Jim O’Neil: “Watch the long run. Watch Eric Reid run to the ball. That’s being relentless.”

SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Jim O’Neil’s Tuesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.


Opening comments:

“Alright. Half-way point of the season. We’re obviously not happy with where we are at as a defense. We’ve set very high expectations for ourselves as a coaching staff and as a group and obviously, to this point, we haven’t met them. We’re still going to relentlessly try to reach those expectations as players and as a group. Our players are doing a great job working. They’re focused on getting better every day and I do see improvement in those guys as the games have gone past. We’re looking forward to the remaining eight games, especially this one coming up against the Cardinals. Questions?”


ME: You just mentioned relentless. You’ve been speaking about relentlessness all year. Your run defense really hasn’t been relentless so far. Why is that?

“I would disagree with that. You watch the long run. Watch [S] Eric Reid run to the ball. That’s being relentless. So, the guys are playing hard. That’s not the reason.”


On that long run there, obviously there was an assignment missed. At this stage, have you seen that in previous defenses that you’ve coached, constant missed assignments this deep into the season?

“Yeah, I think that’s in all sports. Any sport, especially at a high level, it’s about execution and when you make a mistake, a good offense or a good player exploits it and that’s what happened on that play. They did a good job blocking up. We had a guy make a mistake and then the running back outran the angles we had on him. So, we gave up a big play and then it makes it look like what we did the rest of the game rush-wise obviously look really, really bad. So, yeah, it’s frustrating.”


When you say you’ve seen improvements, can you just share with us what they are?

“Yeah. [LB] Eli Harold I thought had one of his better games on the edge. He did a great job knocking tight ends back, falling off blocks and he had three or four big tackles for us on the edge. Just try to go, [LB] Nick Bellore’s really grown at the inside backer position. [LB] Gerald Hodges made some nice plays for us. I think one of the first plays of the game where Gerald ended up, we were in, he was a quarter flat player. They went empty and he had great eye discipline and he pushed through it, number two to the flat and he ended getting a pass breakup. Just [DB] Jimmie Ward, how much he’s grown at corner and at nickel with him being in and out of the lineup. Eric Reid has done so much for us positionally just to try to patch up some holes. We played him a lot at dime backer this week. So, that was a new position for him. [CB] Rashard Robinson, some of the things he’s, yeah, so I can go on and on. There’s guys that are growing every day. We’ve got a good young group that continues to get better. We knew it was going to take some time. We knew it was going to be a journey. Obviously, we were hoping to get quicker results, but I’m not discouraged at all. The guys are working, the coaches are working and we’re doing everything we can to fix the problems.”


What was the decision to move Reid to dime backer?

“We just used him there on third down situations and some obvious passing situations to take advantage of some matchups, some man-coverage matchups.”


So, is that just more of a Saints matchup thing or is that something that maybe now you can use–?

“We’re going to go into each game different just to try to base it off of what we need to do matchup-wise.”


Early in the season, you were able to offset some of the yards you gave up with takeaways. I know takeaways can be a little fickle, but anything you can put your finger on why you haven’t been getting those–?

“Yeah. We talked all week to [DL DeForest Buckner] DeFo and [DL Arik] Armstead with going against [New Orleans Saints QB] Drew [Brees], those guys pushing the pocket and trying to tip a ball to change a game and DeFo actually did it early in the game and we had two guys that had a chance to intercept it. Unfortunately, we didn’t and then we had another one down in the red zone. I think [CB Tramaine] Brock made a nice play on a pass and [LB] Mike Wilhoite, it just kind of slipped between his hands. So, we had a chance to make two really big interceptions in that game. Unfortunately, we didn’t. We did get a ball on the ground. They recovered it. So, it is hit or miss, but we understand this league it’s all about the turnover battle, everything about this. So, we’ve got to do a better job forcing turnovers and putting our offense in better field position so they can gain a possession.”


You watched this game from up in the box. What kind of different vantage point did that give you, I guess, in terms of perspective on what you saw from your defense?

“New Orleans does a lot of things that a lot of people probably don’t even notice before the ball’s snapped personnel-wise, substitution-wise. So, I thought that I’d be able to save our guys a second or two if I was up top and being able to to see it instead of somebody just relaying the information to me. One of the big goals for our team that game was to try to beat them out of the huddle and then we wanted to get our cleats in the ground before them. I think for the most part we were pretty good at that. There were a couple times where I might have been able to be a little bit quicker with the call or a guy could have been a little bit quicker to get lined up. But, I thought that I could help them out by doing that against New Orleans.”


You guys have another veteran quarterback this week with Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer. Is that the same thing? Are you going to plan on doing that?

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t decided. We’re going to set the game plan and then I’ll kind of make a decision in the next couple days on how I want to do it.”


When you go through a seven game losing streak, how do you keep things light for the players? Obviously, they’re working hard. They want to see results in the game. Do you have to kind of, not change up what you’re doing but how do you, mood to keep them engaged?

