SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Kyle Shanahan’s Week 10 Monday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers P.R. department.
What’s that injury list look like right now?
“It’s long. I can’t remember it all. I’ve got it written down here. Not a, you know, the guys are going to be limited throughout the week that we won’t know most of them until probably game time. We’ve got [DL] D.J. Jones, we’ve got [DL Aaron] Lynch, [DL] Solomon [Thomas], [CB] Dontae Johnson, [CB] K’Waun [Williams], [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice, [T Joe] Staley and [OL Brandon] Fusco. I don’t think we’ve done it officially yet, but I think we’re going to plan on moving [S Jaquiski] Tartt, [TE] Cole Hikutini and [OL Garry] Gilliam, they should go to IR later today or possibly tomorrow. And guys who will for sure be out this week; [LB] Elijah Lee, [WR] Trent Taylor and [TE] George Kittle.”
What happened with Taylor? It was sort of an odd–?
“It was. I haven’t gotten to talk to him personally yet. He was complaining about some soreness in his ribs. He made a weird, not a weird cut, but an awkward cut, and you can see it on tape. You can see him reach for his ribs and he fell and ended up breaking one.”
Is he able to play on that later in the season?
“Yes, later in the season. Hoping to get him back after the bye week.”
How did QB C.J. Beathard come through?
“Sore, but he’s okay. I know he’s sore today. Hopefully he’ll be better by Wednesday, but no serious injuries.”
Hikutini and Gilliam are both knees. Are those ALCs?
“No, they’re MCLs.”
But it’s long?
“Yeah, it’s not just MCL, there is other stuff in it. They’re fairly bad MCLs, grade three.”
ME: Kittle hurt his knee?
“Kittle ankle, yep.”
And Dontae Johnson?
“Yeah, I believe his was a shoulder. I think he’s going to, we’re going to have to be careful with him, put him in a blue jersey all week, stay away from contact. I expect him to be good bye the game, but he will be limited throughout the week.”
I know we’re talking a lot about ligaments and bones. Is there any common thread? Is there any reason or anything that you can put your finger on why all these injuries have happened?
“I was kind of joking last week when I said you’ve got to ask God, because, I mean, we can guess, but no one knows for sure. I know we’ve been going for a while. We’ve got to get through this week, and we’ll have our bye week after that. I know our guys have been playing real hard. We’ve been playing some long games and battling and some physical games, and injuries happen. I’ve never been a part of a team where it’s been like this, but teams do have to deal with this type of stuff all the time, especially this time of the year.”
Do you feel facing three straight teams coming off bye weeks has been a contributing factor?
“I don’t know if that contributes to us getting hurt. I know it definitely is not easy.”
Kittle was hurt early on. I mean, you were down, and did he say I want to play and then obviously you found out after the game?
“I could tell watching him throughout the game that he was struggling. I know he went down with an ankle. We lost him for a little bit. It was the second play of the game. He had an explosive pass, got tackled, they rolled up on his ankle. They were afraid his fibula was broken or his tibia, whichever one of the two it is. They were afraid it was broken, so they took him in for X-rays. They said if it wasn’t broken, he was going to try to spat it up. In the next special teams series we lost Cole who was the guy who would replace him. Then later in that game we lost Juice. And they all kind of play the same position in different ways. So, we didn’t ask George to do that, but he said he could go, and he went out there and he allowed us to function. I earned a great deal of respect for him for him doing what he did.”
You guys had obviously protection issues, C.J. getting beat up. I think he threw 56 times. Obviously the game has something to do with that. But, in retrospect as you look back, is that too much?
