Special Teams Coordinator Brian Schneider Press Conference

Special Teams Coordinator Brian Schneider

Press Conference – May 29, 2024

San Francisco 49ers

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What was your initial reaction to the news of the new kickoff return rules?

“Yeah, kind of in the offseason when you get the news it’s a lot of anxiety because what you’re looking at is, the only thing you really have to look at is the XFL and it’s different too, than that. So, you really try to do as much as you can until the players got here. Because before it was all in my brain and one thing would go to another and then all of a sudden, I think it’s about here now for me, in terms of once we get the fundamentals together, once we ask the players to communicate with us, talk to us, what do you see? And once we kind of broke it down that way to get to, I think some fundamentals that will stick in terms of how to get there, and now we have to see where it goes. Because it’s different. That’s for sure.”


How much XFL tape did you watch?

“A ton. And the difference there is they’re on the 35 yard line and there’s just 10 across with one returner. So even five yards in the spacing and timing, it’s just really different and it’s really, really fast. So, you can kind of pull off year’s past. But the spacing and timing and like [S] George [Odum] for instance for us, Odum, he was so skilled at speed, number one, and then weaving down the field to put them in a position as it’s developing. So, I think everyone that sees it for the first time, it’s really strange because you see the kickoff and I’m standing right here and it’s just like, it’s like you’re in space. You never see that happen without everyone moving. And so, it’s really like the music went off and everything, I was like in the Twilight Zone and then when it happens it’s just, it’s really fast. So, getting used to all that for the players and it is going to continue to evolve.”


How much or in what ways has it kind of changed how you view what you’re looking for in a returner specifically?

“Well, and that’s where I think you have to start. It’s all about the ball. And so that’s where we always start. So, you always try to anticipate what kickers are going to do and it could be anywhere. So, that’s where we start preparing. So, is it going to be like a shortstop? Is it, you know, what type of fielding balls are you going to get? What type of guys are there? And then what type of runners are there? I mean, is it going to be better to have a bigger back where you can break through the arm tackles? Because everyone’s going to be engaged. Is it going to be a quicker guy? But it all starts with the football. So that’s where you build everything from and really trying to figure out where they’re going to kick it, how they’re going to kick it.”


So you’re still figuring it out?

“Oh, everyone’s still figuring it out. Like the way I feel about it now, again, that’s the best way I can explain it in my mind. It was here in my mind with all the things that could go on and you wanted to try to get some base fundamentals that you think you could just from geometry basically. And so, you put all those in and then once you see it with the players, okay, now at least we have a starting point. Where I think we can get it pretty close to the fundamentals to get in position to make the block. And then we’re going to see how it all evolves. So, I feel good where we’re at right now. And again, there’s 31 other coaches like me that don’t know exactly if we’re on the right track, what it’s going to look like. So more than anything it’s going to be adjusting. And so, right now I feel good finally with the players and getting their input and working through it all. But that’s going to be, it’s exciting. I mean, I’m fired up. This is the coolest thing to happen in terms of in my coaching career because it’s, what are you going to do? You have a great opportunity to do something that’s never been done before. So, it’s a race to figure it out and it’s going to be constantly adjusting.”


As far as the returns, are you at an advantage because the 49ers use an offensive line, their offensive linemen are often a little bit faster, better on their feet than maybe a typical one, just the way that they do the zone blocking scheme?

“I think an easier way to explain it is all the kickoff return teams have the advantage. Every kickoff return team, just from the way the kickoff team is set up. If you think about it, we’re on the 40-yard line with the same width we were when we were way back at the 35. So, backside almost geometry, I’m not very good at math, but those guys are almost eliminated just by alignment, if that makes sense. So, where it turns into, that’s what everyone tries to figure out. So, all the fundamentals are there, but then the body types that are on there, we’ve just got to see what works. And we have our plan kind of going into it, but I think you’ve just got to be ready to adjust however it looks.”


How abstract did you get? Like did you do war gaming? Like were you looking at simulations? I mean, how did you process all these possibilities over the summer?

“I think I just relied on what I’ve always relied on in coaching and it’s let’s break it down to the simplest form and let me get started. And that to me is fundamentals. And so, I knew we had only five yards or 10 yards instead of 25. So, when guys used to do kickoff return, they used to have time to move, process where the ball’s lined up, how high it is, where the returner is, we used to give them landmarks from the 32-yard line, you’re going to execute block the 30, the 27. And that was all done by who we were blocking. So, the speed of the guys coming down, so that’s all out and you have to process all of that in, I mean, it happens like that because then everyone’s moving. So, if you’re out of position in that and your footwork’s wrong or your fundamentals aren’t there, it’s just chaos. So that’s how I simplified it in my mind. And once we kind of thought what we wanted to do, the players really helped in terms of their input. And then when you could actually work it, you could actually see what it’s going to look like. It’s like, okay, we can’t do this. This is what we’re going to look into.”


