SANTA CLARA — Here is the transcript of Greg Roman’s Thursday press conference from the media tent.
ROMAN: We’re getting ready for a really good football team, the New York Giants. They’re a really good team, very well coached, obviously. Had a lot of success there. Lead the league in sacks on defense. Umenyiora having played a full season, he’s got a bunch of sacks already. They’re very talented in that regard, have been for a while. That’s definitely one of their greatest strengths. They fly to the football – a lot of bodies to the ball, very aggressive front. When you go back over the last year and half and you look at them, they’ll change their schemes up a little bit and they’re smart. They’re going to game plan you according to what they think they need to do against you. They’re a good team. We’re really excited about the challenge. Had a great day of practice yesterday, got to have a better one today. Any questions?
GC: Jim Harbaugh called Alex Smith an elite quarterback yesterday. What does he do that’s elite?
ROMAN: I think he plays the quarterback position at an elite level. I think he’s demonstrated that this year leading his team to a 7-1 record thus far. Alex does a lot of things very well. He’s a very tough guy and he doesn’t talk about it – those are the guys you have to worry about, the guys that don’t talk a big game but show up and get it done. He’s getting better all the time. He had his best day of practice yesterday I’d say all year. He gets better and better and better. We didn’t have him the first week of training camp because of the league rules, and ever since that time he just keeps getting better, keeps understanding the offense better, and he’s just a pleasure to work with. I know his teammates feel the same way.
GC: What about his skill set fits so well into your offense?
ROMAN: I think he tries to do his job at a high level, and the quarterback position you’ve got to do your job at a high level. You can take all the metrics you want, “Hey, let’s take him to the lab and test him,” and all that stuff, but in real time that’s what we care about, on the field. That’s the kind of guys we look for – selfless guys who do their job at a high level and on a consistent basis.
Q: Why was yesterday his best practice of the year?
ROMAN: Because it was the most recent one. He keeps getting better, therefore his last practice was his best one. And I mean that sincerely. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Knowing where guys are, seamlessly eliminating a read presnap perhaps, on a presnap look, and just moving smoothly into your next read, it’s just time on task and the more he does it, the better he gets at it. That’s why.
Q: What kind of progression has the young right tackle Anthony Davis made this season?
ROMAN: Mike Solari and Tim Drevno do a phenomenal job of coaching the offensive line as a collective unit and also as individuals. With Anthony, every offensive lineman is a target on every play. That’s a tough, tough job. It’s a street fight every play. So the transition from college to pros is a huge transition for offensive linemen, nowadays more than ever because of the multiplicity of defenses. I learned this from a lot of the coaches I’ve worked with, defenses used to be a lot simpler. They were going to line up in this front or that front and they might blitz you. But now with fire zones, odd location fronts, guys walking around, you have to be able to think on your feet, communicate verbally and visually with the people next to you. It’s a tough job and Anthony is getting better every day, just like Alex is. He’s doing a great job and he’s starting to get much better at his fundamentals, therefore he gets to play faster, therefore he becomes a physical presence and that’s what we’ve seen from him. His day-to-day preparation has been outstanding.
Q: Mike Solari and Tim Drevno was sort of an arranged marriage. Two guys with equal responsibilities coaching the same position group, how have they meshed and worked together?
ROMAN: Well. That’s a great question. I think they were brought together because Jim wanted them together. He’s the one that arranged the marriage. I don’t know if that makes him the father, but they’ve done a great job, and it’s just like our whole staff. We’ve got to work together to solve problems and find solutions, and that’s what they do. They work well together. Everybody checks their ego at the door and we find what works best. I’ve worked with Tim before. We worked together at Stanford. So there was familiarity there, and that helps bridge the gap of system changes.
Q: Did you see that initially or has it been a work in progress?
ROMAN: Fundamentally, yes, it has been since Day 1, just because of the people you’re dealing with – professionals. But the more we work together I think the better we get at it – understanding each other, understanding our players and evolving.
Q: We’re only to see the start of practice, and it seems like the guards go off in one direction and tackles go a separate way. Is that how they’ve divvied up the work?
