With the IR guys, DL Tank Carradine or DL Arik Armstead, do you plan on having them back this season?
“We plan on activating Tank today or at least where he can get in to practice. It’s a tough decision, but we feel Tank has got a good chance to at least be back for these last six games where we know Arik would have been only the last two. We had to make a decision today, so we’re going to go with Tank right now.”
With QB Jimmy Garoppolo, would you consider, I know you might be getting ready, but would you consider putting him in special situations like goal line or red zone or those types of things just to get him--?
“Yeah, we’ve got a huge goal line red zone plan for him. So, we’ll see if we use it. No, I’d consider anything. I really would. It’s day-to-day. We’re throwing a lot at him. We’re considering everything.”
How’s he doing? It’s a different playbook.
“Yeah, definitely. It’s not only just a different playbook, but it’s a different game plan each week too this time of year. That’s what is so important about OTAs and training camp. That’s the foundation of your playbook, where the verbiage, how you package everything together, protections, concepts, run plays and the play action, how it all ties together. Then every week it’s a different game plan from that foundation throughout the summer. When you miss that foundation, it’s tough. He came in last week, crammed in the verbiage, worked as hard as you could at it. We had a plan for him last week, if we needed to use him, that he was ready for. He came in on Monday, started working again. Much farther ahead on Monday then he was last week. He’s a smart guy and works at it, so he’s much further ahead now than he was last week. I expect that to be week-to-week to continue to get further ahead.”
You say you would consider anything and everything. Does that mean he’s in consideration for starting or is that still QB C.J. Beathard?
“Well, yeah, I’ll consider everything. I’ll watch how practice goes. I still think a lot more similar to how I was last week. Just where we’re at, where they both are at. But, it’s a day-to-day thing right now and we’re planning for it all. That’s how it was last week, too. We planned and hoped he could go. We evaluated how he was on Friday. If we didn’t feel he was comfortable with the playbook and the set plan that he had, then we would have activated [QB] Nick [Mullens], our third guy, our practice squad guy. But, he made a big jump to where we felt comfortable with him. Today is the first time we get out on the field. He’s been good in the meeting room. We’ll evaluate that every day after practice and see where he is on Friday after practice.”
We spoke to New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo just a little while ago and he said he expects to see him out there just because as an offensive coach he would be eager to see his new acquisition on the field. Do you have that same excitement, desire, to kind of see what he can do in your offense?
“Definitely. I think I’m very eager too and excited to see him out there. That doesn’t always mean that’s the right decision, so that’s what I’m trying to balance out. If I just went off impulse and feeling, I would have done that the very first day, the very first second. But, I’m trying to do what’s right for Jimmy and what’s right for our team. A lot more things go into that and it’s not something I can set a date on or a plan. It’s something that I have to evaluate. And there’s a lot more decisions to that than just can he spit out the play. How’s he doing? Is he comfortable in there? Does he have a chance to run the offense? You never know with some situations we get in. Just like last week, on Sunday, when you lose a fullback, you lose your tight end, you lose your slot receiver. I mean, you’re changing an entire game plan on the sideline from the first quarter on. That would be very tough for a guy who’s been at three practices. So, lots of things go into it, but of course I’m eager and excited. Hopefully it’s sooner than later, but again I’m not setting a date on it.”
You haven’t fully committed to C.J. starting this game?
“I’m committed to C.J. starting right now. He’s going to get all the reps as the starting quarterback right now when we go out to practice. But, you go to Thursday’s practice and you go to Friday’s practice. This happens with a lot of players. It’s not just the quarterback. We’ve had guys being the starters at certain positions on Wednesday, Thursday and based on how they practice we change that on Friday. All guys get reps. Starters get more than the second-team guys. I expect C.J. to start this week. I’m not trying to lead you guys on to anything. I feel very similar, I really feel the exact same as I felt last week. I know for obvious reasons, Jimmy is further along than he was last week, but there’s no big thing. I’m not trying to confuse you guys. I plan on going with C.J. and we’ll see how practice goes.”
You said you didn’t bring in Garoppolo to save your season. So, what do you gain potentially by playing him down the stretch when you’re 0-9 now and a lot of the players he theoretically would play with next year are hurt?
