The San Francisco 49ers are back at practice, and new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is getting a crash-course in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He was already getting some tips from C.J. Beathard on Wednesday, and he will be tied at the hip to Beathard, Shanahan, and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello for the foreseeable future. Well, except when Beathard is on the field this Sunday.
Speaking of which, while Beathard is expected to start on Sunday, Shanahan told the media on Wednesday that he expects Garoppolo to be active. The team has Nick Mullens available on the practice squad, but the odds of carrying a third quarterback are slim. The 49ers are struggling with injuries, leaving them fewer options for their game-day 46-man roster. If they carry three quarterbacks, that’s two players that will offer no available snaps barring an injury to the quarterback.
Do you plan to do anything at the quarterback depth chart going into this game? Will QB Jimmy Garoppolo be active for this game?
“I plan on it right now. We’ve got two on our roster. I know we’ve got one on practice squad. We’ll see how the week goes, but that’s what the plan is right now.”
You have to get him prepared to play in the game on Sunday.
So, what are the steps that you have to take between yesterday and Sunday morning to get him up to speed to be able to handle a section of the playbook?
“A lot of meeting time. Right now, the most important thing is getting [QB] C.J. [Beathard] ready for Sunday, which gets most of the reps and everything. Jimmy’s process, it’s a work in progress right now. He’s got a long way to go in terms of learning the language, learning the verbiage of the offense and the majority of that is done in the classroom. Myself, [quarterbacks coach] Rich [Scangarello] and Jimmy are going to have to put a lot of extra time into that just to give him a chance to play if need be.
Do you like the similarity between those two guys, C.J. and Jimmy in terms of--?
“Yeah, I do. I think they both have very similar qualities, similar qualities that I really like. They both are mobile enough to make some plays with their legs. They are both mobile enough to get outside of the pocket. They are both capable of making every throw and they are very smart guys who work very hard.”
Some people have interpreted the move as a reflection on C.J., somehow. What was your analysis of him over these last two games?
“As I told C.J. when it happened, this move has nothing to do with C.J. This move has to do with a responsibility to the organization. When things come around, opportunities come around that can help the organization, you don’t hesitate on it. I have a lot of confidence in C.J. By no means has everything been perfect these last two and a half weeks that he’s played, but I’ve been excited about a lot of things that he has done. He has had some bumps in the road like first-time players will have and like a lot of veterans have, but I think C.J. has shown a lot of things that we’re excited about. I think C.J. will continue to get better. If we get better around him too, that will help him get a lot better also.”
You guys are already in decision making mode for the rest of this season. Is there a chance we can see both of those guys significantly as you continue to try to make up your minds about both of them?
“Yeah, it’s not necessarily that those guys have to get out and play for me to make up my mind on them. The situations that they’re in, I don’t just look at things as what was their completion percentage, how many touchdowns did they have, what’s their QBR, what’s their win-loss. I watch every play individually and see how they run stuff for what they’re asked to do and what they are capable of doing based off the 10 guys around them. I look at that in practice every single day. I watch it throughout a game. I very rarely even know their stats. It’s just an evaluation of watching how two guys play. I’ve had that a lot with C.J. because he’s been here since OTAs. I feel very fortunate that we’re going to have that with Jimmy. I don’t know how much he’s going to play. I know it’s going to take some time before he has an opportunity to play. We didn’t bring Jimmy here to save our season. We brought Jimmy here to improve this organization and we’re going to figure out the best way for him and the best way for our team how we go about that. Just having him in the building and being able to work with him every day really helps us a lot and know a lot about him.”
With all the injuries you’re dealing with and the numbers issues that you’re facing, is that the reason why Jimmy is going to be up just because you need that extra roster spot or do you want him to be up on Sunday?
“I think every coach in the NFL would tell you that he would love to carry three quarterbacks. That’s something everybody wants, but it’s very hard. The amount of people that have to play on Sunday, it’s very hard to have people up who don’t play, who don’t contribute to special teams, who don’t do things like that. So, in order to get three quarterbacks up on Sunday, it’s going to take a hit at offense or a hit at defense and definitely hit you at special teams. What happened to us in that game at Philly, just losing two tackles in that game, if we would have had an extra quarterback up we would have been down to having a receiver at O-Line, or it would have been something drastic or unprecedented. That’s why it’s very hard to get three guys dressing.”
How have you balanced setting up the game plan the last two days versus having to coach Jimmy up?