“Yeah, if you would have told me after the game that we were in the 50s compared to 17s, I would say how much did we get killed by? That’s definitely not the goal going in. We want to be balanced always is our goal, especially in a situation that we were in. I would even want to do more. I don’t just look at the number in the end and decide off that. I go watch how it all happens, how a game plays out. I know it was extremely unusual that we had 28 passes called and four two-minute drives. Never been a part of that before. I know we threw every single time in the fourth quarter. We went three-and-out on our first series which was in the first, I think it was in the 14-minute mark of the fourth quarter. We had a pass to [WR] Marquise [Goodwin] over the middle on first down. We had a drop, we had a check down to Kittle on second-and-10 that we dropped. Then we missed the third down. We got it back after that. That was five and a half minutes. We had three more possessions after that, and we were in two-minute all three of them. So you can add 28 passes there to two-minute situations, which I didn’t believe it when I saw that, because that’s a lot. But, those were some of our longer drives and we haven’t been throwing every time. So I think that gets very skewed.”
It seems like this season, it may be a function of you falling behind a lot, but you throw about 40 passes a game which is the most in the NFL. I think you’ve led for all of 29 minutes. I mean, as you review your play calling, has it been too pass heavy or again is it some of the things that you just outlined?
“I think it’s both. I definitely don’t want to be up there with those things that you just said. I had someone tell me yesterday, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but they said we’ve also only had the ball for six plays this year while having the lead. That’s hard for me to believe it, but it’s the situation that we’ve been in. Not many people have. But, I think that definitely adds to it. You’re trying to win games and usually when you do, you’re trying to throw to get back into it. But, I definitely want to be more balanced. I want us to win a game however we can do that. The way we’ve been doing it hasn’t been working. Hopefully we can find a game that we can get out to some early leads and protect that a little bit more. But, I think it’s a combination of all that stuff. Not having the leads, struggling on third down on both offense and defense. I think third down dictates a lot how the game goes. That’s usually where you throw. And when you can move the chains or get off the field on third down, that’s what allows you to run the ball. So, I think a lot of things play a factor there.”
Just doing the math here really quickly, will you guys even have 46 healthy players to suit up?
“We’re going to have to sign some guys. We plan on signing some guys here in the next couple days. I know they’re working on it right now into tomorrow. So, we’re going to have to figure that out before Wednesday.”
ME: Beathard’s been getting hit a lot. If he goes out in the next game, would QB Jimmy Garoppolo be your quarterback?
ME: I thought you were planning on waiting on him?
“Well, there are two quarterbacks on our roster, so who else would you suggest?”
ME: Would you consider bringing in a third quarterback as a bridge until Garoppolo’s ready?
“Who is that third quarterback?”
ME: Someone on the practice squad or someone who’s a free agent, maybe QB Matt Barkley?
“No, we feel Jimmy is about where they would be, especially with them not being with us the last few months. You’d have to cut other players to do that. And we don’t have that leeway right now just to cut a lot of other guys. Everybody’s playing a role on our team right now with the injuries we have. If you can’t IR guys, you don’t lose that spot. So, we really don’t have the room for that right now.”
ME: So you won’t be looking at quarterbacks tomorrow?
With WR Kendrick Bourne, he seemed to get his biggest opportunity so far. He made a couple catches. You mentioned yesterday that you’re looking for, in this situation, potential depth for next year. Is he a guy that you could even see, given his height and skill set, being an essential receiver moving forward?
“That’s what he’s trying to show us. He’s got an opportunity here. We kept him around because we know he has the potential to play, and right now he’s got an opportunity. He’s playing out there a lot more with some of these injuries that will continue to happen. Especially [WR] Pierre [Garçon] being out the rest of the year. Trent’s going to take some time before he comes back. Guys like Bourne, guys like [WR Victor] Bolden [Jr.], maybe some guys we sign here over the next day or so. Even tight ends, Cole was getting opportunities. He came off practice squad two weeks ago and was starting to play a lot for us. Unfortunately, he got hurt yesterday, so we’ll probably have to get someone else in here. But, yeah it’s picking up for everyone across the board.”
Does Bourne give you a different dimension because he’s the tallest in that receiving room, especially with Pierre out now?
