty much Zoom meeting anyways. We weren’t allowed to meet in person for the most part. So, every time he had to make a decision to go to the rehab, he was in our meetings, he was just doing it from the rehab room, us watching him in that room instead of guys in their hotel rooms. So, he’s been around it a ton mentally, just like he was in the year that he tore his ACL. With Jimmy, it’s about getting back on the field for him and that’s why he had a lot more fun last week getting out there. I can’t tell you how much our players are different, too, with just having Jimmy out there, like what I told you guys about Kittle. Jimmy brings a similar feeling to everyone. Deebo’s very similar to that. The guys that just give, you know, just their juice rubs off on people and Jimmy has handled it well. That’s why he’s got a chance to come back this week, but until the doctors give us the go, we’re not going to.”

I’ve got two questions. One was just in terms of Jimmy. It sure sounds like you plan on him being back in 2021. And then the other question would be just in terms of this roster, you’ve had 80 different players suit up in a game for you. How odd has it been just to kind of meet those guys through Zoom or out on the practice field and have there been times where you don’t recognize a number that’s on the field?

“Definitely, and I’m very bad with names, even people that I’ve been very good friends with for my entire life. So, yeah, it’s definitely been a struggle. Usually how I am in the offseason, it takes me OTAs and when watching film to get everything down, because I’m not a big just memorize their name. I got their number, their height/weight and speed, what they can do. Then you get to just know the guy naturally, and then it’s very easy, but missing OTAs, missing training camp, it was a very tough one for me this year. Then just all the changes that we’ve had throughout the year, but we’ve had some guys that I didn’t know much during the week and then they ended up getting dressed and I ended up making sure I introduce myself before they go out to the field. Our guys have hopped in well and when you have veterans on the team, like most of those guys take care of it. It’s also pretty good when, if I do mess up someone’s name, I don’t like people to get insulted by it, but then when you have guys like [LB] Fred [Warner] or Kittle that they could tell, ‘Hey, don’t worry. He calls me the wrong name, also sometimes.’ Then they usually don’t take it so personally. They realize I do it with almost everybody here and there.”

When you and general manager John Lynch first got to Santa Clara, your goal was to find guys who love the game of football. How important has that been, especially this year with all the challenges you’ve faced?

“Oh, it’s huge. I think it’s everything. That’s what I look for in coaches, too, and personnel staff, like everybody. If you don’t love football, it’s not always that fun. My brother-in-law thinks that we just go play fantasy football every day and how good he could do at it. He tells me after every single game, if we trade this guy for that guy, we could get these three pieces. That all does sound fun and calling plays, but there’s a lot that goes into it and that’s not all that fun and especially for the players. Just going out and strapping up and hitting each other every day, it’s just not like playing pickup basketball and things like that. So, I always have felt if you don’t have guys who are truly in it because they are passionate about football, that it does something different to them that it’s kind of hard to live without. It’s very hard to get the best out of people because you’re going to go through times in the NFL, whether you’re on your way to the Super Bowl or whether you’re not making the playoffs, that are going to be very tough times. It’s a lot easier, more fun sometimes to check out of them, but if football means the world to you and you enjoy it that much, those aren’t things you’re going to run from. That’s usually what’s going to bring the best out in you.”

What’s the status of DT Javon Kinlaw and his knee injury?

“Yeah, I didn’t say. The guys who didn’t play, Kinlaw, he still has the knee swelling, so we’ll see how the week goes. Then Deebo’s out, [CB Richard Sherman] Sherm’s out, [DB] Jimmie Ward is still in the protocol, so we’ll see how that goes and [DL] Dion Jordan, he has his knee issue. He’s still in the same boat as probably Kinlaw. They’ll be day-to-day and hopefully we’ll get them this week, but we’re not sure yet.”

How did Tarvarius Moore grade out on the film and has he progressed enough to give you guys confidence that he might be one of the answers at safety moving forward, given all the free agents?

“Yeah, I think T-Moore, just as you guys can see too, he makes a lot of good plays. Anybody who can run and hit and cover ground like he does can help you out on the field and he has definitely shown us he can be a candidate. He’s trying to clean stuff up and get more consistent, so not keeping both teams in the game, just keeping one in and I think he’s done that better each week. I thought he played well last night and probably his best game, so he’s got one more left to prove that and it seems like he’s going in the right direction.”

First, just wanted to follow up on Cam’s question. He asked you whether you still think Jimmy’s going to be the starter next year, you guys are going to ride with him? And then second, in terms of what you guys accomplished defensively last week, a lot of it seemed to be on the linebackers, just their mobility in coverage, pattern matching. How difficult is it as an offensive coordinator and an offensive mind to sort of scheme around linebackers who can do that?