“Well, that’s why you’ve got to depend on a lot of other guys, too. We have other guys in our building, on our offensive staff, that do their parts and help put together a game plan. No one does it all by themselves. Everyone has their responsibilities and their expertise areas situationally. We put that all together. I usually review it and go over it all. Rich met with Jimmy most of yesterday. I got a few hours with him too just to talk X’s and O’s and to catch him up on stuff and then continue to do stuff throughout the week. Whatever I missed yesterday spending time with Jimmy, I will catch up on this week. Usually that’s about two and half more hours of film that I’m behind on that I promise I’ll get to before Sunday. But, everything else is just, it’s a fine line trying to teach him enough to where if he had to go in that he has a chance to function and also trying to gradually just build him to the spot where he has an opportunity to fully go into a game expecting him to play.”
When you say just two and a half more hours of film, what kind of film are you talking about?
“Cut-ups. I’m talking about first-and-10, second-and-one to four, second-and-five to 10, formations.”
From your playbook basically showing him what you want done?
“No, me just studying Arizona. Jimmy, from our playbook, that’s just teaching him on the board, showing him things. That’s what Rich is probably doing with him right now during lunch. That’s what he’ll be doing with him extra after practice after he’s done with all the other guys. Just things like that. I did it for a few hours yesterday at a normal time that I would be watching some other stuff. That’s what I thought you were asking me. So, I just find a way to catch up on that sometime in the week.”
Did you call or text C.J. after making the trade for Jimmy--?
And what did you say? How did he respond?
“Basically the same thing I just told you guys. I speak to C.J. a lot and I’ve told C.J. how I feel about him before this. I feel no different. I said, ‘C.J. this wasn’t something that had really anything to do with you. This had to do with an opportunity that presented itself and we feel it was the right decision for our organization and I have a lot of confidence in you.’ I told him that stuff. I told him that the last few weeks after each game and just told him the truth.”
How did he respond?
“He responded great. C.J. is a very confident person, very mature, acts like a man, very honest person, keeps it real. There’s no agenda with C.J. He’s just going to work and keep his head down and do the best he can.”
What’s the thought process on trading CB Rashard Robinson who started seven games for you for a fifth-round pick?
“Again, it was something that happened late yesterday. That opportunity presented itself too. We weren’t sure that it would. It wasn’t an easy decision. I think Rashard does have some upside and has the ability to play, like I’ve told you guys before. He did struggle throughout this year. I still think he has a chance to rebound and have a very good career. That was just a tough decision we had to make. When we had the opportunity to get a fifth-round pick, especially us going into the draft not having one, that was something we just felt we couldn’t pass up. Draft picks are important to us and we would like to accumulate as many as we can. It was a decision that wasn’t easy, but one that we talked about for a while and we agreed on and we thought would be the best for our team.”
Has the fact that CB Ahkello Witherspoon has played--?
“Yeah, that definitely makes it a lot easier. Witherspoon, we started him last week. We thought he played well. Hoping he gets better as this goes. Knowing that he was starting definitely makes it easier. There’s still a depth issue there, but I’m worried about depth at all positions. Not just that position. Depth is an issue everywhere at this time of year. That’s just a risk you have to take if you think you can help your team in the future.”
Maybe that’s something you focus on at the forefront of your mind right now, but when you make a move like you made for Jimmy, do you think about knocking off the number one thing on the list about how that opens up what you can do in the offseason in terms of using your resources?
“Yeah, of course. I think everything you think of, every decision you make is about how it affects you now and how it affects you later. When you have the opportunity to add a quarterback like Jimmy that people value the way we do and the way I think most of this league does, that was something you don’t hesitate on. And you can’t tell the future. Everyone can sit here and be picky and say, ‘What if this or what if that,’ but it’s all what ifs. We had an opportunity to get a guy who we think can be a very good quarterback and when that opportunity presents itself, I don’t think you sit there and you get picky. If you believe that that’s the right deal, you don’t hesitate, you make that move and then you see what happens in the future and when that happens you deal with it.”
How does that maybe kind of certainty allow you to, I’m not saying rest easy, but just plan for what you have to do and say, ‘Now we can build around this guy,’ as opposed to we’ve still got to figure this out?
“Well, I look at everything year-to-year. Like when I got here, you look at your board, you study a lot of film, you try to see where your roster is at, where contracts are, how long you’re going to have people and you try to see the holes in your roster. By no means can you fix all that stuff in one year. Sometimes you can’t do it in two years. All teams have to deal with that. Every team has certain holes on their roster. No one is every going to fill all of those and you don’t just go to a store and buy stuff to just fit those holes. The opportunity has to come across. The right people have to come across and when you see that and you think that there’s a person there that can help you, to me you don’t hesitate because you don’t know if there’s going to be a quarterback here, you don’t know if there’s going to be an O-Lineman here. So, when you have the chance to get one, you have to do it because I’ve gone into drafts, I’ve gone into free agency, I’ve gone into everything plenty of times saying, ‘Hey, we need this guy,’ and then you see the options and there isn’t that guy. So, do you go without that guy or do you end up making a mistake? That’s something that you don’t want to do. So, anytime you have an opportunity to fill something like that and to improve your team, those opportunities don’t happen much. That’s, to me, why when it comes around, you don’t hesitate.”
