Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Chris Foerster Press Conference
Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Chris Foerster
Press Conference – December 7, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan has said RB Christian McCaffrey’s mentality is that of like a walk-on or undrafted guy, like still trying to prove himself. Obviously elite players have special qualities, but that seems pretty rare to not seemingly ever feel like you’ve arrived or ease up even a little. Is that unique in your experience?
“It is unique, yeah. He’s a very unique guy, but I say this, he’s also very confident in his ability and very much has a chip on his shoulder to show everybody how good he is. But his work ethic is one of, it’s never good enough. It’s really cool. It’s really cool to see a guy that’s really shooting for perfection and he is not afraid to say that he’s fallen short, but he’s always progressing, always working, so that’s really impressive to watch how hard he works, how diligent he is. I mean, there’s so many little things that he does on [WR] Deebo [Samuel], the last screen pass touchdown that we ran Christian’s on the backside and he fakes a like a flare screen and that backside linebacker who almost caught Deebo as Deebo was coming up to score. There was a guy that was right there, they had to outrun. I think he’s going to outrun him either way. If Christian dogs that just a little bit, if Christian doesn’t, I mean how much time was left in the game and how many plays did Christian play? He took out of there with his hands in the air, like he was catching the screen and pulled that linebacker out of there. That’s why we scored. I mean the guys did a nice job blocking it, but ultimately the play went in because of Christian. Every little thing he looks at as what he can do better and that is rare. That’s really rare and that’s why he’s a great player.”
Kyle was talking about how that is the best player he’s ever been around without the ball in his hands. When you think about what he does with the ball in his hands, that’s pretty remarkable. Is that just one example?
“That’s one example. Exactly. One example. There was a day it was really funny. Kyle pointed it out and he does it all over the field and I don’t watch, I’m locked in more on the guys up front most days. I don’t know what the play was, I can’t picture, but he was releasing on the backside to block somebody. Actually, it was a run play or something that we had a draw or I don’t remember what the play was. He was going to block somebody and when he was running out to block him, he set up and started to act like he was going to run a route so the guy would look to cover and then he went and blocked him. It’s just every little thing he can look to gain an advantage or look to what he can do without the ball in his hands. He does. It’s outstanding.”
What did you think of Philadelphia Eagles DT Jalen Carter? Seems like you guys kept him pretty quiet. He’s enormously talented. What did you think of the job you guys did?
“Well, I think the guys did a really good job. I think the game went well for us. We started off and obviously had a couple series there that weren’t as good. And Jalen’s a very talented and good player and he did have some good plays in there. Our guys just managed to convert on some third downs, keep them on the field, work our plan and do things we talked about doing. And [OL] Aaron [Banks] did a nice job and wherever they put him, the guys really battled and did a good job against him.”
A couple times it popped out that OL Spencer Burford was finishing plays way down the field, even on the Deebo touchdown you referred to. Is that if it’s been something he’s been doing all year or is there a point of emphasis of like, Hey, we need you to finish more here. Is that an area that he’s grown in?
“He’s grown in that area. I mean, he always did. I said it last year, there’s always a couple times it happens with guys. It’s like you’re getting to the point of contact, you’re getting to the point of doing your assignment and you’re just not quite finishing. You’re just not quite getting on a guy and staying on him. An old coach, [former NFL coach] Dennis Green of mine used to say, blocking the guy is no more. He said, ‘Chris, you can talk all this stuff about being an O-lineman and techniques and all that. He said, but when the ball carrier gets there, are you on your guy?’ And he doesn’t make the tackle. That’s what I tell my guys. So I get all this, but guys, your guy made the tackle or your guy got in on the tackle, so that’s not good enough. So whatever we have to do to make sure your guy that you were responsible for isn’t hitting the guy at the end of the play. And that I think eventually rings true with guys who realize, oh, I have to keep doing this, blocking him for a little bit, then letting him go and letting him run and run and maybe he gets in on the tackle later isn’t acceptable. And everything we do in our offense comes from Kyle that everybody’s expected to finish, everybody’s expected. Our plays last because of the wide zone, it’s longer. You start on the left hash and the ball goes out to the numbers and then it runs downfield and everybody has to block their guys all that far and it ends up being just a little bit longer that we have to maintain our contact and our blocks and it’s a process for young guys coming in to learn that.”
