This is the transcript of Eric Mangini’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
How do you account for the vastly different way the defense played from one week in Seattle to last week here?
“Yeah, that’s a question we talked about last week and we’ve talked about this a lot as a group. Going back to that story with [former NFL LB] Roman Phifer of what are you doing differently in your pregame preparation leading up to the game on the road that you aren’t doing at home or what are things that you did the last time on the road that didn’t help you. What are things that you’ve done in the past on the road that have helped you and my experience is that it’s not a one answer fits all type of situation. Each guy has to go through that and try something different because just looking over the game plans, looking over the weeks of preparation trying to compare to see if there’s anything dramatically different in that area, the volume. I’ve gone back through those things and the numbers are pretty consistent, but it is something we’ve talked about. We’ve addressed it. We’ve addressed it before and it’s obviously got to improve significantly.”
I didn’t understand the Roman Phifer reference.
“When I was with Roman in New England, Roman Phifer, he had this notebook and he was writing things down, so I thought it was just his football notebook. I said, ‘Roman, what is that?’ and he said that he goes through his week and he’ll chart what he does during the week and then he’ll chart how he practiced that day versus his routine. It could be when he got a massage, the type of things that he ate, when he studied, when he went to bed. All of those things he was charting and the thought process was that’s current him talking to future him, so that he could get the best preparation plan for himself to go into a game. I thought it was a really interesting perspective and every rookie and really every unit that I’ve been with I’ve shared that with, because there is the studying part, the practice part, but there’s things that you do in practice, a routine that you have. There’s things that you eat, all the other stuff that goes into being ready to play on Sunday, sometimes you may not know why you played so well on Sunday because you really haven’t looked through and figured it out. You may not know why you played poorly. I thought Roman was the one guy that had a plan in place to coach himself into the best level of performance and I thought it was a great way not just for football players, but for athletes to try to control some of those things that sometimes you don’t think about.”
What kind of feedback have some of the current players given to you in terms of how they are preparing or maybe change their preparations for this week?
“You know, I haven’t gone through that with them and I never really have, because the other big part of that notebook is honesty. No one is going to be totally honest if the defensive coordinator or the head coach is going, ‘Hey, let me see your notebook.’ And some guys, I don’t go and check, ‘Hey, have you done it? Have you not done it?’ It’s an answer that I’ve found has helped a lot of people, so giving these guys the option to try that. And that’s what I always ask is to try it. And really any athlete, I think it’s a great approach.”
NT Mike Purcell was kind of a star of the preseason and more or less we didn’t see him for like two months. How was he spending those two months and how did you think he did in kind of his most extensive action Sunday?
“Well, in the last two months he’s been as consistent as you can get. And he reminds me of [DL] Glenn Dorsey in that way, quiet, but tough, a consistent worker. He’s another guy like [CB Marcus] Cromartie that you really cheer for because he just keeps working the same way every day. He listens consistently, not just to the coaching and that aspect, but to the veteran players and he’s in a very good room for that. When he got the opportunity in the preseason he did a good job. He was in a spot with a lot of depth, so he didn’t get opportunities. He gets the opportunities and he was credited for that sack with [S] Jaquiski [Tartt]. I was excited for him for that and throughout the course of the game, really did well. Very few errors in terms of mental errors and things like that where a guy getting extensive play time like that who hasn’t, sometimes you get some dips. He was really good.”
Head coach Jim Tomsula indicated DL Arik Armstead was a little sore and that was at least part of the reasoning for Purcell playing a bit more. In his performance, did he merit kind of staying at that level as far as playing time?
“Yeah, I could see Mike playing a significant amount. Not in just this game, but through the course of the rest of the season. He gives us depth at end. He gives us depth at nose. So, he’ll be playing both of those spots. And he’s a stout guy and his performance has earned him more opportunities.”
What do you make of your outside linebackers? Without Ahmad on Sunday, it seemed like they played pretty well and Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer overall never looked like he really got comfortable despite you guys not getting to him a lot. Was the play of the outside linebackers, was that key in that game?
“Yeah, I thought there were a lot of elements to that. I thought the secondary did a really good job. That offense is loaded with talented receivers. They get in a ton of stacks and bunches and things that you have to communicate out. We played a large majority of the game in man-to-man defense. Those formations were built, so I thought those guys did a really nice job of sorting all of that out against tough players. And then, I thought the outside linebackers [LB] Eli [Harold] and [LB] Corey [Lemonier] playing as much as they did, both of them did some really, really good things. And Corey, he’s going through that learning progression that Arik’s gone through, has been going through and [CB Kenneth Acker] Ack and [S Jaquiski Tartt] JT and all those guys, more time for him then he typically has and he held up well. And, with Eli sometimes it’s slowing him down. It’s not speeding him up, it’s slowing him down. I thought Corey had one of his better performances this year in terms of setting the edge and being stout. A few hiccups here and there, but for significant play time both of those guys did a nice job.”
I think in the past with Corey, one issue some other people brought up with him was maybe he was thinking too much. He was thinking too much about the play instead of just playing. That’s probably an oversimplification, but have you seen that? Has he improved on just kind of letting his skillset come through?
“Yeah, that does happen where at some point you’ve just got to go with what you know. And it’s not really just Corey. It’s that sense that of, ‘OK I’ve done the preparation, I recognize this formation, I know what’s coming.’ Just trust your preparation. Just trust the things that you’re seeing in front of you and let it rip based off of that. It happens sometimes with safeties too where they spend so much time processing that they’re not reacting. This whole week and everything leading up to the game is to allow the game to slow down, not speed up because you can anticipate what your opponent is doing. But, with that also is experience and knowing that you can let go and it actually helps you as opposed to hurt you.”
You guys had seven penalties that resulted in first downs for them. How many of those were ones that you wanted to get some feedback from NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino?
“You know, the penalty question is always tough because I’ve been helped in my career by penalties, I’ve been hurt in my career by penalties and nothing ever changes in terms of the call is going to be the call, they are going to mark off what they mark off. And, even if you get an apology on Monday or Tuesday, or don’t get an apology on Monday or Tuesday it really doesn’t change anything. You try to figure out from that feedback how can I coach my guys differently? What did this player do wrong to lead to the penalty? And some of them are judgment calls. So, as you’re watching tape, you like the aiming point the player is taking, the reaction of the offensive player changes the aiming point, but it’s not a flawed decision when he launched. So, how do you prevent him from getting fined the next time and how do you prevent him from getting a penalty the next time? Those are the toughest ones, is when they are judgment calls, reaction happens, you get hit with a penalty. You can’t do anything about the yardage or what happened. You just want to know what can I do with my guys differently to help us and help them? A lot of grey. So, we’re working on it.”
Did you get satisfactory answers? Has there been communication?
“Satisfactory answers. Yeah, whatever answer you get is satisfactory.”