Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
Press Conference – November 30, 2022
San Francisco 49ers
“Alright, for practice today. [DL] Charles Omenihu, knee, will not practice. [RB] Christian McCaffrey, knee, will not practice. [RB] Elijah [Mitchell], knee won’t practice. [DL Arik] Armstead, foot/ankle, will be limited. [OL Spencer] Burford ankle, limited or will not practice, we have to warm him up out there and see. [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] will be full. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] is limited with a Quad.”
Can you say exactly what happened with Christian with his knee?
“He just felt something in it, some irritation.”
Something that you think might keep him from playing on Sunday.
“It’s keeping him from going today, so I hope not.”
What about Omenihu’s knee? That’s a new one.
“Same thing. Yeah, he was sore after the game, but still sore, so we have to be a little careful with it.”
Now that you’ve taken a little bit more time to look at some Dolphins tape and what Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel has been able to do down there, is it what you expected? Are there some new flashes to things?
“No, it’s what we expected. He’s doing a great job with his personnel. Those two receivers [Miami Dolphins WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle], the speed they have and the good football players they are combined with the speed of [Miami Dolphins RB] Raheem [Mostert] and the way that [Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagavailoa] quarterback is playing, Tua is playing at an extremely high-level. He’s been doing it since the preseason, big time in week one and hasn’t fallen off at all and they’re doing a good job on defense too.”
You can’t predict when an assistant might get plucked away from you, but how aware are you when it might happen and when did you think that for Mike?
“I’ve gotten more aware of it the last few years. Mike was always the easiest because he was the first guy I was ever with when, when I was a receiver coach at 26, he the QC but they put him in my room. So wherever I went, except a couple years he was out, he was always my assistant, so we were always grooming him and working on things together. And then the guy who replaced him was [Green Bay Packers head coach] Matt LaFleur, got a couple years with him, then got one with [Los Angeles Rams head coach] Sean [McVay], then Matt’s brother [New York Jets offensive coordinator] Mike [LaFleur], so you always had those guys you’re grooming and when I came here I thought I had some guys that were younger that weren’t going to get taken for a while, but it seemed to happen a lot faster than I expected, so that’s always what I’m thinking about. You never know when it’s going to happen, especially when our defense has success, who they’re going to try to take with them, so we’re always trying to get some guys in here that you can groom and that you can teach. It’s not just about teaching it, but guys also need to go through some stuff with you too, which makes them the most prepared and I started doing that a while ago when I moved [passing game coordinator] Bobby Slowik over to offense when he was on defense, moved [tight ends coach] Brian Fleury a number of years ago. He was a D-line coach when I was in Cleveland. [New York Jets head coach Robert] Saleh brought him in to be a QC from Miami and then I thought he had the potential to really help us on offense, so I moved him there about four years ago, I think. Did the same thing with [assistant quarterbacks] Klay Kubiak this offseason, so it’s something that came up pretty fast in our first few years here and something I always have to think about.”
Were you watching Mike’s pressers, they were different and did you have an idea that might catch people’s attention? Do you think it helped him maybe get the job?
“I don’t know. You’d have to ask that with their owner because each lemonade stand is different. That’s kind of how I see it. They run it however they want, so I bet it did, because it seemed like they liked him obviously, they hired him, so I’m sure they didn’t dislike it, but that’s Mike’s personality. I never knew how he would do in those press conferences or how he’d come off, that’s how he is all the time to us, even a little bit worse probably. And it’s an acquired taste sometimes or sometimes it throws people off a little bit, but I thought he put it together real good and did in a funny way and is always entertaining in those press conferences.”
It seems like when guys become head coaches sometimes they feel like they have to act a certain way, but did you give him any advice at just being himself? Because it looks like even as a head coach in the elevated role, he’s just being who he is.
“Probably. I don’t think he’s ever asked me specifically that way, but I guarantee my advice to everyone is always you better be yourself. I just think no matter what it is, especially in sports, but I would think anywhere in the world you’re around someone a little more than just here and there everyone can see the reality of someone or the realness and if you ever try to be someone you’re not as a head coach role, whoever it is, media, coaches, players, fans, they’re going to end up eating you alive. You have to be yourself and you can’t keep up with acting.”
You said the other day that you were not surprised that he’s having the success that he’s having right now. In the offseason when they started accumulating the speed guys like Hill and Mostert and all that, did you kind of see that this is coming and what’s it like watching kind of your offense executed with all of that speed? How much does it jump out on you?
“Oh, it’s cool to watch. Right when he got Tyreek, you knew how much that was going to help. Just Tyreek, there’s a number of fast people in this league and to me he’s different than everyone else, probably ever. Just the physicality and speed he runs with. So just some of the things that they can do with him is cool to watch, but the question was watching Tua in the offense and I wasn’t totally sure of that and I remember turning it on in the preseason and watching his first game and I was like, ‘wow, this guy looks totally different and looks very comfortable,’ and then turned it on Week One and I thought he was playing in Week One as good as anyone in this league and I don’t think he’s had a game not like that.”
