After Coach Singletary's conference call this afternoon, the 49ers got Kurt Schottenheimer on the line for a conference call with the media. He's actually down in Florida at the Shrine game working as defensive coordinator for the West team, which is coached by his brother Marty. We've got some quotations from the conference call.
On whether special teams has changed since 1994:
"I think the thing that has appeared to have changed a little bit are there are a few more gimmick plays, changing formations and those kinds of things around midfield. So, what they’re doing is making you spend more time in practice to make sure you’re sound and you can match up against those kinds of things. As far as special teams are concerned, the phases of special teams are still obviously the same. It’s all about execution, making sure you have a sound scheme and having players that believe and buy in to what you want to accomplish."
On whether the elimination of the wedge has an impact on the way he teaches things:
"I think the key thing there is that everybody is the same. Again, what you have to do on kickoff return, to me, it’s all about stopping penetration. There is a lot of match-ups, man-on-man, and you’ve got to find a way to match up and stop penetration by getting your hands on people and finishing with your feet. You still have two people that are in position that can kind of lead and pick anybody that leaks through. We have a term that we’ll use, in ‘turn to the next level.’ So, if you lose your man, don’t chase him all the way down the field, just turn and find somebody else to block and let the other two pick it up, or the returner has got to make somebody miss. A lot of the penalties come when somebody gets pushed in the back because somebody has run by you. We’ll talk about our feet, our drops and the angles that we have to take, and our ability to stop penetration will be critical."
Plenty more quotations after the jump...
On whether he believes the diversity in his coaching background helps out with his role as special teams coordinator:
"I truly do. Again, one of the things that is very entertaining to me is the personality of Mike [Singletary], the personality of Greg Manusky, the personality of Jimmy Raye - the people I know – they bring a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and passion, as well as toughness and so forth. Again, that is the kind of personality that I have. So, I think this is a team that is going to be very tough and very physical. It’s all about game plan. It’s just like on offense and defense. You have a game plan on special teams and you want to execute that game plan to the best of your ability. That’s something you do as a secondary coach, something you do as a defensive coordinator, an offensive coordinator and in this particular case, as a special teams coordinator. Those are the things we’ll do. We’ll game plan and work to get the best match ups that we can, and again, we’ll teach fundamentals and play from there."
On his familiarity with the 49ers special teams unit:
"First of all, I remember Joe Nedney. He’s a young man that I followed. He caught my eye quite awhile back as a kicker because he had such a strong leg. What he did was, and what so many players do in our league, is that they take the ability that they have and they develop and keep continuing to get better and better and better. Joe is one of those people. I can’t remember the game, but he kicked a field goal to beat us back a number of years ago. Certainly, his experience and mental toughness is very important. In the case of Andy, we had the opportunity to have him at the Pro Bowl a couple years ago, and because of the great job he did, we were able to win. The winning coaching staff gets a few extra thousand dollars, so we appreciate his efforts in that case. I look forward to getting a chance to see Andy again. And of course, Brian Jennings has been a snapper and has been very successful and has an excellent career going there. I love the fact that he can block the position and cover the position, those are always bonuses when you have that."
On his thoughts on the 49ers needing a return person:
"Well again, I think the key thing when you’re thinking about return people, there are some special people out there that play in the league and so forth, but it’s more about the 11 people you have out there. It’s every individual of the 11 that are out there doing their job to the best of their ability, finishing blocks and taking the proper angles that make that returner better. Athletic guys, you might try more sideline, you might try more misdirection, but I’ve always liked a guy that is a downhill guy that can catch the ball and find a lane. He can hit the lane and that way you don’t have to hold blocks as long. So, it’s really about the other 10 around him that is the starting point. As far as the returner, like every position on our special teams, we’re going to do the best job that we can to develop the skills of the people that we have in getting them to where we can be successful."
On his excitement towards being reunited with Jimmy Raye and Greg Manusky:
"I love both of them. I like the personality that they bring to the football team. Again, I believe in toughness. I think that’s a big part of our game. I know that is the same way they are, and of course, I know coach Singletary fits that mold as well. I know I have coach Singletary’s support. He understands the importance of special teams, and that is critical. If you don’t have a supportive head football coach, it makes it a lot more difficult on your special teams. I know Mike is going to support what we’re doing – offense, defense and special teams – and I think that part is very exciting. I can’t wait to get started."
