SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Kyle Shanahan’s Week 16 Monday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers P.R. department.
Could you maybe go over just how well the two-minute drill has been working these last five games? It seems like you guys have gotten point production.
“Yeah, it’s been nice. Yesterday was even better, you know, [WR] Trent [Taylor] won on two man on the first play and then right when we got into it they busted a coverage over the middle. We went real fast there, their inside linebacker and their outside back, both of them took the back and that left our tight end down the seam in a two-shell defense, so we got that explosive deal, got down there fast, and the next play they blitzed and hit [WR] Marquise [Goodwin] on a slant and then it was pretty much over after that. It’s gone well and guys made some good plays in it.”
Why now, though? You guys have been practicing this basically daily, right? Is it just repetition?
“Yeah, repetition and, I mean those were some good looks, too. I mean, it’s nice when guys bust and leave a tight end going down the middle for a 30-yarder, so that was real nice. But, you’ve still got to see it, you’ve still got to get there. It was number two in the progression, so it was a good job getting into that, and then they blitzed a second time and Marquise got a lot of separation on man-to-man on a slant, so he got us about a 10-yard gain, which got us into field goal range and then we were able to run the play and kick the field goal. I think it’s timing. I think our guys are doing better the more they’ve done, and it’s worked out well, but I can’t tell you exactly why.”
QB Jimmy Garoppolo mentioned yesterday, I thought it was interesting, he said that he was sitting on the sideline before and he was going over almost cramming for that two-minute drill because he said it was the first time he was going to use the plays in that way.
Are those kinds of things coming up a lot where he’s still on the sideline and you’re like, ‘Wow, this guy has only been here for–?’
“Yeah, definitely. I mean, that’s the challenge for him, and that’ll be that way throughout this whole year, stuff he knows and everything going into the game, but then you don’t bring something up for a while, or in the heat of the battle, it’s just not always automatic. We’ve got a number of plays that we use in two-minute with different words and things like that, so it was nice to anticipate that coming, not with a quick turnover or something like that so [quarterbacks coach] Rich [Scangarello] can sit there on the sidelines with him and go over everything. Jimmy is a pretty visual guy, so when we do that it’s nice to have about five to 10 minutes where Rich can draw all the plays up so he can see them and just think about them, and we don’t get to use them all. I think we ended up using three of them, but it’s nice to preview that before we go out.”
I think before yesterday the Jaguars were on pace to be the first defense ever to lead the NFL in scoring, takeaways and sacks. That’s never happened before. I know coaches don’t love comparing, but when you look at them and maybe think about just your history as a coordinator, are they unique to what you’ve gone against in the past?
“You know, I’ll start them on tape probably about an hour from now. But, just from looking at the numbers, I played them two years ago, I have an idea of what scheme they run. I know how good their personnel was two years ago. I know the personnel they’ve added to the last couple drafts, and I’ve seen the numbers, so I can imagine it’s going to be right there what you’re asking, but I won’t know that for sure until later tonight, halfway through tomorrow, so I’ll answer that better on Wednesday.”
I know you’re familiar with the scheme because you guys run it and you’ve gone against similar schemes before, but are there nuance things that you can talk to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh about and maybe personnel-wise?
“Yeah, possibly. Our whole day on Monday, I just finished with the team a couple hours ago, I just finished with the quarterbacks about a half an hour ago, now I’m with you guys, and then I’ll go spend another half an hour with the personnel department talking some things, and then it’s Jacksonville for the rest of the night and all day tomorrow before the players come in. I know the coaching staff as far as their coordinator is the same from the year before when Saleh was there. I know some of their personnel and stuff, so we’ll talk about those things. But, we won’t know what they’ve changed or anything until we’ve studied the tape. But, I do know how good their players are, and I know how sound the scheme is, so it doesn’t surprise me at all what their numbers have been this year.”
Obviously the penalties have been a reason you haven’t been able to finish some of these drives. Is there anything else now that you’ve seen it for a few weeks that you can put your finger on why you haven’t been able to finish drives with touchdowns?