Have you two been in pretty close contact since he’s been gone?
“Probably as much as Mike and I can, we’re both probably as bad of phone guys as anyone you could be around, but for Mike and I, I’d say yes.”
What makes Tua uniquely good? Like what’s unique about him?
“The rhythm of his game, how quick he can get the ball off. He reminds me a lot of guy I was with earlier in my career, [former NFL QB] Matt Schaub, when that back foot hits, he knows where to look and if someone’s not there, he is hitching right to replace him and letting it rip. If that second one’s not there, he is getting rid of it. They have so much speed that they blow the top off stuff, which gets some people open underneath. Tua, to me, is the reason that they’re leading the league in explosives because he knows how to hit people over the middle. It’s rarely deep. It’s usually running and hitting these guys on the move and there’s some really open space with all that speed and then the quarterback who can drop it over linebackers, who is not worried about safeties and is doing that part of his game as high as anyone I’ve seen right now.”
In all of your years with Mike McDaniel, what was the quality in him that you appreciated and kind of leaned on the most?
“At first, I didn’t know him at all. [Former NFL head coach Gary] Kubiak put him in my office and that’s how it starts, but we were both young guys and I’d done college and had been in the league a little bit longer and he was just really hungry and he was a lot more educated in terms of he went to Yale and I went to some good schools, but it was for sports, so he was very like well-read and typing everything up and I was so much football and he just soaked everything in, memorized everything. And whatever happened, he was someone I could always carry the conversation with what’s going on in the receiver room, really how I saw football and he could soak it all in and he spent three years of that. I went to quarterbacks and he came with me to quarterbacks and then I was the coordinator the third year and he was doing everything we needed for a coordinator in the third year, so we had all the experience together and then he ended up leaving going to World XFL or something like that. And then when I got to Washington, bringing him back, it was just no one had been one-on-one with me that long, so that was kind of the neatest thing about it. And Mike, I’d always say he was our computer like what did I say on this last year at this time and Mike could always retain that stuff and was really good at it. And then we went through so much together, how different Washington was then Houston, just schematically how many things that we had to change. I also think anytime you have a QC, those are the guys as a coordinator you depend on the most. When you’re a coordinator and the players come in, everyone goes to their offices and teaches the players and then you go back in your room and you try to put a plan together and there’s not many people available that aren’t in rooms coaching the tight ends or the o-line. And then you have a guy who’s been breaking down the film all week, not just for his position, but for everything. So the QCs are the guys you rely on more as a coordinator because they’re seeing the whole thing as much as you can, they’re not just preparing a position. And Mike was always in that type of role. I think two years he coached receivers for me, but all the other time, he was a great position coach, but he was more valuable in the other way. I don’t want a guy tied down to one position. That’s kind of what happened to me when I brought Mike LaFleur here. I put him with receivers the first year, but then there’s too many times I’m asking some stuff about the red zone and things on Thursday night and they’re in their world on what [New England Patriots WR Kendrick] Bourne is doing or somebody, I’m like, man, I need you to help me in this area. So sometimes guys want to be position coaches fast and I always say QC might be the best thing for you and sometimes it’s vice versa, but there’s different paths to do stuff and when you do stay in those roles longer, you do get to learn more. You don’t just go right to a position and focus just on that position, so I think that’s stuff that really benefited Mike and that’s why he was the one guy I was always communicating with so consistently over the years.”
How much can his personality or his humor kind of galvanize a coaching staff or players when it’s a very serious job, you guys are so focused, but how can that kind of break it up and kind of help the chemistry of the team?
“It’s about being yourself. If things are going well and your personalities is yourself, then it’s really good. If things are going bad and your personality’s like that, then it might annoy some people or it might say, oh no, they’re too lackadaisical, so it’s more about coaching, right, putting the plan together and being honest with everybody and being yourself. Then you don’t deviate and the reasons are what happened on the field. When you start getting into that being because of people’s personalities, I think that’s a little farfetched. I think a lot of other variables come into that and that’s just a bonus.”
How much does having an elite defense change the way that you look at offensive playcalling? Are you more likely to play it safe because you know you’ve got a defense that could stop people or do you still want to be aggressive or how do you break that down?
