You brought in a defensive lineman yesterday. How much do you in a week get a chance to evaluate a guy and kind of determine what you like about him moving forward?
You brought in a defensive lineman.
“You mean going forward, like how much will we get a chance to evaluate the player?”
What can you see in a week?
“There’s not a lot you can see in a week to be honest with you. That’s what was available so that’s who the personnel department brought in.”
Along those lines, are you able to evaluate QB Christian Ponder appropriately when he is the number two, or more so as the number two than the scout quarterback?
“As much as you can get out of practice, yeah.”
How does he look?
“He’s done a nice job. I think he’s gotten better. There was a little layoff there when we first got him. We got him just before the Denver game. I don’t know how much, he hadn’t been in camp with anybody else so there was obviously just getting acclimated and going back and playing football. But, I think he’s progressed as the season’s gone along.”
How much progress has OL Trent Brown made this year?
“This is my first year with him, so I can’t compare him to anything else. But, he started the season as our starter, he’s finishing the season as our starter. I think he’s very good in pass protection. He’s really developing as a run blocker. So, I’ve seen progression from him over the course of the season. But, he’s moved around now, he’s played multiple positions. He’s over on the other side. He’s a little bit rawer on the left side than he is the right side. That transition isn’t as easy I think maybe as some people think. He did a decent job against Los Angeles. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes with [T] Joe [Staley] if Trent goes back over or if Trent stays on the right side.”
When you got here and you looked at his last two starts last year, were there things that you saw that said this guy is probably going to be a starter, we don’t need to invest heavily either in free agency or--?
“No, we didn’t say that about anybody. When you look at the film, one of the things I’ve always said is difficult when you watch film is you don’t know what they were asked to do. You just try to look at athletic ability, how does he move around. He was obviously somebody we were intrigued with to start looking with, but we didn’t look at any film and say, ‘Hey, I watched film from last year. We’re all set. We don’t need anybody at that position.’ That’s not how I think that works when you come in taking over a team.”
How did the wide receivers do this season knowing that you lost WR Eric Rogers and WR Bruce Ellington before the season got going? You got WR Jeremy Kerley and WR Rod Streater, so how do you look at that group and how they performed?
“I think Kerley and Streater did a really nice job, especially from when they came in. I think Kerley’s our leading receiver and then obviously you’ve seen Rod, as [WR] Torrey’s [Smith] gone down, has really stepped up and given us a guy that I think [QB Colin Kaepernick] Kap’s got a good comfort level with him on the outside. So, as a whole, I think the guys, it’s interesting, all the guys that are playing here weren’t with us last year. So, Streater wasn’t with us, Kerley wasn’t with us, [WR Chris] Harper wasn’t with us. [WR Aaron Burbridge] Burb, we ended up drafting in the sixth. So, when you go through OTAs and everything we did, none of the guys that are playing for us right now were even here for any of that stuff. So, I think for where we got them, they’ve done a nice job.”
Last Monday you said the only advantage of huddling is you get to go back seven yards and hold hands together and say, ‘Ready, break,’ and then run back to the line of scrimmage. In your opinion, is there absolutely nothing useful about huddling?
“I was being sarcastic.”
OK. Well, in your opinion, is there absolutely nothing useful about huddling?
“Yeah, I think there’s some usefulness to it.”
“You communicate. If you have to talk a little bit away from the defense you can use that time to do that.”
How surprised were you with G Zane Beadles being so versatile, being able to start at guard then go to left tackle and now play center? Are you surprised at all at how well he’s adapted to all three positions?
“I don’t think I’m surprised. We’re pleased I think would be the word. We knew Zane could play multiple positions. But, to actually have to do that, I think, tells you a little bit about Zane as a player. He’s extremely intelligent. You kind of knew that. First time you end up having a conversation with him, you come away going, ‘This guy’s sharp.’ He really understands the game of football. He’s seen it from a couple different perspectives. He’s played multiple positions through his college and his pro career. But, to actually do it in a game and to make that jump to go from left guard to left tackle then to center just really tells you the type of player that he is. But, one of the things we thought in the offseason when we got him was his versatility was going to be key for us in terms of him being able to be a multiple position player.”
We’ve been able to talk to your coordinators each week obviously and we’ve gotten to know them OK. I’m still not totally sure what exactly offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins’s role is in terms of eye in the sky for you on game day and helping set up the game plan. How has that dynamic worked between you two?