“I mean, I think the penalties have been a big part of it. You look at our red zones yesterday, the penalties weren’t all of it. I think we had first-and-goal on the 10 at the end of the second quarter. We ran a run play on first down and we had a couple busts in how we targeted those runs, so we ended up getting zero yards on that, so we had second-and-goal from the 10, had the man-to-man play to [WR Kendrick Bourne] KB on second-and-goal from the 10, corner made a good play, and then we had third-and-goal from the 10 and we didn’t get that either. I think we’ve got to be more efficient in what we do. When we don’t have a penalty, we’ve got to get positive yards. You don’t want to call a run play on first-and-goal from the 10 and get zero yards. Kind of puts you behind the eight-ball and if you have a lot of third-and-goals from the 10, that’s not going to go very well. Next time down there I believe we had a good play on first down, but we ended up getting a clipping by [RB Matt] Breida that took us out. We ended up having third-and-goal from the 18, which is not good, so we threw a quick screen and I thought the guys made a hell of a play but they took that back with an offensive PI. It’s been a little bit of both. We’ve got to get better down there. We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to be more disciplined. We got to the, I thought we did one good job overcoming something. We had fist-and-goal from the seven, I believe, on our first time down there, ran it to the one, had second-and-goal on the one, missed a run-through backer on the backside who got a loss of five yards and we had third-and-goal from the six. Jimmy did a good job going off schedule and hitting [TE Garrett] Celek in the end zone, so we overcame that, but we haven’t overcome much else all those other times.”
ME: Yesterday you said K Robbie Gould is playing as well as any player you’ve ever had. Why is he playing so well right now? What makes him such a good kicker, and how important is he to this team?
“You know, Robbie is very important. The kicker is always important, especially how close all these games are, and if you’re not making field goals, I think it would have been pretty tough to win these games that we have won. They were all fairly close and they can come down to just a couple plays. I can’t explain to you why he’s doing so well. I don’t know enough about kicking. All I know is whether it’s good or not good. That’s probably the only position I can study off a piece of paper just by reading the percentage. But, he’s been great. I think you guys can tell how he carries himself. He’s the only kicker I’ve been around who truly knows everything that’s going on. He’ll call [special teams coordinator Richard] Hightower on Tuesday nights and try to suggest things they should do in their blocking patterns and stuff on kickoffs and punts and things like that. He really enjoys football. He comes in early. He talks to everybody, is a part of everything. He’s not just in his own little world kicking the ball and stuff. He’s really a part of this team and that’s why we consider him a leader. And when you act that way, that’s great, but you’re going to be judged by how good you do and I think the guys respect the hell out of him because of how he carries himself, but also because they know how good a job he’s doing in these games.”
ME: After the game yesterday, he said he met you for the first time at the Combine about seven years ago, you, him and Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gates. Do you remember that? He said he was impressed with how passionate you are for the game.
“Yeah, I do remember that. I think I met him in the JW Marriott hotel lobby. He was with a couple guys, with [former NFL OL Tony] Pashos, Tony, who I knew, and I think I was with Adam, so Tony came and introduced him to us, so that’s where we first met.”
I’m not actually asking you to do it, but could you go from the first offensive play and tell us each play that happened in succession from yesterday’s game?
“No, I couldn’t. Probably not. If I was more rested. I celebrated too much last night. I definitely couldn’t do it right now.”
People are looking at this, this is not news to you, you were just 0-9. But, now people are looking at next year and are like, ‘Oh yeah, of course they’re going to be in playoff contention.’ I know you’re focused on Jacksonville and all that, but given that you guys got six-year contracts, and there was this whole this is a patient approach, but all of a sudden do you have that feeling like this could happen faster than we anticipated?
“I don’t really think of it that way. I think of it day-by-day and game-by-game and when we get to this offseason I’ll spend some time really evaluating hard the offseason, look at the contracts and things for the future and where we’re going to go with free agency and the Draft and just try to make the right decision and the best decision possible with whatever is presented to us in any situation. That’s kind of when we got here, it wasn’t, ‘Hey, we have to do this, we have to do that, we have to get this guy or we have to get that guy.’ It’s what guys are available, do we think they can be a part of this for the future, how do we want to go about doing that, and try not to force anything. I think that was one of the good things that [general manager] John and I felt coming here, that we didn’t have to make any, what we thought, real risky decisions or anything like that for anything real immediate. We thought we could just focus on what we thought was right and stick with that. We feel we’ve done that as far as so far how it’s been going. It’s always tough when you start out 0-9, but it was nice when doing that not having people in our building freak out and think we had to go do something drastic, just being able to stay with the process and continue focusing on that. That’s easier said than done, but when you end up winning some games, it makes it a lot easier, and I think everyone does start to get excited, and I know you guys can feel that with our team and you can feel it with the fans for sure on Sunday. But, we’re not, we live in reality, and a lot of things had to go well for us to win that game yesterday, too. We were real excited and I was happy about how our guys responded to a lot of things, but by no means was that perfect. We almost found a way to lose it a couple times. We’re not going to win a lot of games if we have those penalties and do stuff like that. Even though we’re all excited, there’s a lot to learn from, and I do know we’ve got to play better to talk about what you’re talking about.”
