The 49ers met with the press yesterday and Jim Harbaugh, Vic Fangio, Greg Roman and Justin Smith were the available individuals. I've posted the latter three transcripts after the jump and you view Jim Harbaugh's transcript here.
In reading over Vic Fangio and Justin Smith's transcripts, it reads much different than Greg Roman. Smith and Fangio talk about how winning is all that matters and how they are focused on the Giants offense and nothing else. On the other side, Greg Roman was a bit more boisterous in his discussion of Vernon's big play and his anticipation of Sunday's game. It just reads differently.
Coach Harbaugh will wrap up the week with a press conference later this afternoon. He will meet with the media at 1:55pm PT so we'll have an open thread with a stream of the press conference.
Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio
Press Conference - January 19, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Coach, if you were an offensive coordinator facing the 49ers, would you ever call a running play?
What would the situation entail for you to call running plays against this team?
"Well, I could just tell you the Giants are going to try and run the ball. That's their offense. They're balanced. They rely a lot on their running game. They have a good play-action game off of it and they like to be a balanced team all the time. So, it will be a balanced attack that we're going to see this week."
What made CB Carlos Rogers such a good slot corner this year? What makes him good in that specific spot?
"Well, he's done it before in his career at times, so he had some experience doing it, number one. Number two, he's done a really good job of throwing himself into our playbook and learning the coverages and the techniques that we like out of that position and they fit his skill sets. So, he's done a good job, both because mentally he prepares himself well for it, he has the skill set to do it, and he's had some experience in there in the past."
Giants QB Eli Manning got some yards, obviously, against you in the first game, but you won. What things did you like about what you did in that game?
"That we won. We didn't really play our best that game, but we played tough, hung in there. It was a hard fought game, came down to the end there as you know. They moved it on us some during the game at times. They're a very formidable opponent as we found out the first time."
What have you seen that Giants WR Hakeem Nicks in the first two games has done very well, Giants WR Victor Cruz a little bit quieter, but what have you seen out of the first two games from them that has allowed Hakeem to break free?
"Well, he's made some huge plays in their passing game. He's caught some deep balls. He's caught some short balls and turned them into long touchdown runs. He's the guy that you've got to do a good job of tackling when he does catch the ball because he has the ability to turn a short to intermediate catch into a long one as he's done here lately against both the Falcons and the Packers. So, they've got three great receivers in him, Cruz, and [Giants WR Mario] Manningham. They're a formidable group and it's hard to focus your attention on one guy because they've got three good receivers."
Vic, you just mention tackling. Obviously you've been associated with a lot good defenses. Is this the best tackling defense you've ever been associated with?
"Well, we've definitely done a good job of that as a whole. It's definitely one of the best I've been associated with. It's hard to go back 25 years and run all that through my mind, but we've done a good job with tackling."
Is that kind of just with the talent you've inherited? Are there any secrets to your tackling?
"Well, I think you just emphasize it and players buy into how important it is, and the technique of tackling. You can't assume that players know how to tackle, or will tackle correctly. You just have to keep emphasizing it."
Your safeties forced some turnovers early in the game, but late in the game they also were in on some big plays by the Saints. Is that a double-edged sword that they're going to be very aggressive, but might give up some big plays in being aggressive?
"No, those two plays that you're talking about comparing to the plays that they made, there was really no carry over. We didn't get those takeaways because we were cheating. We were playing our position and playing our assignment. So, the answer to your question is no."
Are you saying that they were playing too far up on those two plays in the fourth quarter?
They were cheating?
Well what happened on those plays?
"We just didn't make a play on the last one. We had a chance there. [S] Donte [Whitner] had himself in great position to make the play. He didn't come up with the ball, wasn't able to knock it down or come up with it. But he was where he should have been. He just didn't play it correctly."
In your experience, is there a particular style of team that fares better in sloppy field conditions?
"Oh, I don't know. I haven't had many sloppy games in my career, but I think you never quite know how it's going to turn out as to who it favors until you actually know the degree of sloppiness that it is. Is it just a little slippery, or is it a quagmire, or is it somewhere in between? And to me, there's never an exact science or way of playing that. You just have to see exactly what the conditions are. Players have to make sure their footing as best they can, have the right shoes on, know that it's a little slippery and play accordingly."
Vic, you've addressed this before, but this team in Super Bowl years is known for its offense for the former 49ers QB Joe Montana and the former 49ers QB Steve Young and former 49ers WR Jerry Rice. It had a great dense with former 49ers S Ronnie Lott and guys like that like, former 49ers LB Keena Turner. Are you sort of like doubly satisfied that defense has become the key to this team? Does it really give you satisfaction?
