Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel Press Conference
Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel
Press Conference – June 9, 2021
San Francisco 49ers
So you got the new title. What does that mean? Have your duties changed at all and what’s been your priority focus this off season? Any projects out there for you?
“Well what it means, I would say, is it’s an honor and privilege, really. Just to be the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator, in particular, the offensive coordinator for [head coach] Kyle Shanahan. What does that mean in terms of my day-to-day job responsibilities? It’s funny because I get that question a lot and I understand why, but it’s really not that different. It’s kind of a natural evolution. I’ve been with Kyle Shanahan, this is probably my 14th year. And in that, I started out as a receiver. I was in the quarterback room in Houston with them. I’ve been in every single position group. And being receiver coach in Washington and Cleveland, working with them in Atlanta. I’ve been very connected to the pass game. So, it’s not, it’s really business as usual. It’s a very collaborative situation that Kyle Shanahan really creates on his coaching staff. And in that process, you have a voice and you’re part of all different phases. So now, maybe I lead some collaboration among the coaching staff a little bit more, but it’s really not that different, to be honest. Just one of those natural progressions that we are used to year in and year out with coach Shanahan.”
I have a question for you about defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans given that you’ve been around him for a while. I think you were around him when he was a player with Houston too. One thing Kyle Shanahan says is he’s been successful at sort of everything he’s done. Do you have any examples of things that he did maybe as a player that made you think he would be a good coordinator and how do you think he’s handling his adjustment to his promotion?
“Well, it’s funny you say that. My first year with Kyle Shanahan was in 2006 with the Houston Texans. I was getting used to really the whole coaching profession, in general, and working with Kyle. We drafted, the Houston Texans drafted, DeMeco in the first round or in the second round. And, from the jump here’s a rookie linebacker that’s playing the MIKE linebacker position and calling the entire defense. So, every stage, there’s no more honest to answer than that. At every stage, the various teams that he played on, he was an example of, he was an extension of the coaching staff from the jump, which was super impressive. Became rookie of the year, I believe. And so from that standpoint, yeah, he is built for this juncture. I think he has an unbelievable rapport with the players and really through this whole process, we saw him his first year as a position coach and just continue to grow and grow. So, I know the whole team was excited to have him as the coordinator for the defense.”
You mentioned your background with receiving groups and being a receivers coach. Some lesser known, at least to us, receivers got a lot of work this spring because of the injuries. Who among them jumped out to you? Did anybody take strides in your estimation heading into training camp?
“That’s a great question. You try not to get ahead of yourself when in OTAs, because it is the spring. You’re really just getting a sense of the group as a whole. And that’s, I think, where the coaching staff and the personnel department were the most excited because there’s a lot of guys that are NFL football players that are stepping on that field. So, from that regard, it was just really exciting to see some of the people we hadn’t seen in a while go out there and perform. The competition is heavy and you’d be a fool to try to predict who are our final roster will be with or without injuries. But, it was very exciting to see that group go out there and really go for it and really get a sense of what it’s going to take to make this team because they’re all viewing each other for the first time themselves as well. So, that was the most exciting part. There were highs and lows with everyone but really looking forward to training camp to see what these guys do in preparation for that and how they perform moving forward.”
As the guy who has designed and worked with the run game so much over the last few years, when you add a quarterback like Trey Lance, who maybe gives you an element that you haven’t had, I know he’s not your starter yet, but are there different things that you are plotting out in your mind in ways that you could use him? Even if he’s not starting right away.
“Again, you try not to get too far ahead of yourself. Of course, that temps your mind a little bit. Really, you have to get back to the basics. And, with a guy like Trey, you’re just teaching him the offense and coaching him on fundamentals and seeing where he can get. Really preparing him for his 40 days off where he can work on his own and preparing him to compete in training camp. So, you do your best not to get ahead of yourself. You really try to focus on, ‘Okay, what are we doing today? And can we get better at something today and move forward to the next day?’”
Shanahan is known as an elite world-class play caller. So, I’m just wondering during game days, is he open to like, ‘Hey Kyle, we should run this. Hey, think about this, Kyle.’ Or is it just like, that’s his job do not bother him? And, regardless of that, will you have any more freedom with your new title to say, ‘Hey Kyle, think about this,’?