“Yeah. You always talk about not letting a loss turn into two. You don’t want the previous week to affect you, but it’s hard. It’s really hard. Everybody likes to win. You put so much into it, the players do, the coaches do. You put every ounce of energy that you have into trying to build a game plan, try to coach guys up, try to go out there and execute and then when you lose, it sucks. But, you’ve got to be consistent. You’ve got to stay positive with them and that’s what I think we’ve done. The coaching staff’s done a great job with the guys in their position group. The guys have done a good job through a lot of adversity already in the first eight weeks and you’ve just got to keep going. What wins in this league is consistency. What wins in professional sports is consistency and if you’re not consistent week in and week out, you’re not going to win.”


This defense is one pace to threaten NFL records for most point, most rushing yards, most total yards allowed in a season. After the last two games, head coach Chip Kelly’s been asked about, ‘Are you going to consider any changes to the defensive staff?’ Obviously, the implication is changing your role or your position. Obviously, you understand the deal. Do you think the criticism, ‘Hey, replace the defensive coordinator,’ is fair? Do you understand that?

“People can have their opinions. That’s fine. There’s been three different coordinators here now in three years. I’ll say it again; I came here to help with the problem or to be a part of a new staff. I believe in what we’re doing. I believe in coach Kelly. Consistency wins in this league.”


Chip was asked yesterday about the job you are doing. He said no one on the defensive staff is doing a good enough job. Do you agree with that?

“Well, we’re 1-7. So, I do think we’re growing each week, but when you’re 1-7, nobody’s doing a good job.”


When you say three different coordinators in three years, are you just warning that these guys have had to learn a new system three straight years and it’s hard to–?

“I think that is hard, yeah. We can talk for hours about that and my beliefs. But, I think when you’re consistent with guys and you allow guys to hear the same message and get coached the same way, there’s a reason the good teams in this league are really good.”


When you come in with a new staff and have been teaching a new defense, part of not necessarily when you were a coordinator, but what’s the time period on when things start to click and a lightbulb goes on?

“I think it’s different for everybody. I think you can really start to see it click for some individual players. It hasn’t really clicked for us probably as a group yet because we’re still making some mistakes. For example the secondary, I think we’ve started a new lineup every week in the secondary and just those guys, them working each week on communicating with each other. They’ve really grown. So, I don’t have a great answer for that on when it clicks. You have young players. You have older players. You have young players mixed with older players. Every team’s different. Every year’s different.”


Whose job is it, when you guys come off the field after a bad play or giving up a touchdown, the guys, they sit down on the bench and they listen to the position coaches as they should and go over the plays, but whose job is it to fire them up? I don’t know if it’s a veteran leader necessarily. Do they need somebody doing that on the sideline?

“Those guys come off the field and they know right away. I would say 98 out of 100 times when a guy messes something up, before you even get to him, he knows. So, you make the correction. If a guy knows he messed up, what are you going to do? You’re not going to make too big, you get him coached up. He knows he messed up. And then as far as firing guys up, you know, yeah there are some leaders and there’s some coaches that can do that. But, if you’re a guy that consistently needs to be motivated and fired up, you’re not going to spend too much time in this league.”


What players have been the most consistent on your defense?

“Eric Reid jumps out to me. I think he’s been really consistent for us. Very solid. If you had to ask for one, that would be the one I would probably say.”


CB Will Redmond, do you expect him to be added to the 53-man?

“No, I don’t. I think that he will not be activated.”


He’ll go on IR?

“Yeah, that’s the plan.”

This article has 47 Comments

  1. Bethea was frozen and if he’d of had some of Grandma’s Sweet Potato pie, he may have had the gas to catch him. Unger just destroyed Dial and Dorsey, but he is one of the best in the league. The 49ers need a stud NT, whether it’s through the draft or F/A….

      1. If they execute a trade with Miami and get Carl Lawson plus a second this year and a first next year, they could:

        11. Carl Lawson OLB/DE Auburn
        32. Corey Davis WR Western MI
        42. From Miami **Trade to New England for Jimmy Garoppolo QB, E Illinois**
        66. D’Onta Foreman RB Texas
        98. Jeremy Sprinkle TE Arkansas

        F/A’s Kawann Short DT, Alshon Jeffery WR, Donta Hightower ILB

        1. I think it is wishful thinking that Garoppolo can be had for a 2nd, personally. Which QB in the draft would you rather take over Garoppolo?

          Also, just curious, why are Miami trading up?

          1. I think it is wishful thinking that Garoppolo can be had for a 2nd, personally. Which QB in the draft would you rather take over Garoppolo?

            Kizer;>)Probably right, I just was contemplating scenario’s available. How about we throw in Armstead?

            Also, just curious, why are Miami trading up?

            Gase wants his own guy in DeShone Kizer;>)

            1. Heh, yeah, I just kind of figure if Miami want a QB, they’ll have the same idea as you. Get Garoppolo. Especially if all he costs is a 2nd rounder.

              At this point I doubt Kizer goes in the first round. Quite frankly he has been mid round talent at best for the past few weeks. He has really struggled with accuracy, at all levels of the field. Even last week when his stats looked a little better he was still pretty average. He will really need to finish strong in order to convince folks he should still be considered so highly.