"Well, no more satisfaction than it would anywhere else. We have good players on defense, so we need to be the phase that leads us to victory. But like you said, back into the old 49ers days, yes they were an offensive juggernaut with the players that you mentioned, but they had a really good defense back then, too. You mentioned Ronnie Lott, but there were many other ones and they really played good defense. And I know that because I was in the division competing against them. And it's the same way here. We have a good defense, but we have a good offense also. You can't be one-faceted on your football team and expect to win as many games as we have."
You seem like a pretty business-like guy, but I assume you've had some fun with this along the way. What's been the most fun about this season for you?
I mean, but like a specific moment, game where you just were really caused you to break out in a smile?
"Ultimately, I always say the only way you have fun in this business is to win, so the winning is what causes the fun. I've been happy with the way we've played. The temperament we're playing with, the style we play with and the way our guys have gone about their profession week in and week out, game in and game out. So, the enjoyment's come from what the players have brought to me and the rest of the coaches from their approach and the style of play that they play."
Has any of it surprised you? Anything that's happened surprise you?
"I don't get surprised anymore. When I came into this season, especially with no offseason, you just go out there and you go one day at a time. I can say that I've never gone into any game that I didn't think we would win. That's been my philosophy here and for 25 years, even when the odds may have been stacked against you. And I'm a one-game-at-a-time guy. And I know that's boring, but that's the way I go about it."
You touched on the field conditions. I'm wondering what your process is. Will you go out a couple of hours before the game and look at the field and then make those decisions about the shoes? And how does that affect the pass rush too?
"It'll obviously be important for the players to have the correct shoes on, the one they feel most comfortable with, depending upon the exact condition of the field. And the players sometimes fight that. Obviously when it gets wet you need the longer cleats and a lot of the players don't like that because they feel it slows them down a little bit. So, there's that fine line between traction and slowing you down. So, it's a big decision that each and every player's going to have to make individually. And again, as far as it affects me and play calling, it'll just be what I see out there as far as what the effects of the field actually are."
The combination of DT Justin Smith and LB Aldon Smith on the right side, how much do they complement each other and feed off of each other as pass rushers?
"They do a great job, both as individuals and as a two-man unit over there. They're both good pass rushers. They both could rush with some power. They could rush with some speed and athleticism and they've done a great job for us."
How would you characterize CB Tarell Brown's play and what has he contributed this year to your defense?
"Well, he's been our right corner and you're playing corner in this league and if you're 14-3 like we are right now, you've played good because you can't win in this league without corners that can stand up to the passing game. He's done a very nice job for us and what I like in particularly with Tarell, is he's improved as the season's gone on. He learns from his mistakes. He's very professional in his approach. Each and every week he starts over, just like I do. It's a new entity. You really don't have a 16-game season you've got a game a week. And he has taken that approach and he's really become a great professional, and he's improved."
Vic, during that one day that the lockout lifted some offensive players came in, met with the staff, got playbooks. Did you meet with any players during that one day and why didn't you let your playbook out there?
"No, I did not meet with anybody and did not let any playbook material get out. And simple reason is in offense, you can practice the offense in shorts, out on a field, against air, running routes, running plays. Defense, we need to go against somebody to really learn. And to have a one or two-hour meeting and then not knowing when you're going to see the players again, to me would be just a waste of time and letting material get out there on the streets that you don't want."
Why is Justin in on offense when DT Isaac Sopoaga has typically been the one from the defensive side to go in those short-yardage situations?
"I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question, but I think they were both in there. But I don't know if I'm correct when I say that."
When you see a play like the one that's gotten so much air of Justin Smith pushing the right tackle all the way back to a quarterback, does that catch even a coach's attention? You've seen an awful lot, but when you look at that play?
"Well, yes it's a great play by him. And that's something we emphasize. That's something he's good at. And yeah, also one of the reasons he's able to do that is because he's got enough athleticism to go around a guy. In this particular case, he went through a guy. So, it doesn't surprise me with Justin, but then, in and of itself, it's still a great play."
On the playbook cover this year, why was it important to have Justin on there?
