Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – December 9, 2020

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“All right guys, injuries for today: [OL Tom] Compton will not practice, he’s in the protocol, concussion protocol. [DL] D.J. Jones, ankle sprain, will not practice. [WR] Deebo Samuel has a foot contusion, will not practice. [CB] K’Waun Williams, ankle, will not practice today. We’ll see how it goes in the week. [CB Emmanuel] Moseley, hamstring, also not practicing today. We’ll see how it goes in the week. And [DL] Kevin Givens, excused for personal reasons. Go ahead, guys.”

Is Deebo’s foot contusion at all related to his injury from over the summer?

“No, he just took a knee on the foot, so not related, but too sore today to go. I bet if it was a Wednesday, he’d probably be able to go, but to us it’s a Tuesday.”

I’m just curious what you saw from watching Washington’s film and their ability to come back against the Steelers and just really how hard that is in today’s NFL to come back from a double-digit deficit and a halftime deficit?

“I don’t think it’s very hard in today’s NFL. It depends how many possessions you get. No matter how much you’re down, if you get that many possessions and you’re playing defense the way that they have, you’ve got a shot. They’re playing really good defense. Can’t remember whether they got a turnover or not that helped them out and then they’ve been running the ball well, so they made the plays there at the end. I know Pittsburgh got out to a lead, but Washington stayed with it and they played real sound football.”

You had mentioned that you wanted to kind of see how things go the first week there and settle in before if you need to make any changes. Was there anything that popped up that you needed to kind of fix going into this week, just in terms of the setup and that?

“No, I think the setup is great. Kind of like I was saying last week, I think the setup is as good as we could have hope for. After one week’s over, this is the longest we’ve been, so I think this second week it sets in a little bit. So, I think some guys had to get out of here some and players and stuff, especially yesterday on their day off a little bit, but besides that, going into a short week, it went so fast with just yesterday being really combined two days for us. So, haven’t had much time to think about it.”

You’ve been evaluating quarterbacks since you started out in the league. Now that you’ve been a head coach, do you look at them any differently? Do you change your perspective on how you evaluate them at all?

“Quarterbacks?”

Yes.

“Yeah, I don’t know if it’s because I’m a head coach, maybe. I don’t know, but how I evaluate everything is always changing. Things change, people change. You start to see you can win football games with any type of quarterback as long as they are good enough and you can be good enough in hundreds of different ways. So, I evaluate quarterbacks in terms of trying to find people who can have a chance to be one of those elite-type guys and there’s lots of different ways to do it. You can see now there’s plenty of different ways, so I don’t think that’ll ever change. I don’t think you have one certain thing you’re looking for. You’re just trying to find a guy who is better than about 98-percent of the people on this planet or in this country and when you find that, you get him and you adjust to him.”

We characterized WR Trent Taylor as a healthy scratch for this most recent game. Has he been entirely healthy? Are those injuries that he dealt with in previous years still a bit of a factor in how he’s able to move around?

“I think that you’d have to ask Trent more. I don’t think he’s been healthy week in and week out throughout the whole year, but with [WR Brandon] Aiyuk coming back, Deebo being back, with [WR Kendrick] Bourne taking over the third role, [WR] Richie [James] being a capable punt returner and also our fourth receiver and then Aiyuk being able to do a punt returner and [WR] River Cracraft had done a good job for us on special teams and more areas than as a returner, so he just ended up being the odd man out with guys being healthy. Once you’re not that slot receiver, KB took that over, it’s going to always come down to special teams and that’s where it’s been unfortunate for him.”

It felt like you guys had a lot of juice going into this game, a lot of confidence and then after the game was probably as dejected as we’ve really seen you guys all year, just based on that confidence going in. How do you sort of balance that emotional fatigue and guys kind of having that motivation being in Arizona to say, you know, we’re going to go on this playoff run and now you have that let off? How do you sort of balance that and keep that momentum?

“I think that’s the challenge. Monday night was a letdown. We did feel that way. What you felt was true. I think that’s what was, I mean, there wasn’t much in our minds that pictured us losing that game, just the way we felt, the week we had. We did go into that very confidently and so we were pretty disappointed after the game. That carries into yesterday and you’ve just got to get through it and look at stuff. It was nice to have a team meeting today. It was my first time with the team since leaving the locker room on Monday and it took longer than usual for the team meeting. I showed a bunch of clips for offense and defense because when you go into a game expecting to play a certain way, the way it got out of hand a little bit on a few big plays on defense and then a couple of missed opportunities on offense where it was just very frustrating because the way the game got dictated is, I compare it to how the New Orleans game was last year. I do believe, I know, we were up for that and we didn’t get it done. So, you’ve got to show the guys what happened, why it happened so we can work on not letting it happen again this week, but I want guys to know that. We felt great before that game. Just because you didn’t go out and do what you expected to do, if you let that change how you felt three and a half hours before that, you need to check yourself. We need to figure out what we struggled with and when you make a few mistakes, especially versus a team like that and the way they were on offense and how hot they were and their quarterback, that’s the stuff that happens. You try to show why and not try to make too big a deal about stuff, but also understand that you can’t do these mistakes if you want to win football games.”