“Yes. You want your guys to have different attributes. You’d like some guys with speed. You’d like some quick guys who can separate. You’d like big guys with good hands. You’d love to have different attributes for all your receivers. I feel like that’s when the offense is the best. When all your guys are the same, you become a little more one dimensional with what you can do. That’s when you start to use running backs, tight ends and different things.”
RB Carlos Hyde was, I think, 11 targets, nine catches. I know in the past your running backs have been very involved in the passing game. What exactly do you look for in a running back when you put him out in the pass pattern? How does Carlos, how did he fit that yesterday?
“I look for guys who can beat man coverage and guys who have the hands to catch and get up the field after they do. Carlos can beat man coverage. He’s had good hands. Yesterday I thought Carlos was, I thought Carlos had a very good game. He did some good stuff for us in the run game, did some very good stuff in the pass game. I think he was probably our best player in both of those two facets.”
Are you going to sign WR Louis Murphy?
“Yeah, we plan on it. I don’t know if that’s official yet. But, yeah that’s what we’re trying to do right now.”
Who becomes your slot receiver?
“We’re going to do it by committee. We’re going to have to move a couple guys in there, move a few guys around. No one has truly just owned that position like Trent has. Other guys are capable of doing it. Cole would have been a good guy to do there. Even using a tight end at that spot, losing him too, so we’re just going to have to adjust with the guys that we have.”
Your practice squad guy, TE Cole Wick, seems to have good size. Is he somebody that could come up and perhaps fill that role a little bit?
“Yeah, I don’t know about a slot receiver, more of a blocking tight end right now. But, we’re going to, anybody that we have on practice squad versus the options that are out there that are under contract with other teams to people who are on other team’s practice squads, those are your three choices this time of the year.”
There is kind of a cliché that you really learn about people when they’re going through adversity. Is there anything that you’ve learned about yourself in this first season as a head coach, going through all these injuries and this losing streak that maybe you didn’t expect to learn coming in?
“I feel like I’ve been through a lot of adversity in my career. I think I’ve been in some tough situations. I think I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last 10 years. I think that’s what’s put me in position to handle stuff like this. We’re 0-9, and I promise you guys that is not a good feeling for me. It’s something that I don’t accept. It’s something that I’m not pleased with at all and I’ll never change until that changes. But, I also do have perspective. I’ve been through a lot of things, and for that reason I know I can handle stuff like this. I think I am battle tested. I know the guys at work are going to get the same person from me every day, regardless. And I know I’m going to do the best I can, and I expect the same from our players. I know not everyone’s been through stuff like this. I haven’t been through this exactly. But, everyone’s had their different tough moments, and there is not a doubt in my mind we’ll get through this. It’s when are you going to get through it? That doesn’t necessarily matter. It’s when you get through it, are you going to be better from it or worse? And I know I’ll be better, and I expect our team to be better.”
Is that a message that you’ve tried to impart on the team, just the fact that this is going to be a long process and I’m looking for some people who can stick with it and be a part of the reconstruction?
“Yeah, definitely. This league’s not for everyone. You need very talented people, first of all, in this league, but you also need mentally strong people with high character and people who can handle stuff like this. I know when you have the record that we do and things are going, everyone’s looking for that magical answer. You’ve got to play this person, you’ve got to trade for this person, you’ve got to do this. I get all that, and I expect all that. But, I also know there isn’t any magical answer. It is what it is right now. We’ve got to go to work, we’ve got to grind every day. Me, all the coaches, the personnel staff, and it’s got to lead to the players. We can sit here and talk about all the stuff, but this time of year there is no secret thing. We’ve got to go out there, we’ve got to play better, we’ve got to coach better, and we’ve got to focus on getting better. And that doesn’t happen by talking or doing anything. That happens by going to work and getting better. It takes mentally strong people. Because right now you can sit there and look for every excuse in the world and people will try to give it to you, but that doesn’t matter. Your record is what it is at the end of the year, and you’ve got to do everything you can to fight to improve that and make sure you’re getting better, not worse. I know we’ve got a huge challenge ahead of us right now. I know it’s gotten tougher with the injuries. That doesn’t mean we can get better from it.”