“It’s been great. I think he’s brought a different perspective. One of the things we were looking for putting together an offensive staff was just, [wide receivers coach] Bob Bicknell and [quarterbacks coach] Ryan Day were with me in Philly but then the rest of the guys weren’t because you wanted fresh ideas and fresh perspective in terms of how they look at things, how they do things and I think he’s really added to that and I think that’s a positive for him. He’s got a vast background himself in terms of football. He’s coached on both sides of the ball. He’s coached on defense. He’s coached on offense. He’s coached multiple positions on offense. So, getting a new set of eyes, a new way to look at things, how we interpret things, a lot of the things we have implemented during this year offensively, a lot of it is suggestions or ideas that Curtis had come up with that he had done in the past and kind of fit. So, I think he’s done a really good job.”
Are most of those in the run game? Is it more run oriented?
“No. Both. He’s got a real good background in the passing game also.”
You guys are about to surpass 2,000 rushing yards, which obviously is good. Why haven’t you had any sort of ancillary effect on the passing game? Why hasn’t that benefited the passing game more play-action wise this year than you would think it would?
“I don’t see the correlation. But--.”
Well, one plays off the other. That’s football, right?
“Yeah. It is. But, it doesn’t, when you have people playing man coverage, the play-action means nothing. I’ve got you man to man. So, I don’t care if you’re running the ball or throwing the ball, I’ve got you man to man. So, if you throw a play-action pass and [Seattle Seahawks CB] Richard Sherman’s playing press-man on the receiver, he’s not looking in the backfield. So, that doesn’t have an effect. I think if you play zone teams that are vision and break teams and their eyes are always on the quarterback all the time, I think that would have an effect. When you play teams that play more man coverage, play-action pass doesn’t really have a lot of effect because I’m not looking in the backfield at the run or the play-action pass because my job is to cover the receiver.”
Doesn’t it slow down the pass rush?
“Not really, not the way people are teaching pass rush now. They’re playing the run on the way to the quarterback. So, they’re trying to charge up the field. You look at those four down defenses with those defensive ends out there in a sprinter stance, they’re running as fast as they can to get to the depth of the quarterback.”
Do defenses play more man to man against you this year than they had when you were in Philly?
“It was different. Some years in Philly, one year in Philly it was really high man. The next year in Philly, it was different zone-man. So, I think it depends a lot on what your wide receivers can do. Do they want to play you in man and can they match up with you receiver-wise?”
After the Broncos were eliminated, Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak talked about the final game was all about next year. It seems like you haven’t taken that approach. You’ve stayed week to week, you know, just want to win the next game. I don’t get the sense that you’re trying to evaluate guys for the future. Is that accurate?
“We evaluate every game.”
But, you’re not like, ‘Hey, I want this young guy to get out and play,’ the third string quarterback or the second string cornerback?
“No. They have to earn that though. This isn’t just Christmas and we give out gifts. I don’t think that’s fair to the guys that are here that have worked and done everything you said and just say, ‘Hey, you’re not going to play this week because this other guy that we know is not better than you, we’re just going to throw him out in a game and see what he can do.’ I don’t think that’s fair. And I think when you look at what Kubs is saying, to say that wholesale, I mean, [Denver Broncos QB] Trevor Siemian’s starting this week. So, I don’t know what changes they’re making. I think everybody has always tried to plan and see how these people fit in our things, but you also have to be cognizant of the fact that we watch these guys every day. We make evaluations every day. We see them practice every day. You get an opportunity to see them every single day. So, to just say, ‘Hey, I know this kid’s been awful in practice, but let’s just chuck him out on the field and see what he can do.’ It just doesn’t work that way.”
Throughout your coaching career, have you valued being a part of a rivalry whether at Oregon or in Philadelphia? Has that been--?
“I think everybody’s a rivalry and I’ve always said that. I think you diminish the other games when you say this game’s more important than that game. That’s the way I’ve always felt. So, what I’ve always felt is respect everybody you play. I think people get knocked off so to speak when all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Hey, we played our rival, we had a big win,’ and then the next week they have a letdown and they lose to somebody they shouldn’t have lost to. It’s because you may have put all your emphasis on one game but you didn’t put it on the next game. I think the team’s that are really good, the Patriots are a team that comes to mind, the old 49ers teams, it’s everybody they played was the most important game they played. And honestly, it’s really not about your opponent. It’s about yourself. It’s about your preparation and what you do and how you execute and what you’re all about has always been kind of my philosophy as we look at it. Not who we’re playing, but what are we doing and how do we improve as a group.”
When you were at Oregon, you’re in the region I guess, did you feel the Niners and Seahawks rivalry those last few years?
“No. I wasn’t paying attention to any of that when I was up there.”
If the benefit of huddling is communication, why never huddle and why not let your players communicate during the drive?
“Because they do communicate. You asked me what was one of them. I was just giving you an example. But, I think our guys, we have a great system in terms of communication. So, I don’t see there’s any flaws in our communication system at all.”