Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Chris Foerster Press Conference
Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Chris Foerster
Press Conference – May 31, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
Obviously, you had a big change at right tackle with Denver Broncos T Mike McGlinchey leaving this off season, what is your confidence level in OL Colton McKivitz and where does that kind of stem from?
“Colton, he’s done a great job for us through the years he’s been here. He’s always had to fill in short spells and has done a good job for us. I think that knowing the job is his coming into it and it’s his job to lose kind of, although there will be guys that are there to compete if it doesn’t work out. I think it is also going to help build his confidence. He is good for the position. Mike McGlinchey is one of the best run blocking tackles in the NFL. Whether I say it, PFF says it, whoever says it. Colton probably won’t be quite that, but he is a very good run blocker and his protection is really solid and consistent. He’s got a consistent personality. He’s a really tough, hardworking guy. He’s a great character guy. Kind of like last year when we talked about the interior three players, he’s made of the right stuff. He’s actually played more snaps than those interior three guys last year had played and so it’s just about a matter of getting out and starting week in and week out and not feeling like you’re a short-term guy that has to get it done for one week. This now is your job to kind of work with and play through, so I’m excited for his opportunity. Once you get out there and things start going, you hope he hangs in there. I already told him, I think we’re going to camp against the Raiders. They drafted a really high rusher [Las Vegas Raiders DL Tyree Wilson] and they have a rusher that is pretty darn good too, 98 [Las Vegas Raiders DL Maxx Crosby]. It is going to be a challenge right out of the gate, just in training camp and the first preseason game, so he’ll have a lot to go through this season, but we have a lot of confidence in the guy.”
We didn’t get to see a whole lot of him last year, but he didn’t let up, over his small sample, a lot in pass protection. Did he take big strides?
“He did. Last year he was playing as well as he’d ever played and he was in the Rams game, the home Rams game, and his knee. Here’s a shocker, he was blocking his guy and then [Los Angeles Rams DL] Aaron Donald kind of got loose on the left side and got shoved into him and his knee, it was just kind of a weird thing and so he had a minor knee thing that that took him out for a few weeks. And when he came back, it wasn’t like he wasn’t the same guy, but he just never quite got back to that level and he never really had to play the rest of the year short of a mop up thing at the end of a game.”
How do you think he grew from that trial by fire in Week 18 in 2021?
“Oh yeah, no doubt about it. Colton’s been through a lot here and the thing about him was we released him I think it was his second season after his second training camp. And that was a wake up. If you talk to him about it, that would probably be his wake-up call in the NFL. Nobody claimed him and we brought him back on our practice squad. And to him, that was one of those things where he kind of thought, well, I was drafted. I’m going to be here. I’m going to get my opportunities and you come to realize that nothing’s guaranteed and so we brought him back in a practice squad role and he was a different guy from that moment on. His jaw was set and we activated him later in the year and that kid, he’s been all business, all work, all about being the best he can be. Last season during camp, and you nailed it, he was playing as well as he’s ever played. Coming out of that Week 18 game a couple years ago against the Rams and then obviously into this season when he had to fill in.”
What do you look for out of OL Spencer Burford in year two? What does he need to do?
“Well, I’ll tell you what, it’s going to be exciting for him. Both those guys were in my office yesterday, because I wanted to give them both kind of the same message of you’re not looking over your shoulder right now. This is your job now. There’re guys here, we brought in [OL] Jon Feliciano, we brought in [OL] Matt Pryor, we’ve got [OL] Jaylon Moore, we’ve got [OL] Leroy Watson IV. We’ve got these guys that are there to compete for this position, but the same thing with Spencer. I said Spence, last year you spent split time with [Tennessee Titans OL] Dan [Brunskill] and it was good for you. And I would’ve hoped during the year he would’ve taken over the position, but he never really did. It was always kind of a nip and tuck between the two of them. And Dan had to fill in some games at other positions, so Spence ended up playing more plays. This year, boy, he has come back, looks like a different guy, carrying himself differently. The confidence level, the jump between years one and two for a player if they play is the biggest jump they ever make because you just can’t stop what goes on during a season. It’s just one game after another game after another game. And about October, your season is usually over in college and now we’re playing to February almost, last week of January, so it was so long, it’s so much and it doesn’t let up. This year I think he’s more prepared for the whole process. He knows what it is. I think he’s ready to make that step and I say everything to this point as much as you can tell from this, he looks prepared and ready to go.”
Feliciano came here with kind of a reputation of being a good glue guy, locker room guy. Are you seeing some of that in terms of his interaction with the line?