“Glad you asked that question because one of the things that I think Kyle isn’t totally known for and should be is, he is about as collaborative of a coach as you can possibly have. He is not thinking of, ‘Hey, I want to do X, Y, or Z,’ without it being the best thing. And, so he hires people that he trusts and he values their opinion. And, on game day he has an unbelievable ability to do two things at once. To have a narrative in his head, but then also accept whatever input from the coaching staff. That’s something that being with them for 14 years, it’s a tremendous advantage for me because I can feel as a play-caller where he knows exactly where he’s going. And, then other times where he’s torn between two things, you’re able to shoot some ideas from the hip that you believe in. And, he understands that he’s ultimately accountable for whatever play call comes out of his mouth. So, he doesn’t sit there and say, ‘Oh, you told, you told me this play would work and it doesn’t work.’ He understands that he is accountable for it all. So he embraces that. He really engender an atmosphere where guys feel like they want to put in the work and have an idea of different ways that they can help him call the game.”
Of the two Treys, both them, they’ve gotten a lot of reps during these practices. What would you say the biggest step forward is for both of them?
“The biggest step that they had during this camp? It’s really just, in football, you have an entire language that you have to learn when you go to a new team. And so operating, it’s really like a foreign language to them. So, being able to step in a huddle hear the verbiage and go execute their assignment, that’s the biggest step forward that they took. Just literally being out there and being able to operate. And once they do that, then there’s a million things that you can coach them up on, which is the value of OTAs. We can get them an idea of what they need to be focusing on moving forward so that when we build in training camp and throughout the season, that they can perform at their best.”
Kind of going off both of those aspects, including the collaborative coaching. What we could see on the field was Trey Lance would, he would learn a lot from quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello. He seemed very receptive to the on-field coaching. Can you kind of take us, like once you’re in the meeting rooms, do you have long ones with him? Does Kyle have on one with him? Does QB Jimmy Garoppolo? How does that kind of play out?
“Well the entire coaching staff is utilized on a day-to-day basis. His position coach is very hands-on. You also have Kyle Shanahan, who’s very hands-on and our pass game specialist Bobby Slowik cause very hands-on. That’s why it’s so important to have some rapport and be on the same page as the offensive coaching staff, so that multiple people can speak to one player and not get the wires crossed. So it’s a diligent process that everyone’s all in on. And we try to leave no stone unturned.”
You mentioned that Kyle Shanahan is open to taking suggestions with play calls and in games. Has he indicated to you that he’ll give you a chance or there’ll be some situations where you can call plays on your own, whether for a drive in a regular season game or in a pre-season game?
“I think one of the best aspects that the San Francisco 49ers have going, is we have one of the best play callers to have done it. He’s done it for multiple teams for years. And it’s a real gift of his. So I don’t think that that does the 49ers good to try to work me in selfishly as the play caller. We’re very comfortable in our working relationship and he relies on my opinion. But, he also makes it very clear that his expectation is that my opinions informed and that it adds value to him. And that’s really all that we’re focused on here moving forward.
Knowing how detailed Kyle is with his quarterbacks and just the minute stuff that he’s obsessed with getting right, what do you sense his level of excitement is having sort of a ball of clay in Trey Lance and being able to mold him into the quarterback that he wants?
“I think Kyle gets excited to coach players because that is, he’s the foremost expert on doing so. And, it’s all about the relationship with the human beings. I think we’re all very excited and fired up about where Trey is in terms of being coachable, wanting to be coached, his expectation for himself. And, whether it’s a quarterback, a center or a running back, all you can ask for as a coach, is that someone is embracing the process. And, I think that fires him up more than anything.”
What was your role in the pre-draft process of evaluating Trey and now that you’ve you have him in the building and you’ve had him in the building for a while, how does what you saw and what you learned about him pre-draft kind of match up to the player, the person you see on a daily basis now?
“Well, right now we’re dealing with multiple Treys. Trey Lance? As far as the pre-draft process, it’s been the same for many years, where Kyle, he’s collaborative in everything he does because he wants to do the best thing. First, foremost, that’s the only thing. So, you go and study as much as you can. Have your opinions and more often than not, we’re in complete synergy, because the collection of his coaches, he has extensive relationships with. So, in terms of that, there’s not many egos. In our building, there is a chain of command. And within that chain of command, it’s understood that everyone is here to support each other because collectively we’re all judged at the end of seasons, games, quarters, whatever it is, on our final products. Having Trey in house, it’s been exciting because he is who we thought he was in terms of the diligent worker. The guy is very smart and he wants to do well, but he takes coaching. That’s something that’s undervalued in this day and age, I think, that people don’t really give its true gravity. ‘Hey, a guy is willing to hear constructive criticism and take that and move forward,’ instead of getting their feelings hurt because we’re not in the business of feelings. We’re in the business of end results. So, I think all of our players and the culture that is kind of instilled here, they kind of understand that we are here to coach you for the better betterment of all of our existences.”
There may not be a neat and tidy answer to this given how intertwined your career has been with Kyle’s and how collaborative things are. But what are the sort of the hallmarks of you as a coach? What stamp do you put on the offense individually?
