Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel Press Conference

Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel

Press Conference – December 16, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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What stands out? What do the Falcons do well defensively?

“They play very hard. They make you earn everything. They really take advantage of offenses making mistakes. They make you earn it up and down the field and they present some pretty strong schematic issues just with how they play defense, the various coverages and fronts. And they make you really earn it. That’s the toughest thing. You see a team that plays together. A team that doesn’t rely on necessarily one person. It’s a group defense. They present a lot of issues in that way, because you don’t just isolate on, ‘Okay, we’re going to take advantage or we have to stay away from X, Y, or Z.’ No, they’re all going to play hard. They know what they’re doing. They know their responsibilities, they don’t bust much and they present a lot of different pictures.”

You guys have had a few scoring plays where players have used the whole field. They’ve gone down the sidelines, hugged the sideline, hit the pylons. How designed are those plays or how cognizant of the players are to use all 160 feet?

“I would say that would be a product of our willingness of all of our players to block, because when you are blocking with proper technique, especially on the perimeter of the defense, ball carriers can really press and utilize all 53 and a third. And we really stress that. That’s something that at every position you’ve seen, receivers, running backs, tight ends, tackles, on the perimeter. And we do our best as a coaching staff to have everyone see it through the same lens. And if we’re going to do something outside, whether it’s a run or pass and whether you’re in the middle of a route and you’re transitioning or you’re run blocking, it’s all the same principles to go one gap at a time and really stretch the defense. And when your blockers allow it and are definitive and whatnot, you can really utilize all the space. And on top of that, we have some guys that really enjoy running after the catch or running with the football. It’s one of the strengths, I think, of our offensive skill position group. So kind of those compounding variables, I think, is why we’re seeing more of that.”

This might be a dumb question. I don’t know if it’s been more this season or if I’ve just noticed it, but why do you pitch the ball on inside runs? Pitching it straight back, I feel like normally you expect a pitch to be outside, left or right. What’s the value of pitching the ball directly back?

“Not a dumb question. The value is what you just said. You do that when you feel like there’s something that the defense is keyed on. And when the quarterback reverses out and tosses the ball that you might get overplay. There’s a ton of different variables, but that would be it in itself. It’s the usual, so you try to be sound, but also, just get defenses a hair off, because if they’re a hair off that gives us an advantage. And with a lot of players that we’re very confident in, that can be the difference in three yards or 15 yards.”

It’s becoming somewhat of a weekly question, but there seems to not be any big play on offense that WR Jauan Jennings is not a part of, are you surprised at all with his success now that he has his opportunity or did you see it coming?

“It doesn’t matter what round, anytime you draft a player, you’re doing that with those hopes and as a coach you’re not going to give up on a guy and you’re going to assume that he’s capable of that. So pleasantly, I wouldn’t say surprised, that’s not fair. We were confident, especially after his rookie year with where he left before he got injured, that he would make a jump. But you never know until you know, so it it’s been cool to really see him progress as a pro and really it’s been cool for our whole offense to see. There’s a lot of individuals that could say that on our offense, because there’s been injuries, there’s been a lot of opportunities spread around. And you’ve seen a team that has used a situation that’s not ideal, which was starting 3-5 or whatever, and use it to our benefit where we started playing better football and doing the things that it takes to put yourself in position to make those plays.”

Does he remind you at all of New England Patriots WR Kendrick Bourne, just being an energy guy and also his blocking?

“Oh yeah, definitely, there’s a lot of similarities. We’ve said that a bunch, there’s players and coaches alike. He does bring a unique energy and he is the same guy every day, which is important in a marathon of a season. I think we we’re talking about it last week, but people do not understand how much work for an NFL player that goes on. It is a daily process and it goes on for six months to the face. So I think that’s been the biggest thing is just watching everyone grow that way.”

Was maybe having a year off for him learning the playbook and kind of being on the book side of everything, a benefit for him and maybe in disguise?

“Oh, for sure, that’s always beneficial. It’s a foreign language. You have 11 people trying to do assignments that are specific to them, that are dependent on the defense and you’re trying to coordinate all that. So you have these words that mean stuff, and you can read it on a playbook and whatever, but in the huddle, it is a foreign language. So being able to digest that stuff and as a football player, when you’re going against the best of the best, how important is it for you to be confident and decisive and in your responsibility? You can only imagine, it’s extremely important. So that has been a huge benefit, which I think you’ve seen with a lot of guys that are second-year players or third-year players. And that’s kind of what, in the locker room, the players kind of demand of each other because there’s so many guys that are locked in, that there’s no room for a weak link. So there’s that peer pressure and the experience that’s really been beneficial for him.”

When you draft a quarterback real high and you have an established starter, it’s one thing to say that the established starter is going to be a pro and we know he is going to handle it, but it’s not a thing to actually do it because it doesn’t happen in every instance. I’m just curious of your observation of how QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s navigated this season? It seems like he’s playing his best football right now.

