SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Kyle Shanahan’s Week 16 Wednesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers P.R. department.
As you look at Jacksonville’s defense, who makes that defense go for them?
“All of them. A combination of all of them. They had some low records for a while and they’ve done well with their draft picks across the D-Line to their linebackers who are probably as fast as anyone in the league. Their D-Line, they’ve got Pro Bowlers across it and Pro Bowlers as backups too. They have one of the top corners in free agency last year. They have one of the top corners in the draft two years ago and they have two good safeties.”
Is this one you look forward to as a play caller, the challenge of going against a defense that’s playing as well as they are?
“I look forward to it a lot, for our whole team. I do believe that they have as much qualities as anyone that it takes to win a Super Bowl; a top defense, a very good running game, a good offense, good special teams. When you see a team like that on tape that you believe has that ability, it’s a good thing, it’s a good challenge for your team to go against them and see where you’re at.”
Watching the tape earlier this week, does that confirm what you said on Monday that they’re going to have a different approach than Tennessee and maybe not blitz as much and how much different is that challenge for you guys?
“It’s a lot more different because there’s not as many holes in the defense. Every time you blitz, it leaves a hole somewhere. When you don’t blitz, sometimes you’ve got to wait on those holes to get open longer. And any time you’re number one in the league in sacks and hitting the quarterback, but I think they’re like 29th in pressuring more than four people, it shows that you can get to the quarterback with four and that allows you to play much more sound, aggressive coverage.”
How has Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell’s role changed from Arizona to what he’s doing now?
“Just playing on the outside more. I know he goes on the inside more in nickel and moves around. Just playing him over at Arizona, he was always an inside player. Now to have him over the tight end a lot wasn’t totally what I was expecting and then you turn on the tape and you see why. He’s been a very good player there and they can move him around and put him wherever they need be in nickel.”
What positive changes is the team going through right now?
“I think just getting more confident the more you win. Including our Bye Week, only having one loss in these last five weeks, it’s a much more positive feeling that you put together week after week, and you build off of that. Everybody wants to be confident, but that only happens when you experience some success. We’ve won some more games than not of recent and the more you do that the more confident you get.”
ME: T Joe Staley has been nominated for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. What stand outs to you about him as a pro and why is he a good candidate for this award?
“Joe just comes to work every day and does his job. Whether he’s in a good mood or a bad mood, I know what we’re going to get from Joe. He goes out there, practices hard. We try to take care of him on Wednesdays and not have him do too much because of his age and what he’s done. But, whenever he’s going, whether it’s for walk-through or practice, there’s only one speed for him. Joe perfects his craft. I’m sure he does a lot around his community too, which would help him. I know as far as me, he’s a pro in every aspect because you know what you’re going to get from an effort standpoint every day.”
Are his bad moods less frequent these days?
“Yeah, in the last two weeks, I’d say so. A little less grouchy.”
How does Jacksonville use CB Jalen Ramsey? You mentioned him as a corner. Is he only on one side or do they match him up?
“They’ll be in different spots. They’re not always in the same spots. Besides that, it’s very similar to the coverages we play. They play a lot of three-deep, where they’re responsible for the go-route and to stay on top of everything. He’s a very physical corner and big corner. He likes to jam. He can get after you that way and he’s a very good tackler. He competes, has very good ball skills. You can see why he was a top pick and why he’s had the success he’s had so far. He’s a guy with his mentality and his skill set, he’s only going to get better each year.”
CB A.J. Bouye was a guy who was a free agent who is also having a good year. What kind of impact has he made and was he someone that you guys were interested in?
“Yeah, we looked into him. We looked into everybody who was a free agent. I definitely know how good he was from last year, just studying him. He’s a very athletic guy, very clean feet. He’s hard to beat. He stays on top very well and does not give up many big plays.”
QB Jimmy Garoppolo was mic’d up for this last game and a couple times you see him give instructions, advice to WR Trent Taylor and some other receivers on what to do in certain situations. As far as being vocal, is that par for the course? Is he more vocal than you’ve seen? Where does he fit in?
“He likes to talk a lot during the games to people and stuff. To me, I just want people to be themselves. I think he likes to go and communicate with guys and talk to people. Some people like to sit there and just study the pictures and really focus on what they’re going to do next. I like people to do whatever they think helps them more. Jimmy, I think he likes going around and talking to guys. I think it helps him stay in whatever mood he wants to be in throughout the game. I think it helps other players too. The worst thing you can do is demand certain things from guys if that’s not really naturally who they are. If a guy doesn’t like to do that and you sit there and say, ‘Hey, I want you to go talk to people.’ Then it becomes awkward. Players realize that fast and they don’t respect it. It’s very natural for Jimmy and I think that’s why they listen to him and respect what he has to say.”
ME: Does he carry himself like a four-year vet or are there ways that his inexperience shows itself?
“No, I think he’s carried himself like a veteran. So far everything I’ve seen has been great. He’s played well in his games. I think he’s handled it real well.”
