49ers Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio Press Conference Transcript

49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio took some time to speak with press today as Coach Jim Harbaugh's staff made their first significant public appearances. I thought Fangio's comments were a bit more detailed than what 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman had to say. One particularly interesting comment from Fangio was in regards to differences between NFL offenses and college football offenses.

On how he describes to the layman the differences between college and NFL offenses and how to scheme them:

"There is a tremendous difference. One, obviously the field's different with the hash marks so that's always a consideration. Two, the rules are different in college. There are many formations in college football that you have to defend that are illegal in the NFL. Then you have the option game involved in college football that you really don't have here. Every now and then you see it surprised on people here like you saw in the two point play in the Super Bowl. In the NFL the option's a gimmick. In college football you've got to be ready all of the time for it. And the screen game is different than college football than it is in the NFL. In screens if you throw a pass behind the line of scrimmage in college football, you can be downfield blocking. You don't have to wait until the ball's been caught. That's not the rule here in the NFL. Contrary to popular myth, the rules actually favor the offense more in college than they do in pro football. It's harder. It is a lot different."

I'd imagine a lot of folks know some of this, but it's still interesting to get these kinds of details. I've never fully understood the rules on screen passes and this clears some of that up.

Fangio went into a variety of other topics including his thoughts on having a good edge pass rusher versus having a lockdown corner. Given the 49ers draft needs and draft position, this topic has been kicked around as much as humanly possible. Fangio basically said you need a strong 11 men because if a team ignores one guy they can pick on other players. That's a reasonable comment, although I still think you'll find arguments for the advantage of a strong edge pass rusher or a lockdown cornerback. It's not surprising he gave the answer he gave.

Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio
Press Conference - February 16, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

On how much he did at Stanford translates to what he will be doing in the NFL:

"Some of it will. What we did at Stanford is a lot of the things I have done in the NFL in the last 24 years. As you know, I was at Stanford for just one season and the 24 years prior to that I was in the NFL. So, basically we did a lot of things at Stanford that I had been doing in the NFL. Obviously tweaking it here and there for the differences that you find with the college offenses."

On whether he is concerned about a lockout and if they will be able to teach the new defense in a short period of time:

"I don't know. Every situation is a little bit different. The way I view what we're going through here, the unknown if it, once everything settles and we have direction as to what we can and can't do and how much time we have or don't have to do it, we'll figure out a way to get it done. It's just that simple. A lot of guys have said, ‘Have you got this scenario covered, that scenario, are you going to this or that.' I'm not sweating that stuff. I'm going to figure it out once they tell us what the rules are. Right now we're moving forward as if there's not going to be a lockout and we're going to have a normal offseason. Once that becomes obvious that we're not, we'll adjust."

On whether the terminology will stay the same as what it was in the past with the 49ers:

"No, we will use our system here and really be cognizant of that."

On how he describes to the layman the differences between college and NFL offenses and how to scheme them:

"There is a tremendous difference. One, obviously the field's different with the hash marks so that's always a consideration. Two, the rules are different in college. There are many formations in college football that you have to defend that are illegal in the NFL. Then you have the option game involved in college football that you really don't have here. Every now and then you see it surprised on people here like you saw in the two point play in the Super Bowl. In the NFL the option's a gimmick. In college football you've got to be ready all of the time for it. And the screen game is different than college football than it is in the NFL. In screens if you throw a pass behind the line of scrimmage in college football, you can be downfield blocking. You don't have to wait until the ball's been caught. That's not the rule here in the NFL. Contrary to popular myth, the rules actually favor the offense more in college than they do in pro football. It's harder. It is a lot different."

On whether this is easier:

"The biggest difference here is there aren't many [Saints QB] Drew Brees', [Colts QB] Payton Manning's, [Patriots QB] Tom Brady, [Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers, etc. You don't see those in college football on a weekly basis like you do here."

On whether he brought anything from the college game to the NFL:

"I don't know that there's much to bring to the NFL from college just because of the differences. It's more so the stuff we brought from the NFL to the college, we'll bring back the NFL. It's a different game. The NFL game is a much more physical game than college football. College football is spread out, the option, the bubble game, the different rules I just discussed where as in the NFL it's a man's game. It's physical, so that's a big difference."