“I look at it as trying to win the game. What’s the best way to win the game? I think that’s stuff that I’ve definitely gotten better at and learned more at becoming a head coach as opposed to offensive play caller. And I did that for nine years before becoming a head coach. And you are so responsible for one thing, you don’t watch the other side of the ball, you really don’t even know what’s going on during the game. You’re just responsible to keep moving and trying to get points and that’s how you call it. And since becoming a head coach, I started out that way, but then you start to see how to win games a little bit better. And our goal here was to build such a good defense. I thought we had that our third year and I remember coming out into that third year having a plan on really how I wanted to do it because of the defense that we thought and you learn from that and before you knew what we were, 8-0. And then I thought our offense had some games that we had to get going and had to be aggressive, but you try to decide that based on the outcome of the game. I look at sometimes like the Chargers game or you got a chance to go, but there’s no way they’re beating us if we get those 40 runs. That’s how I feel the way our defense is playing. There comes a time in that New Orleans game when you can see your defense and we missed a couple there in the red zone where it’s like, alright, they score right here, it’s 13-7, I know exactly what we’re doing. We have to win this. We can’t give it back to them, one possession, but then we hold them again and you look at the clock and you think about where your team’s at and you’re like, what’s the best way to win this game? And that comes a lot clearer I think as have to look at the whole big picture.”
The escape technique that TE Tyler Kroft used against the Cardinals on Deebo’s run. Is your understanding that the 49ers came up with that? And then a follow up to that, is Deebo’s run against the Saints in the fourth quarter in 2019 the first time you used it?
“I think it was because we call it dope. There was a song we listened to a lot at the time, so I do remember saying that a lot after the game, but I don’t know if we were the first to do it, all the skate is is selling like you’re running counter the other way and when a guard pulls and a guy goes, the backer has got to go. You have to change the numbers over there. I remember the goal line play back in the day, [former NFL coach] Paul Hackett taught me is it was a man coverage and the guy keying the tight end who would go back as soon as he did, he would run and go meet him over there and you could do a little keeper where you could fake that and come out and throw to him, so that’s been done forever. Rams do it a lot, we’ve done it. That’s really the same idea, but instead of doing that, we’re having them lead block because they’re ignoring Deebo. So I doubt we were the first to do it, but you see it off passes and you think of a way to do it off of a run and that’s kind of how everything builds up. It’s not the most creative thing in the world, it has to do with a run that you see, a run that you know, or a play-action off of that how they’re defending fronts, how they’re playing man, how they’re playing zone and damn, they’re getting good at meeting our fullback over there or tight end and blowing this play up. What could slow that guy down? And that’s kind of what you look at, to me, every single play. It has to do with, people in this league tee off, I don’t care who it is, they’re going to get after you, so how do you get guys to slow down or how do you get them to tee off and trick them and get people to open other way?”
You mentioned the assistants you brought you thought you might keep for a while, maybe lost them a little quicker than you would’ve imagined. How do you identify future candidates? I know it’s specific things, but how have you found yourself like, okay, this is the qualities that I’m looking for when I’m replacing these staffers?
“Usually, I like someone I’ve seen on the staff, like other places I’ve been, when I didn’t get to hire staffs. You get to see people’s work ethic, kind of what drives them. It’s not just, there’s two different, like man, this guy would be good with the players and man this guy could teach a player or man this guy is extremely smart and can just soak everything in and he can type everything up, he can break everything down, he understands every blitz, every formation, he can memorize all this stuff. Who can do both of those? There’re so many different variations of stuff. There’s so many players that I’ve coached and I can’t tell you there’s a number of guys that the last time I see them when I end up having to cut them, I try to tell them, man, if you want to stop playing, like I really believe you’re made to coach, you have to get in here as a QC and learn stuff, but you’re extremely smart. I love how you picked our stuff up and I love your personality and if you’re passionate about this and if you have a wife, she understands what you’re getting into, why don’t you come do this? And then they usually snap at me and say, ‘you don’t think I could play anymore?’ But then like three years later they usually checkup, but there’s stuff like that you see so many things. There’re so many different qualities on how to build a staff. Coordinators are just a little bit different because they can’t be in too big of a hurry either, there’s so many processes that if you skip a step you can see it in guys, in my opinion, later in their careers. So I like guys who can do it the normal way where, they’re just breaking down stuff and listening to everybody and soaking stuff in and guys who also don’t mind the pressure on them and we’re not always going to be nice. We try to be, but there’s going to be a lot of pressure. You’re not going to get many pats on the back and you just have to grind and hope it works out for you one day.”
RB Jordan Mason got a lot of support from the team after he had those few runs at the end of the game, is that more of a result of his work ethic and what he is been doing at practice or just the locker room being supportive?
“I think they were impressed with how he looked running the ball. I think it reminded them of how he went in the preseason for a couple games and you could feel him from the sidelines. Those guys have been waiting for their opportunities. And we had two guys go down and he was ready for it, putting him there at the end of the game when the game was still tight. There’s six minutes and it was a 13-point game, a guy who hasn’t been in that much, I’d like to not put that pressure on him. I’d like to keep our vets out there holding onto the ball, but our guys were a little banged up and so we put Mason in and I’m real glad we did. He held onto that ball great. There was no way he was fumbling it, but not only did do he do that, but he moved the chains when it wasn’t always blocked to move the chains and I think that’s what the players noticed on the sidelines and I think the defense was really happy they didn’t have to go back out there again.”