How often do you talked to CEO Jed York and what is his message to you during this time?
“Jed’s been great. Jed and I talked a lot before I got here, talked a lot since I’ve been here. We continue to talk a lot. I enjoy talking to Jed. He’s someone you can be honest with. I don’t really beat around the bush with him. I’ve told him directly how I feel about everything since the first day we met. I think that’s why we can get places together. We know we don’t try to hide things from each other. We tell each other the situation. I think he knows what I’m expecting. I know what he’s expecting. He’s been great to me and very supportive. I wish, it’s hard after each game to look at the owners and say we’re sorry. I know we didn’t do it again. That is very tough on me. I wish I could make this look better for him right now. I know it isn’t there right now, but I know it will be. He’s been great with that and understanding of that too. They’ve really let us do our job.”
You talk to him after every game. Do you have a regularly scheduled–?
“I usually talk with him on Mondays. Usually later today. Not always. Sometimes we’re traveling back from the east and he has a different deal. But, I always talk to him sometime during the week, usually on Mondays. Usually talk to him after games, really, whenever we feel like it.”
ME: You said you think things will get better. Why?
“Because I believe in the people here. I believe in this organization. I believe in the resources we have to improve. People win in this league because you make good decisions, you’re committed to winning, you spend money in free agency, you make the right decisions for the short-term and the long-term. You don’t make things based off perception just to get people off your back. You do things the right way, and that’s by studying and making good football decisions and making football decisions that are also based off of people and character. You get talented people who can evaluate, and you guys discuss everything. No one keeps anything to themselves. You go through everything and you do what’s right and you try to make the right decisions. I know I’m in a good on organization that has good people in here. I know I’m in an organization that is committed to winning. I know we haven’t here in a while. I’d love to change it right away. But, I do believe we’re in the process of changing it. I know the record doesn’t show that, so actions are much stronger than my words, but I’m extremely confident we’re going in the right direction. We’ll see that over time.”
How did LB Rueben Foster look after watching tape?
“I was really pleased with Rueben. It was his first game to get through. I know he’s been battled some injuries throughout the year. I know he battled some yesterday with some lingering effects. But, to watch him get through the game and make some of the tackles that he made, I think you guys could see some of the potential that he has. I think there is still a long way to go for him. I think he can take it to a whole ‘nother level. But, I think you guys saw flashes of the type of player he can be for us.”
That play where DB Adrian Colbert came over and knocked away the pass. To me in the press box it looked like a really nice play. I’m wondering if on film that was a starter-caliber play since he’s going to be forced into that role now?
“Yeah, that’s what you expect out of a middle-third player. We play a lot of single-safety in our scheme. We put those corners on some islands. And if the pass rush doesn’t get there, and they throw it down the field, and you hope you have a guy that can go numbers to numbers. He has the 40 time to do that. Lots of guys in the NFL have the 40 time to do it. But, it also goes with instincts. So, you’ve got to be out there, you’ve got to play, you’ve got to learn how to track the ball and watch the quarterback. That was a very good play that he made.”
You’ve been criticized some for your fourth-down aggressiveness. You got blowback just before halftime because you punted, fourth-and four from the 48. What was the thinking?
“The field goal was too far for us to attempt.”
Why not go for it on fourth?
“Because if you don’t get it, you’re giving them three points right before the half. What was it, 14-3 at halftime? We’re starting with the ball in the third quarter, which we went down and scored, so it was 14-10. I really wish we could have gotten a five-yard completion on that play. That’s what we were trying to go for and kick the field goal. But, we were five yards out of the range. If it was the end of the game, we would have attempted it, but when you miss that field goal, they’re right there at the 50, and they just need a couple plays to get a field goal themselves.”