Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Chris Foerster Press Conference

Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Chris Foerster

Press Conference – December 14, 2023

San Francisco 49ers

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Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks was just talking about how Head Coach Kyle Shanahan was talking about how Arizona is 3-10, but the message to the team is, do not look at 3-10, these guys can actually play. Does that resonate with you from what you see?

“Yeah, records really, win losing games comes down to a lot of things that happen in a game, you know, turnovers and you make a kick, you don’t make a kick. Things like that. You look at the team, you look at the players that your guys are going against, you look at the side of the ball you’re going against. You evaluate those players, you evaluate the scheme, and you look at what the challenge is and what you have to do every week. You get so ground down in the minutiae and you try to just stay in that world of, Hey, we have to take care of this, where I have to do my job. That the big picture thing just really doesn’t weigh that heavily on what the record is or where they’re headed or what they’re doing. And so, there’s tons of stories about past teams I’ve been on where you’ve been in a situation where your record isn’t quite as good and shoot these games become like playoff games for you at the end of the season. Your team’s building towards something next season and so on and so forth. But all that stuff really doesn’t matter. What we have to do is take care of business. What our job is every single play and do the best that we can. And that’s where the focus is.”


After the game, QB Brock Purdy said he noticed that Seattle Seahawks S Jamal Adams was flatfooted, and he recognized that before the play on WR Deebo Samuel’s touchdown. Is that something that you don’t see as often in a young quarterback?

“You’re looking at something every single play. So I mean, yeah, he’s an experienced thrower, we’ve talked about what a good quarterback he’s been through the years as far as he’s played the position, he understands the position, and these are things, who knows when he picked that up during the course of his career? You never know. Every guy’s different. Sometimes you’re amazed when a guy comes in from college football and the things he knows and then you’re amazed sometimes with things they don’t know and you’re having to teach them that. So you never know. He might’ve picked that up in sophomore year of high school football, noticing flat-footed defenders and things like that. Or he might’ve just picked it up recently hearing it from somebody else talk. So, you just don’t know. You’d have to ask him that. But, he does continue to do really good things and things that seem to put him probably ahead of the curve for where a guy with his experience and age is.”


How has the culture here made things self-sustaining for a coach? Do you not have to spend a lot of time to get this guy going because they’re looking at their teammates to get going?

“Well, I think it’s both things. I think that you always go back to, we’ve talked about, I know [General Manager] John [Lynch] and Kyle have talked about a lot the way we have decided to draft players. We’ve brought players in, they haven’t worked out, they’ve worked out, but the type of player that we bring in traditionally has been the kind of guy that we feel really good about, and a guy that is self-motivated and does fit what our quote unquote culture is. I go back to, it starts with the expectation that Kyle sets for everybody and that expectation, it’s in every part of the building. Whether it be on field, off the field, the way people work, all those things. There’s just an expectation level that there’s not much variance or give in it.


And so that it kind of then becomes self-sustaining to a degree, but we have to stay on it every single day. It’s not like I don’t come to work. I know that if I’m not doing something right, I’m going to hear about it. If one of my players isn’t doing something right, if there’s a drop off during practice, they’re going to hear about it from me. They’re going to hear about it from other players. So, they work with each other. We’ve got a good veteran team that way. But it starts at the top and it really does. Kyle is just very demanding of all of us. And that expectation level is why it is the way it is and then you bring in players that like that. So, then they thrive in that environment, so then they do keep it going.


You see a guy like FB Kyle Juszczyk who tries to show you every day all the different things that he can do and other fullbacks around the league that seem like they’ve kind of embraced that more. You’ve seen that position kind of evolve. How much do you think versatility and being able to do that, especially at that position, is kind of key to keeping it alive?