"Well, we just wanted to make a point here that he's been in the league I think 10 or 11 years and he had only been in one playoff game. At that time, I don't think we had anybody on the team, defensively, that had been in the playoffs, at that time. You've got to remember this was the start of training camp. So, there was a lot of talk about the great history and tradition of the 49ers. But my message to them, there has been great history but the tradition was lost. You can't go nine years without a winning season and think you have tradition. And we've restored that and along the way we've gotten him his first playoff victory, and we're going to do everything we can to get him another one."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - January 19, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
"Good afternoon. I'm really proud of our players for playing 60 minutes of football and getting us in this position to get prepared for the NFC Championship game. I think it was our fifth comeback victory this year. There have been a lot of really good ones that got us to this point, but the most important thing is going to happen this Sunday against a really good team. Specifically on their defense, I haven't seen a lot of people that had a lot of success against them recently, going back to the Green Bay and Atlanta playoff games. It really speaks highly of them, how they're coached, their scheme, their players. When you look at the Atlanta game specifically, fourth-and-inches, fourth-and-inches, third-and-one, their ability to stop teams in short yardage situations has really, really strongly impacted games and speaks strongly of their physicality and explosiveness. They've got a lot of explosive players, starting with [DE Justin] Tuck and [DE Osi] Umenyiora, [DE Jason] Pierre-Paul, [DE Dave] Tollefson. They actually brought Tollefson in at linebacker against us. I know they were down linebackers and came up with a scheme where he played linebacker against our two tight end sets. Moving on to their backers, [LB Michael] Boley, [LB Chase] Blackburn, [LB Mathias] Kiwanuka. Kiwanuka gives them a ton of flexibility, puts his hand down on third down. He really brings a lot of pass-rush along with those inside guys, [DT Chris] Canty and [DT Linval] Joseph. Their secondary is playing lights-out - [CB Aaron] Ross and [CB Corey] Webster. At the corner, [S Kenny] Phillips, [S Antrel] Rolle, and they'll bring [S] Deon Grant in to play nickel at any point and time. [DB] Prince Amukamara's back, so they've got a really good defense, they're coached very well and it's one of the reasons they're here in the NFC Championship game."
How helpful is it that you've already played the Giants once this year?
"Good question. We were working on Green Bay because we already had background. So, coming in on Sunday morning, we're working on Green Bay because we've got background on the Giants, and they've got background on us. Once that third quarter hit, we had a joke that every time there'd be a swing of momentum, I'd walk into the room and say, ‘Alright everybody, get back on the Giants.' And then 10 minutes later I'd come back in and say, ‘Alright, switch. Get that Giants film off and go back to the Packers.' Around the third quarter, it was pretty evident that the Giants would win. I think it's helpful for both teams. It's pretty much sixes."
Typically when you play a team twice, how many plays in the game plan stay the same?
"Oh geez. You know with us, you never can tell. That's very specific to the opponent. Certainly plays that didn't work, you probably aren't going to see again. Or you might. If there was a simple reason that you can fix, ‘Hey, this play would be great if we only did this,' you might see it. But, then again, you might just throw it in the trash."
Do you go back over every play and see how it worked in the previous game?
"You really have to look at that game strongly because the players can get a great feel for the matchups. But they've evolved, we've evolved and these most recent games are very, very relevant."
How close did you come to the Penn State job and was it a distraction? Would you have liked to go back to college that much after coaching the pros?
"I don't really know how close. It was not a distraction. I love where I'm at and I'm really looking forward to this game."
How did the regular season comebacks help against this last one against the Saints?
"I think it just boosts the confidence. That's real, having done it. Last week was a double dipper, we had to do it twice back-to-back. I think it just builds on itself and guys believe in each other, they trust in the man next to them and there's a lot of empirical data to support that trust."
Do you have to game plan for [TE] Delanie [Walker] to be full go?
"I think you have to be ready for both. I think we're doing that. [TE] Justin Peelle gives us some flexibility to do some different things if Delanie can't go. We'll be ready for either."
How would you evaluate [WR Michael] Crabtree's season so far? Is he your number one receiver?
"He is. I think Michael's doing a great job. There's probably a couple of plays in that last game that he'd like to have back, but there's stacks of them that we're very thankful he made. He saved Christmas in Seattle. He competes hard. Michael is doing a great job. Expect big things out of him."
How enjoyable is it to come up with successful play calls like the game-winner last week?
