Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel Press Conference
Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel
Press Conference – November 4, 2021
San Francisco 49ers
How has RB Jeff Wilson Jr. looked the last couple of days?
“It’s just been awesome to have Jeff back in terms of being able to see him at all. He has been working hard and he’s a big part of the energy that our team has. You can see it every game he brings the juice. So that’s been exciting. I think the guys are excited that he’s able to be outside with us and in a helmet and whatever, but you try not to get, especially with the guy that hasn’t played since May, you try not to get ahead of yourself at all. So, just every time we see him, we’re just making sure that he looks like the Jeff we know and hoping there’s no setbacks, so we can get him on the field as soon as possible.”
What elements does he bring to the run game?
“I think you guys can see it, early and often, we call it shoulder punch, but when a defender is trying to tackle him, you can see extra energy and juice that the rest of the offense feels. He’s a running back that when you give him a carry, not only is he getting yards, but he’s also breathing life into to the offense and defense and the special teams. So that’s what’s unique about him, his style and his energy and passion for the game. He’s a guy that was undrafted and wears that on his sleeve. It’s really what’s made him who he is, is that he’s not comfortable at all. He’s always trying to work and get better. He’s come a long way from that 195-pound skinny kid in North Texas that we worked out back in, whenever that was, 2018. And that’s a testament to him specifically and who he is as a person and a man.”
How has RB Elijah Mitchell earned your trust so quickly? I mean, he gets a healthy workload.
“He does. Generally, and this is pretty revolutionary, but good players, you know. No, what’s interesting about him is you don’t know that going into the season. You start in training camp and you’re like, ‘wow, there’s some stuff in practice when he’s not getting tackled.’ I remember talking to you guys about it over the summer, and you’re like, ‘man, there might be something there’ and then getting in games. ‘Wow, he hit the right hole. again.’ I think [T] Trent Williams said something to us this week, there was a play, it was probably the third run of the game in the first quarter, inside zone to the right. And it wasn’t blocked premierly so, he had to just get downhill and he ran into Trent’s back. And Trent was like, ‘I haven’t been hit that hard by a running back since [Tennessee Titans RB] Adrian Peterson. So, there’s some stuff to his game that the more he plays, the more you realize that he’s a special young player and there’s a reason why he’s having productivity. You’d have no way of knowing. Even grainy Louisiana-Lafayette tape wouldn’t tell you that.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said you don’t really manage tight ends. Like that’s not something that’s typically done, but TE George Kittle is averaging, when he’s playing, the most snaps in the league and blocks more than some of the guys like Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce and Las Vegas Raiders TE Darren Waller. Do you guys think there’s a risk and having to protect George from himself and just letting him block and play as much as he does given his injury history?
“Well, I think there’s two different conversations when someone is dealing with an ailment that’s something that we’ve, over history, have done multiple times with George with limiting his snaps and whatever. But just as far as a healthy player, trying to protect him from himself that’d be a tough, almost impossible task because you’d be picking arbitrary plays and say, ‘hey, okay. Yeah, we’re not going to use you here because you might get hurt.’ I mean, that’s every play for a player. So we make sure, it’s a testament to George Kittle and how in shape he is really that we’re able to use him. But it’s kind of a hard thing to kind of say, ‘hey, this really good player, that’s really good with the ball in his hands, that our team depends on, we’re not going to give him the ball.’ Now, if defenses say, ‘hey, we’re not going to let you throw to him.’ That’s a different story. And that happens from game to game. But in terms of using him, when a guy is healthy it’s football, so you play your players. He plays a physical type game and he will continue to learn how to keep himself out of harm’s way as best he can. But, it’s like an offensive lineman. Should we tell Trent to take half the game off? So, it’s a tough deal. We’ve never really approached it that way and I don’t really see players being substituted for reasons other than you might not be good on this play or you’re tired and you can’t perform at the best of your ability.”
How has he looked this week?
“It’s been cool to have him back. He brings such energy and juice, every time he’s on the football field his will you feel like, ‘okay, this guy’s in premier form, best shape, whatever.’ But because he’s so tough, you just don’t really know what’s going on until he gets inside and he talks to the trainers, position [tight ends] coach Jon Embree, talks to Kyle. So, from my standpoint, it’s been great to have him back and he looks great. But in terms of, because of his toughness, I don’t really know what that means or how far he is from being on the football field. So, we’re just preparing. I think [TE] Charlie [Woerner] and [TE] Ross Dwelley have put together some great games these last couple of games. We’re prepared to move forward that way and hope to get Kittle back as soon as we can really.”
WR Deebo Samuel has such a high percentage of your receiving yards, it’s the highest figure in the league, basically percentage for one receiver, having the teams receiving yards. As Kittle gets back and then WR Brandon Aiyuk being more involved last week, would you expect that number to come down as a per game average? And would that be more healthy for the offense?
