Have you through the years, whether it was early on or recently, talked to former NFL head coaches Sam Wyche or Marv Levy just about how they did the no huddle?
“[Senior analyst] Dana Bible, who’s on our staff, is really close with Sam. We’ve talked a few times, but not specifically on how they did it.”
He, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think when he was doing it, he varied tempo a little more than you.
“I haven’t studied him, so I couldn’t tell you yay or nay.”
Just in regards to that, you typically don’t vary tempo?
“No, we do.”
Well, if you’re ahead and want to bleed the clock a little bit. But generally, you’re saying that you will go fast--?
“Yeah, we vary tempo. There’s a fast speed and a slow speed, so we do vary it.”
You wouldn’t say that Sam Wyche is an influence of you as a--?
“Well, I think he’s an influence for anybody who’s did it, because I think he was the first. They were probably the earliest team that did it with [former NFL QB] Boomer [Esiason] and then the Bills under Marv. So, I would say he probably was one of the people who first started pushing the tempo.”
How much of an influence would you say former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh had on you as a coach and does he still have one on the league in general?
“I think he has a huge influence on the league and I think a lot of the concepts we’ve always thrown have been west coast concepts. So, I think he’s had a big influence on what we’re doing from the pass game standpoint.”
If you were to as an homage to an Ivy League team, run the single wing spinner series, what Ivy League would you pay tribute to?
Quarterbacks coach Ryan Day was talking about you did that your first year as an offensive coordinator. How many series did you run that, do you recall?
What is the single wing spinner, just for novices?
“It’s just another package that they used to run in the old days. [Former Princeton RB] Dick Kazmaier won a Heisman Trophy running a version of it. Just another change up from an unbalanced line to still a shotgun snap. That guy was referred to as a tailback back then, not the quarterback, but he still did everything a quarterback does.”
It seems like a bit of a, I guess, whimsical move. What inspired that?
“Some of it is injury standpoint. If you don’t have a quarterback, what are you going to do? A lot of people call it the Wild Cat, directly snapping it to a running back, so there’s some different variations you can do with it.”
Is WR DeAndre Smelter working through an injury?
“He has been just nagging a little bit, but I wouldn’t call it an injury.”
Is it related to his knee?
You’ve been known to go to a lot of coaching clinics. A lot of times you’ve gone to small colleges or smaller colleges for those clinics. Is there a particular reason you’ve sought that out?
“I don’t think I’ve gone to particularly smaller colleges for a reason. I mean, if there’s a clinic, it doesn’t matter where it’s held. You could hold it in a parking lot. If there was a clinic there, I went to it. I never specifically said, ‘Hey, I’m going to go to this one, because it’s at a small school.’ I don’t even know if I went to any small schools. Did I?”
The theory goes, I just wanted to get your thoughts, maybe I should have asked a direct question about it.
“That’s a lot easier for me.”
The theory goes, but I haven’t heard you quote around it, that smaller colleges are dealing with maybe less talent. They have to be more creative when they play Ohio State and Alabama and so, therefore, they might be thinking a little more outside of the box.
“No, I never sought it out for that. When I was at New Hampshire, I visited Auburn, Clemson, bigger schools, so really just depends on where you can go and what fits in your time schedule. But, there was never any design of let’s go visit this because there’s a master plan behind it.”
How did QB Colin Kaepernick look in your view yesterday?
“I thought Colin did a good job yesterday for a guy that hadn’t taken reps, except some things on the side, to step in, the biggest thing is the decision making and I thought he did a really good job with that. That meant he stayed on top of things from the meeting, now he’s transferring it to the field. For the first day back, I was impressed with him.”
You indicated before practice that you didn’t anticipate he would participate in sevens and he did. Was that--?
“We didn’t have any plan going in. It was just what he felt comfortable, you know, as we were moving along and during the course of practice and how many throws he could throw. So, just how does he feel? It was up to both of us, but consulting with him on how he feels and certainly not going to push him at this date. We’re still just in the first week of June and it’s his first time back. So, I think sometimes you get too excited and try to get a million things in and then all of a sudden he can’t practice the next day, just not because of the injuries he’s recovery from, it’s just because he got pushed at a level that he wasn’t used to getting pushed at. So, we wanted to make sure we went through everything and kind of not trying to force the issue, just what’s the comfort level and continue to build and maybe add a little bit more as we move along here.”
Have you talked to him this morning and is he sore?
“I haven’t met with him or talked with him this morning. I know he’s been in position meetings with coach Day, but I haven’t talked to him. We’ll get a chance to chat a little bit here before we start.”
When you’re going really fast in terms of the offense, can you vary the snap count?
And do you vary the snap count?
“Yeah, we did that a lot yesterday.”
OK, because I know there’s word out of Philadelphia, ‘Hey, he didn’t vary it last year and they are varying it this year and we like that better.’