You mentioned expecting that Buffalo game to go like the New Orleans game last year. This one, given Washington’s defensive line and how well their defense is playing, is this one that you expect to be a little bit more of a defensive slug?

“Well, no. I was really saying that, that’s the feeling I felt during the game. I didn’t feel that way all week. I knew we had a challenge going against their offense, but we’ve had a challenge going against a number of good offenses. We went against the Rams, who I think are, I think, I’m not sure, but if you go off numbers, they might’ve been higher at the time. Same with the Saints, maybe. I’m not totally sure. So, that doesn’t mean you just go into a game expecting it to be a game you’ve got to score 50 in, but the way it went early in that game, it kind of had that feeling, but I also felt like we were up for it on offense, the way that first drive went with the 99 yards, but not being able to get in the end zone was a little foreshadowing of some of the frustration that was going to continue throughout that game. So, that was more what I felt. When you look at it this week, Washington’s winning games because they’re playing really good defense and they’re doing a good job on offense. I know their numbers aren’t there, but if you look at the last four games they are. I mean, the last four games offense, I think they’re seventh in points. I think they’re 10th in yards. I think they’re 10th in rushing. So, that’s winning football right there if you’re playing really good defense and they have been doing that all year. They’ve got a good scheme. They’ve got a lot of talent and that’s why they’re a tough win for anybody right now.”

It seemed like at practice you had a pretty close eye on Brandon Aiyuk just as a punt returner. There’s a group of people that are in the mindset that you don’t want to have your best players returning punts for injury risk and then there’s another group of people that think that you just want to get the best player the ball every opportunity you get. What went into the decision for you just to let Aiyuk return punts and what was your takeaway from his lone return?

“I’ve been wanting to use him. We always knew we would use him there if he did as good as he did in college and nothing’s changed and we’ve felt that since the day we met him, but you want to wait until he’s consistently getting out there, getting a few more practices in. I told him on Wednesday when we met early in that week that he was going to have some opportunities in the game. I didn’t know exactly which ones, but that’s also what went into Taylor going down, that we knew we had two guys, that we could go with Richie or Aiyuk. I wanted to give Aiyuk a chance and he got one on the first punt of the game. It just happened to be really late and he did with it what we were hoping he could do. I understand people’s philosophy on that. When you have a starting receiver like that, you’re probably not going to put him out there every single time, but I also view punt returns and kick returns as two totally different things. Punt returns, I think, are a lot easier to protect yourself on as opposed to a kickoff return. It doesn’t mean you can’t get hurt, though. You can get hurt on anything.”

You mentioned Washington’s defense playing so well. They obviously have made major investments in their defensive line. Is it similar, I don’t know about scheme-wise, but do you see similarities just them being able to give pressure with the front four and create a lot of havoc with just them and then being able to play coverage?

“Seeing similarities in us?”

Yeah. I’m sorry. Yes, similarities to you guys.

“I mean, the philosophy of build a big time D-Line so you can play your schemes behind them with only four, I would say that’s similar to our philosophy and what we’ve tried to build. Just schematic-wise and stuff, they’re very similar to Carolina, not Carolina, Buffalo where [Buffalo Bills head coach] Sean’s [McDermott] been and [Washington Football Team head coach] Ron [Rivera] have been, but I see them more similar to that type of scheme and everything, but in terms of having one of the best D-Lines in the NFL so you can be extremely sound behind it and make people work for everything, yeah, I see it the same that way.”

I have a question about Ron Rivera for you. Knowing the NFL coaching fraternity, how well do you know Ron and what kind of words of encouragement, maybe did you reach out while he was kind of going through his treatments at the start of the year?

“I know Ron just from being a coordinator in Atlanta and playing against him. I never knew him, but I’ve ran into him a couple of times and he’s always been exactly how he comes off to everyone else. Just ultimate class, very good person, very good coach every time I’ve gone against him. It’s been nice seeing him at the owners meetings and stuff, the times we’ve had it since I’ve been a head coach and he’s one of the better ones in our league. Has been doing it for a long time and I feel that the Football Team is very fortunate to have Ron.”

I’m just curious about your impressions of Washington Football Team QB Alex Smith and just the resiliency he showed coming back off of that injury, that seemed to be career threatening?

“Oh, as much respect as you can have for anyone. I don’t know Alex, but I heard about it, which was amazing. I did see the episode everyone saw. For him to go through what he went through and to still want to come back, it’s definitely not a money thing. The guy does alright in that area. It’s not something he had to do. It shows why he has been successful in everything he’s done. Showed why he had a great college career, showed why he was a top pick in the draft, it showed why he’s helped out three different teams now and for him to come back and just want to come back after going through that, it shows there’s a lot of special things inside that guy.”

Following up on D.J. Jones, was it indeed a high ankle sprain and what are the chances that he plays for you guys again this season?

“Yeah, it wasn’t a high ankle sprain, so very fortunate that he’ll play again for us this season, but it’s not healthy enough to go today. So, I’m holding out hope for it this week, but it’ll be a day-to-day thing.”