"I saw it happen in front of my eyes with that last play. I call the plays, but if somebody's got something better, we're going with that. If I hit a rut, ‘Let's go guys. I hear some crickets here. Let's go.' It's all about teamwork with us. There's been several instances during the season where the assistant coaches have recommended something during the week or during the game that's just better than what my thought was and it just hit me, ‘Let's go with it.' That last play was something I saw [quarterbacks coach] Geep Chryst bring forward on Wednesday. He was just very excited in the room next to me and he said, ‘Hey G-Ro, come in here I've got to show you this.' And I was like, ‘I love it. It's perfect.' Once we got down to that last play, it's kind of like everybody knew what was coming. He blurted it out and [head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] went with it. It was kind of unanimous. The way we do things, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts and that was a great example of that. We're talking throughout the game. We try to create a meeting room throughout the game as we would sitting in a room. We try to keep emotion out of it as much as we can to make those decisions. I know one thing; we're going to need a lot of those good calls this week against those Giants. Once you turn those plays over to the players, then it's all about the players getting it done on the field and [TE] Vernon [Davis], [QB] Alex [Smith], the offensive line, everybody just did a phenomenal job, as they have all year."
In terms of matchups, what do you lose if Delanie Walker is not available?
"Justin Peelle came in and did a great job, but Delanie is just a very key cog in what we do. He's very dependable. He's just one of those guys, he's talented physically. He's talented with what he can handle in terms of game planning. The load we put on him is very unique to what most players get in the NFL or anywhere for that matter. He brings speed, playmaking ability, the ability to block in a variety of ways in space and in the box. He's just a dynamic tight end. I told you guys last week that Vernon was starting to really, really be one step ahead of what we're doing and that was a little foreshadowing for you. What a game he had the other night. When those two guys are out there, it's dynamic."
As we sit here on Thursday, do you formulate a plan of what will work and what wouldn't work if the conditions are bad and the field is sloppy?
"I think a little bit. You try to play the game in your head all week and when you have bad weather, you just picture that field all mudded up. You start going through contingencies in your mind. There's no doubt, you have to."
Who gets the advantage in poor conditions?
"I think the receivers probably have an advantage on the defensive backs because they know where they're going and the defensive backs have to react. So, if the footing is poor, the advantage is for the offense. On the same token, though, running backs can't hit a whole or can't make a cut that they usually would, so advantage defense. I think it works both ways."
Do you have a sheet of bad weather plays?
"I'm a big highlighter guy. I'll highlight certain plays and then they're up here as well and really in everybody's mind."
Who has the advantage on the line in terms of pass-rush?
"That's a great question. I think that'll be settled on the field because we've already played them and I think there's evidence there. I think it was a tough, back-and-forth contest. These guys are good. This front four is as good as it gets."
How do muddy conditions affect the pass-rush?
"It will slow the pass-rush down a little bit. No question."
Last time you guys played them, you said that they stacked the box more than you've ever seen. That was the first time in the NFL that you've seen that much of it. Do you expect that again?
"You have to be ready for anything. They made some great adjustments last game that we had to adapt to during the game. Before then and since then, we've seen all sorts of different approaches. So, they're very game plan specific and we have to be ready for anything, really."
DT Justin Smith
Press Conference - January 19, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
"That's last week. I am really kind of focused on this week. I haven't really thought about it too much to be honest with you."
Can you talk about how far this defense has come, going back to training camp?
"I think the main thing is we've grown every week. I think our ability to create turnovers and get the turnover has been the keys to our success. Like [S] Donte's [Whitner] hit on the goal line set the tone, set the tempo for what we were going to do that day and took points off the board. As long as we have some back-end guys flying around, hitting people like that, linebackers, d-line, we stand a pretty good chance at winning the game. To me, it's all about turnover ratio and taking points off the board."
Do you see a bad weather game as an opportunity to create more turnovers?
"I don't think any team can control the weather, so it's going to be what it's going to be. You are going to call the same type of game you are going to call regardless. So, I really don't think too much is going to factor in."
How do you adjust your game on a sloppy field?
"It's no different. The field conditions, this and that, the tide, it really doesn't matter. They are going to run the ball, they are going to play-action, that's what they do. They're not going to change who they are and what they do at this time of the season."
Does it make a difference in terms of leverage and cleats?
"Yeah, I think you may have to take a look at your cleats a little bit and maybe shorten your strides just a little bit. That's more of a reaction or reflex than it is to think about it."
Why do you think [WR] Hakeem Nicks has been breaking out and [WR] Victor Cruz has been controlled in their two playoff games?
"They are both really good. I think going back looking at our tape, those guys made a lot of plays on us. [QB] Eli [Manning] is putting the ball, back shoulder fades. It's a lot of the same things [QB Drew] Brees did, the way they are on the same page, the way they find the open holes, they can set down in zone defense. All the things you want in a quarterback or receiving corps, they can do. At this time of the year you are going to be seeing those teams the rest of the way through. They're no different. They are a really good team and they are on the same page."
How much does it matter that you guys beat them before?