On how he has seen the league change in 25 years and what the most important position on defense is:

"Yes, it is more pass oriented like you say in the last 25 years. It's become more spread out in the NFL than it has over the last 25. I'll tell you what's happened in the NFL from the time that I've been in the league is the zone pressure package, zone blitzing that became in vogue, stated in the mid-90's to become very popular. We were doing that where we were. The offenses had to make an adjustment to that and the offenses were forced to make an adjustment to that stuff. We had the lead on them while all that was going on. We forced them into figuring it out and right now they're in the lead. So, everything's more spread out. It's more diverse passing games than we ever used to see. It used to be the quarterback's would look at a guy and see him covered, they're still going to throw it to them back-shoulder stuff. They view guys being open more so. The qualifications for being open have expanded over the last 20-some years than they were when I first came into the league. The passing game is definitely a whole lot more complicated and diverse and spread out."

On whether there is a higher priority to have a good edge pass rusher than a lockdown corner:

"Well, obviously when you're dealing with trying to stop a good passing game, it's pass rush and coverage. So, obviously the more pass rushers you have the better of you're going to be. You really need more than one to both pass rush and coverage because ok, they ignore this guy but we've still got 10 other guys to deal with. You need a balance defense. You have a one sided defense, if that makes any sense to you. If you've got one great corner maybe they'll stay away from them but they've got to go to the other side now and see how good he is. Obviously one's better than none, two's better than one. The same thing when it comes to the pass rush. They could shift guys, double team guys, try and manipulate their protections to maybe handle one guy. If you've got more than one it puts them in more of a bind."

On his thoughts of LB Patrick Willis:

"Patrick's a very talented player. I have really not watched a lot of tape of the guys. I've tried to, for the most part, particularly go somewhere new. I'll watch it when I have to. Like if we have some free agents here potentially, so I need to have a feel for them so I have an opinion so our management knows how I feel about him. Going into a new place I really try not to watch a lot of tape other than I want to form my own opinion. I don't know what they were being told, what they weren't being told, I don't know what the circumstances were. So, I really try and form my own opinion going forward. He's obviously a great player. I remember when he came out of college I did him obviously. I believe I was with the Ravens at that time. He's a tremendous talent."

On his connection with Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and whether his philosophy is similar:

"Similarly, we worked together for 16 years. So obviously when you're with somebody for 16 years, you can't help but have some of the same philosophy's and thinking because we went through a lot of the same. We worked together for 16 years. We have our differences like all two people would have. But I think basically a lot of the things he believes in, I believe in. A lot of the things we'll be doing, they do and vice versa. It's very easy for me to talk to him and him to talk to me because we speak the same language. We know the history and background of a lot of things, how it came about and how to maybe play some different things. So, we're very similar."

On whether he's as aggressive as Dom Capers when blitzing players:

"We'd like to be. He fell into a good situation here at Green Bay all of a sudden. All of a sudden they find two corners. The guy's name is [Packers CB Tramon] Williams and [Packers CB Sam] Shields. They fall into two really good cover corners besides [Packers CB Charles] Woodson. So that allows you to be comfortable to be more of a pressure team and not have to be kind of tricking them all of the time. It can be more direct pressure. So he took advantage of that. You do what your players allow you to do."

On whether he has his playbook set:

"No, we're in the middle of doing that right now. Now, a lot of it is stuff that I've always done, so it's just tweaking it here. But every time you go to a new job, what happens in coaching is when you're somewhere, names get kind of tweaked around. You put something in for a week or you put a name on it and the name doesn't really make sense, but it's so different that it stands out for the players. Then it kind of sticks where you were, so it gives you a chance to clean up your names and your dictionary and your language that you're using, and make sure all of the coaches are on the same page. So, it does give you a chance to clean things up, but it will be very similar to what we have done in the past."

On whether he expects to talk to players about scheme and a playbook before March 4th:

"No. The sensitivity of this issue that's going on now, I mean, the only interaction I've had with any players is if they're here in the building and we've passed in the hall, say hello, introduce themselves, try and find out about them as people, their family, their situation and mine. Really, my feeling is until we can get direction and really seriously get into, jump into the coaching of football, we'll wait until then."

On whether March 14th in the first day he expects to talk X's and O's with the players:

"I believe that's the date. I'm not sure of the date, but yes, when everything is settled."

On how difficult it was to take a job when there is the possibility of a work stoppage:

"It's tough, but I mean, it's gotten to the point in the NFL where every year there's kind of a new year, to a degree. It's always nice to have continuity, but when I was coaching the linebackers in New Orleans, those really good linebackers we had, I had the same starting linebackers for seven straight years. So, those days are gone. You know, it always seems like you're always incorporating some new players into your system each and every year, so now it's just going to be everybody."