Was that as good of a game the offensive line played this year?
“I don’t know. [Laughs]. The guys played okay. They did a good job. I mean, this group of guys, I don’t ever want to, I’m not bad mouthing. I know you guys know that I love this group. They really work hard for us every single day. But we’re a work in progress still. There was a lot of good things in that game. We managed the crowd. The two tackles did a really nice job on those guys and the interior players, they had some beasts in there and they were a challenge. [QB] Brock [Purdy] did a good job with getting the ball out. Kyle did a good job getting the play calls. It all works together when we look good nine times out of 10 it’s because everything else around us is going well. The guys were serious-minded. They wanted to go and do it. I was honest with them. I told them and I didn’t say it then, if I look back at that championship game from a year ago, I was nervous we weren’t going to block them as well. I didn’t know how it was going to play it. We never got a chance to see because the game went a different direction, obviously with the injury to Brock. And then we went in there and the guys did a good job. Now that’s one game. The guys did a nice job, but I’m not going to crown anybody yet.”
T Trent Williams was saying that the last time you guys played Seattle, that Banks was really banged up going through that game, kind of played through it, but he felt like it was a really kind of a turning point game for Aaron because he was able to tough it out and still perform. In what ways have you seen him grow in terms of putting it on the line and those types of things?
“Yeah, Aaron last year did great. I mean, he came through everything last year and had a really nice season last year and came out as one of our better linemen. And the energy that he plays with on game day, the enthusiasm, the effort he plays with, it’s outstanding and he continues to work at his craft to get better at it. That was big for him because a lot of times – there’s injury and hurt, right? And I’ll flat tell you the story. He and I are talking about when he’s coming out, getting ready to play the game and he’s like, we went out, we were working during the week. We were in the stadium, it was a short week and we had a couple guys stay out and push on him to see if he was ready, if he’s able to anchor. And he calls me that night, he goes, I just don’t think I can play. I can’t anchor. And I said, okay, let’s talk about how many times in a game you’re going to be one-on-one by yourself needing to anchor where [C] Jake [Brendel] won’t be there, Trent won’t be there, or we’re running the ball where the anchor really doesn’t matter and all these things. And I said, we’re talking about five to 10% of the game. I’m not telling you to play hurt, which I wasn’t. That’s a point where like Trent said, I could play at 75 or 80%. Well, for Aaron that’s like 90 or 95% because there’s five or 10% of that game that he might struggle with. But it was good to get out there and start playing and get over that hump. And that’s part of a process for a young guy. Injured and hurt is two different things. And nobody’s asking. I said, Aaron, I’m not asking you, if you don’t feel comfortable playing this game, don’t play this game. And if the trainers, but he’d been cleared medically, but there were some parts of his game he didn’t feel comfortable with, but that’s part of the process you learn you say, I can play this way. I’ve told you guys a story before about [former Baltimore Ravens OL] Jonathan Ogden and he’s like, this guy I can play at this percentage, this guy, I can’t. And Trent, to his credit, Trent in the Cleveland game, he was at whatever percentage he was, if it wasn’t [Cleveland Browns DE] Myles Garrett, he probably would’ve looked a lot, but he went out there and really didn’t look great for the majority of the game, but knew he had to tough it out in those instances. Well, that’s a guy that’s done this enough to say he’s not putting himself at risk. He’s not going to hurt himself anymore knowing he is not a hundred percent, but he can do most things well enough that we could have success. And then, it’s my job, Trent in the championship game a couple years ago against the Rams probably shouldn’t have been out there and it was his first championship game. It was really hard for me to say Trent, and everybody was like, but we have to let the guy, he’s a warrior, let’s let him tough it out. He’s done it before, but he really couldn’t perform at a level that was acceptable. And he’s even said it, [OL] Colton [McKivitz] probably should have played more in that game. And that’s a tradeoff. Like I said, none of us are trying to – that’s a long answer, but I want to make sure it’s very clear. None of us are asking a guy to play hurt. None of us are. But the 100% in this league is everybody gets hurt and everybody has to play through bumps and bruises and you have to figure that out. And that’s what happened with Aaron. That’s part of one of the many things that he’s grown in that process.”