“We varied it. I think everybody in the league does.”
How have DT DeForest Buckner and DL Arik Armstead looked so far in the offseason program jus with a couple of days left?
“They’ve done a really nice job, but it’s very difficult to evaluate either lines because we don’t have pads on. So, one of the toughest things for those guys. And we talked about it and I talked about it again yesterday morning, was there has to be a collaboration between them, because it doesn’t help if they are throwing guys into other people. Now there’s a pile up or guys are on the ground. We want to stay up. Obviously the offensive linemen to prevent being thrown off a block have to come out with more force, but we don’t have pads on. So, that’s not what this part of the season is all about. It’s really assignment alignment. Are they in the right spots? Are they doing the right things? But, then there’s some cooperation where you’ll see us say, ‘I know you could have made a play there, but you pulled out of it because we don’t want people down.’ I think if you watch probably the best guy in the secondary is [S] Antoine Bethea, he’s had ample opportunity to probably separate a guy from the ball, but just kind of pulls out of it because we don’t have pads on. And that’s part of what this time of year is and who can really practice that way. Who can control their bodies enough and are athletic enough to be able to go full speed and then kind of pull out of it? I think both DeForest and Arik have done a really nice job. They are obviously very comfortable with [defensive line coach] Jerry [Azzinaro]. Azz has coached them, so they have an understanding of how he works and what he’s trying to do. Anything that we have here that was different than when they were in Oregon, and there’s a lot, because we’ve got a lot of other pieces to it, Azz can bridge that gap. ‘We did it this way, we’re moving to this, we called it like this, but now we are calling it like this.’ It helps that he’s got that familiarity with those guys.”
You’ll get a better evaluation once you get those pads on in training camp?
“Yeah, with all those guys, especially both sides of the line. That’s the two sides that until we get to August, are we really going to get a determination of how they fit in terms of what we want.”
G Joshua Garnett was saying yesterday that while he was away, he would get the video and go to practice on his own at Stanford. How did he look out here and where do you think he’s mentally at?
“Well, I think the biggest thing is he didn’t stand out. So, usually you stand out in those situations because you’re going the wrong way or the right guard’s going right and everybody else is going left. I think he fit in really well. He played both sides yesterday. I think [offensive line coach Pat Flaherty] Flats used him at right and left. But, you could tell that he’s worked in his time away at the football aspect of things. So, that was impressive.”
Coach Azzinaro likes to use the sled, obviously, in practice. Have you seen the benefits of that once you do start putting pads on in the past and those guys are used to hitting things?
“I have. I think wherever he’s been, I think his D-Line is known for technique and how well they use their hands. To me, there’s a direct correlation between how much they use the sled and full speed work on the sled. You obviously can’t do it against other bodies because of the injury factor, but you can do it on a sled. I think there’s a direct correlation and you see it with how good our guys have been in their hand placement.”
You talk about Bethea being able to standout out here on defense. Is there somebody on offense that’s caught your eye--?
“Well, a lot of guys. [T] Joe [Staley] has. I think it’s the older players right now. Joe Staley has done a great job. [G/C Daniel] Kilgore has done a really nice job at center. [WR] Torrey [Smith] at outside receiver. I think the group of tight ends with [TE Garrett] Celek and [TE Vance] McDonald have done a really good job. [RB] Carlos [Hyde] and [RB] Shaun Draughn have done a good job at the running back position. So, again, it’s still, to make full evaluations now it’s difficult because what we’re doing right now isn’t what we’re going to be doing in the fall. But, it’s just kind of laying the foundation is what we’re trying to do right now and they’ve all done a really good job with that.”
What have you seen from Carlos Hyde just out of the backfield as a receiver?
“He’s got really, really good hands. So, I think that’s the first thing. He made a really nice catch yesterday in the flats on a difficult throw but kind of came up with it. It’s interesting from someone that size and that has that skillset as a guy coming out of the backfield. So, it’s certainly something we need to continue to build upon with him.”
In the running game, is it similar to what you said with the line, without pads you’re just looking for alignment and fits?
“Yeah. You can’t run real power schemes if you’re down blocking and then trying to kick out a defensive end. The defensive end’s not just got to let the guard take him and throw him into next week. So, a lot of times we’re not running a ton of plays where there’s a lot of high speed collisions that would go on right now just because we don’t have pads and it’s not fair to kind of simulate that.”
Do you anticipate CB Dontae Johnson to return to practice this week?
“I don’t know exactly from that standpoint, but I know [vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Ferg says he’s doing a really nice job and should be back shortly. I just couldn’t give you will it be today or tomorrow.”
What’s your impression been of CB Rashard Robinson and CB Keith Reaser, guys who have also played some outside at that spot?
