What are some of the things that you consider when you're evaluating the wide receiver position?
"Can they catch the football is probably number one. But, they come in all different sizes, as we know, different speeds and you really try to match that guy up with your quarterback and what your quarterback's skillsets are. Some teams put a premium on size. Some teams put a premium on speed. There are just a lot of different things you look at. But, their ability to catch the ball and make plays would probably be the most significant."
What type of receiver would you say matches best with your quarterback QB Colin Kaepernick?
"Well, if I said that I'd be telling you who we're looking at. But, we've had, you saw last year we drafted [WR Bruce] Ellington, a shorter guy. We've got [WR Anquan] Boldin and [WR Michael] Crabtree both of those guys, [WR] Stevie Johnson, we've had a mix. But, I think it's no mystery we're looking for guys that can run and get down the field."
How big was it to get 49ers senior personnel executive Tom Gamble back in the mix and back in the fold and did it surprise you in the way that whole thing transpired?
"Well, I think everybody knows how I feel about Tom Gamble. So, it's been a huge benefit to have Tommy back. He's a heck-of-a scout, heck-of-a football guy and great to have back in the building."
When he left a couple years ago, I remember you stood up here a little frustrated at the timing and the way it happened. Did it surprise you that this did occur this way?
"Good things happen at different times, right? And at that time, Tommy needed to get back. He had a situation going on with his family that he needed to get back for that I felt was very important to give him that opportunity and it's just a blessing to have him back. I can't say it any other way."
University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh said last week that it was not a mutual decision for him to leave the 49ers. How would you respond?
"I have no response to that. Jim's moved on. We've moved on. He's got a heck-of-a job. We've got a new head football coach. We're trying to get ready for the draft, free agency and the offseason program."
How concerned are you about losing a coach that took you to the NFC Championship three times and the Super Bowl once?
"Jim did a heck-of-a job. He's a heck-of-a coach. I think, once again, he's gone his direction, we've gone ours. I feel very good about the direction we're headed and I'm sure he does as well."
So, based on his suggestion, the front office hierarchy forced him out of the organization. Why would they do that?
"Once again, he's moved on, we've moved on and I think the important thing for us now is just to look forward and that's what we're trying to do. We've got three important things happening here coming up and I know that's where my focus is."
How do you view last year? Is it just a blip on the radar or do you think that maybe it showed some chinks in your armor or however you want to put it that you've got to do some work to get back to that level?
"Well, anytime you finish 8-8 and you're not in the playoffs there are things you have to address. We're in the process of addressing those."
There was a report the other day that Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase would be your head coach were it not for a disagreement over his coordinators. Any truth to that?
"I didn't read the reports, so I'm not real familiar with what you're talking about. But, the job for the 49ers was offered to one person and one person only and that's [head coach] Jim Tomsula."
Is there anything more that your team or NFL teams in general can do when they're looking at the off-the-field issues of a player and trying to uncover anything that can be a red flag?
"I think everybody's addressing that. And I don't want to speak for every team, but I know the process that we go through and we try to be as thorough as possible, do as many background checks as we can and talk to as many people as we can. Get on the internet and dig as much as we can with all of the social media stuff and everything. But, I think with the awareness that we were under this year, the attention that it got even more so than prior years, I think every team is really examining the approach to it and digging for as much information as they can. But, there are a lot of unknowns and that's not going to change. And there is a risk-reward to this business and that's not going to change."
How do you feel about the development of Colin Kaepernick, what do you see him working on?
"Colin's working his tail off right now. I think everybody saw the reports. He's down in Arizona. He's working hard with [former NFL QB and current NFL Network analyst] Kurt [Warner] and several other people. We've had a little bit of communication through this first part of the break. But, I know he's working awfully hard. He knows what he needs to work on. He's a very dedicated player and I'm sure he feels good about the progress he's made up to this point. The only reason you go down there and do the things he's doing is to get better. That's the mindset and I think he feels comfortable with where he's at and hopefully that transfers to the field."
What does he need to work on?
"That'd be a question you'd need to visit with him on. But, I know that what he's down there working on is just all the technique things that go along with the position; footwork, delivery, changing platforms, throwing platforms, arm angle. He's working on all of that stuff. And, being able to take a little pace off of the ball when he needs to take some pace off of it."
What is the challenge in developing and maintaining a working dynamic between a GM and a coach with regard to authority, the teams that work well like Seattle and Green Bay, but seemed to kind of break down a little bit in San Francisco?
"I don't know if that's a fair assessment, but as long as you brought it up, it's no different than any other relationship. You've got to work at it daily. And, there are a lot of tough decisions that have to be made in the positions that we're in. You have to stay on point and you've got to communicate on a daily basis and that's probably the easiest way to keep that relationship the way it needs to be."