“I’m very impressed. You don’t know how someone’s going respond to uncharted territory and there’s many different ways that people can go about things like that. I think he’s really earned a lot of respect from the players in the locker room, especially of how he’s gone ‘None of that matters. My job is to be my best version of myself.’ And when you can solely focus on that, you have a chance to be your best. And that’s been the biggest thing that’s been really cool to watch is a guy that knows that we drafted a quarterback high. He hears the murmurs, but he doesn’t let any of it bother him. He tries to be his best self. And in that, it forces you to focus and really gives you opportunity to be the best version of yourself.”

Jimmy hit on some deeper throws outside the numbers. I think the one that might have been a DPI to TE George Kittle, the late third down to Jennings. As a play caller in kind of the grander chess match of the season, the fact that he did stretch the field successfully like that, does that have a carryover effect on defenses and what you can call moving forward here?

“Yeah, I think so. The defenses don’t know the play that’s coming. So in general, they have to play percentages. So when you broaden the percentages of where you throw, it creates more space. They want to constrict everything and be able to defend stuff in tight quarters. In general, defenses, it stresses them out when you use more of the field. We try to do it in the run and pass game. But then there’s some defenses that say, ‘No, we’re going to make you earn it. We’re not going to allow you to do that.’ So it’s case by case and sometimes there’s opportunities to stretch the field. t’s very important when you do that they’re not a bunch of zero gains or sacks. You want to stay efficient, but you have to expand the field in general to be your most efficient offense that you want to be.”

There was a humorous moment after the game when WR Brandon Aiyuk said, they’re taught not to stretch the ball over the goal line unless it’s fourth down. And obviously, if he fumbles out of the end zone, the game is over. It obviously worked out, but do you go back and say, ‘Hey, don’t do that again.’ or is it just like, ‘Eh, every now and then,’?

“You try to avoid complete absolutes because then you’re going to talk out of both sides of your mouth. But just today we had a team meeting talking about the ball and [offensive line] coach [Chris] Foerster pointed it out. And we all thought collectively that he did it in a very safe manner that he had just passed pursuit and took the risk when there wasn’t necessarily a chance for a strip or a fumble. You give them guidelines as coaches and you try not to do it unless it’s fourth down, but then we also don’t want to handcuff guys and make absolutes and let players do what they do best. I think it’s awesome. We’ve kind of experienced that as a team or coaches and players where when the more you get to know Brandon and the closer and more comfortable he feels with you, there’s a lot of layers of humor. And when I read that after the game, I was dying laughing and you guys are starting to see his personality come out a little bit. He’s got those layers to him that are pretty cool. He made an unbelievable play, I don’t think anybody on our staff, we are all kind of preparing for second-and-goal from the four in our minds. And that’s in those split seconds and to see him make that play. I’m not going to be the guy that says, ‘No, don’t do that’.”

T Trent Williams’ physical ability, how much does what he can do on the field change what you can plan as an offensive coordinator?

“It changes immensely. There’s things that you can’t necessarily get done or get away with. And just in general, when you’re game planning as a staff, we really try to utilize our player’s skill sets as best we can. There’s an accountability as a coach for, ‘Hey, are we utilizing this guy the best way?’ And with a skillset like his, there’s things that he can do. We don’t have to worry about a guy that nobody else can cut off as much when we run right. We can get away with things where he might be out leveraged, but he can make it up. In protection you can a lot of times against very good rushers, you can say, ‘Okay, well, Trent’s got that handled.’ And you know that NFL players are very good by and large, and he’ll get beat once in a while, but you’re certain that he’s not going to continue to get beat. So there’s a lot of reasons that we’re very fortunate to have Trent. And it really helps on Monday and Tuesday for our coaching staff, game planning and whatnot.”

What do you think about comparisons between WR Deebo Samuel and Atlanta Falcons WR Cordarrelle Patterson? As Deebo gets more and more involved with the run game, how important is it to keep him involved in the passing game as well?

“I think the comparison makes sense and I think it’s very complimentary on both. And their guy has had a resurgence in his career, but he has always been. I remember when I was a receiver coach evaluating him coming out of Tennessee, he was one of my favorite guys with the ball in his hands ever. The way that he moved and can cut at his weight. And Deebo is very similar, they don’t move necessarily the same, but you see two guys that are football players who have an innate ability to carry the ball and avoid defenders and see space, that are also tough enough to do it. It’s really the only comparison with guys that have receiving numbers like that and rushing yards like that. And with Deebo, it’s game by game, how can we get him the ball? Some games you’ll see him in the backfield more, some games you won’t. It all depends on the defense and how we’re able to get him the ball and what advantages it presents for the rest of the offense.”