I’m sure I’m butchering the story, but I seem to recall something about when you first got with Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan, he kind of balked, but he had to turn his back to the defense a lot. It’s something he had to adjust to, but eventually it all worked out obviously. Is there anything with Jimmy where you say, ‘Hey, no we do it like this here,’ or stuff like that?
“Yeah, it’s everything. That’s with every athlete, especially guys who had success before. You get a guy who hasn’t done anything, it really doesn’t matter, they’re just trying to figure it out. When you have guys, especially bringing up like Matt Ryan, Matt Ryan has had a ton of good years and a number of good offenses, so when you bring something in and it’s something that anyone has never done his whole career, and you ask him to do something, nothing feels great right away. It was like ‘Hey, it’d be a little easier if I just looked at it instead of putting my back to it,’ and totally agreed. It’s also easier if the D-Line doesn’t rush and they play run. It’s easier to block the guys. It’s also easier for the receiver to get open if there’s no linebackers underneath and the safety is way over the top. So, there’s certain balances to it that you have to learn. But, everyone is a product of their environment and when you get in the heat of battle you’re going to do what’s made you successful before. And you should. That’s what you’re confident in. That’s what’s so important about training guys and not just telling them to do something, but really getting them to understand what you’re trying to do. No one is going to be really good at it until they respect it and you understand why and that happens through playing. Sometimes you ask them to do stuff and they don’t feel it until the third time they did it. Then they get, ‘Now I get why you wanted it that way.’ It takes time and that’s what’s so fun about the offseason, because you’ve got a lot of time to drill that stuff into them and try different things. And that’s what’s also good about going through a year with someone, or in Jimmy’s case, these five games that we’re going to go through, so when we do go back and watch it when he gets in here in phase one in April, whenever that is, that’s stuff you can talk about and know what you’ve got to work on as soon as OTAs start.”
Do you have a whole list of things that you want to work on with him, just basically ground floor stuff for the offseason?
“Yes. I don’t have it now, but that’s what we do. When we’re done, the coaches get a couple weeks off and then we come back and we start studying free agents and then we start to go through our whole self-scout. We do that for every single player, each position coach does it. We get a big write up of tape. When our players get back in here for the beginning of the offseason, we usually spend that first week going over all the stuff and making an offseason plan of what we want to improve on and then we’ll reassess that at the end of OTAs before we get another break before training camp.”
There’s a pretty big discrepancy with Jacksonville between their pass defense and their run defense they’re giving up like 4.5 a carry. Is there anything you see on film that explains that?
“It’s tough to say exactly why. They’re talented all over. No one’s getting many big plays on them in the pass game. I think it’s tough to run the ball all the way down the field, but when you can’t get a big play in the pass game, I think people are more trying to do that. They’ve been so good on third down and stuff, that being bad in the run game, not being bad, but not being as good as in the pass game, it really hasn’t hurt hem that much because they get off the field on third down or they get a turnover. Giving up some yards-per-carry is something defenses never want to do, but if you keep them out of the end zone then it doesn’t matter that much. And the way you do that is you’re good on third down and you create turnovers.”
Kind of a generic question, but what is it about the two-minute drill and the teams that really need points that for some reason seems to spark offenses, especially good offenses? I think over the years you see good offenses will go quiet for an entire half and then all of a sudden they have to have points. Tennessee nearly had a season saving drive at the end of that first half for them. You guys have had success as well. What is it? Is it taking advantage of prevent defense?
“I think it’s just changing things up. You get that a ton over the years, it’s you’re struggling on offense, you’re struggling on defense and quickly you go into the two-minute and you do well and then everyone in the world is, ‘Why didn’t you do that the whole game?’ Come out and try two minute the whole game and you’ll probably see why. It’s getting guys off balance, sometimes when you’re struggling or your guys are, they’ve got a good game plan and you just want to adjust something. Sometimes it’s nice to just go fast and get people off to change up the tempo. Sometimes it’ll work, sometimes it doesn’t. If you’re going two-minute all the time and you’re struggling with that and you have a number of three-and-outs, then all of a sudden you don’t do it and you manage the clock better and you go on a little bit of a drive, then everyone is going to say, ‘Why don’t you never go no-huddle?’ That’s, to me, why there’s no absolute answer. It’s what’s the defense doing? Who plays better? How do you adjust to certain things and what are your players? I think sometimes it’s a great thing to take some stress off guys because there’s less thinking. You just go and react. Also, sometimes the defense isn’t very good at two-minute and you just open some stuff up. There’s not one answer, but that’s really almost every question when it comes to scheme and football.”
What do you think’s changed about Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles over the last three weeks?
“Any time you have a defense play the way they do and any time you have the number one running game in the NFL, that makes a lot of things easier on a quarterback. Not to take anything away from him, but he’s doing exactly what he needs to do and he’s making plays doing it. I don’t care what quarterback you are, if you don’t have much of a run game, it’s going to be tough on you. Right now, numbers-wise, he’s got the best one in the NFL. He’s got a defense who gets some turnovers and gets pretty good field position, and he’s done a real good job not turning it over, especially lately, and making some plays with his arm and his legs.”