How can you evaluate the run game? Obviously, so many injuries to the offensive line, but are you able to evaluate the running backs right now with what they are doing well and not right now? The second part of that question is how stressed are you to be creative to get that running game going?
“It’s a fine line. When you have a lot of different O-Linemen going in and out, if you try to get too creative guys struggle to execute. Also, you need to get creative to give your players an advantage too. We try that week-in and week-out. Sometimes you get too creative. If guys can’t execute and they don’t get the exact looks, it makes it harder. Sometimes if you stay too simple and they’re outmatched, the defense can tee off on you. So, that’s the balance you try to find between coach and players every single week. That’s something we’ve done. We’ve gone back and forth with that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t always just evaluate, the same with the quarterback, but I don’t always evaluate a runner on his yards per a carry, his number of touchdowns. I just watch each clip. I see where the hole is supposed to be, where it’s coached to go, when it’s blocked to be there. I can tell if we block a play, that really we should get negative four yards on and the back ends up getting negative two, that’s a very good run to me and I notice that stuff. But, his yards per carry at the end of the game aren’t going to look very good. There’s sometimes when I believe that we block a play up where it’s 15 yards before contact. I’m not judging the back until what he does after those 15 yards, because to me if it’s blocked up perfectly anyone can get to that point, but it’s what do you do when you get to that. There’s not an easy answer for that, but that’s why I don’t think there’s any absolutes. That’s why you’ve got to watch a lot of film to really have a true honest opinion on what a player is doing, because football to me is different than most other sports. It takes 11 guys to be successful and a running game is never just on the running back, it’s never just on the O-Line. It affects receivers, quarterbacks, I think it takes 11 people to run the ball and that’s what we evaluate every time we do.”
Based on your evaluation, how do you see RB Carlos Hyde running right now?
“I think Carlos is a very good back. I think he’s done some good things for us. Just like everybody, he’s had some better games than others. I thought he played very well versus Dallas. I didn’t think he had his best game versus Philly, but I think Carlos has had a good year for us.”
With that kind of position, given the pressure and expectation, it seems to be a big part of the job, Jimmy doesn’t have much experience, he’s walking into a situation where there’s going to be a lot of stress and pressure and expectations. Do you have a sense for how he will be able to deal with that or is that just an unknown?
“You have a sense, and that’s what’s always impressed me about him. You try to watch how a guy carries himself. Getting to know him a little bit throughout the college process when he was coming out, just watching how he carried himself in New England, on TV, interviews, talking to people who have a lot of experience with him, I’ve been very impressed with that. You never know until you’re with someone and you really go through it, but I don’t think there’s more pressure here than there was for him in New England. Everyone has their own situations and when he played for New England they had a lot of expectations. And so I think it was a lot of pressure for a guy to go in and take over a team like that in the times that he did. Just like there will be when he comes here and gets his opportunity here. Every situation is different, but I know he hasn’t played in a lot of games, but when he has I think there has been pressure on him. I know there will be here too. That’s how it is for everyone.”
Because you’ve studied Jimmy for such a long time and really kind of feel like you know what he brings to the table, how will you balance the idea in learning a playbook with throwing him out there and trying to see if he can be successful as opposed to waiting maybe for the rest of the season and not even putting him out there at all?
“Yeah, that’s why I have no certainty what we’ll do. That’s why I’m taking it one day at a time. I can’t promise you guys that he won’t play this week. I can’t promise you guys that he’ll play this year. I know that we have a guy that we’re excited about and I know has the ability to really help us and help this team in the future. That’s what I mean by we didn’t do this to just save this year. We did this because we feel this will improve our team and our organization. I’m not going to put someone out there who I don’t think has a chance to be successful. And that starts with the playbook, that starts with understanding the plays that you’re calling, how to communicate it to the other 10 guys, to know actually where people are when you say it. And not many people can understand that or should. Just like I can’t understand much outside of what I’m talking about right now. But, it’s tough. It’s tougher than people realize and you come in and it is a complete foreign language and he has only been one place and where he was before that I’m very familiar with some of that system and stuff they did. There’s no playbook. It’s a very spread offense. There’s going to be a lot of meeting time and just talking in terms of where people are lining up, protections, routes, and that’s something that it’ll take a while to grasp and most quarterbacks don’t even with an offseason until their second year in a system. We’ll take it week-to-week. We’ll see what happens, but regardless of what happens I know it’s not the finished product. We’ve got a good person. We’ve got a talented player. I’m very excited to have him and after that I just want to go to work with him and we’ll see what happens.”