“Well, one’s a rookie and one’s a veteran. So, I think there’s differences between the two of them. But, both of those guys are competing. That’s what you want at this point in time during the year. And again, they’re cooperating too because there’s times when there’s contested balls but because we don’t have pads on, you don’t want pileups and guys on the ground. So, a lot of times, if they can make a play on the ball we want them to make a play on the ball but if they can’t make a play on the ball we don’t want them to go through the receiver to make a play. But, when you have pads on, you’re going to do that. So, both of those guys have competed. They’re in position. They’re really working hard on their fundamental aspects of what they’re doing. So, been impressed with both of those guys.”
QB Blaine Gabbert has learned a lot of systems in the NFL. How quickly is he picking up your system? What have you seen from him?
“He’s done a nice job. Blaine’s a sharp guy. Sometimes it benefits you to being exposed to a couple different systems because it gives you a little bit to kind of recall from, ‘Hey, we did this when I was in Jacksonville or we did this earlier when I was in San Francisco.’ Most offenses, or almost all offenses have some aspect of what everybody else is doing. So, it’s just a matter of getting the terminology down and knowing it so that you don’t have to really think out there, you’re reacting to what’s going on out there. But, I think Blaine’s done a really nice job.”
How did you get coach Bible on staff?
“Called him. He answered. No, I’ve known Dana for a long time. When he was the offensive coordinator at Boston College, I was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire. Coach Day actually worked for him as a graduate assistant. So, we’ve been friends for a long time and spent a lot of time talking football with him. When I got here, he was living down in San Diego and I thought it would be a good fit to see if, he had retired from NC State, but to see if he wanted to come up and has really given us a lot from an offensive standpoint and a great perspective. So, excited to have him.”
He hadn’t been coaching for a couple of years. Did it require much of a sales pitch?
“No, I think he was kind of itching. He was doing a little bit of quarterback coaching down there, kind of private work from a quarterback standpoint. And I think because of where we are and family and all that, because it’s close, I think it wasn’t asking him to move across the country. It was just kind of move up the coast a little bit. And he had experience, he was at Stanford earlier in his career, really loved the area. So, it wasn’t much of a tough sales pitch.”
Without getting into too many specifics, what is his general role as a consultant?
“Really, that’s what he is. He sits in on every meeting offensively and kind of is a guy that’s coached in a lot of different offenses. He’s got a huge coaching resume, both in the National Football League and at the college level. He’s been exposed to a lot of different things and to kind of have that resource in a room of, ‘We’re trying to get this done and we’re not communicating effectively enough of how we want this specific route run. How did you teach it? Well, I first taught it like this when I was at San Diego State, but then in my time with the Bengals, we tried to change it and did it this way.’ You know, to have that resource in the room for our wide receiver coach to be able to consult with and talk with him about that or our quarterback coach or our running back coach or offensive line or myself in a lot of situations, it’s just awesome to have that. And a lot of times, those conversations would always be me calling him wherever he was coaching somewhere else if I had an issue. Like, ‘Hey, have you ever run into this or this coverage? What’s the best route or two routes you’ve had that you’ve run against this combination?’ He’s just always been a resource like that. So, to now have him in the room with us when we’re game planning, making decisions, putting an offense together, it’s just been a great help.”
Kind of a broad question, but from a team-wide standpoint, how do you think the conditioning is for all these guys?
“I think they’re really good. I mentioned it the other day their first exposure was that second or third week when we were in April and that first minicamp. They’re light years ahead of where we were in the first minicamp. [Director of human performance Mark Uyeyama] Uye does such a good job with those guys in terms of what he demands of them from a strength and conditioning standpoint. So, I think what he’s doing and what we do out in the training sessions, I think have really complemented each other.”
Is the offensive line the position group that’s most challenged with this system in terms of conditioning?
“No. I think everybody is. I think our receivers really have to run. I think everybody does. But, I think anybody in the National Football League wants to have a fit and conditioned club. So, I don’t think we’re more fit or more conditioned than other people. I just think there’s different ways of going about it.”
Do you think the youth of the team has something to do with that? You’ve got a relatively young team.
“We do. We do, but I would argue that some of our best conditioned players are our older players. [LB] NaVorro [Bowman], Antoine, Joe. Those guys are kind of setting the tone for the younger guys on how it’s supposed to happen. But, I don’t think age, depends on who you are, but I don’t think age is always a reason that they don’t go hard. Some of the best players I’ve been around have been the older veteran players because they actually take care of their bodies better than the younger guys do and that’s why they’ve lasted so long. I think it’s a credit to them. Joe Staley’s played in this league for such a long time because Joe’s always in shape. He’s not a guy that gets in shape then gets out of shape then say, ‘Aw, camp’s coming up. I’ve got to get back into shape.’ I think when you look at Joe, whether you see Joe in April or you see Joe in November, you’re going to see the same type of guy.”