49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan answered questions at the NFL Scouting Combine Thursday morning. Here’s a transcript, courtesy of the 49ers P.R. department.
How did the dynamic change within the organization as soon as you found your quarterback?
“He was there for about a month before he played, so I think as soon as he got there, everyone was excited. Got to the practice field and players don’t always study guys coming out of college, so they don’t know him exactly and then they see him on the field, I think everyone could see his arm talent right away. There was a lot of buzz about that right when we got him. His personality, I think everyone gravitated to. I think our team started to get better in that month, even before he started playing, and got our first win in a couple weeks before he got his start. Once he got in, I think everyone knows he played very well and the team started to get better each week after that.”
“It wasn’t that hard, because I thought he was going into a real tough situation, so it was harder for me to pull the trigger to put him in. You don’t want to put a guy in a tough situation and we weren’t playing great at the time. When you bring a guy who has never had the time to learn what you’re doing, it’s a tough position to just throw him out on a NFL field. We were trying to wait as long as possible and I think we waited long enough.”
Does having QB Jimmy Garoppolo under contract now, having a quarterback now, accelerate your expectations now?
“No, not at all. We were hoping that we would have our quarterback by our second year so I think it’s gone as planned. You’d like to get it the first day you got somewhere, but that’s not as easy as everyone might think it is. But we got him and we feel great. I think it’s nice going into free agency and the draft that we feel pretty good about our quarterback room. It’s just part of the process and we’ve got to keep adding a lot.”
What did C.J. Beathard do for you in the interim and what does his future look like?
“I think C.J.’s got a great future in this league. I think he had a great opportunity this year. I earned a lot of respect for him and I think our teammates did too. He got thrown into a situation that it would’ve been much better for him to wait, too. It would have been much more ideal for him not to get thrown in that fire earlier than he should have. But, that was the situation we were in. He rose to the occasion. He competed every week. Sometimes when you put rookies in a little bit too early, they can lose their confidence and things like that, but C.J. didn’t. I think even through his ups and downs when he did play, he gained confidence and I think he got better every week. I think that was a very valuable experience for him. Someday he’ll get his opportunity again, whether it’s injury or whenever that time happens, but I think C.J. has a very good future in this league.”
If New England Patriots QB Bill Belichick chose Jimmy’s destination, what’s the answer to the question, why the 49ers?
“I don’t know if he chose his destination. He gave us a chance to get him and we strongly appreciated that. You’d have to ask him that. I don’t know. We just talked and it was a heck of an opportunity for us so we didn’t want to pass at that.”
“Last year when we came here, we got to San Francisco and after [QB] Colin [Kaepernick] opted out, we didn’t have a quarterback on the roster so we had to add a bunch of guys. You look into all free agent possibilities, you look into draft possibilities and you look into trade possibilities. Jimmy was one of those guys going into the last year of his contract that I think everybody knew there was a trade possibility, especially with the starting quarterback they had there. We looked into that, just like every other situation, and they weren’t interested at all early on at this time last year. I don’t think they were later. I think they became a lot more realistic right before the trade deadline. I think that pushes a lot of teams to have to make certain decisions and I think they tried to hold onto it as long as possible. A few days before the trade deadline it came up and I think they had to make a move to help their team and their future. Fortunately, it helped us also.”
“It doesn’t matter. You can’t just pick so you deal with whatever the situation is. If you can have a Hall-of-Fame guy who can do absolutely everything, we’re not just going to rotate him because we prefer to rotate people. That guy is going to stay out there because he can do everything and he stays fresh and it works. If you don’t have a guy like that and you do it by committee, you do it by committee. I look at running backs, receivers, tight ends, they’re all interchangeable. If guys have a dynamic trait, you feature that. If they have a bunch of dynamic traits, they can stay out there in a lot more situations.”
What did you make of the season that WR Marquise Goodwin had and do you view him as an important piece of the offseason moving forward?
“Yeah, definitely. That’s kind of what we expected him to do, what we brought him there to do. I think everyone knows the elite speed that he has and that’s something that was very attractive to us, something that always were excited to watch him coming out of college. We looked into the whole free agency pool of receivers and he had an extremely elite trait in speed that we thought would be very important for our offense. Marquise also has a lot of other stuff he can bring to the table. Once you can show people that speed and stuff it’s a lot easier to get open on underneath routes, too, because everyone is scared of you running by them. I think Marquise hadn’t been put in those situations a ton in his career. He’s always been a deep guy and he went through some ups and downs with that throughout the year going through some experience, getting some reps that he hasn’t had before. Like I was saying with C.J., we threw Marquise in some tough positions that he hadn’t done before. He rose to the occasion and he got better each game. I thought the best he was playing was at the end of the year.”