You guys have won three in a row now, so has Jacksonville. It’s like the NFL’s two hottest teams. Does that help you create that playoff feel that you’re going for these final couple games?
“I mean, I know their year has been a lot different than ours, but that’s what we talked about last week going into these final three games, that we’re going against three teams who are playoff teams and fighting to be playoff teams. I know Jacksonville just looking at their record and stuff, they’re still possibly fighting for home field advantage, I think. I think they’re two games out. But, it’s going to be a huge challenge. I know you guys already brought up the numbers with them and I’ll see more when I turn on that tape. But, when you look at teams that have those type of numbers, they have as good a chance as anyone to go all the way. I know it’ll be a huge challenge for us, and hopefully we’ll heal up this week and look at the tape and have a plan to try to get after them on Sunday.”
I know you said you’d try to take it day by day and you don’t want to get too far down looking at how you’re going to rebuild next year, but do you find yourself at all kind of making a wish list of what you would like to see to take that next step when it comes to next year?
“Yeah, I always look at where I want to improve in all three phases, where I think certain, you know I look at by positions where I think we can get better and things like that. But, also you’ve got to look at what’s available each year, too. You don’t just get to go to the store and pick exactly what you want. You’ve got to see what’s available in free agency, what’s available in the Draft. You don’t always just go for need because that need isn’t always there. Sometimes you’ve got to work around it. You know, I am very excited with how we’re playing. It makes it a lot more exciting going into the offseason, just because you can see it in the players, and I think you can feel with them to where we’re are at the end of the year and I don’t hear them talking about vacation or talking about what they’re going to do in January. I see guys generally coming in excited to get the game plan and go to work, and I think that’s pretty unique from a group of guys when you’re out of the playoffs and you’re looking at these last two games. That excites me with our team, but I also know we’ve got a lot of work to do, and I think we’ve got the right guys that that’s what we’ll focus on and stay humble doing it.”
You guys talked about how much Tennessee blitzed yesterday. Are you anticipating, I know you haven’t dove into the film yet, but are you anticipating a much more of a conservative approach from a lack of blitzing standpoint and forcing your guys to win the one-on-one matchups?
“I would, considering the style of how they play. Again, I haven’t watched the tape, but I’m sure they haven’t been doing that much this year, just knowing their personnel and knowing their scheme. But, you never know what you get on Sunday, and you always go into a game anticipating stuff and you always have to be ready to adjust when it’s different.”
ME: LB Reuben Foster missed a couple of plays, he was hurt, came back. It’s happened to him a few times. Is there any pattern or is it just bad luck? Is it a product of how hard he plays?
“I think everyone can see Reuben throws his body around, plays very hard. That’s something you’ll have to ask Reuben about. He’s already tricked me enough. I told him I’m not coming out there anymore. And then one day I’m going to need to. But, hopefully not. But he usually, I think it’s pretty serious and then he’s back out there a couple plays later. But, I know he plays through a lot of pain. I know he throws his body around. You guys can see how violent he plays. But, he definitely has made me nervous many a time, so I try not to worry too much until he’s out longer than a couple plays.”
Have you considered what to get the Patriots for Christmas?
“No, I haven’t, but definitely they’re on my good side right now.”
Nothing in terms of contracts with Jimmy or anybody else at this stage?
“Yeah, that’s something that we don’t even, we definitely don’t talk with the players about right now, and it’s something that’s pretty far from my mind. But, a couple weeks isn’t that far away, so we’ll see when we get to the offseason.”
WR Aldrick Robinson is presumably in the concussion protocol. Was it his hand, too?