Putting it on paper, here's what I do, here's what you do, that doesn't seem to quite work right? It's more of a personal thing right?
"I think that's what relationships are. Whether it's a personal or professional deal, that's what a relationship is. It's day-to-day. It's nothing you can put on paper, right? It's interaction on a daily basis and that's what I think we all strive to do. It's not always easy as we know in this business and all you can do is continue to work on it."
What went wrong for you guys on offense last year and what type of future do you think Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman has in this league as a coach?
"I think if you look back on last season, and I'm not one to look back, I'm trying to move forward and we as an organization are trying to move forward. I think Greg is one heck-of-a football coach and for whatever reason last year it just didn't work. As you look at why, we had injuries. There were other things that were going on and there were a lot of different battles being played out in different ways. But, I take nothing away from the coaches. They worked their tail end off. They were in there early. They stayed late. They did everything that was asked of them and so did the players. But, sometimes it just doesn't work."
Then why move on from your coaching staff?
"There are a lot of things. Once again, to sit here and rehash the whys, I think I've stated exactly why. And Jim's moved on. He's got a heck-of-a job. To be the head coach at the University of Michigan is a heck-of-a football job. And I know that's something that he always wanted to do. We've moved on as well."
What are the Packers getting in assistant offensive line coach Mike Solari?
"A heck-of-a football coach. He's an awfully good football coach. Great technician, great relationship with the players, works hard, enthusiastic. I can't say enough positive things about coach Solari."
How much do you think RB Frank Gore has left? Is he still a guy that he's still got it, that you feel strongly about bringing back next year?
"Frank's, everyone asks that question all the time. I think I've been asked that question for five straight years now. Frank's just the Energizer battery, he just keeps on ticking. The last two games of the season, I think you saw what Frank still has left in the tank. A very good football player. One of the most passionate, if not the most passionate football player I've ever been around. So, I still think he's got it in him. I know that he still believes it. I talked to him the other day on the phone and we're going to do what we can to get him back as a 49er."
How do you balance out with the research you do on player's social media what you find from those interviews versus what you get from the face-to-face interviews here and on Pro Days?
"You only have 15 minutes here. And in 15 minutes how much can you gather? How good of a tell can you get on a guy in 15 minutes of meeting him? They're so well prepared for these things now. It's not like they were 10 years ago, 15 years ago when I was first involved with these meetings. Because they've got coaches now that walk them through everything and really prepare them for this. There's a lot more dating that has to take place than just this 15 minutes here."
In that same vein, with the procreation of these training facilities that all of these guys go to down in Florida and whatnot, is the Combine, is it still what it was 10-12 years ago or are you fooled a little bit by "they're running a faster 40" or anything like that?
"Well, it's all relative because they're all getting the same benefit now. So, each season is relevant to that season. But, I think historically the data moving, when you look back and you try to compare, it gets a little bit more difficult because they are so much more prepared now to come in here now and run a good 40."
Just as an example of the off-the-field kind of stuff we're talking about. LB Aldon Smith is a guy who had some problems when he came to you. Do you look at that process that you had with him and try to learn anything from it? Like you missed a red flag there that you might be more on the look for now?
"Anytime a player falls on tough times you look back and you try to find out or identify did you miss something. And sometimes it isn't that you missed something, it's that the new environment they are in has created something. But, oftentimes it is something that you just didn't know and that's not going to change. There are going to be players coming this year that we just aren't going to know well enough and they're going to run into some offseason problems or in-season problems, personal problems. We can dig as much as we want, but this is an imperfect science and there are going to be mistakes that are made."
When one of your quarterbacks goes to in the offseason a quarterback guru, is there ever a concern that he could get messed up?
"Well, I don't know that I would view Kurt Warner as a quarterback guru, and I don't mean that negatively. To my knowledge, this is really the first one that he's really taken on. You have to have great respect for not only his career but how he conducted himself, how hard he worked. Kurt knows a little something about the game and I think his willingness to share that and pass that onto a young guy like Colin, I think is admirable."
What kind of attempt was made to or interest to keep Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio part of the staff?
"Yeah. There was an attempt. And it all played out. It all depended who the head coach was going to be. I think that question was asked earlier about a situation with Adam. Everyone that we interviewed had a different way to approach things and there were no mandates made to any of them through the process. It was a process where we went in, we talked to the coaches, we had them kind of give us the idea of what they would like to do with the staff and we went from there."
Where is Aldon Smith in his life and career? Is he going to be able to mesh the professional and personal?
"Well, we sure hope so. A lot of people haven't had the pleasure of meeting Aldon. A great young man. He's had some off-the-field adversity, some personal adversity that he's trying to deal with and is dealing with. But, if you've ever had an opportunity to meet him, I think you'd feel how most of us feel, a tremendous young man."