So, over the weekend I mentioned that I had scored an invite to the 49ers practice this past Saturday. I'll have some pictures up later in the afternoon, but here's the juicy part. Thanks to the assistance of 49ers Director of PR Operations, Jason Jenkins, I was the given the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes with 49ers GM Scot McCloughan. In addition to myself, James Darnell of 49erswebzone.com was on hand. We got about 10 minutes with Scot and got some interesting information from him.
I actually flipped on the recorder as Scot had already begun speaking in general about the QB decision. I've also distinguished my questions from the 49ers Webzone questions.
SM: We’re ready to go. Now that we’ve got one identified, it’s good for everybody around the offense to know who it is. Plus, it’s also important to have somebody in the wings you know can also do it – you guys have seen very seldom does one team make it through the season healthy 16 games starting at quarterback. If you do, you usually see them in the playoffs.
For us, two of the three years we’ve been here we’ve gone through four starters in one year . . . I was thinking about bringing Chris Weinke back – he’s one that’s actually my age.
49ers Webzone: I was talking to Frank earlier. He came into camp in really good shape and he’s had a few good preseason games. Do you think he’s poised for his best season so far?
SM: From the standpoint of poise, himself, most definitely. You’ll never find him short of thinking he’s not the best back in the league, he’s not gonna have the best year in the league. There’s no doubt about it. I think the key thing is the health’s huge. He’s the type of guy that needs to practice even in training camp, just to get in his groove, see what the o-linemen are doing. But, the key factor as everybody’s well aware is what happens up front with the o-line and how the quarterback plays.
The NFL and defenses in the NFL are good enough nowadays that they can take one guy out of the picture. And if all we can do is run the football, meaning if our game plan is Frank-Frank-Frank, good defenses, average to good defenses will stop us no matter what. The offensive line is huge as we saw last year. And the year before it was great and the quarterback played well and our offense wasn’t predicated on just running. Teams had to worry about us throwing the ball and that opened up holes for Frank. He, from a standpoint of third year in the NFL, really second training camp being 100% healthy, I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t have his best season yet.
Fooch: How’s Adam Snyder looking?
SM: You know what, he’s gotten better and better in each game. The thing that’s been great is we’ve finally left him at one position so he can just learn that. The injury came at a bad time, nothing you can do about it, it’s not a severe injury which is great. It would have been really good to see him versus Chicago because he started off through camp early in camp struggling and I really don’t know why. It wasn’t an injury issue, it wasn’t a weight issue. Maybe he as just surprised he was at one spot, staying at one spot.
But he was getting better and better in both games and showed it and it would have been nice if he had played on Thursday. But he’ll be fine. The thing we have now, and I got this question the other night about Larry Allen, is with our health along the o-line inside right now at guard and center, we feel really good. We’ve got the guys that we know can come in here and play and signed guys like Tony Wragge that we know can play. Are they superstars? No, but they’re good football players. That’s what you need on the o-line.
49ers Webzone: [On J.T. O’Sullivan] How do you guys feel about him moving forward to start the season?
SM: We feel good. You know the one thing that’s very important is the offensive coordinator, position coach have to have a comfort level with the quarterback. Especially with Coach Martz and his system (about 10 seconds muffled by plane flying overhead). [J.T. didn’t win the job just because he knew the offense], he won the job outright but he gives us the opportunity to put more offense in for week 1.
49ers Webzone: You were talking about comfort level. You know J.T.’s bounced around the league, bounced around the world. But he’s from this area – Have you noticed a certain comfort level with him as an individual just being here?
SM: I don’t think so. The thing that’s great and Alex and Shaun, all 3 of them have had adversity in their lives, from a football standpoint. Shaun and J.T. have never really been the guy in one place. Look at J.T., he’s bounced around and what you hope for is they learn why they weren’t the guy. What can I improve on to become the guy? You’re around a good quarterback you study what he does. I think he’s been through enough, I think all 3 of them have been through enough, that a bad day on the football field’s not gonna crush them. They understand that you go out and just compete and do your job you’re gonna be fine. I don’t think him being back in the area that he’s from it’s a comfort level. I think the fact that he’s been around football a long time and feels comfortable that he can be the guy is the comfort level he has.
Fooch: Before training camp started, Coach Martz was talking about the excitement of having a guy like Delanie Walker. He hasn’t really been featured a whole lot. Is it just a matter of implementing more of the game plan?
SM: Know this, Coach Martz is not gonna show our real offense until the games count. He’ll be a part of it. The thing that’s great, the issue sometimes for the players, and the coach, is that we feel that we’ve got more than 2 or 3 weapons on offense, which is a good problem to have. Now, a guy like Vernon, who’s so adamant that wants the ball, you love it because you want guys who want to go out there and make plays. But you also have one ball and you only get so many people. But Delanie will be a big part. You’ll see, in my opinion, the best year from Frank, the best year from Delanie, and the best year from Vernon. Especially Delanie and Vernon from a production standpoint and you’ll see the receivers have their games too.
You know I’m excited, everybody’s excited about Delanie. We’re excited about this offense, we really are. If the quarterbacks will stay in their talent level, instead of trying to make the plays they can’t make, let the guys around them make the plays, we’ll be just fine.
Fooch: With his big performance against the Bears, do you know what you’re gonna do with Thomas Clayton yet?
SM: No (excitedly). Again, that’s what you want, especially with young guys you’ve drafted and brought in and kind of developed as a 49er. You want those problems at the 53-man cut. The thing that you don’t want to do is the tough decisions are made and you can’t make them all accurate. But you want to try to keep the good football players around. We’re very lucky to have a pretty talented backfield, especially adding Deshaun. Even with Moran and Zak fighting it out. Moran, two years ago was a very hot ticket, I was surprised he didn’t go to the Pro Bowl. You see what Frank did when he led blocked. The competition’s what you want. (The end of this part of his answer was muffled but he basically said it’s a good problem showing that we’re getting good depth).
[Specifically about Clayton]: He’s a good kid who works hard. He came out last year on the practice squad every day and that’s tough duty. Because he’s carrying the ball in practice 20-30 times a practice and they’re knocking the crud out of him. It’s not full contact, but they’re hitting. It’s the first team defense and he never said a word. Just showed up and did his job, very professional. People had a knock on him coming out saying that he was a selfish guy and a troublemaker. That’s so far from the truth. The guy’s a team guy through and through and he proved it. He deserves to have some success and he’s got some talent too.
Thanks again to Scot for taking the time to answer questions and Jason for setting all this up. I'll have some more thoughts about the practice and a few pictures up later. Unfortunately I couldn't get photos of the practice itself. They were implementing the Chargers game plan and don't want anything ending up in the wrong hands!