On whether Manusky was still playing special teams in 1994:
"Well, Mike [Singletary] and I had this discussion. I talked about my brother, Marty, because that is who I worked for in Kansas City and Cleveland on special teams. Marty’s feeling was, ‘Kurt, if you can have one guy, one guy that makes our football team because he’s a special teams guy and he may be your special teams captain...’ Well, we didn’t have that personality or individual that could excel on special teams. Greg had been let go by Minnesota and I went to Marty and I said, ‘This guy is special. He’s a special teams phenom and I think it’s a guy we got to look at.’ We brought him down and worked him out. He ran about as fast as me, but he had a heart. He was an outstanding special teams player. What happens when you get a guy like him, they show a lot of other players how to do, particularly young players. The young players come out of college and have been starters for three or four years and haven’t played a lot of special teams. Greg was a leader for us and really did an excellent job. The interesting thing about him, every year a middle linebacker would get hurt and he’d have to go play middle linebacker. Invariably, I can remember against Pittsburgh and other teams, he’d make 16, 18, 20 tackles in a game and continue to play special teams. The only problem was that you’d never see him because he was in the training room because he was so beat up. Greg was an exceptional special teams performer."
On how you spent this past season:
"Actually, this past offseason, I went to a few colleges. I was going to take last year off and see what that was like, but I wanted to stay involved in football. I would go to different schools to look at film. I was very interested in the spread offense that you hear so much about coming out of college. Now, the wildcat is starting to trickle into the NFL. I went to A&M and Illinois and other places, and I had an opportunity to do that. From there, I watched a lot of football. A lot of college and NFL football. I would do a lot of things that I didn’t have an opportunity to do. My youngest daughter was an equestrian in the National Championships in Tennessee. To go down there and see her finish eighth in the country and go to become a coach at Miami of Ohio, which she’s doing now as a graduate assistant, was special. My other daughter is in Dallas, Texas. I’m huge on family. It was an opportunity to go to Dallas and see my daughter, Steele. I have a great wife, Colleen, who did a tremendous job of raising the children and allowed me to coach for over 30 years. My wife and I, after the adjustment period, spent a lot of quality time together. I think she’s excited about where we’re going and who we’re going with. She says, ‘Are you sure you want to do special teams again.’ I said I couldn’t be more excited about anything because it puts you in that environment where the passion, emotion and toughness get to express itself. That is what I look forward to."
On where he spoke with coach Singletary:
"I came to San Francisco."
On where else he went to study the spread offense:
"I went to Texas A&M. Again, what you do is you go to Illinois because Illinois ran the spread themselves, and you have the people there to talk about it. Then you go to Texas A&M with Mike Sherman, who I worked with in Green Bay. Everybody runs it down in the Big 12 Conference. It’s like a track meet."
On whether he was learning the principles of it or how to defend it:
"The principles and see how to defend it. Certainly, to learn how to defend it and then to have an idea of how you would do it if you were in that position. I knew that some of the aspects were coming into the National Football League and I wanted to be aware of that."
On what he’s coaching at the East-West Shrine Game:
"I’m coaching the defense. The defensive coordinator."
On the talent level in the game:
"This is the first time I’ve been to the East-West game. I think what they say is that most of these young men are coming in here from anywhere from third, fourth round draft picks, down to being sixth, seventh round and maybe some free agents. I told the young people that our job and responsibility is to see that everybody moves up in the draft. Today was the first day of practice. I’ve been very encouraged by their ability to learn and understand the concepts we’re trying to do. As far as the talent level, we’ll just have to wait and see. My belief is that you take the young people that have a positive attitude and that are enthusiastic about their opportunities in the National Football League, that want to get a chance to get on the field, and then you just teach, develop and bring them along. You never know. Sometimes, players are free agents. Sometimes, they’re seventh round, fifth round, third round draft picks, they just keep getting better and better because they have a positive attitude and they want to have an opportunity to do something special, which is to play in the National Football League."
On whether he’ll meet the 49ers staff in Mobile at the end of the week:
"I need to have that discussion with Mike [Singletary]. He was excited about me having the opportunity to work with these young people in Orlando here. I’ve done three or four Senior Bowls, and you’re ability to work with these kids individually and spend all that extra time with them in meetings and on the practice field, it really gives you a tremendous advantage. That is why so many staffs are so excited to have the opportunity to coach these kinds of games. We feel like we’ll have a little bit of an advantage because of all the extra time we get to spend with these young people."
On whether he’ll look at these young players at the East-West and Senior Bowl differently now that he has this new assignment:
"I’ll have some specific questions about how much special teams have they played in college. I think everybody on their roster needs to understand their positions and responsibilities, whether they’re the starter, the back up or whatever. I just need to determine how experienced and how much knowledge they have in performing on special teams. Experience helps in anything you do, but you can’t say that if he’s never done it that he can’t do it. A lot of it has to do with the personality and mentality of the individual. We’re about winning football games and there are three phases of the games – offense, defense and special teams. Probably nowhere more so than on special teams, the next play has the potential of either turning the game either in a positive or negative way. We’ll do everything we can to make sure that next play correlates into a positive play that makes a difference. You’ve probably heard people say many times that every game comes down to five, six or seven plays. Certainly, every time that ball is snapped and a special teams player kicks on a special teams play, you have those potentials. Those are things we’d like to capitalize on."