“Guy gets an opportunity to play. He hasn’t played very much, so if we think it can help him, if we think it can help our team, then that’s something you want to do. I don’t want to throw a guy into a situation that’s tough to succeed in. It’s very tough when some of the stuff we are going through injury-wise, but it’s not just that. It’s also throwing a guy in that situation with his lack of reps and lack of experience. So, no we didn’t bring him here to save our season, but we had a great opportunity at the time to get a very good quarterback for what we thought was very good value, and that’s why we didn’t hesitate. That was the cool thing about getting him, that it was I don’t feel the pressure that ‘Hey, we have to do this right now. We have to do that.’ That’s one of the reasons I said, I think the first day I got here, that I wanted to come here is that I thought we were in a position where we could do things the right way and make the right decisions and that’s really what we are trying to do now. We’re not trying to make a decision based off of what our record is, based off of that I know everyone is very excited and wants to see him play, including myself, including our coaches and players, including my wife. I get that. I’m very well aware of that, but I think I’m fortunate to be in a situation where we truly can do what we think is right and that’s really what we’re trying to figure out and that’s not something you just assume. It’s something you watch day-to-day and you take everything into account.”
Your wife is putting some pressure on you?
“I mean, she’s getting used to my comments now. She’s understanding. I had to simmer her down a little bit. When you make a trade, everyone feels the same. Everyone comes in the next day, ‘Oh this is what it’s going to be the rest of the year.’ Trying to explain myself to you guys, I have to explain myself to her too. She understands it more now than she did the first day. I’m chipping away at it.”
You said last week you needed to get Jimmy far enough to where he has a chance if he has to go into a game. Is that a play count? He has to be able to handle 15 to 20 play calls, or what does that look like?
“Definitely. Like last week, if C.J. would have gone down, you guys would have saw me rip up my call sheet and you would have saw another call sheet come from someone and hand it to me and I would have gone with what [Jimmy] knows. That’s what he was prepared to do. We didn’t know if he would be prepared to do that when he came in on Tuesday, I think Tuesday night. But, by Friday night, we decided he could do that and there were enough plays in all situations, because it’s got to be first, second down plays, it’s got to be a group of third downs, it’s got to be some of two-minute, it’s got to be red zone. We felt we had enough that he could come in, but that is hard when you have injuries in a game and now you’ve got to start changing stuff on the sidelines and doing plays that weren’t necessarily in the game plan. That would be very tough for anyone. I could just put everything in the game plan too and then no one would learn anything, because it would be too much.”
Are you looking at the ball park of how many plays were on that second?
“Well, it was a package of runs and passes and you wristband it in the runs. You’ve just got to know how to get out of them. You don’t really have to understand them all. You’ve got to be able to word it and you’ve got to know when it’s a bad one to go to the other one. There’s about 25 runs that you might not understand, but he can call it and know when it’s a bad look and then there’s about 20 passes.”
That process you just described, if you said put everything in and then nobody will know what to do, is it fair to say to say that there’s so much left in this offense that we haven’t even seen yet because you’re in that same situation with C.J. as he’s learned as he’s gone along?
“Yes, it’s not that there’s so much left in the offense. We just have the ability in our scheme to go whatever direction that we want with certain personnel people. I know this is probably hard to understand, but we have an ‘F’ position and that ‘F’ position when we are in 21 personnel is [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice. When we’re in 12 it’s [TE George] Kittle or [TE] Cole Hikutini. When we’re in 11, it’s [WR] Trent Taylor. It’s all the same position. Where do we put that person? If it’s Trent Taylor, he’s probably not going to be in the backfield like Juice is. He’s probably going to be out wide, but it’s all the same spot and that allows you to mix and match a lot of different things and do a ton of different things while you’re doing some of the same stuff over and over again. That’s what was unique about last week. We lost all ‘F’s’, which is a headache. There’s lots of ways you can go with it, but it’s not about just calling plays and trying to scheme it up. It’s about trying your hardest to give your players a chance to be successful and that’s what we’re trying to do here. I thought we had a time earlier in the season when we got a little bit more on a roll with that, where I could feel it clicking a little more each week and being able to push it a little bit more with some of the stuff we were doing and tying things together where you have more than one play called. But, the more injuries that happened, then you don’t just scale it down because you you’re trying to make it easier. You scale it down because you have limited options and you’re trying to put guys in situations that they haven’t prepared a ton at so you can’t throw too much at them.”
Have you considered for next season bringing in an offensive coordinator and if not, why?