              1. Kizer really should go back to school for another year. His game has been a mess for most of the season.

              2. Yep, he and Kaaya both should, for similar reasons. Their seasons have not gone the way they hoped. Though I do think the way Brian Kelly has handled the situation may convince Kizer to leave.

                Trubisky should stay for another year too, just to get more experience, though if he continues to shine he has a real chance of being the first QB taken, which might be enough to convince him to leave early.

                Watson and Falk are the only ones I think actually should declare. Watson has already said he will, and Falk isn’t going to improve much from what he’s showing already in the Cougars offense, and he’ll always come with the stigma of the air raid offense.

              3. Kizer is the best NFL Draft prospect in this class, and he’ll go top ten. You guys may not believe that, but I firmly believe it to be true. He’s quite the leader in the locker room too.

                Chicago will probably get fleeced by New England for two 1st Round picks for Garoppolo and think they got a bargain…;>)

              4. Yeah I agree with you Scooter. Watson may hurt his stock even more if he goes back for another year, while Falk is in the same boat Goff was last season in that there is nothing to gain from playing in that type of system for another year.

                Trubisky is a tough one because his stock may never be higher than it is right now due to the wealth of talent that is likely to be available in 2018 at the QB position.

          2. I think it is wishful thinking that Garoppolo can be had for a 2nd, personally.

            The Patriots would probably not get anything expect a low compensation pick when he leaves after 2017 if they ask too much for Garappolo.

            1. They basically have two realistic choices, right? Franchise him or trade him. Signing him long term would be a salary cap nightmare….

              1. Three actually because the Patriots could just keep Garoppolo through the remainder of his rookie contract.

            2. They’ll likely get a 3rd round comp pick for him if he leaves as a FA.

              We’ve had this conversation before. In all honesty, which QB in the draft would you rather take over Garoppolo?

              1. Razor, I admire your tenacity to advocate for Kizer, and he may be victim of not having a good enough supporting cast to win, but I think he will be a high second round pick like Carr or Kaep. Too many question marks, and some non stellar play. If he is invited to the Senior bowl and lights it up, maybe he will go in the first, but not top 10.

              2. Yep, and the answer is still the same Scooter. I would find a stopgap QB for the 2017 and draft one in 2018 when the options are expected to be much better than 2017. Meanwhile, I would shore up the other positions in need of help including: ILB, WR, TE, NT, edge rusher, and S.

              3. That doesn’t answer the question though. Which QB would you take in this draft over Garoppolo? Please keep your answer to just that question.

  2. I stopped reading after the stupid comment on what relentless is by O’Neil. Relentless is when the defense hits hard and keeping the offense they are facing on its heels. Relentless is not letting up. Relentless is having an opponent dreading the day they will face the defense instead of looking forward to it, giddy circling it on the calendar, and placing bets as to how many yards and points they can rack up.

      1. And Patrick Willis. However, I think they would struggle due to this coaching staff if they were still playing.

  3. Yeah, O’Neil thinks relentless means giving up huge yardage but a guy (Reid) who is playing for a contract runs throughout the play.

    We saw problems with gap integrity during the preseason. We got gashed then and we’re getting gashed now. Poor coaching and a lack of talent on the front 7 is killing this D.

  4. O’Neill’s first response says it all. The players are playing hard but they’re not well coached or talented enough.

  5. O’Neil does not have a clue. He should do the honorable thing and resign.

    I said before the draft that He was the weak link in the coaching staff.

    The Brown’s fans criticisms are spot on. He has the players worrying about reading and worried about gap assignments, instead of firing off the ball and reacting.The offense are toying with them, and Bellore may have made a few plays, but I saw him run out of the gap the RB would run through way too many times. They invited his blitzes, and made him totally ineffectual.

    Start Skov. There is no way he could be worse.

    At 1-7, they deserve all the criticism that could be heaped upon their heads. They need to make adjustments, and change personnel. The crap about how well a player practiced is not going to work anymore. Obviously, they practice like Tarzan, and play like Jane.

    They should be desperate, and make desperate changes. Baalke, with his inaction, is like a dog that lies on its back while lifting its leg. He infuriates me, and deserves to be fired on the team bus.

    They should be desperate, and convert Tiller to NT. Maybe Balducci.

    If O’Neil does the honorable thing and steps down, they should just promote Tarver, to provide continuity.

    1. I thought so, but what the hell do we know? I guess it’ll take him until late next year to get back to where he was in his development before the injury….

    2. Yes, it had gotten to the point where he was not effectively playing through the pain. No point keeping him active the rest of the year. Get it sorted now.

    3. If it had needed to be done weeks ago it would have. He has an injury that wasn’t going to get worse by playing which is why they allowed him to continue. It comes down to pain tolerance and I guess he reached the max of what he could handle. 1-7 makes a decision much easier to make.

      1. For a HC that stresses sports science, top nutrition, etc., the team sure seems to be having an inordinate amount of injuries.

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