Will training camp practices have enough contact involved to be able to do that? Or is this something that is going to last into the preseason?

“Oh, I think you’re going through the whole season. I mean, to me, if you don’t look at this like a totally different play than anything we’ve coached, I think you’re going to be playing catch up. So, I’m trying to, and it’s just like you said, the speed of contact, like last year, those guys are running full speed and there’s a lot of things that happen in terms of what they can and can’t do just by how fast they’re running. That’s out too now. So, all those things, you have to figure out how it works when it’s alive. And we won’t know until the first preseason, like when it’s live, live. But you know, that’s what makes it interesting.”


How much would you have to study the other 31 teams just to see, because everyone’s going to be doing a little bit differently just to see, oh man, like wow, these guys?

“A ridiculous amount. And we do that every week anyway. But this is all it is. It’s, you have to figure it out and I think it’s going to be so impactful if you don’t, I mean we’re talking touchdowns, we’re talking average start at the 40, we’re talking long field goals, more scoring, all that. All that’s going to affect it.”


You have a lot of different kinds of return guys. Just who sits atop the depth chart right now and is there anybody that you trust the most right now in that spot?

“The first thing I like that you said is you have a lot of returners and I love that right now. So, we’re getting them as much as we can. And we’ll continue to do that. So, we have a lot of guys back there, a lot of new guys back there and I love it, just the competition. So, we’re going to, all that is going to evolve with the way I see it.”


There must be other special teams coordinators that you talked to. Was there kind of a lot of talk when it first came out and now everybody’s kind of secretive trying to figure out their own process?

“Well, we had zoom meetings with all of us. So, the communication has been great that way. But I think everyone’s kind of holding onto their stuff. I don’t talk to a whole lot of guys. I talked to a couple guys I’m close to and we’ve kind of skirted around it. So, I don’t think that it’s a whole lot of sharing going on and that’s what it is. You have to figure it out. But to your question, that’s why every single week that’s all we’re going to do is study to see what you can eliminate, what you can add, what looks good and what fits into what we’re already doing.”


I’ve got two K Jake Moody questions. One is on the kickoffs, how important is his placement ability and then two, looking back to last year, was there a common thread in his misses over the last four games that you coach up with him this offseason?

“Yeah. First of all, the kickoff question. That’s what nobody knows. What is it going to look like? The first thing I think if you just get a normal kickoff ball, all advantages are for the kickoff return team. All of them. Because of the spacing and where you’re at a kickoff team, you’re eliminating half the guys in a lot of things. So the only advantage for a kickoff team is to have a kicker that can move it around and get the returner off balance instead of a nice clean catch and going. That happens way faster than it used to. So, the way we’re approaching it is we’re prepared for all we need, again, starting with the ball, we need to prepare for everything. Second question, Jake. Yeah, it was really cool going through the whole season with Jake, to get Jake away and have him process it through the film and really I asked him to do it. What was going on in the week, what was going on in your life, what happened, put it all together on your own. And then we came back you know, with [LS Taybor] Pepper and [P] Mitch [Wishnowsky] and all the coaches and it was really cool just to process it all. Mitch has been a great mentor to him and when we get through it, three things really came out that were really clear. Number one, it was a tremendous learning experience. He had so many things come up, game situation, all those things. And when you’re talking about a rookie, you try to prepare him the best you can and just things happen when you play the game. So number one, the lessons that he learned and the situation was wonderful for him to set a base. The second thing that really stood out, he always responded to adversity, which to me, that’s what kickers have to be and we’re trying to close down the adversity, but that’s what impressed me. Late in the season too and even the Super Bowl and that’s leading up to everything, all rookies, that first year is hard. And when you take a kicker, he finished his season, he goes right to working out, he goes right to the Combine, he has individual workouts, his leg is shot, he comes right to here. So, monitoring how much we kick and always paranoid that you’re not getting enough is a fine line. So, you walk that dance all year. But ultimately he’s built for this, and I say that because of the Super Bowl, he was so fired up in that game, so excited. I mean, that stage he excelled on and he had the 55 record right off the bat that was broken and we missed an extra point in there, which really affected the game. But to see him come back and with 1:57 hit the, I think it was a 53-yarder, and when you look, that was his best kick of the year. So to me, I know exactly who he is because I’m around him every day. And I think the more opportunities everyone has, they’ll see it too.”


What exactly did go wrong on that extra point?

“This is the way I always approach everything. It first starts with me and I always take everything. Then it starts with Pep, how clean was he? Then it goes to Mitch, how clean was he? Then it goes to Jake, how clean was he? Then it goes to all our protectors. And there’s many times throughout a year that someone doing their job really good covers up for someone else. So that’s always the way we do it. And Jake owns that it was a low kick and all the factors that happen, that’s what happens. And the game of football, adversity strikes by our own doing or by something outside of us. So it’s always the way we respond and that’s what Jake consistently shows.”