ME: After the Titans game, we asked you why the run game struggled. You mentioned all the run blitzes you faced. Watching film, it seemed to me like when you called a run play, Garoppolo kept his head down before the snap. And when you called a drop-back pass or a play-action pass, he raised his eyes and surveyed the secondary before the snap. Did you see that too?
“I didn’t, but I’ll go back and check. I appreciate that. I hope Jacksonville is not listening to this press conference. If they are, I’ll change it. Thank you.”
Is LB Brock Coyle as a linebacker better than you thought or were you confident?
“No, he’s pretty much what we though. Brock does everything he can to prepare for a game. He’s a guy who works seven days a week, 24-hours a day, getting his body right, getting his mind right. He gives everything he can. You know when he gets in, it’s a matter of time that he’ll continue to get better. The more he plays, I feel like the better he gets because he’s very smart, he works at it, and he learns from all the things that happen to him. Brock has done a decent job on special teams throughout his career. When guys have given him the opportunity, he’s come in and played well. He’s always started backups throughout his career, starting in Seattle. He’s been behind some good guys, but once he got his opportunity here, it didn’t start off perfect, but he was solid and each week he’s gotten better. I think he’s been playing his best ball these last few weeks and he’s really been helping people around him.”
I was going to ask you, just because I remember his first start was Washington, but it seemed like it was kind of rugged, at least in the first half. Are there specific things he’s done to kind of fix whatever was wrong?
“Yeah, just learning from every situation. I remember the exact first half versus Washington, just a couple missed tackles in space. Then I thought he played better in the second half. I think that might have been his first start, I’m not sure. Sometimes your first start, you’re a little amped up and you miss a couple. It only takes two plays to look bad. Then you calm down a little bit, you get more in the flow of the game and he started being more consistent. I think that’s Brock. And that’s what I say a lot with everyone. You never know how a guy is until you see how they respond to adversity. And when you’re a guy that the game’s not too big for, you work at it, you’re not an insecure guy, you can take coaching, you can look at yourself hard and when you make mistakes, if you’re made of the right stuff, you get better from making those mistakes just the more you get to play. And I think that Brock’s a perfect example of that.”
You talk a lot about not getting too high or not getting too low. In this season you’ve streamed on both ends of that. Is there anything in your past that led you to that philosophy or how did you come about believing that’s the way to go about the day-to-day operations?
“Always. Once you start to make decisions or lead anything based off of ego you get humbled as fast as anything in this league. I have a thousand stories of that as a coach or just watching other people. I also have perspective on everything to. I know everyone’s extremely positive about us recently. That’s neat that everyone feels that way, and we’re excited too, but I also know if our kickers not 100-percent on all those field goals that we’d be feeling a little bit different. One tipped ball, two plays maybe where [WR] Marquise [Goodwin] doesn’t come down with that throw and it’s an interception, the whole outcome of the game can be completely different. If they get a first down at the end of that game on third and one or third and two, we don’t get the ball back, they run the clock out and kick a field goal and we would’ve probably blown a lead that I thought we should’ve won. And that’s a totally different feeling. We’re just talking one, two, three plays that could totally change the perception of everyone. I don’t think that totally changes the reality of what’s going on a lot, but it definitely changes the perception. So, you try to be strong in that way and not let that stuff affect you. Just try to focus on doing as good as you can every single day.”
There was some pre-draft scuttlebutt about you guys being interested in Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette and then leading up to the draft talking about your history and your dad’s history and your guys’ ability to find running backs middle, late, undrafted guys. Is that something you consciously think of? Is that a philosophy that you have that ‘We can find guys later?’
“It’s been proven that you can get guys later. But, that by no means makes it that I’m going to say we’re never going to draft a running back high. When you find a special one and you think that makes sense for your team, you should never hesitate to do that. A big-time running back, whether it’s Fournette, whether it’s [Arizona Cardinals RB] Adrian Peterson who was a top-10 pick, whether it was [former NFL RB] Terrell Davis in the sixth round, whether it’s [Arizona Cardinals RB] David Johnson who I think was a third rounder or [Pittsburgh Steelers RB] Le’Veon Bell I think is a second rounder, all those guys are worth top-five picks, but they were all found different places. If they came back out, if Terrell came out I promise you he’s not going in the sixth round. He’s probably going as a top-five pick and that’s one of the reasons they won a Super Bowl. You’ve just got to find who you think that guy is. There’s lots of ways to do it.”
ME: You mentioned the last few games the difference between one or two plays. Earlier in the season, you weren’t making those couple of plays. Now you are. Is that the Garoppolo Effect or what’s the difference?
“I don’t know. You can look into a lot of things. You go back to those five games that we lost by three points or less, some of it’s quarterback play, some of it’s a penalty. We had a number of offensive PIs that I think cost us a couple games at some points. Maybe we could have overcome that early and it wouldn’t have mattered. There’s too many things that go into it. Maybe the Garoppolo Effect. Ask [K] Robbie [Gould] if that’s why he’s been so good on kicks. I don’t know. No one knows. There’s so many things that go into it. That’s why I don’t get too high or too low and that’s why I don’t go 100-percent off analytics. There’s a lot of variable to everything and no one totally knows. You just keep trying to do it and over time you find out what works.”