Do you guys think that next year when you get WR Pierre Garçon back healthy that Marquise might not have to be in the position to be as guarded as he was down the stretch?
“We don’t just pick people to throw to. It depends on the coverage and who’s drawing the attention. You hope you have the time in the pocket and the quarterback progresses and attacks the weakness in the defense. Whether we have Pierre out there or a bunch of guys out there, Marquise has a huge part in our offense. I can’t tell you what his targets will be until we know what the coverages will be. Sometimes guys don’t get one target or one ball and I think they had their best game of the year just by the routes they’re running, what they’re drawing to them, doing their job. They can’t decide when they get it. You want to attack the weakness and you don’t want to just beat your head against the wall and force things to people. That’s why I really don’t worry about the receiver situation. You want guys with special traits and you try to feature them all. You just hope you have the right type of people that understand that and don’t get too involved in their families and stuff getting upset over their fantasy stats. There is some pressure on those guys for that, so I get it, but that’s really not what it’s about.”
In this week, what is more important to you, what they do on the field or what they say off of it?
“I take all of it into account. To me, more it’s about trying to get to know the people. This is kind of my first process in the Draft. I don’t look at a lot of college tape until I get back. Everything I do before here is mainly free agents, just because it comes first. Here, it’s kind of the entry to the Draft for myself. Our scouts, [general manager] John [Lynch], they’ve been working on it all year. I just try to get a feel for the people, but I try not to put too much into that, also. You’re meeting someone for 15 minutes. It takes about 12 minutes sometimes before it’s, ‘Alright, there’s the real person in there.’ You don’t want to make a big decision off of someone’s 15-minute interview. I’ve had times where I’ve put too much into it and I’ve had times where I’ve put too little into it. You just try to relax and just get a feel for everyone and know that this is a long process and the Draft is not for a while. You’ve kind of got a face that’s going to go with the film when I get back and watch it. If we’ve got more questions on someone, we’ll bring them back in on one of our 30 visits. You make calls to coaches. You get a feel and you’ve got a lot of time for the Draft.”
How further along are you right now than you were last year in your preparation for the NFL Draft?
“I’m a little farther in the fact that I’ve looked at some of them. Last year, I hadn’t picked up a college film yet. When I got here, we had to cram so hard to learn our own team so we could make decisions in free agency. Two weeks before we got here, I started skimming through and we interviewed 60 guys so I got a good feel of those 60 guys. Then I’ll get to everybody else when we get back.”
How does having Jimmy change the team-building process versus not having him last year?
“It will be nice in free agency when anybody we’re going for doesn’t ask me who our quarterback is going to be. They know. That’s nice. I don’t have to always say, ‘We’ll have one, I promise. Just can’t tell you. Just wait, we’ll see.’ That makes it easier. I think it makes it more attractive a little bit. There’s some people who can see where we’re going and what our situation is. Now you can just focus on getting better at the position. But I think it eases everyone because everyone wants to know who your quarterback is and I think that’s pretty obvious on our team.”
What is it about Jimmy that you think will set him up for long-term success?
“I think he’s an extremely talented thrower. I think he’s got a great feel in the pocket with his balance and when to get rid of the ball. I think his mentality, just the way his teammates gravitate to him. There’s no doubt he’s going to face a lot of adversity. All of the good ones do, every quarterback in the world does. It’s how you respond to that. Jimmy hasn’t had to go through that yet because he hasn’t had a lot of playing time. Every time he has played, I keep waiting for it to happen and he ends up playing pretty good. I know it’s a matter of time and it’ll happen, hopefully not right away, but I know it will. We’ll respond to it and see how he adjusts and keep getting better through it.”
What do you look for in a backup quarterback and does it matter whether he’s a young, up-and-coming guy or an established veteran?
“You want a guy who has got the ability to play like a starter. I think that’s first and foremost. There’s lots of different ways to do it. It always helps when it’s a young guy just because it costs a lot of money to go get a backup guy and sometimes they don’t play all year. But then it’s very important sometimes. You look at Philly and it’s extremely important. You try to balance it out. In the ideal world, you’d probably want a younger guy because it helps you with your salary cap more, but it’s a very important position so you’ve got to find out what the best possibility is for your team and then you’ve got to go do it. I like someone who is similar to our starter because you’re not going to rep that guy a ton. You don’t want to have to change the whole offense once that second guy comes in.”
How do you feel about your offensive line play?