“He’s a great guy and that’s the one thing about it. We were just talking about on the way over that the character of the guys on this team that [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and [general manager] John [Lynch] have brought in is just outstanding. We’ve got a great group of guys, it’s a great room and everybody works together, so when we go out looking in free agency, you don’t want to bring in a guy that’s going to not be that, but Jon has been as advertised that way. He competes, you won’t miss a beat if he ends up starting at guard or center for us for whatever reason. I think John is a good player and adds a lot to the room leadership-wise. Toughness, tenacity, work ethic. Yes sir, no sir guy and really good guy. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him.”
We saw OL Nick Zakelj getting some snaps at center today.
“Yeah, well some. They were on the ground some too.”
I wasn’t going to mention that.
“I will, thank you. Yeah, we’re trying to work him in there. Nick is an interior player. I think there’s been some talk about Nick at tackle because that’s what he played in college. He’s an interior player and he’s made great strides. If there’s was a McGlinchey Award, Mike McGlinchey should have had a cot somewhere, he was here all the time, 24/7. McGlinchey was Mr.49er. Zakelj is running a close second to that right now because he was here the first day that he could be here in the offseason training, working on his quickness, working on everything we asked him to work on. He’s made a huge jump, but he has to get snaps up and he’s had some trouble in these OTAs. Gun snaps are fine. He’s just has to get more snaps with our quarterbacks and right now, because it’s a different quarterback, it’s not like he’s taking, in the scout team last year say you took all your snaps with 17 [Baltimore Ravens QB Josh Johnson] and then now this year it becomes a point where it’s a bunch of different quarterbacks. He’s not used to that yet, so he’s not a natural center, but we’ve got to get him ready to go with that position.”
Have you talked about OL Joey Fisher yet? What are your thoughts on Fisher?
“Big Joey. Joey’s a guard. He’s definitely a guard. Joey’s going to be a right or left guard. I don’t see him playing center ever, right now. It doesn’t mean in time he might not be able to grow into the position. He’s not a tackle though. He is a strong, hardworking, tough guy. I really like what I see in him. It’s a big learning curve right now as is for all rookies. He’s a smaller school guy. The techniques that they used were different, so it’s a big learning curve, but you never know. You come in and you start doing it, next thing you know, it clicks for some guys sooner than others. Or he may be a year from now. I don’t know, but I really like him as an undrafted guy because he’s physically got the makeup to be a good offensive guard.”
You mentioned earlier the value in kind of knowing that it’s your job going into the year. OL Jake Brendel had that last year and had a pretty good year. Having had that year under your belt, how much better can Brendel get? Is there still upside there?
“Yeah, I think for the same reasons, we were talking about it today. Jake missed some calls early in the season. He got better as the season went on. He was really quick to want to make a call and as you guys know, we motion a lot, so sometimes he’d make a call, but the picture would change and we’d be off because of that. And as late as the Seattle game in the playoffs it happened, and it happens to everybody, it happened to [former 49ers C] Alex [Mack] in the NFC Championship Game two years ago. I think when that what happens is that the game slows down another step because you played a whole season now, you’ve seen all the different defenses, you’ve been on the road, you’ve heard the crowd noise, the silent count, you’ve managed all that stuff one time. Now you can build on those same things and there should be growth. Is he physically going to be a lot better player? I think you learn, you start learning angles, you start learning the defenses, the defensive guys in front of you, you start learning our offense a little bit better. You’re not just now, oh my gosh, I’m running this line, I’ve got this whole offense to learn, I have to get everybody pointed in the right direction, oh, and by the way, I have to do my job. Now, you feel a lot more confident to run the line. You feel a lot more confidence in what we’re doing and in the same sense now you can focus on now how do I play better? I think there should be a jump this year for him. There should be a jump for Burford. There should be a jump for [OL Aaron] Banks. That conversation I’ve had with Spence and Colton I had last year with Banks and it was never truer with Banks. I had it with Jake too, but I said, you may come into this thing and we may go to Minnesota for camp and you may play like a Hall of Famer or you may play like you shouldn’t be our starting guard. And through much of the preseason, there was a lot of question as to how he would do. And he struggled, but we had the conversation before and I said, it doesn’t matter, you’re the guy until the wheels absolutely come off. And so, we want you to know that and so I don’t know whether that helped him or not, I just know I wanted him to understand and it doesn’t mean that shoot, he goes into camp, some guy just outplays him. Yeah, we’re going to start the other guy, but that discussion is because you guys have heard me enough to know that it’s a long haul for these guys. We talked about it last season and yeah, they played good for three or four weeks, but it’s a long season and there’s a lot that can happen. There’s a lot of development and it’s what do they do when they fail? And that’s what you don’t know until they really fail. It’s one thing to fail out here, it’s another thing to fail when you’re posted on Twitter failing when they do the spotlight on the NFL Network and all the people point you out as being the reason why in the fourth quarter you gave up the sack fumble, blah, blah, blah. Then you have to come in the next day and pretend like it didn’t happen and go to work. That’s when you really find out about the character of a guy. That’s why what John and Kyle have done, going back to discussing the Jon Feliciano’s and the people that you bring in these high character guys and they dig in and they usually can find their way through that. I don’t remember who we were talking about now, but it could have been anybody.”