On whether he thinks there is a need to draft a player with pass rushing skills or whether the scheme can make the pass rusher:

"If you don't have a good pass rusher from a talent standpoint, pass rushing front, then you do have to scheme it. It's kind of two questions there in one. If we can line up with four guys and get after the passer and have enough pass rush, by all means, that would be the way that we lean, possibly, and mix in the other stuff. Whereas if we can't get a good pass rush, we may have to lean more on the scheme part of it, is the word you used."

On whether he runs a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense:

"We're a 3-4 base. We personnel it as a 3-4 but we'll do a lot of things out of it that will look, to the visual eye, like a 4-3, if that makes any sense to you. I like to say that we're a 3-4-3, a 3-4 that does 4-3 things also."

On whether it is more difficult to land an elite pass rusher in the draft now that about half the league runs a 3-4 as opposed to 10 years ago:

"Yes, it's been a big evolution. Back in the early 2000s, I think there were only three or four teams that were running the 3-4. Now, like you said, it's about half. Yes, there are more teams looking for the same guys that we're looking for, so it will make it a little bit harder. But, still there are not a lot of teams in college football playing it, so any guys that you're looking at for that position is still going to be a projection to a degree, a leap of faith almost. Some teams are a little bit apprehensive about doing that versus others, so everyone looks at that a little different. Those are key decisions."

On whether this is the most talent he has inherited as a defensive coordinator:

"I'll answer that question better after the draft and after we go through the free agency process because our team isn't - we don't have our guys yet. We have a couple of guys that have free agency looming for them potentially, we haven't had a draft yet. Obviously, when I went to those two expansion teams there was nothing. When we had this press conference with those two teams, we had nothing on the board yet. And when I went to the Colts, we drafted some guys and signed a free agent and improved it, so I don't know if I have an answer for that just yet."

On whether he sees a player on the roster from last season that has potential from a pass rush perspective:

"There are a couple of guys with that potential. The word great is all in the eyes of the beholder. There are guys with some potential."

On the players with the pass rush potential:

"The [LB Ahmad] Brooks guy is here. He played some for them last year and showed some potential. I know he started his career with Cincinnati, then he's been here. I'm not even sure how long he's been here. Obviously he's a guy that has some ability but hadn't done it to this point. We have to figure out why he hasn't done it on a consistent basis and maybe can he or can't he. There are a couple of other guys there. [LB Parys] Haralson, he's played a lot here. We're searching."

On how working with expansion teams has helped him with the installation process compared to when he's returning to the same team:

"I don't think it makes much of a difference. Instead of just having a few new ones every year like you do, everyone was new. It gives you a real sense for being organized and having a nice teaching progression for everything, but that really wasn't that big of an issue."

On whether he views it as a disadvantage to possibly lose time and then come into training camp and OTAs that are shortened:

"Not really. I mean, great ones can adjust. We improvise and adjust and we do it without whining and we move ahead."

On whether it is good to be back in the NFL:

"Yes, I mean, I enjoyed my year at Stanford. I really did. Obviously this is what I've done forever almost it seems. It's good to be back. But when I say that, I don't mean that I wasn't happy at Stanford because I really had fun there and enjoyed my year at Stanford and I'm glad I did it."

On whether the nose tackle position is critical in his defense and what has seen on film from NT Aubrayo Franklin:

"It is a critical position, but all of our 11 positions are really critical. I haven't watched a lot of him. I know his contract is up. We'll get around to watching that in these next few days, but I think [general manager] Trent [Baalke] has a good feel for where he wants to go with that."

On whether he is up in the booth on game day:

"Up. One year when I was a coordinator I wasn't up, I was down on the field. I like it better upstairs. First off, you see the game a whole lot better. One of the worst places to watch a game is standing right there on the sideline. That's one reason. I don't have rely on as many people giving me information when I'm upstairs as compared to downstairs. Two, you're a little bit away from the emotion of the game. You're not wasting time yelling at an official or something like that. You keep a little bit more, maybe a little bit more calmer demeanor during the game, although some guys in the press box may disagree with that. I just like it a little bit better up there."

On how many practices they had at Stanford before the first game:

"We had a lot. We had spring football, so that's 15. Then we had, I would guess, I don't know. [Head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] could tell you more, but we had 30. I don't know how many we had in training camp. Yes, there's a limit, but I don't know the number. We had more than enough."

On how many practices he would like to have here before the first game:

"Whatever they give us, we'll make it work."

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