Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel Press Conference

Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel

Press Conference – September 30, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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 Why has it been so difficult to get the run game going?

“That’s kind of a loaded question. Running the football is a team effort. You need to have the opportunities to run it. When you get your opportunities, you need to execute it. So sometimes in given situations, whether a defense does something you’re expecting, or you plan for it and you don’t execute something one or two times and you get behind the chains or you’re in second-and-longs, it kind of builds upon itself. It’s like anything else, it’s a rhythm. And when you struggle to get in a rhythm, it sometimes takes a while to get it going. I think for our offense there’s been times where we haven’t gotten the results we’ve wanted on a run play. And then all of a sudden, we make a big play on third down and ‘Hey, we get another op.’ So, it kind of snowballs on itself. It’s definitely not something we plan for, but you deal with it and try to learn from it and move forward.”

QB Jimmy Garoppolo and TE George Kittle both seem to say the reason the running game isn’t working is that you’re getting looks or fronts that they’re not prepared for, I think was their term. What do you make of that?

“Was that George after the game?”

Yeah and Jimmy yesterday.

“Yeah, that’s something that in the heat of battle, especially after the game, you’re trying to figure out exactly why something didn’t work. Guys on our team put in a lot of effort, time, and take pride in running the ball well. So to a degree, defenses have something to do with that. It also has to do with how we plan and prepare them. It also has to do with them executing stuff that the next day on tape, I know George sees stuff and he’s like, ‘Hey, we could have done this, that or whatever.’ So it’s a little bit of it, but it’s not the entirety by any stretch. We’ve been dealing with going against uncharted looks since 2018 in the run game and we don’t expect that to change. But shoot, a team might come out and do exactly what they’ve done to every other team and because certain players give forth certain effort, it happens and you have to learn from it. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s about building so that you can run the ball down the stretch of the season when the games are as equally important, if not more.”

How did RB Trey Sermon fare throughout the course of the game? Did you see an evolution with him, improvement as the game went on?

“There were definitely things that he improved on as the game wore on. There were also things that he really had been shortchanged in terms of he hasn’t played tackle football that much. When you really think about it, he had the COVID year and then going into this season, we have padded practices, but we’re not going to the ground and then preseason he got dinged. So, there were some he did get better and there was also things in his play that we looked at and were like, ‘Hey, here’s another thing that you can improve on.’ What I will say is probably as much, if not more than any player on the team this week, you can tell that he learned from the experience. He had as deliberate of a week practicing as anybody. I think a lot of players on our team are very confident in him moving forward. I know he’s confident and excited for the opportunity and just excited to continue to progress.”

Is he at all at fault on the screen that turned into the backwards pass? Was there bad timing from a lot of people on that play?

“Sure. One of the things that’s very important to be a good team in the NFL is that from coaches down, you all feel responsible for the outcome of a play. So you’re really in trouble if a guy is like, ‘oh, it’s not my fault.’ You need guys to say, ‘well, I could have,’ and he’s no exception. We can look at it from a coaching staff perspective, me specifically, immediately after the game I’m thinking to myself, ‘okay, did we put him in that position enough?’ And even if you did, you’re still thinking to yourself, ‘what could I have done?’ He definitely thinks, ‘Hey, I could have got out there faster,’ it was a situation that when you watch the play, Jimmy Garoppolo is doing a play fake, his back as to the defense and if you put yourself in his shoes, he is not expecting what happened where there’s a guy in his face. So that has to do with timing. And we want the offensive line to be perfect in timing, but we coach the back, ‘Hey, you can make this all right if you’re a little further out and a little more urgent.’ So he was part of it, but we’re all a part of is the way we try to look at it.”

That play ideally, how long do you want OL Laken Tomlinson to hold 97?

“I can’t give you the secrets to the sauce. But let’s just say we would prefer, that goes for guard and center, we’d prefer not to have a defensive lineman in the face of Jimmy Garoppolo. We were trying to adjust the timing relative to their pass rush and we didn’t get it done collectively as an offense.”

On the go-ahead touchdown drive, George Kittle made a couple of big plays there. In between two of his receptions, it looked like is when his calf tightened up on him. He didn’t come out the game obviously, he played all the way through it. What does he mean in those situations and how important is it that he’s on the field?