You mentioned your players, especially the younger guys taking snaps from a number of different quarterbacks. How does the current quarterback situation affect what you’re doing this time of year?
“I don’t think it really does because the offense is the offense and we’re not tailoring anything for a quarterback run game right now, so everything is set up as if it could be [QB] Brock [Purdy], it could be any of these four guys, the three that are there now and then Brock could be in there, so it really isn’t for us anything different. And it’s good for guys to take snaps from different people. There’s just a limited number of snaps, so there’s not a lot of ops, we have to get that ironed out, but it doesn’t really change much I don’t think for anybody other than the fact that a couple of guys are new and learning the system. Other than that, for us, it’s all good.”
Last year, midseason there was kind of discussion that with the whole new coaching staff or a lot of new coaches on the offensive side, that the system to get information to Kyle changed and you kind of you got in your flow midseason, you have more consistency this year. Do you already feel that helping your momentum going forward?
“Yeah, I think that [offensive passing game specialist] Klint Kubiak has come in and taken [Houston Texans offensive coordinator] Bobby Slowik’s role, so he’s had the most learning to do, but last year you’re right. Even me, I’d been the o-line coach here before, but I had to move into that run game coordinator, whatever that is, but I had more to do. I had a little bit more to do than I had to do the year before and then everybody else was brand new in their position, so you’re right, it did take a while for Kyle to adjust because he’s had [Miami Dolphins head coach] Mike McDaniel forever and all these guys had been on his staff and then all of a sudden, boom, they’re all gone. And it did take some time, and that’s not an excuse for how we played in the first part of the season. We could have won all those games, but it would’ve gone the same way. There was still an adjustment as far as the workflow who does what for Kyle who prepares these tapes because for years they’d been done by certain people and all of a sudden it changed and who was going to fill that role. We had [quarterbacks coach Brian] Griese for the first time as a quarterback coach, so this year, I think we kind of know where we’re going. And I think with Klint filling in for Bobby, kind of just doing the same thing, I think we’ve got a real good flow right now. When we get to the season, we shouldn’t be too far off of where we would from say, like you said, the midpoint of season or whenever we kind of started to hit our stride as far as how everybody’s role was going to fill out. Shoot, [tight ends coach] Brian Fleury and I, Brian was a part of the run game early, but then we came to realize just the marriage that he and I could work together, because he sits in more with Kyle for the pass game formations, things like that, so he and I, we created together much more and he was much more integral part of formation and motioning and adjusting those types of things. I’m still a line coach at heart in a lot of ways. Yes, schematically how we’re going to do things, but I’m looking at what’s best for the line, the runner, the angles and things like that and then they’re going to dress it up. And Brian, as the year went on, took on more of that role. I think everybody did. Shoot, [assistant quarterbacks] Klay Kubiak created this tape for Kyle on Fridays that was outstanding and it was probably as good as it’s ever been. Understanding what we needed to get done, so it’s been really cool to watch the guys and how everybody’s worked together and grown in their roles.”
At some point last year, I think you were half-joking that you said Griese might sometimes near the end of the day be like, what are we still doing here?
“I was joking.”
Obviously, he’s back, but there was some talk that he had to consider if he wanted to continue to be a coach? Anyway, what did he bring last year?
“Like I said, and again, it’s 2023. It’s a whole new thing, but I can speak to last year. Everybody’s role, Brian’s role as a former player adds a perspective. He’s got a great knowledge of the offense. He’s a good football coach. He understands the quarterback position, but he has that great perspective of having played the position and you have Klay Kubiak was in the room with him. Bobby Slowik was in the room with the quarterbacks. Kyle obviously is the loudest voice probably in the room with the quarterbacks to help direct the way things are going and the other guys take care of him there, but it was a cool puzzle. It kind of all fit, Brian had his role, Bobby now Klint, and then Klay was in there as well and I think everybody just kind of fills those roles and is able to really help each other out to complement each other. Brian, obviously this year has a lot more confidence. He knows the offense one year more. He’s got a lot more confidence in what Kyle wants and so, it’s always a work in progress as far as how this thing plays out. It’s always a management job and that’s where everybody has to work together because Kyle being the head coach, he can’t necessarily be up and down the hallway making sure everything’s all fitting together. We have to all work together on this thing this year and it is a little different, but it is nice to kind of have everybody kind of set in their roles. I think Brian’s ready to take that next step as well and be, and not like he wasn’t confident, he feels like his feet are on the ground this year and it’s not all new for him.”