Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Press Conference
Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Chris Foerster
Press Conference – December 22, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
What’s the challenge for blocking along the offensive line when Baltimore’s linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen are kind of like your guys, LB Fred Warner and LB Dre Greenlaw. How much tougher is it to block these guys than say was blocking linebackers 10, 15 years ago?
“It’s always been hard. I mean, there’s always been quality linebackers on every team I’ve ever been associated with. When you play somebody, there’s always a good player on the other side. You go back to when we were in Tampa with [LB] Derrick Brooks and [LB] Hardy Nickerson and guys like that, they’re outstanding inside. When you come through the first level, we get through [former NFL LB Warren] Sapp or [former NFL DT] Booger McFarland, next thing you know, you’re trying to block Derrick Brooks, right? Same thing, we had [former NFL LB and coach] Jack Del Rio was playing middle linebacker, we had a guy named [former NFL LB] Eddie McDaniel in Minnesota. There’s always been quality. These two guys are outstanding inside linebackers. Shoot, when I was in Baltimore back in the day, [former NFL LBs] Ray Lewis and Bart Scott were the two inside linebackers. There’s always quality inside linebackers. Now there’s probably been a little bit more of a trend, but I don’t want to say those guys weren’t athletic. Those guys were fast and it was maybe a little different style back in the day, but not much. It’s always been a challenge. Very rarely does somebody have two guys in a three-four defense that are both the quality of the two guys they have here. Most teams have one and the other guy’s a guy that’s up and coming. But this team has two. That part of it is a challenge.”
As far as OL Spencer Burford, I think he’s the third youngest guy on the roster and he’s got tons of room to grow, but what does he need to do to solidify a spot as a starter?
“Well, the consistency factor is the number one thing. I mean, an offensive line play as the year goes on and the season gets longer and people see what you do and they see, as we talked about earlier in the year, you start developing a game. They see what your game is and they see what they can take advantage of. So as that happens, you have to play to a level of consistency. And with him, it’s some physical consistency, but so much of it comes back to there’s just a lot of parts to the offense and he knows it – it’s just in the spur of the moment, in the game, sometimes it’s not quite right and then all of a sudden you’re a little bit off with your technique and then all of a sudden there’s a play or two that just aren’t what they need to be. So, in the offensive line, sometimes consistency weighs out way over the big play because a big play for a right guard, okay, he reaches the three technique and pancakes someone versus he reaches the three technique and the guy just can’t make the tackle. Both plays will run around the corner eight yards away from him. One of them is a dominant play. The other one’s just an okay play. Neither one of them is going to make that big a difference in the outcome of the game. If he falls on his face and misses him it will. Whereas a running back, that same difference if he makes an outstanding play in the open field and makes a free safety miss, as opposed to just a guy that gets tackled by the free safety, that’s a huge difference in the outcome of the game. So with offensive line, you’re like, yeah, you love the splash plays, but you have to see the consistency. And that’s what’s hard as an offensive lineman. It is a grind day in and day out week in and week out. Especially when I say you start establishing maybe some things that they see about you and things that they’ll try and take advantage of, and you then have to counter. So it’s just a consistency thing. He’s played very good football for us. He’s gotten better every single week and he continues to progress.”
When you play a team like the Ravens that put a lot of guys up near the line of scrimmage, you don’t know which guys are coming, which guys are dropping. What are the pros and cons of that from your standpoint?
“Well, the downside is that for us, everything that we do is we coach it’s fundamentals. So, you have a play of protection called, let’s say we’re talking about pass protection because they’re on the line of scrimmage and you have protection called, okay, I got him, I got him, I got him. Then, if they’re stationary, if they’re just stagnant, if they’re just lined up, you’re like, okay, here’s how we’re going to pass that and here’s how the helps work and here’s who we’re working to and we’re going to try and slide out and help our tackler, help our double team, our guard based on the people and where [Los Angeles Rams DL] Aaron Donald is affects things and things like that. So you can kind of set your feet and say, okay, here I go, now you have eight, nine guys on the line of scrimmage and it appears to be one thing, and then, all of a sudden it becomes something else and you have to adjust on the fly or you have to set the guy differently because there’s two players standing one in either gap. You can’t just set the one without being conscious of the other because you might get picked or some other things can happen. So, there are some real challenges for us. The disadvantage – and I’m not a defensive coach, so I have seen sometimes, obviously they have all the guys on the line of scrimmage. And I remember one time we were playing, this goes back to a story I mentioned Jack Del Rio, and we were in Minnesota, we played New England long time ago. On a third and 12 in a game we decided to bluff. He decided to bluff as the inside linebacker in the A-gap. I don’t know if it was Jack or somebody else, I’m not going to put it on Jack. All of a sudden, we dropped back and they threw a ball right over his head and he was probably three inches from tipping the ball, probably would’ve been an interception end of the game. Ended up being a play that got them a big first down. They end up beating us in a comeback victory. The point is, when you’re up on the line of scrimmage and you have to go do your coverage, sometimes there’s that little bit of gap where you can’t quite get where you’re supposed to be. And so, there can be that disadvantage. I’m not speaking to them. I have no idea exactly what they tell their guys on every single play when it comes to coverage, but that can be the disadvantage and where we can take advantage. I’ve seen it some receiver screens. They play screens very well. But every now and then the receiver screen goes out the way, then they’re kind of dropping guys the other direction and then you throw the screen out there and all of a sudden there’s nobody over there to help make the play. So, there’s a plus minus in all that stuff. But it does, it makes it really hard fundamentally to zone in and lock in. And you have to have a lot of experience to start seeing, okay, how can I set and block these guys given the different parameters?”
I would assume they’re really sound?