“You’re at your healthiest as an offense when you can equally distribute the ball. And I think all the players understand that as well. Because when one person’s getting the ball, if there’s a threat of them getting the ball, there’s more space for the other guy. So, I think that’s always the goal for us, but then at the same time, you’re trying to win football games and get the ball into really good players hands. It doesn’t always happen that way. We’ve had years as an offense where with [Tennessee Titans WR] Julio Jones, I think in 2015, he might of had 1,800 yards, but we were are our best selves in Atlanta the next year when he had 1,500 yards. So that is the goal, but you’re never saying, ‘hey, we’re getting the guy the ball too much as much as, ‘Wow. Well, if he can do this, if he can get an 83-yarder on third-and-19, what if we through screens to other people? How much space would he have then?’ So, it does play a part. In an ideal world we’ll distribute the ball as best we can everywhere, but beggars can’t be choosers. We’re just trying to move the ball, score points and win games.”
At 3-4, obviously, you need all the wins you can get. And you’ll take them however you can get them. The more you give Deebo the ball, the more likely you are to win, but at the same time, it’s a long season and he has a calf injury. So, is it hard to find the balance of like, what is the right workload for your best player on offense or Deebo in particular?
“Well, with injuries, it’s a little easier because you’re managing their rep count when they’re not fully able to go. They can’t play as much. I don’t think Deebo played as many snaps as Brandon Aiyuk, which was the first time the season. So, that for sure. In terms of how many targets and touches he gets, we put plays together and if the defense presents itself where he’s open, or he does an unbelievable job of separating and wills himself to. We didn’t go into the game thinking that, I don’t even know what his rep count was, but it’d probably work out to be a fifth of his plays, he had a reception. We didn’t go in thinking that way, but there’s a couple of coverages that [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] trusted him, kind of threw him open. He stepped back to the ball and you’re like, ‘wow.’ So, in terms of injuries, it is easier but you let the game play out, you try your best to get everyone involved. But, when the lights are on and it’s game time, you’re just trying to win a game. And our whole team supports and understands that.”
When you and Kyle talk about Brandon Aiyuk having good weeks of practice, even his teammates are saying it. What does that mean to you, like generally or even specifically, what is a good week of practice?
“It’s an interesting question for a receiver, in particular, because it’s layered. It’s not, ‘okay yeah. He caught 10 balls today.’ Well, your job is to catch balls. It’s how you go about everything. And it takes a while for rookies to really understand, ‘okay, why are we irritated at this play that I just caught a six-yard hitch? I was open,’ We’re looking through the lens of like, ‘okay, how’s this going to look against their starting corner? What is the standard with which how you do things? And how successful is that going to be over time?’ So, you’re looking at concretely how they’re doing things, the approach, the urgency, if they’re getting– so really adhering to the timing of plays and separating and being where you’re supposed to be and doing everything we emphasize, that’s a good practice. You may not get any catches in that. You may just run, but in that process, the quarterback is watching the tape intently and saying, ‘wow, I can rely on this guy.’ So for Brandon, it’s been really, especially these last couple of weeks, he’s looked like the player that we envisioned when we drafted him. In terms of he’s got a lot of physical tools, but he also has a mindset and he’s a young guy that’s finally starting to understand what it means to be a pro and approach every practice like, ‘hey I’m determining the game on Wednesday. I’m winning the game on Thursday.’ That’s been the difference and I think it’s that gray, but it’s that obvious to the whole offense. That’s why you keep hearing it from every facet, whether it’s a player, a coach or whatever. You can feel that. It’s hard to say exactly what it is. It’s the entirety. It’s the sum of the parts and just how he goes about his day-to-day practice. Every assignment, blocking, route, catch, all of it.”
With Elijah, it seems that the past two weeks especially, he’s really fitting through and hitting those small creases on outside. Is that a matter of him, as a rookie, getting a step faster, a step more confident as he’s kind of gotten used to the NFL?
“For sure, that’s what was really funny about or interesting about him early in the season. It was I think his second carry was the 38-yard touchdown. So, you saw it, but then you see it more on a play-in, play-out basis where there’s certain times where at the beginning of the season, he was a hair indecisive. He sees it, you coach him on it, and then you see each and every play, ‘okay. Incrementally, we’re getting more efficient and better.’ You’re seeing more explosive runs but also more yards per carry because each week he’s getting a little bit more decisive, which is a real thing. The NFL game is a lot faster, the holes are smaller and I know there’s a lot of plays that one of the reasons he’s having success is because he looks at his tape and says, ‘wow, I’ve left a lot of yards out there.’ That’s the way he looks at it. And with that approach, you can continue to get better and be more productive in tight areas and whatnot.”