"I think with both teams there is a little level of - you're familiar with them. That's the main thing. I think both teams are not going to change up how they attacked each other. They are a little bit of the philosophy of, ‘We just have to block a little bit better but still run the same things.' We're the same way. We're not going to change what we do. We just have to tighten up what we did in the game. We had some breakdowns in our defense. I think if we can correct those and be better prepared than what they are, we have a good chance to win the game."
How much pride do you take in being able to play the run and the pass?
"Stopping the ball on first and second down allows you to get third downs. You don't want them to be in third-and-three, third-and-four all day because they still have the ability to run the ball. I think first and second down is going to be huge this week."
How have you and [LB] Aldon Smith fed off each other and helping each other on the right side?
"Aldon's a tremendous talent. His ability to get through a hole with a blocker there, he beats people without even slowing down. That's a pretty unusual skill. He's got great length and can reach the quarterbacks. Like that one where [QB Drew] Brees was rolling out and trying to get away, I probably would have come up a couple inches short and he brings him down. Just what he brings to the defense, that big threat outside, the chipping that he demands opens up for us inside. Some of the pressure we can get inside, if they clamp down, he takes advantage of it outside. It's kind of a give and take between everybody."
When you were working out with him at San Jose State, did you have any idea he would be this good this fast?
"Just looking at him, he definitely looks the part. That's the main thing. After that, once you get in camp, you can see that he's a tremendous pass rusher. He's been that and more. I know in New York they are trying to figure out ways how to slow him down."
What do you like about [LB] Parys Haralson's approach? What has he added to your defense?
"He's a tremendous run down defensive guy that can still give you some pressure on first and second down. Him and [LB] Aldon [Smith] rotate on third down. In any 3-4, it's only as good as your outside linebackers. Him on first, second down, and the success we've had has been huge. He doesn't get a lot of credit, but it all starts with the outside guys and the nose guard in the 3-4. Those guys don't get enough credit."
There was one play when you and Parys were lined up and talking to each other. You went inside, he went outside. How much are the two of you audibling for lack of a better word?
"There's a lot of that that goes on. It's more of a feel off guys. If you see me get upfield, and you get underneath or if I see you come underneath, I'll get around. Not so much a called stunt, or a blitz or anything like that as much as just being familiar with the guy and how he plays and playing off of each other."
When you would look at the game when you played them in November, what's different about their team and their front four?
"I haven't watched their defense."
What are your impressions for how the Giants generally were playing then and playing now?
"Offensively, I can only speak for how they're doing offensively, getting [RB Ahmad] Bradshaw back has been huge for them. [QB] Eli [Manning], the way he's just progressed with those receivers and getting on the same page and making the throws. His understanding of the pocket, that's another thing that I thought Brees was really good at. Eli's just as good if not better. He recognizes where to step up and how to avoid the pass rush and extend the play. The receivers are on the same page so that if he's in trouble, they'll turn into this route or sit down in this protection. So, they've done a good job,"
Does it become increasingly difficult for them to disguise what they're doing on offense?
"I think you have a whole season on tape, but so do we. They know what we're going to do. We know what they're going to do. It's just a matter of who executes the best. There could be a few trick plays, but I think it's just going to be an old who's better. I don't see them changing up their game plan much."
Can you explain your desire to be up there for every single snap?
"There are probably quite a few guys in the league that do that, especially linebackers and secondary guys never come off the field."
You're a defensive lineman.
"That's how I've always played. I've always played that much and always been on the field. I probably wouldn't know how to do it any other way."
Who's the best tackler you've ever played with?
"One of the best is [LB] Patrick Willis. I've very rarely seen him miss a tackle in a game. Probably Pat."
You're a pretty recognizable guy. When you're out do you get caught up in what's been going on and is it fun for you?
"I think the main thing is just stay focused. When you're this close, don't try to start celebrating with people just yet. We still have the Giants coming to town and I'm sure they have every reason to believe that they think they can win the football game, and so do we. It's going to come down to who's better that day."
When you're out do people come up to you? Is it fun for you?
"I really honestly haven't been out a whole bunch. I've just kind of been here and going home. Maybe after the season I can tell you better."
Have you had fun this season?
"Oh yeah. Winning is what it's all about and it definitely makes coming to work a lot better than hearing, ‘Who's going to be your new head coach or defensive coordinator.' I'll take this over the other for sure."
The biggest threat you would say on the Giants offense is who?
"I'd say it's their ability to run the ball to set up their pass. I'd say that they want to run the ball so they can suck up our safeties and throw the ball. I'd say we have to stop the run."