“They’re as well coached of a defense as the record indicates. They’ve been there for a long time. They know what they’re doing. They’re veteran players. They’re one of the better coached defenses that we faced all year.”
You’ve been around so many great players. Where does RB Christian McCaffrey rank among the best running backs you’ve been around and why?
“Well, the thing is, when I got in the NFL, what I noticed, I coached in college for 10 years. I grew up a Green Bay Packer fan. I mean, I grew up in the ‘60s with the Packers. I remember when [former Green Bay Packers QB] Bart Starr, we relived the quarterback sneak 20 times in my family room, the day it happened. I’m diving over pillows and who’s going to be Starr, who’s going to be [former Green Bay Packers FB] Chuck Mercein with his hands up and [former Green Bay Packers G] Jerry Kramer, all that stuff. And we did all that. It was cool. And so I grew up and I remember my dad taking me down and watching these players walk by Bart Starr, [former Green Bay Packers LB] Ray Nitschke, [former Green Bay Packers DE] Willie Davis, all of them. I’m like, holy cow, [former Green Bay Packers FB] Jim Taylor, this is great, I mean a starstruck kid, right? Like all of us. And then you fast forward, however many years, I’m 30 years old and I get my first job in the NFL and I’m coaching for the Vikings. I remember my mom, the first question she said, ‘Chris, what are you going to do when you guys play the Packers?’ I said, ‘mom, the Vikings pay me. We’re going to beat the s— out of them, is what we’re going to do.’ That’s what we’re going to try and do anyway. So long story short, is when I get to the NFL, I had in my mind, [T] Trent Williams, all these guys, Bart Starr, you have these starlike images. Then you get on the field and you realize so much of the NFL, it’s guys that aren’t as big as you think they are, it’s the work ethic. It’s the talent. You have to have, as [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] says, you have to be able to get in the club, right? We’re all sitting where we sit because, I mean, maybe you guys could and you passed on it, but I couldn’t get in the club. I couldn’t get in the club and play in the NFL. So I couldn’t get in the club. But once you’re in the club, it’s the guys that work the hardest. Did [former NFL QB] Peyton Manning have the greatest arm of all-time? Or did he just work at an extremely incredible level to understand defenses and do what he did with the offense that he did and how he manipulated protections and how he ran his offense? Every single player, as I started to get through the league, it’s the guys that work. Yes, every now and then there are the guys that have just incredible talent that don’t do it. Now let’s get back to Christian. Christian’s that guy that does have the talent to get into the club, he’s obviously fast, he’s big enough, he’s strong enough. But his attention to detail and every little thing that he does is, like I say, it’s Manning-like. He’s the only guy that I know that I can say I was with that I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen the detail he went into everything that he did. And that’s what I see with Christian. That’s what sets him apart. And then the other thing is, which is all of them, there has to be a level, there’s an incredible competitive drive and toughness like that first guy’s not getting him down and there were some things said this week about some other running backs and how hard they ran against this defense. I could promise you Christian’s steaming as somebody’s saying, oh, this guy ran really hard. I mean, they did a great job that running back really got after it, he ran hard against the Ravens. If you think that’s hard, Christian’s thinking to himself, I’ll show you what hard is. There’s still that I’m going to show you mentality with this guy. So not only does he have great attention to detail, he freaking works his tail off every single minute of every single day he’s fired up. I’ll give you one another story about Christian. So yesterday, we’re going to start practice. We’re doing team takeoff. You guys are out there early. We do two simple little plays where we’re kind of running screens on air or something like that. And Christian, we got about 40 seconds before the period starts. I go Christian, I said, man, we’re going to get after these guys, man. We’re going to play fast. We’re going to play physical. I really feel good. I mean, shoot, the Ravens are great defense, we’ll do the best we can, but I was being positive. I was pumping him up and literally it was like we were in the locker room getting ready to go play the game. He was so fired up. He’s like, I agree coach. And you could see his eyes get big and he started to twitch a little bit and he’s like, I think we’re going to get these guys, I really think we can get these guys. I’m like, yeah, I think we can Christian. I’m like, dude, I was just kind of giving you a little banter before we start the period and he’s ready to go run out the tunnel and play the game. So, it’s not fake. It’s legit. It’s just who he is. It oozes out of him, his preparation, all the things he does. So I could talk forever about Christian McCaffrey because he’s almost one of a kind.”
Did you see him on the Manning Cast Monday night?
“I didn’t get to watch it. I know the Manning Cast, I didn’t hear what he said though.”
He was able to identify basically a Philadelphia Eagles play before it happened, just based on formation.
“Of course he did. Yeah, because those two guys right there, they are two peas in a pod right there. They’d be arguing in the backfield as to what they should be doing I’m sure if they both were on the same team. But it’s outstanding. It’s really cool.”
Did you know that about him before he came here?
“I had no idea. I just knew he was a good player. At Carolina, he played hard. Stanford, I knew the guys that coached at Stanford, so I knew the people there. They spoke so highly of him. I actually when I was at Stanford back in the day with [former Stanford head coach] Denny Greene, [former Stanford WR] Ed McCaffrey, his dad played for us. So I knew Ed. I didn’t know Christian.”
You were on Denny Greene’s staff?
“Yeah, I coached with Denny at Stanford and then for three years. I was there with [former Stanford football coach] Jack Elway for one, then they fired Jack and they kept me around because I was the lowest paid guy on the staff. So, they kept me around. Then when Denny went to the Vikings, he said I was too young to go to the NFL. So, I was out for a year and I went to the University of Minnesota, conveniently. Luckily, I kept in touch with Denny and the guys that went from the Stanford staff to the Vikings. The next year he hired me with the Vikings.”