Well, for us, you know, it really is because the game is everybody wants to take the game and become a spread. And that’s been the trend over time. And so then you can stay with the I formation and do the things, but being able to break out of the I and use your fullback in those other ways allows you to kind of do some of the spread things, some of the things that other teams are doing without a fullback, and yet still put the fullback in the backfield and put you in a position that you can run some of the traditional plays that you’d use a traditional fullback on. There’s a lot of advantages to having a fullback. And so put them in the backfield there and being able to do the things we do with him or the other tight ends, there’s an advantage to how you can cut the defense, different things you can do. When you’re a one back offense, you don’t have a lot of leverage and things like that. That’s why the quarterback runs. And the zone read stuff becomes such a big thing because you regain an advantage that you don’t have with one back in the backfield. So, that advantage that Kyle gives us and that it lets you do a little bit of everything, that’s really cool. I’ve talked to the guys in Miami, the guy they have there in [Miami Dolphins FB Alec] Ingle, he has a heck of a job doing some of the same things. He’s probably not quite as versatile athletically, but he still does a lot of those same things. And then it’s still a good fullback.”


Is there a tipping point of when that position had to evolve in a way because it used to just be like the sledgehammers going through?

“Well, I think what happened was, I ran into it when I was in Tampa. There was a really good guy, in fact, with [former Tennessee Titans TE] Frank Wycheck’s passing, the Music City Miracle. One of the pieces of that was [former NFL FB] Lorenzo Neal, and Lorenzo was with us in Tampa, and Lorenzo was the definition of leverage. You say how do you get leverage? Well, you’d be about 5’9 and weigh about 240 pounds and be built like a fire hydrant. You have leverage on everybody you’re going to block. Well, Zo was that, but the problem was that even in Tampa where we weren’t going to throw the ball a lot back in the day, he played 15 snaps, you’re paying him x amount of dollars to play that limited number of snaps. And so, all of a sudden, you’re like, it’s not worth it. And then you wanted to throw the ball a little bit more, do different things with different positions. So I think that if you’re going to be on the roster, you can’t have somebody that’s that limited. So having that be more versatile it fits the salary cap, everything that goes into it.”


Can you also just execute more blocking combinations with the fullback on the field?

“There’s more things available. There really are. There’s just more and moving tight ends, it’s all the same thing that halfback type position, but you’re having guys that can, you know, you just can cut the defense in different ways. Things that you see sometimes we have these plays that you just see, it just kind of opens up because we’ve cut it, we build a wall this way, we knock things out this way. But that allows with fullback. When it’s one back, you’re always in. We’ve had one our most productive plays, the one back play. I mean, the fullback might be up on the line of scrimmage, but we don’t have the cut of the defense. We don’t have angles on. And it’s been a productive play for us. This season, more productive than ever and it’s still probably our best play. But those plays do, all of a sudden you’re doing this, bam, you cut the defense with the fullback and it gives you some more flexibility.”


We saw some prominent downfield blocking by wide receivers in this last game as there has been throughout the season. I’m just wondering how Kyle, you or WR Coach Leonard Hankerson highlights that. Is that something that after a game like that, it’s is sort of underscored?

You caught me in a minute with Leonard. I call him Hank. Hank has a hard hat in his meeting room and if they get a good block, they get to sign the hard hat. So, [WR] Jauan [Jennings] is on there a bunch this year. They all do. I’ll go back. When I first started working with Kyle and [former NFL coach] Mike Shanahan in Washington, every Friday we had what we called the run meeting. And what you did is you took Thursday’s team run period, and it started with [former NFL offensive line coach] Alex Gibbs in Denver. And he’d go in there and it would be his chance to coach all 11 guys in the run game. And that’s when, I can’t speak for him, may he rest in peace, but he would get to rip everybody in the room not just rip his lineman. Now he got to chew out the receivers, chew out the quarterback for not carrying out the fake, and it became his chance to kind of bring everybody together in the run game. And so, I get the meeting and I’m like, am I going to yell at [former NFL WR] Santana Moss, all these guys? So, I’m running the meeting and Coach Shanahan, as he did, he recorded all the meetings so he could actually punch in on a screen and watch everybody’s meetings. He could go from meeting room to meeting room and listen on a video screen. So, he’s listening to my meeting, and all of a sudden, the door flies open and he comes in from his office. I was in the middle of trying to run this meeting, I didn’t know how Alex did it. And he’s like, Hey, coach, this Santana, that’s unacceptable. You have to get your ass in there and block that guy. And coach, you have to coach him harder to go do it.


