Mike Shanahan on Alex Smith: “He’s done an excellent job preventing interceptions.”

Here’s is the transcript of Washington Redskins head coach and former 49er offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan’s Wednesday morning conference call.

Q: If you had to put your finger on what’s been going on in Washington during this losing streak, how would you do so?

SHANAHAN: You just can’t talk about one thing. There’s a combination of a number of things which you try to correct and try to do it each day and get a little bit better offensively, defensively, and special teams and that’s what we try to do.

Q: You guys were very good at stopping the run early in the season, not so good in these last few games. As far as that is concerned, are there one or two things that are happening there?

SHANAHAN: We just know we’d better get better in a hurry because we’re going against a team that’s one of the best in the NFL. They’ve been doing a great job of running the football and getting points, and obviously their defense is doing a great job too, so it will be quite a challenge for us.

Q: Are they comparable to any other teams as far as what they do in their run game – the heavy jumbo packages and all the pulling that they do?

SHANAHAN: Everybody’s got their own system, their own style. They’ve done a great job running the football and defensing the run and when you do a good job defensing the run and running the football, usually you’ve got an excellent record and that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Q: How big of a surprise was that offensive performance you guys had against Buffalo?

SHANAHAN: Obviously, it’s always disappointing anytime you go through a game like that, because you have so many opportunities in a game to score or get back in the game, and we just weren’t able to do it. You go back to the drawing board and you try to get a little better each day.

Q: Why are you guys struggling to pass protect?

SHANAHAN: I don’t know if there’s any one thing, but any time you’ve got a new center, left guard, and a left tackle, you’ve got a new split end, you’ve got a new halfback, quarterback, you’ve got Chris Cooley at the tackle position. So you’re playing a bunch of players that haven’t been quite together, and when you do that all you’ve got to do is make a mistake here or there and you have one of those type of games. In the National Football League teams are going to get injuries but you’ve got to play at a higher level and hopefully we’ll do that this week.

Q: DeAngelo Hall noted that the Niners tight ends are faster than their receivers. Is that something that jumps out when you look at the Niners offense?

SHANAHAN: I think everybody looks at tight ends because you’re trying to get mismatches with linebackers or safeties. When you have great speed and the ability to make plays, obviously the defense always notices that.

Q: Do you have any background with Jim Harbaugh? Have you dealt with him? Are you close with the Harbaughs in general?

SHANAHAN: I’m really not. Obviously I know Jim from afar, followed his career and as well as John’s, but I really haven’t had a chance to spend very, very little time with him.

Q: Hall also said he Alex Smith always had this in him, he just needed to be coached better. What are your impressions of Smith?

SHANAHAN: I think he’s done a great job running the offense that Jim wants him to run. He’s done an excellent job preventing interceptions. I think they’re sixth in points scored. You want a quarterback to run your system, and I think he’s done an excellent job.

Q: What are you recollection of Carlos Rogers?

SHANAHAN: Carlos is a very talented defensive back. Top ten pick. Great speed. Good size. Good guy to be around.

Q: The fans seem to remember some dropped interceptions he had when he was there. Were his hands a point of emphasis for the coaching staff?

SHANAHAN: Carlos was here for a while so you’d have to talk to his coaches, I was with him for one year. First of all, you want a guy to be in position to catch the ball. You’re a DB usually for a reason. Not too many DBs have great hands – if they had great hands they’d be wide receivers instead of DBs. That usually goes with the territory. Carlos has incredible skills in speed. As you guys have seen, every once in a while he’ll pick one off. What’s he have, three right now? That’s great.

Q: He said he was eager to leave Washington. Did that come across? Was there an issue in the locker room?

SHANAHAN: Never an issue in the locker room. I was only with him for one year. I liked him as a person. His personality was very well received on this football team and this town, and I can’t speak on behalf of him, but he was here for a number of years and he obviously went to a team where he probably could get the best financial deal.

Q: You must be pleasantly surprised that Ryan Kerrigan has been able to be an every down player for you. Is that the case, and could you talk about what he’s done well as a rookie?

SHANAHAN: Really he’s done everything well. Anytime a guy from the defensive line to the outside linebacker position there’s always question marks if he’ll be able to do it. Can he play the run? Can he play the pass? Can he handle different coverages? What coverages can he handle? How quick does he pick things up? There’s not many guys that make that transition as quickly as Ryan has, and he’s going to be a great player for years to come.

Q: Brian Orakpo when through the same transition a few years before. Is it good to have a player like that on the team who can relate to Ryan’s transition?

SHANAHAN: Oh yeah. Rak’s a natural leader. He made the transition here before, and I think he could help Ryan very quickly, especially since we didn’t have OTAs and things along those lines. They worked out together. Rak was instrumental in Ryan picking things up as quickly as he did.

Q: How would you compare Kerrigan to the Niners rookie, Aldon Smith?

SHANAHAN: Two excellent players. You’ve got to be around a guy. Aldon – you can see what pass rush skills he has and what type of athletic ability he has. I can see Ryan on a day-to-day basis, being around him, how quick he picks things up mentally. He’s, to me, the complete package. Smith looks like he’s just, he has some freakish athletic ability, and I think he’s going to have a great future in the NFL and I’m sure San Francisco is very happy to have him because he can get to the quarterback and those guys are hard to find.

Q: There was some good natured debate between Greg Roman and Vic Fangio about whether the 49ers run a true West Coast Offense. From looking at what the offense does on film, would you recognize it was a West Coast system?

SHANAHAN: (Laughs). That’s almost a joke to me because anybody that’s been through San Francisco, including myself, or I don’t care if you go to Philly or if you go to Green Bay. Of course there’s been so many coaches that have come through there. I’m not even sure what the West Coast Offense is anymore – if you use the same terminology, or…Everybody usually adjusts their system to what they do, or what they want to do, or they adjust it to their personnel. I think a lot of people have the principles of the West Coast Offense, but I think so many different personalities are shown, especially with all the different sets and substitution groups that people do, and try to take advantage of them.

Q: So you would say nobody runs a pure West Coast Offense anymore?

SHANAHAN: No, I can guarantee you they don’t.

Q: Just for the record, you side with Vic Fangio on that subject.

SHANAHAN: If that’s what Vic said, yeah. I agree.