“Yeah, his wrist has been bothering him a little, and I think he just landed on it funky, whether he sprained his wrist or something, but nothing broke. It was his head. It was the concussion that bothered him. He was good after the game talking to him and stuff, but he definitely has to be in the protocol.”
Did you get through mostly clean other than that?
“Yeah, [DB Adrian] Colbert surprised us after the game. He came in with some symptoms, had them again this morning. So he’s going to be in the protocol also.”
How did CB Ahkello Witherspoon come out, and how close was he to not playing in the game?
“He was close to not playing. We had to go easy on him all week, and he had to push it a lot harder on Friday to where if he wasn’t up to it on Friday, he wouldn’t have been able to play. But, he went hard enough on Friday, wasn’t fully there, but looked good in warmups, felt he was healthy enough. We did the same with [CB Greg] Mabin, but his was the other way. He struggled on Friday and then we worked him out before the game on Sunday and just couldn’t go, so we brought [DB Tyvis] Powell up and made that adjustment.”
With Jimmy, I know he does a lot of things well, but it seems like he has the ability when coverage drops to see it. Seems like a couple of key plays yesterday that was the case. Is that something that you see on film with him?
“Yeah, I think he’s got a natural feel out there. It’s not always he’s going to sit there and tell you exactly what coverage and what parts they’re in, like a coach will do with a clicker in his hand when I’m watching it very slowly and stuff, and he just sits in there and feels holes and lets it rip, and those are usually what the good ones do. They don’t sit there and overthink it and overanalyze something. They try to stay pretty mindful, pretty poised, very balanced in how their body is. And when they feel holes, they let it rip with no hesitation, and I think you guys can all see that on tape, and he’s done a real good job with that.”
Does that go back to his experience at Eastern Illinois a little bit where they just didn’t have a playbook?
“I don’t know. You’d probably have to ask him more on that. They got rid of the ball so fast in that type of offense, it’s almost like watching basketball. They just spread it out and they catch and throw almost every play. That was one of the things watching him in college it was hard to evaluate how long he could stay in that pocket, and you weren’t totally sure of it. You get that with a lot of these college guys because the spread offense sometimes it’s just one step and throw, one step and throw, so you don’t even, you’re not sure how they’ll handle getting hit very much and hanging in there. That’s always a scary thing because if they don’t handle it well, it’s very hard to be successful in the NFL. But, you have that challenge a lot coming out with these guys, and Jimmy, we had the challenge with. I remember studying [Oakland Raiders QB Derek] Carr with the Raiders, he was the same at Fresno State, they just got rid of it so fast. But then, you hope they’ll do it in the NFL, but you never know until they get in the heat of battle and he’s proven to do it.”
Was it those two games he started in New England where you knew that he could do it?
“Definitely. I mean that’s, you’d like to see more over time and stuff, but you go off what you’ve seen, and you’re going to go off the NFL games, and he was very poised in both his game and a half that he played in. He’s done it in the preseason, too, and he definitely has the ability and the throwing mechanics to do it and shows he’s got the toughness, also.”
ME: Jimmy looks like the greatest quarterback of all time right now, but he still hasn’t played that much. How many games does a quarterback need to play before you feel like you know who he is as a player?
“I definitely can’t put a number on that. I think you don’t, I mean Jimmy, it’s been great. I think he’s 5-0 as a starter. There’s going to be a time that he goes through adversity. I’m sure some day he will lose and guys have rough games. I don’t care how good you are or if you’re the greatest quarterback of all time. I’ve heard people over the years, whatever the two or three games that [New England Patriots QB] Tom [Brady] has had that haven’t been very good, usually the next day people are saying, all right, he might be getting older, and then he usually finishes the year with an MVP and a Super Bowl trophy. In order to see how guys are doing, you’ve got to see how they respond to adversity and how they can do it over the long haul. Jimmy is going to get that opportunity and we’ll see, and I feel pretty confident he’ll handle it the right way.”
With Tennessee selling out against the run yesterday, after watching the tape, what was your takeaway of their rush defense?
“Pretty much that. I think they committed a lot to the run. I thought we struggled blocking them. I thought their guys did a good job inside and on the edges. Their linebackers did a good job getting off our blocks and we weren’t able to crank any big ones, so I thought they did a good job. I think they’ve done a good job all year, and I thought they committed to it a little bit more than usual.”