Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel Press Conference

Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel

Press Conference – December 2, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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I asked QB Jimmy Garoppolo about this yesterday, but he said it’d be a better question for the coaches. I looked at the offensive efficiency splits, first and third down, you guys are at or near the top of the league. Second down, like 23, 24. Is that something that you guys are aware of and is that something, do you have any theories as to why second down has been less efficient?

“Correlation or causation? I don’t know. No, I think that’s more happenstance than anything. You pretty much treat first and second down the same in terms of there’s still an equal run-pass threat and that’s how we kind of look at the game. So I wouldn’t say we’re bad second down coaches. I feel like over time that would work itself out, but yeah that’s not something that I was really aware of. Just because really we look at the game, first and second down, you’re either avoiding third down or you’re not.”

You guys did a lot of those toss plays to RB Elijah Mitchell to the right side and they were effective. Is that something that’s pre-calculated, whether you’re going to do your runs right or left, or is that based on what you’re seeing at the moment?

“We, especially our staff, we have a collection of coaches that might err on the side of over-thought. So literally every direction, ball handling, receiver alignment, there’s a reason for everything. That doesn’t mean it works out, or it works in our favor or it doesn’t come to bite us. But all of those things we take into consideration. A lot of it has to do with defensive line penetration, how we’re blocking things, the comfort of the backs, how the defense responds to tosses, sometimes it helps you, sometimes it hurts you, so it’s all game-plan specific. And we have good, more than good, we have really good blockers at tight end, so a lot of times when you’re trying to utilize that, tossing the ball can get the ball to them quicker and it helps them impact the game. But there’s a multitude of reasons and I wouldn’t say specifically that there’s a reason that the ones to the right have worked other than that on those given plays, the right side has executed blocks well. And then when they’ve overran it, the backside of [OL] Laken Tomlinson and [T] Trent [Williams] have done a good job on the backside blocks. So that’s pretty much the reason. There’s a multitude of reasons, all of which we consider every single play, probably to a fault.”

With your vantage point from the booth, when you can see that all-22, can you notice anything about how Elijah Mitchell’s getting in a flow of a game from your view?

“For sure.”

How so?

“You can feel, especially from the box, you can feel the momentum of defenders and you can feel when plays are blocked for three or four and you can feel the momentum of the runner get seven. That vantage point is very impactful for the momentum of run plays, for the line of scrimmage in general, and pass plays. You can really from the sideline copy, essentially is what you’re looking at. It’s one of the reasons that it is an advantage to be up there, to see it all play out.”

I think you’re averaging something like 8.8 yards a play when WR Deebo Samuel lines up in the backfield. A small sample size, but other than just getting the ball in the hands of a really good player as much as you can, why do you think it’s so successful and what does it do to defenses, just having the threat of him in that position?

“Oh, because that’s something that happens organically when you’re trying to solve gameplanning issues, week in and week out. One game in particular, there was a team that played a lot of man coverage, so that was a reason to have him in the backfield to see how they align. But also, Deebo has been making a ton of plays with the ball in his hands, so defenses are aware of that. And when you do have success at anything, it allows you to anticipate some overplay for things because they better defend it and that opens up other things. So I think the stuff that Deebo has done with the ball in his hands, we found a couple other ways to get him the ball. And then it’s a reaction from there, which is probably why the stats have been so successful. I’m sure if we did it every play, the success rate would probably go, it wouldn’t be as high, so you’d have to pick and choose. Otherwise we’d probably do it every single play, but that’s something that organically happens depending on the defensive scheme that you have and the different problems they present.”

Before you started going to that more, had you seen coverages rolled his way a little bit more? Is there an element of like, ‘hey, this is a way we could get the ball in his hands and there’s nothing they can do about it?’

“As far as coverages, we move our players around a lot. I think there’s been a lot of stuff written about how much we motion. So it is hard for defenses to overplay with their backend pre-snap. But really it’s just like, ‘hey, what if we could get the ball to one of our best players, one of the best players in the league with the ball in his hands, and minimize the risk.’ That’s what a run is in general, it’s just you’re distributing the ball in a safer way. So when a guy is adept at carrying the ball in tight space and is tough enough and fast enough to get through holes like a running back, ‘shoot, why don’t we give him a couple of touches back there and see if he can get some explosives and not have to put the team in harm’s way.’ Be able to dictate the terms a little bit on the line of scrimmage and whatnot.”

