SANTA CLARA – Pete Carroll spoke on conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what he said.
Q: How much has Russell Wilson evolved, and how much has the offense evolved since the last time you played the 49ers?
CARROLL: We really started out with the idea of not going too far too fast. We didn’t want to overexpose him. We were excited about him in camp and in the preseason, but we really did draw back. From that point, we’ve continued to try to expand as we felt it was right. He might have been a little more antsy than we were. And now we’re really playing football the way we like to play it. There are still things that he’s going to learn and grow into, but he’s able to do everything that we can think of. So we’re excited about the progress.
Q: Was that a surprise, how much he was able to grasp in his rookie year?
CARROLL: Yeah. Sometimes I say weren’t not surprised, we’re just thrilled with his progress. But it is surprising that he’s so comfortable with game plans and the ability to adjust one week to the next. Of course he’s great at doing his homework, but he also shows a real flexibility. He’s not stuck in anything. That really helps us. Our trust in him has just skyrocketed in the last month that he’s ready. We’re trying to utilize him in every way that we can to make it hard on our opponents.
Q: What do you see from the 49ers defense?
CARROLL: They’re very tough on defense. They’re aggressive in their coverage style. Their front guys all make plays. The safeties are ridiculous. This is a very, very difficult defense. For a few years they’ve been just on top of the world. We respect them.
Q: Explain ridiculous. Talk about Whitner and Goldson and what makes them unique.
CARROLL: I’m an old DB coach. I love the way they play. And I know Ed Donatell does a great job with them. I watch very carefully what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. They have great range. They knock the heck out of you if they have the chance; great tacklers. Goldson is an incredible tackler. They’re waiting to make something happen, and they don’t make many mistakes back there. They’re a really high powered group. They know it, they’re going to line up and say come on.
Q: Jim Harbaugh said you guys don’t exchange holiday cards or anything. Anything you want to add?
CARROLL: I heard that he didn’t get one from us yet. I want to go back and check my list, see how that happened. Maybe there will be something coming along soon. If Jim’s not sending a card, that’s fine. I understand. We’ll try to get one in the mail soon.”
Q: Do you see similarities between Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick – their style and what they do?
CARROLL: They couldn’t be more different physically, but their ability to affect the game is definitely similar. Both can make all the throws. Both of them have a knack for getting out of the pocket, and then they do, they’re dangerous. Big plays. Colin’s had some huge plays scrambling. Russell scored on one last week from about 30 yards out, or whatever. Both guys also bring the element of being able to read the option. They’ve very similar and they cause similar problems, and obviously the stature is different.
Q: Both quarterbacks were drafted by baseball teams as well. Is there something in Russell’s baseball past that helps him play quarterback?
CARROLL: Absolutely. He’s got every throw. As a second baseman, there are all kinds of screwball weird things that you’ve got to do with the ball to make your double plays. He’s got an array of throws that just come out naturally. You may not see it for a week or two weeks, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere he’s throwing the ball sidearm and around somebody, or laying it up over the top and in pretty unique fashion. The little second baseman that he was is a little different than bringing the heat like Colin did. He was a pitcher.
Q: If Richard Sherman doesn’t play, would you play the same physical style of play with the backup cornerbacks?
CARROLL: The last couple of weeks we have played some young guys. We’ve gotten some pretty good play out of the two rooks and also Byron Maxwell’s a second year guy. We have corners who are good-sized guys and they run like crazy. They’ve been coached in the same style. We’re not changing our style drastically by changing personnel. We have guys that we picked that can play the way we like to play. The subtleties of adapting to our game – these guys are doing OK. They’ve had two good, successful games with a lot of play time. Hopefully we can get Walter Thurmond back. Marcus Trufant – that would help us out too.
Q: That style came under scrutiny over here after the first game. Coach Harbaugh took issue with the physical nature of the cornerbacks’ play.
CARROLL: Oh come on, that was just coach-speak.
Q: You don’t buy it?
CARROLL: No. We didn’t get our hands on many guys. They were too good at the line of scrimmage. We had trouble even getting a hold of those guys. We were working at it. But I don’t know where that came from. I did go back to the film to see what Jim was talking about, and I had trouble seeing why there was a complaint. He was just trying to get some help from the officials, I think.
Q: Is this a harder offense to game plan for with Colin Kaepernick as opposed to Alex Smith?
CARROLL: It’s just a little bit different. It’s not much different. They run some of the same plays. I think Colin is a little more adept at just the option stuff because he’s run it more recently. Alex was really throwing the ball well – 70 percent completion – he was lights out when he was playing. We see them as a one-two punch. Both guys can run. Both guys have big arms. Alex definitely has some years of experience to throw in all of the variety of throws that Colin’s going to gain as he advances.