“Great observation, good eyes. He has what we’d like to call competitive greatness. Which I think [former UCLA Basketball Coach] John Wooden defined as being your best when your best is required or being your greatest when your greatest is required. You guys aren’t quoting me on that right (laughing)? He exhibits that all the time, he makes plays in games that we’ve never seen him make in practice because the moment, the adrenaline, it works in his favor. So when you’re in need of safe throws, but you need a lot of yards, it’s a great option for us, because we know that it’s going to take a very good tackler to bring him down and we’re going to be able to get yards and we trust him with the ball. So, he gives a ton of juice and life to all of his teammates and coaches.”

I mean, and this is, like you said, he’s unique in that way, but do you see that rubbing off, is there another guy that you can see adapting to that?

“Oh, for sure. That happens all the time in football. Whether it’s route-running, whether it’s being exposed to certain types of players. I can remember as a receiver coach studying [Los Angeles Chargers WR] Keenan Allen coming out of Cal, and like every receiver for the next three years had certain releases that were just like, ‘wow, he’s definitely rubbed off on them.’ It happens all the time in football. George Kittle and running with the ball in his hands is no exception. So, we coach [WR] Deebo Samuel all the time. We’re in the process of coaching, [WR] Brandon Aiyuk all the time. We coach running backs all the time. Because it’s all the same relative to you have the ball in your hands and you’re trying to maximize the amount of yards you’re getting. So look at how George attacks the edge of a defender, look how he keeps his turnover going, his pad level, his strain. So, it’s very beneficial to all of his teammates. Kind of painting a picture. I firmly believe that [former Green Bay Packers QB] Brett Favre had a little something to do with the way [Green Bay Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers plays. That stuff kind of snowballs and players pick up on that and apply it to their game.”

On Deebo, head coach Kyle Shanahan mentioned yesterday that one of the things he improved was his route running, just kind of being more of a complete receiver. I’m curious, is there ways that you have been able to use him more? Does he have a more advanced route tree?

“For sure. It’s a very cool thing to watch because Deebo’s a player that if you take the time and you’re able to show him exactly what you want, he is willing to do whatever it takes to improve upon it. And it’s your job as a coach to best articulate that through film to show him how he can get better. I know he wants to be great. And the best thing about him is he is not satisfied. He’s been able to really expand his route tree. He’s a great person to get the ball to, so that’s great news for the 49ers. And so, he’s expanded the way that we’ve been able to get him to the ball.”

Brandon Aiyuk was on the field a lot more this week. Was that a plan ahead of the game? What do you think he’s improved on in practice?

“He had been earning the right to be on the field more. I don’t think any of us were foreseeing the ratio of reps going as extreme as it did. Again, that’s game circumstance, part of the residuals of a choppy start or not sustaining drives is you don’t get into a routine that [wide receivers coach] Wes [Welker] is used to where you can sub people in and out. So, you get these shorter drives so it just kind of happened that way. But I wouldn’t expect that to happen in the future. We love what [WR] Trent [Sherfield] offers us. He plays fast and physical and makes plays. We knew that Brandon was going to play more. I don’t think we knew it was going to be the ratio it was.”

Both Jimmy and George had talked about postgame that the Packers were good specifically in the run game pick up with the outside zone. It was kind of different and unique than what you had seen in the past. They expressed confidence that you would figure that out. Is that accurate? Was it like, geez they’re showing something–?

“It wasn’t earth shattering or mind blowing. We kind of had an idea what they were going to do, and it was in the family of that. But that’s part of our jobs. You put play concepts in so that they can learn rules that can apply to any defense and there’s a cost benefit for everything you do. It’s one of the reasons why the running game didn’t get going is because, ‘Hey, they have six on the line of scrimmage.’ That’s a lot of people. Who’s defending pass plays? So, we should probably pass. You know what I mean? So, it all snowballs on itself and if you’re able to sustain drives more and you’re in a tight game, you can earn those run plays back. You have to be willing to attack the defense where they’re most vulnerable. And we don’t go into games just being hardheaded and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to run it 40 times regardless.’ There are defenses that dictate. ‘Okay, well, hey, it’s probably not smart to bang our head against the wall.’ We should probably do something to make them pay for their adjustment to our run game.”