I think his role has evolved a lot as he’s been here. Did you see this potential from him when you were looking at him at the senior bowl, per se?

“No, you knew that he could do some cool things and he was a tough player. I thought at the senior bowl, it really struck us that, ‘hey, this is the type of guy that you want to be a part of your team touching the football.’ So you’re evaluating that. To say that we envisioned his role as it was last week, that would be a lie. That stuff kind of just comes organically. Because you have to teach a receiver to be a receiver first and the more he’s comfortable in the offense, then you’re like, ‘hey, well, let’s try doing this.’ And then he’s comfortable with that. It’s a chore just for a receiver to learn how to align in the backfield. Receivers don’t know what the B-gap is. So to tell them to align there, it can be a lot on someone’s plate. Every single time he’s in the backfield or every single time we’re using him in different ways, that is something he has to learn and own. And you try not to get too ahead of yourself, because he’s got to be a receiver that can catch a ball on third down as well and beat man coverage. So it’s something that we’ve been fortunate enough to have experience with a lot of different types of players. Then there’s a lot of stuff that people do around the league that you kind of catch an eye on. And then when the opportunity presents itself, you just try to do stuff that makes sense for your team and your offense.”

Given what the Seahawks have been for over a decade, is it just weird to be preparing for a 3-8 Seahawks team?

“It’s funny, you watch the tape and the tape doesn’t match the record. I don’t think there’s a person in our building or a player in our locker room that would think of this team as a 3-8 football team at all. They play hard, they’ve lost games that were close. I think we can relate to that. And the Seahawks as a team, that still have their same mantra of they do not let anything happen to teams easy. There’s a lot of people saying that the Packers are the best team in the NFL. Well, what was the score with five minutes to go just like two weeks ago? This is a team that you cannot take lightly and we sure aren’t. It’s hard enough to win in this league as it is, but the 3-8, we try to keep our brains to the film and what we see and what we prepare for it. And it does not look like that at all from a defensive perspective. They look as tough as ever.”

How much progress have you been able to see from QB Trey Lance as far as operating from the pocket while he’s been running the scout team here over the past few weeks?

“Oh, there’s always progress because there are so many things that go into playing the quarterback position. So each and every day, he’s presented with different challenges and is forced to operate within the pocket in different ways. He sees our coverages and has to execute various plays that overlap with our offense, so there’s growth each and every week because you’re getting to experience things. You get to have trials, errors, it’s all about reps and each week is very important for him on the scout team, preparing our defense as well as preparing himself.”

 How much can he benefit, like we’ve asked you this in previous weeks when he’s emulated other quarterbacks, but this week, I guess a little bit of Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, what goes into that?

“No, it is cool for him to find himself as a player. When your back-to-back weeks are [Minnesota Vikings QB] Kirk Cousins where you’re primarily emphasizing pocket passing, and our defense has to be ready for off-schedules. I’m not sure if there’s a quarterback that’s done it better in this league than Russell Wilson. So, it is beneficial to have that variance because whatever you’re emphasizing you get reps at that component of your game. So having them back-to-back weeks has been great for him.”

WR Jauan Jennings was a dual-threat quarterback in high school. I don’t know if you knew that before dialing that up, but did he earn maybe another crack at that somewhere down the line?

“For sure, everything’s up. As you’ve noticed, if people have skill sets, sometimes it takes us a while to find them, but we try to utilize them. So he did nothing to keep us from doing it in the future. We did know that. The great thing about Jauan is if we ignored that fact, he would have let us know pretty quick. So we knew early that that was in his repertoire.”

Did he tell you last year after you drafted him?

“Probably about 10 minutes after (laughing). No. Yeah, he’s great. It’s been great to see him get some experience. I think he has one completion. He’s one for one, well, it was a penalty, it was nullified so. But yeah, the ball didn’t hit the ground, so that’s a win.”