“I think as a coach, I’m a product of my environment and again, my career has been intertwined with Kyle’s. So, I think for me, specifically, I am a good listener and I kind of, I think there’s a lot of times that Kyle can just be seed planning. ‘Hey, we need to do something out of shotgun, or we need more motions or we need less motions, or we need more audibles,’ attempting to get that kind of abstract vision and putting the details on it. I think that’s, I would say that would be a strength of mine. I’m not necessarily that great at giving myself compliments, so you’re putting me in an awkward spot here. At least I try to do that and it’s again, no one cares about a cool idea that’s independent on its own. An idea is cool if it’s applicable to defense, it’s applicable to the talents of your particular players and it fits within everything that you’re trying to do, because at the end of the day it’s a prerequisite that there’s no standalone plays. Everything’s got to be tied together and serve a purpose, so that it can fit the desired ends. That kind of answer your question. All right. Thumbs up.”
We obviously didn’t see all of your OTA practices, but it seemed like OL Justin Skule was serving as the swing tackle during those sessions. Now that he’s hurt, who’s in the running for that role heading into camp?
“Well it’s good that you said who’s in the running, because if I was a betting man, I probably wouldn’t bet on who it’s going to be. Because that’s what training camp is for. Training camp is to settle those things. But, one of the great things we have in terms of our offensive line position room, is there’s a ton of players that are good at tackle. There’s a ton of versatility. There’s a lot of people that will be competing in that spot. For instance, in OTAs there was OL Colton McKivitz getting reps at tackle who played guard for us last year. OL Jaylon Moore was getting reps at tackle. OL Shon Coleman was back getting reps at tackle. Even OL Dan Brunskill. There’s a lot of guys that are going to be competing and a lot of above the line NFL players. So, it will be very excited to see who can take that spot that Justin himself was competing for.”
We saw a little bit of WR Mohamed Sanu and he looked really, really good. And I don’t know if that was just that one day, but Kyle praised him as well. Things kind of went awry for him the last couple of years with injuries. Do you sense that he’s a lot healthier now and do you see him looking a lot better than he had recently?
“That’s a great observation. Mohamed Sanu is a player that we have history with, not just last year briefly, but in Atlanta for 2016. And, I think Mohamed Sanu serves as a good vision for a lot of the young guys because this dude came back in great shape and with something to prove. You can tell that he doesn’t expect anything that to be given to him, and he’s trying to earn his spot on this team. So it was very exciting to see him perform. He was doing very well. And, if he comes back to training camp in that same shape, he’s going to be a guy that is going to be tough to beat out for that final 53 roster.”
I assume you’re now out earning some of your Yale classmates. But when you were early on in your coaching career, like kind of a scrub with the Texans or hanging with the Sacramento Mountain Lions, did you get people like, ‘Dude, what are you doing with your Yale degree,’?
“Yeah, I hope no one ever thought it was a scrub. Yeah, you got that question a lot. You know, it’s funny because it’s like, aren’t there better things that you could be doing with that education? And what was funny in that whole process was when you’re deciding to become a coach and going through it registered to me. I had a summer internship or in business, there was some (investment banking) i-banking stuff that I investigated and I realized for me to ultimately be satisfied in my career, I had to be passionate about it. And unfortunately, there wasn’t that much that I was passionate about besides football. For me to be at my best and to be satisfied with my ultimate career, I knew for a fact that I had to follow my passion. So, I didn’t go into college thinking that the end game was coaching football, but when I started investigating other avenues, it was an easy decision and something I never looked back on.”
As much as I’d like to ask you about your time with the Sacramento Mountain Lions, you guys drafted OL Aaron Banks in the second round. And because of his size, some people thought that you guys would add more gap scheme because it fits his size profile. Do you see yourself adding more gap and man principles this season? And is that dependent on Bank’s skillset or having five guys just consistently on the offensive line?
“Yeah. We’ve heard that and for us it’s funny because we have a history of smaller offensive lineman. But that’s really because we haven’t invested second round draft picks into offensive linemen. We’d prefer everyone to be 400 pounds and 6’10 if you could engineer that. We do a lot of gap schemes and man schemes in our offense. But to say that we’re changing the things, no. We felt like he had a skill set that could thrive and have lot of faith in [offensive line coach Chris] Foerster and [assistant offensive line coach] Butch Barry and [assistant offensive line coach] Zach Yenser to get him to perform to our standards. We weren’t looking through a vision of changing anything. We thought that this is a guy that was quick enough that on the second level could attach to the defenders. He had a lot of skills. And yeah, we like that he’s big. He’s just gonna have to run fast while being big and we felt like he was a candidate to do that.”