“I thought our O-Line battled all year. Played a number of guys, went through a bunch of injuries and I think they finished the year better than they started. We had a lull there in the middle where we were battling some injuries. We gave up a number of sacks, but that’s a combination of everybody. That’s receivers, quarterback and O-Line. I think we competed hard at the end of the year. Always looking to improve every position, but I was happy with how they played this year.”
Every year is different, but what can you take from that last five-game stretch and realistically take that next leap forward?
“I think every team can take a big leap forward, so it’s always nice to end the year on a positive stretch. I’ve said this to a number of people, I learned the way to get people to feel good about 6-10 is just to start 0-9. Glad we didn’t do it the other way around. It’d probably be a totally different feeling. But, that still was our record. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I was very excited how we came together at the end. I think it made going through that at the beginning worth it. I think our team got closer through it. I think we got better through it, showed that we can overcome some adversity and I hope that gives our guys more confidence going into next year knowing that a lot of those guys have been through it, they’ve done it before. But, we’ve got to go back to work. You start over when you get back and we’ll see how our team is this year.”
“Just meeting with a lot of people down here, coaches try to get together and I just had a cup of coffee and hadn’t spent too much time with him. Obviously, I think everybody in the world, let alone our profession, respects the hell out of him. It was cool just to be able to sit with him and talk football.”
In order to win in this league now, is it absolutely necessary to have that franchise quarterback?
“I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. I think it’s necessary if you want to win consistently. If you don’t have that franchise quarterback, you better have one of the best defenses in NFL history, let alone that year, along with a very good running game. There’s other ways to do it, but it makes it a lot harder.”
What are your thoughts on Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur finally getting the chance to call plays and the challenges he’s going to face as a first-time play caller?
“I’m real happy for Matt. He’s been ready for a long time. He was with me for I think eight or nine years so he’s been ready for a while. I’ve had to annoy him not letting him do it for me and then he had to do the same thing with [Los Angeles Rams head coach] Sean [McVay]. He went through that and now he’s on his own and he’s earned this opportunity. I think Tennessee got a great coordinator and he’ll do a hell of a job.”
What kind of challenges will a first-time coordinator face?
“I guess it’s fun at first, a lot of fun, and then you start to learn how much everyone questions you and stuff and you’ve just got to realize you can’t be a pleaser. You can’t make everyone happy. You’ve just got to go with your gut and live with it. I always tell people that the only time you should be upset is if you call something that you didn’t feel was right. If you work at it all week and you’ve put in the time, that’s your job, that’s what you’re paid to do and you’ve got to do what you believe is right. If it doesn’t work, just be confident or proud of yourself that you did what was right, you didn’t fall into the pressure and just live with the consequences.”
“No. Everyone says you can get running backs later in the Draft, which you can. You can also get them early in the Draft. I think if [Pittsburgh Steelers RB] Le’Veon Bell came out this year, I’m sure he’d be a top-five pick. I think he went in the second round. I think [Arizona Cardinals RB] David Johnson would be the same. People always want to find those top running backs. People have found a lot of running backs later in rounds like what [Kansas City Chiefs RB] Kareem Hunt did this year. You always go back to [former NFL RB] Terrell Davis and those people. You don’t have to get them in the first round, more like you do a tackle or an elite pass rusher. But still, if there’s a running back there that you think is going to be like some of those guys I mentioned, then that guy is worth the first pick in the draft just like anybody else would be.”
Are you guys still hoping that RB Joe Williams can be one of those mid-round finds?
“Yeah, I really hope Joe can be like that. I hope [RB Matt] Breida can be like that. I hope [RB] Raheem Mostert can be like that. I think we’ve got a lot of guys with some talent on our roster that not many people know about. It’s not the talent that always brings it apart. A lot of these guys have talent and that’s why you find them. But it’s how they respond to the NFL and the pressures of it and running back is a different deal in the league. Those guys hit hard and you’ve got to do it week in and week out and not just one game and 16 games is tough to get through.”
What did TE George Kittle show you last year? What are your expectations for him next year?
“Yeah, I’ve got real high expectations for George. We put a lot of pressure on him last year. We started him at the beginning of the year. He had a great OTA’s. He was banged up throughout training camp, played hurt most of the year and he grinded through it. I think George can really help us in the pass game. He can really help us in the run game. There were times and we’d go through about three weeks at a time where he couldn’t run very well, but he showed us how tough he was and he’d help us in the run game. He got a little healthier towards the end of the year where I thought he became more of a separator in the pass game. When you can do both and be pretty good in both areas, you have a chance to be a very good tight end and not get off the field. I think George’s main thing is going to be just staying healthy. He takes care of his body, but we’ll see what God’s plan is.”