“I mean, I think I have lots of good guys on our staff. I can give anyone that title just so people don’t ask me that question. I have guys on our staff who do a great job, guys who are in charge of the run game, guys who are in charge of the pass game. Everybody has certain areas from third down to short yardage to first-second down run game to third down run game to backed up. We have a staff who’s worked together, who knows how to, I think we’re very efficient. I don’t plan on not calling the plays. So, I don’t necessarily see why that’s necessary.”
In retrospect, do you think you took on too many responsibilities this year?
“As far as being a head coach and calling plays?”
And the amount of game planning you do for the offense?
“No, I think that’s my job. I’m 37 years old. I’m not just ready to get my first head coaching job and just sit there and just oversee everything. I think I got hired for what I’ve done on offense in my career. I’m really enjoying being a head coach. I had to change up my schedule and stuff and my routine on what I do as an offensive coordinator and really to prepare to call a game. But, no, I think that’s what I can provide best to a team and until I can’t, if I ever feel someone else can provide that better than I have no problem not doing it. I wouldn’t hesitate.”
One more question, who is, you said someone is in charge of game planning for the run game and the pass game? Would you tell us who it is?
“Yeah, I mainly lean on [offensive line coach] John Benton, our O-Line coach and [run game specialist] Mike McDaniel from the run game standpoint. They’re the ones who, they get together, they talk a lot, they put out a plan. The pass game, [quarterbacks coach] Rich Scangarello, our quarterback coach and [wide receivers/passing game specialist] Mike LaFleur, he’s our pass game specialist and receivers coach. Those guys do a lot of it. I do a lot of it on my own too before we all get together. We send different guys in different areas where Rich will be working on third downs for Monday and Tuesday, where me and Mike might be doing first and second down. And then we’ll get together tonight and spend tonight talking to Rich about what he’s seeing and then we’ll tell him what we’ve seeing. Then you get it all together and you get the plays down. We work very well together. We’ve got a bunch of guys who understand our process. We’ve gotten better at it as the year’s gone because guys I have worked with, they’ve been used to me being there at certain times. Earlier on they’ve got to, ‘Hey, he isn’t always here right now. We’ve got to go ahead with this.’ It’s been nice. I come back in later, ‘What do you guys got so far.’ And, I like a lot of it. And I go, ‘Here’s what I was thinking.’ And then we mix it together and by the time Saturday night comes and we put in the openers and sleep pretty comfortably on Saturday nights and show up on Sunday and I call it.”
Besides the scheme, are you concerned about protection? C.J. has taken a lot of shots. Would that factor into the time when you put Jimmy in?
“Again, it all factors in. I don’t want Jimmy to take all those shots. I don’t want C.J. either. It’s not just the O-Line, it’s a combination of everything. We have to thread more people in our pass game. We’ve gotten blitzed probably more, definitely more than I’ve ever had in my career. Most of it is run blitzes to try to stop your run and dare you to do some things. You have to make people pay and that’s the only way to scare people out of stuff and I think we’ve struggled to make people pay. The whole way I look at offense is what are you doing to us. I’m going to try to find a way to scare you out of that and until you do, people are going to continue to do that. I think that’s where we haven’t been able to dictate what the defense is doing and that’s the goal. I don’t want to just bang my head against a wall and do stuff over and over. I want to find the weakness of the defense and attack that and make them change to open up other stuff. We haven’t done that consistently enough.”
You obviously knew defensive coordinator Robert Saleh before, but what have you learned about him since the regular season started and has anything surprised you in particular?
“I’ve been real impressed with how Robert’s handled this year. I knew Saleh before, but I hadn’t worked with him in eight years or so. I’d see him once a year at the Combine or for five seconds if we’d play against Seattle or Jacksonville, but I always knew he was a good guy. I always knew he was extremely smart. I knew how much football he knew by going through the interview process with him. I’ve been impressed with Saleh because he’s been around some schemes, some very sound schemes, especially Seattle and Jacksonville and I’ve been very impressed with the injuries we’ve had, his ability to adjust. If I suggest something, he’s not just going to say, ‘Okay, yes.’ And, run and go do it. He’s going to go think about it and come back, tell me why he likes it, why he doesn’t. It’s a person I trust how he thinks and he works very hard. He’s good with people and I feel like when you have someone who’s smart like that and does things for the right reason, there’s no way that he won’t just continue to get better and better.”