ROMAN: It’s really week to week. It’s what we need to do that week. It changes every week. It might be centers and guards. It might be right side left side. It might be tackles tight ends. Every week there’s a different emphasis. We do what we need to do on a weekly basis so it changes up. We’ve got the manpower, and we just all switch it up.
GC: You use a lot of big players on offense – extra tackles, tight ends, full backs. What’s the benefit of using big players?
ROMAN: The benefit of using big players is you have big people on the field, therefore you’re probably going to be bigger than your opponent. If you can use that to an advantage, you do. Beyond that, I think that’s pretty much it.
Q: Did you see that come into play at the end of season at Stanford? As the season goes on the defenses become more petit, and you guys take advantage in December?
ROMAN: I think you’ve got to look at each opponent differently, see where the matchups are and go from there. I think every team’s different, every defense is different, set up differently, and it might be more of an advantage one week and not much of an advantage the other week. So, you kind of look at things and see how they all matchup.
Q: The former GM here, Scot McCloughan, used to say that he drafted big guys so that at the end of the season if they do make the playoffs, those big guys are going to really start to take advantage at that point. Is that part of your philosophy as well?
ROMAN: Not really. That’s one man’s philosophy and that’s great, but no, not really.
Q: How much of Alex Smith’s success has to do with his preparation?
ROMAN: Great question. A lot. He is on it, on the details. He’s in here at night every night sitting in meetings with us. We talk through some things so he’s usually a day ahead and very involved in the game plan and spreading that message. Phenomenal in his preparation, just a true professional that wants to do all the little things so it comes to him that quick on game day.
Q: What time does he leave at nights?
ROMAN: 9:30, 10:00.
Q: The Giants tend to sub a safety for a linebacker quite a bit. Do you expect to see a lot of that?
ROMAN: I think we’ll probably see some. They’re not going to tell us ahead of time, but when you look at what they’ve done they’ve been very multiple on defense. New England six O-linemen and two tight ends, two backs and they were in nickel defense. You’ve got to be ready for anything. They can do whatever they want. We can do whatever we want. They’ve been very liberal with that package. They’re a very game-plan-oriented defense and team, so we’re going to have to adjust on the fly.
Q: Did you see that defense ten years ago or is it a reflection of teams passing more in today’s NFL?
ROMAN: I think some people in the NFL over the years have favored using a nickel package. Some people look at it as, “How fast can we get into nickel?” (inaudible).
Q: What have you seen from Jason Pierre-Paul?
ROMAN: They will move him around quite a bit. He’s having a phenomenal year. He’s a very good player, as are all their front seven. They’ll move him around quite a bit and they’ll move the defensive front and rotate them in and out quite a bit so they get a fresh rotation. You really can’t book who’s going to be where.
Q: So he’ll play inside in nickel?
ROMAN: Mmhmm. He’ll play all over the place. We’ve got to be ready for him to do that.
Q: Is their D-line similar to Detroit’s?
ROMAN: Yes, rotation-wise they do a very nice job of keeping their guys fresh.
Q: What has Jonathan Goodwin brought to this team?
ROMAN: Jonathan is a guy who does his job day in and day out at a high level. He’s got a great attitude. He’s a great teammate. He is very consistent in his execution and he’s constantly working on his technique. Winning means a lot to Jonathan, and he kind of gets everything organized, as most centers do. He’s done a phenomenal job of it. He’s a very steady hand. He’s been there and done it and carries that experience very well. I think that reflects on him very highly and rubs off on everyone else.
Q: You’re on pace to throw 418 passes this season, which by today’s standards is not much at all. How much of that is a reflection of the offensive philosophy, and how much of that is a reflection of you guys having leads in the second half?
ROMAN: When you’re up, you’re not going to throw it as much, right? And you’re yards per carry aren’t going to be as high because you’re facing loaded defenses. Your defensive stats will probably be down, so to speak, because the other team is throwing it around. The only stat that matters is winning. Everything else is statistical analysis and information gathering. Whatever we need to do to win we’ll do, and if it’s throwing it, if it’s running it, whatever that equation is on a week-to-week basis we’ll do. Everything else really is water cooler talk.
GC: If you ever meet a team that can stop your run game, do you feel confident that Alex Smith could throw the ball 40 times in a game and you could win?
ROMAN: Mmhmm. Most definitely.