I’m like, oh crap, here we go. So, I’m like, I have to figure out how to do this meeting. This was a roundabout way to tell you the story, but this guy, they had a high expectation level for receiver blocking. And from that point forward, I said I can’t do it that way. So what I would do when Santana missed his block, I started going back and finding other film clips of game tape where Santana did, Hey, Santana, hey man, look at this. Great job, great job. And then this, Hey, Tana, we know you can do better than that in this place. Same thing here. You can show Deebo doing things excellent or [WR Brandon] Aiyuk and those guys. And so, it’s just the expectation. Like we spoke earlier about the expectation of the building, when we run the football, it’s all 11 guys, the quarterback carrying out the fake, the receivers doing their part. That expectation level was set a long time ago, and it’s all of us. Hank has to stay on them. We all do. It’s not acceptable to not do your job in the running game because it’s a huge part of what we do. And that’s why, knock on wood, we’ve had some success here running the football. It’s all 11 doing it.”


Much is made of the Niners and pre-snap motion. Kyle talked about how can’t put a defense in a bind and they have to adjust. Some teams don’t use it that much. Why is that? Like when you see the effect it can have, why would teams say that’s not for us?

“Well, some systems you’ve heard quarterbacks mic’d up, right? Making Mike points, Mike 52, Mike, you know, and the more you move, [former NFL QB] Peyton Manning was when they beat [former NFL coach] Rex Ryan’s defense in the championship game. I think it was when the Jets made it the one year and the Colts went, they lost it anyway. He went the whole second half and said, not only do I not want to move, I want to be in the same formation every single step, because I’ll be able to know exactly what they’re doing if I just stay in this formation. I have all the tells so I can put us in the right play. So, any motion would make it really hard for him to audible or check with me or do plays like that. Other teams have to have a Mike point. Everything’s moving, right? So, you have to move and get set and it’s impossible to make the identification. So, we’ve built a system through, the quarterback doesn’t have to do all that and we’ve gone through the years, it’s evolved. I mean, because I was with Kyle in 2010 and then was apart for a little bit and came back together. It’s just evolved. And how we identify people, we came up with a way in 2010, some of that has changed with motion and movement. We’ve had to come up with different words as to how we do it to fix things. When you have jet sweeps going this way and that way to tell the center how to identify it properly. But because teams are predicated on we want the quarterback, everybody gets set, quarterback says we’re going here, everybody goes here, it sets the table cleanly. We’re not always clean. It’s not always perfect. But there’s a tradeoff. Neither are they. And it’s just a real challenge. And that challenge, it’s real. I mean, [C] Jake Brendel is challenged and as were the centers before him in the systems to really get up there and make sure that everybody’s going in the right direction. They do a heck of a job with it. We have to still do better and sometimes we have all these moving pieces and you’re like, oh wow, we haven’t seen that before. And you have to kind of step back and say, maybe we have to adjust how we’re doing this, that, or the other thing. It’s all the nickel defense being played the base now. There’s always a challenge as defenses evolve and we evolve with the moving pieces. It’s a chess match always.”


What do you think of OL Ben Bartch so far and where does he fit best on your line if you had to project?

“Ben’s doing a great job. A real good friend of mine, [NFL offensive line coach] George Warhop, who was the line coach in Jacksonville, had him. And actually when we played Jacksonville, George and I got together for a breakfast and we just talked. And he’s not in coaching this year, hopefully he gets back. He should get back in next year. He is a great coach. And George said, Hey man they just traded for [Jacksonville Jaguars OL] Ezra Cleveland. The Jacksonville Jaguars did. And they bumped my guy, Benny Bartch down to practice squad. He said, if you get a chance to pick him up, he’d be a really good guy to pick up. And so, I watched the tape and he was really good. He had a knee injury and so when you watch this year’s tape, I said, George, he’s struggling man, but when you went back and watched the year before and sometimes it takes a guy a year after the knee, takes another year. And so when you watch him and I got him here, he fits our system. He’s quick, Guard, probably not yet anchoring well enough at Guard. You’re a little bit concerned as an anchor in pass protection. That’s what concerned me on the Jacksonville tape. But at Center he is good, he can play Center as well. Those interior three positions, he’s got the quickness, he’s got the length, he’s got some size. And as he gets into our system, we keep working with him, I think he’s got a real good fit for our inside three and gives us a chance to add another good quality player inside. I really like the guy.”