“Yes, I do believe Jimmy’s going to be our quarterback next year. Second of all, going against good linebackers is very tough, especially ones who play with vision on the quarterback. They can cover a lot of ground. It’s hard to just game plan them and have routes take people out of places so you can get holes open. It makes it almost impossible to game plan. You’ve got to make sure there’s a good protection. The quarterback’s got to look certain ways to open up others and that’s why it all comes down to your disguises of whether you’re in two shell or one shell so the quarterback doesn’t know which way to look. When they’re not good with their eyes and you have backers who are instinctive and play with vision on the quarterback, which we do, it makes it very tough to get open lanes.”

I’m going to have to follow up with the Jimmy question. Everybody can look at his salary, how the salary cap is falling, the amount of quarterbacks who might become available in the offseason, whether it’s through trade, free agency, the draft. What makes you so certain that Jimmy will be your quarterback? Can you say that with 100-percent certainty?

“Guys, you can’t say anything with certainty. You don’t sit here and make promises on anything. We build a football team. It’s your job to put the best team together year in and year out. People talk about Jimmy’s salary. Jimmy is like one of the middle quarterbacks in the league right now in terms of salary. That’s just how much they cost. So, it’s not like it’s something ridiculous or anything like that, so we can work all that out. Not to mention, look at Jimmy’s record when he’s been here. Jimmy, you can win with. He’s proven that. He’s proven he’s a starting quarterback in this league. We had a couple of other guys who got opportunities this year who played like they have a chance at times to be starting quarterbacks, but they did play like backups overall. [QB] C.J. [Beathard] played like he had ability to be a starting quarterback two nights ago. He also did that in 2017 in a few games that we had with him. I remember him playing like that versus San Diego, but Jimmy, there’s a reason his record is what it is and that’s why we paid for him to be our starting quarterback. To think that that’s ridiculous with where his contract is, this isn’t like the first year. That’s how much quarterbacks costs in this league and he’s right there. I don’t know the number, but I think it’s somewhere between like 13th and 19th. So, that’s nothing too big. That’s how much they cost. Now, you look into every avenue and you see if there’s something out there that can get you a ton better it’s the same answer for every position. But look at Jimmy, look what he’s done, look at where he’s at with us financially and we better have a very good answer if you’re going to find something better than that, because Jimmy’s shown in one year that he’s a guy who can take us to the Super Bowl and I also think Jimmy’s going to get a lot better the more he plays.”

I don’t want to disappoint you by asking a non-Garoppolo question, but just if he is coming back next year, his injury history, I mean dating to with New England, he’s had three significant injuries and a career that’s had 32 starts. Will that be a factor in making that decision or will it be something you have to say, ‘We have to significantly upgrade at backup quarterback because 2018 and 2020 have been somewhat lost seasons because he hasn’t been available?’

“Well, yeah. I can think of how you ask that question. If you want to upgrade a backup quarterback, I think we’ve got two really good backup quarterbacks. Do you want to go get a starter as a backup quarterback? Then you’ve just got to decide if you want to spend the majority of your salary cap on your first and your second-string quarterbacks. So, that’s something that most teams do have an issue with, that second-team quarterback, unless they’ve drafted a guy and then had their starter from the year before. Someone like [Washington Football Team QB] Alex [Smith] and what they had with [Kansas City Chiefs QB] Patrick [Mahomes]. So, it’s a very common thing. You just hope you don’t lose your guy for a whole year. We had that in our first year playing with Jimmy, which was a torn ACL, and then these two high ankle sprains that have come. It was unfortunate, but to sit there and just say now you’re going to go out and pay for a lot of money for it to have a backup quarterback who plays like a starter isn’t the best answer for your team, but that’s why you take all that into account. That’s Jimmy’s body of work. We know he’s played well. Yes, we have to be able to improve our team and stuff if he does get hurt. Also, what will help that if you ever have a backup going in to play a whole year will be trying to keep the rest of your roster healthy. It was going to be a tough year for Jimmy too if he stayed there. Yes, we would have had a better chance because of how good Jimmy is, but it was tough on anybody who was going to get put in that position. So, you’re not going to sit and overreact just because of our backup quarterbacks that have played all year in some tough situations, but you’re going to look at who we can get next year. I like both of our guys. I know one’s restricted and one’s a free agent. We’ll see how that goes, but I know I’d be happy to have them back here and feel fortunate to have them back here and we’ll see what happens with our other choices, too.”