SANTA CLARA – The Dallas Cowboys head coach, Jason Garrett, spoke to Bay Area reporters on a conference call this morning. Here are selected quotes from that call.
Q: When you turn on the film of the 49ers what stands out to you?
GARRETT: I’m impressed with them in so many different areas. I think the overarching thing when you watch the tape is how hard they play in all three areas. They have a lot of really good players, talented players on both sides of the ball, and they play the kicking game the right way. They play hard snap after snap after snap. Every time you break the huddle you’re challenged by them. They’re really sound in all areas. They’re well coached, and the team really gets after it, so it will be a real challenge for us.
Q: They’re defense is similar to what Washington does. Does that give you a better handle on them?
GARRETT: I think it’s from the family of defenses that has been successful in the National Football League. I think if you really want to trace it, it traces back to the Pittsburgh Steelers of the early ‘90s, and maybe before that the New Orleans Saints of the ‘80s. Vic Fangio is an awfully good football coach. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s been a really good position coach in this league and a really good coordinator in this league for a lot of years. Not only are they playing really fundamentally sound football, but they’re playing hard, and then they give you a number of different looks that you have to deal with. It’s one of the signature systems in the league and they’re playing it really, really well.
Q: Have you ever crossed paths with Harbaugh?
GARRETT: I have not coached against him in any way. He was playing when I was playing so I got to know him a little bit that way. I’ve certainly been incredibly impressed by what he’s done down in San Diego and then at Stanford and certainly so far with the 49ers. He’s a great football guy from a great football family. He had an outstanding playing career, and certainly he’s doing it in the coaching ranks as well, so I’ve got a lot of respect for him.
Q: How closely do you work with your quarterbacks?
GARRETT: Well I don’t take snaps and I don’t throw the ball at practice (laughs). I work with them very closely on a daily basis. We have a great quarterbacks coach in Wade Wilson, but as the offensive coordinator I spend a lot of time with the quarterbacks and the guys on the offensive side of the ball. That’s how we’ve done it here for the last four and a half years.
Q: With so many fresh faces on your offensive line, how has the group meshed together and do you expect teams to attack them with exotic blitz packages?
GARRETT: Absolutely. We’ve had to mesh together quickly throughout our whole football team and certainly on the offensive line where we have some fresh faces. But our guys are going about it the right way. They’re a smart, tough group up front, and they’re picking things up really quickly. There’s going to be a lot of growing pains for those guys because they’re not that experienced.
Q: What are your impressions of the Niners’ front seven?
GARRETT: I think they’re outstanding. They have a really, really strong front. 94 Smith is an outstanding player – been an outstanding player in this league for a long time. He plays the right way. He’s strong. He’s physical. He’s the emotional leader of that group. That whole defensive line group is really good, and then the set of linebackers they have is really a good group as well. Tremendous edge pass rushers. Willis is really a playmaker inside, both as a run defender and a pass defender. They clearly rally around him and his spirit. Bowman’s playing really well as well. They’re playing really well on defense.
Q: How difficult did the lockout make installing your schemes and playbook?
GARRETT: Two of the three systems that we have were in place, and many of out players were with us last year. They’re very familiar with what we’ve been doing on offense and what we’ve been doing in the kicking game. Defensively it was a real challenge, because like the 49ers you’re trying to put a system in without having offseason practices that we’ve all come to get used to. But you have to make adjustments as a coach and you have to find a way to get the information across in a shorter period of time. You have to teach quickly and simply and hopefully have the kind of guys that can pick stuff up and take it from the meeting room and the black boards to the practice field and the game field. We’re still very much a work in progress in all three areas, and we’re hopeful that we’re working hard each and every day, preparing the right way for this game Sunday.
Q: Could you discuss DeMarcus Ware and the problems he creates for offenses?
GARRETT: I think the most important thing when you’re talking about DeMarcus Ware is just how good of a football player he is. Versatility has something to do with that, but he’s certainly a talented guy, and he’s a guy who takes all parts of his game seriously. He wants to be a great run defender. He wants to be a great pass rusher. He wants to be a great leader. Great competitor, tackler, the whole thing. He works very hard at all parts of his game. He’s very committed to being the best player he can be. When you go about it that way and you have the kind of talent he has, you can be a disruptive force on opposing offenses.
Q: Do you know if the Cowboys targeted NaVorro Bowman in the draft?
GARRETT: I don’t want to get into too many specifics about that, but he definitely was a player that we liked coming out. Very productive player in college, and he plays the right way, and you see that now playing with the 49ers. I think anybody that was scouting linebackers that year really felt he was going to be somebody’s who was going to be able to come into the NFL and play and be an impact player at some point in his career.
Q: Do you feel Rob Ryan is enjoying his new creative ways on the front seven?
GARRETT: I don’t know if they’re new creative ways – he’s been a coordinator in this league for a long time. So he’s somebody who I know really has a passion for the game, enjoys putting the whole defensive scheme together prior to the season, and then as you go game by game, trying to do his best to get after the opposing offenses. He’s really been a great addition to our staff. Our players have really responded well to him. We’ll have a great challenge this week against the 49ers. They’re a big, physical team that really challenges you in a lot of different ways, so we’ve got to be on top of our game, and it starts with our preparation this week.
Q: Jerry Jones came out and was very supportive of Tony Romo after that loss. Do you agree with those statements and where is his confidence level right now?
GARRETT: I think Tony did a lot of really good things in the game against the Jets, as did our whole football team, but ultimately we’ve got to do the things that help us win ball games. That’s individually and collectively. That’s players. That’s coaches. That’s our whole team. We’re working hard to get that done, correct the mistakes from last week’s game and move forward and get ready to accept the challenge the 49ers present. We’ve really got to practice well and get ready for a real battle out there in San Francisco.