With TE Garrett Celek, has his play increased probably because he’s doing well, but also because he knows the offense and he can help maybe get the play call out if there was a problem?
“No, he’s gotten better as the year has gone in the run game and the pass game. I know [TE] George [Kittle] has been banged up throughout the year, so George battled to get back from a number of injuries. He’s healthy enough to play right now, but he’s still not fully healthy, battling through some stuff. And, Celek has just gotten better as the year’s gone, so we’ve left him out there more. We rotated both of them a lot more earlier in the year, but now he’s getting the majority of the reps.”
How has he gotten better?
“I think he’s just gotten more confident in what he’s doing. The more you do stuff, I mean it was a new offense for him this year too. You learn through going through experiences. You learn through succeeding and failing. The more games you play, it all depends on how you react to those situations. Every time he’s had a bad situation, he’s gotten better from it or learned from it. He’s put that together a bunch. He’s been a much more consistent player as the year’s gone. He’s found a way in these last few weeks to make some big plays in the pass game too.”
When you look at the moments that you’re facing here, you get three teams probably going to the playoffs. Does the way the schedule ramps up excite you because you guys aren’t going to the postseason, so building into next year you get this kind of--?
“Yeah, it does. I do think it’s a neat challenge right now and we’re going against three teams who are all playing for their playoff lives. I think if anyone’s ever been in that situation, you get the intensity that picks up in those types of buildings. I think that’s a goal for our team. I want that not to matter. I want us to be as intense as we can every single possible game, whether you’re playing for the playoffs, you’re in the playoffs or it’s the first game of the year. I don’t want there to be a difference. I also think there’s a good challenge for our team this week to know what we’re getting from these three teams in a row. Also, I’d like us to look at it the same way. Hopefully we plan on being in this situation next year and I’d like that not to be just the first time we have that feeling. I’d like us to feel like that now and treat it that way.”
Are you expecting a new energy in the building come Sunday for QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start?
“No, I don’t think so. I think it’ll be the same as it’s been these last couple weeks. His first start at home, I’m sure there will be by the fans and stuff and things like that. But, I think our players, it’s just back to work and doing your job.”
The past month and a half as you’ve watched Jimmy play and seen him work and gotten to know how he carries himself, do you sense New England Patriots QB Tom Brady’s influence on him? Can you tell?
“Yeah, I didn’t hang out with him much before that, so I’d have to be with him before and after to tell you that. But, I think anytime you get an opportunity to hang around someone and just watch their process and how they go about their job, especially someone like Tom, where you have the guy who’s arguably the best of all time and has had an unbelievable career, I think it’s been great for Jimmy to watch how he carries himself and how basically when you’re a quarterback you’re almost CEO of the company to a certain degree. I think people look at Tom that way. There’s just this certain way to act and handle things and talk to people. Jimmy is very good at that stuff. I’m sure it helped getting to watch someone who’s probably the best at it.”
Can you define what exactly Celek Time is?
“I heard [WR] Marquise [Goodwin] try to explain it. He didn’t do a very good job. We just joke around. It started with the Giants game when he made a big catch. I think he false started or something and it set us back, but he ended up making three plays in a row, a critical play to get us into a third-and-two and then he moved the chains for us and then the next play he had that pass versus the Giants where he caught like a 20-yard pass and made a guy miss and took it to the house. We just started joking there that they didn’t realize that it was Celek Time and it just kind of stuck. We thought it was a one-time deal, but it came up again last week so now we’re getting used to it and guys enjoy it.”
You’re better than Marquise. Thank you.
“Thank you. You’re welcome.”
What would winning your third game in a row against a team like Tennessee do for your confidence, your team’s confidence and where you want to be in the future?
“Anytime you get wins, I think it adds to it. I think getting these last two have been big for us. We got close in a number early in the year and then came up short, which I think got real frustrating. We hit a lull with that and with the little bit of injuries in the same span. Then I thought we rebounded where it started versus the Giants, then had a setback versus Seattle and then played better versus Chicago and that led to us playing better last week versus Houston. I hope that continues to lead us into playing better this week. The more you win, that’s how you develop real confidence and the more you win players believe truly that they have a chance to win instead of just hoping. The more that happens, the easier it gets.”
How do you evaluate Garoppolo’s throw to RB Carlos Hyde down the middle of the field with pressure? Is that just him throwing it up and kind of hoping for the best, or is that a ridiculous throw--?
“No, I think it’s two things: one, I think he saw the coverage, so it was definitely a look we were going for, and I think he saw the coverage so he could anticipate that he had it. Unfortunately, we were just a little off on the protection and [Houston Texans OLB Jadeveon] Clowney came from the side where we couldn’t see him and slide to him the right way so he got there before it was time to throw. I thought what he did a hell of a job of was instead of just taking the sack, he knew we had the right look but he had to let it go a little bit before it presented itself. So, he put enough air and touch under it to give Carlos a chance. By no means was it an easy one. If we would have blocked a little longer or saw Clowney with the stunt they did, he would have been able to probably take a couple more hitches and just put it on him because he was going to be pretty open down the middle because the seas parted with the safeties and the MIKE linebacker was playing a shallow route. But, it was cool because we missed a protection, which usually means you don’t have a chance to throw it, but he threw it early and put a lot of touch under it which makes it a tough catch. But, it gave him a chance to make it. So, that’s what I was impressive about the play.”
Between the offensive line and getting the ball out fast, can you use more of those plays?
“Yeah. I think everyone can see his quick release and he has the quick feet to go with it. When you have that you can wait just a half second longer because you can get rid of it a half second faster than most people. Then there’s that fine line of when to do that and when not to do it. That’s what gives you a chance when plays don’t seem like they have a chance, but he can let it extend a little bit longer and make some big plays. Then, also he’s going to try to do that and extend a little bit longer and it doesn’t work out and you end up getting a sack. You’ve got to take the good with the bad in that aspect. So far, he’s done a lot more good than bad so it’s been pretty cool.”
The Brady background, learning from Brady, both those guys seem to have calmness when they drop back when they are in the pocket surveying. Two different body types, but do you see Brady’s influences on him in that specific realm of being a quarterback?
“Yeah, they’re totally different, they are wired two totally different ways as athletes. Tom is a slower moving guy, which gets him a lot of patience in the pocket and he stays there very calm and I think that’s also how he moves naturally, where Jimmy is more a quick twitch guy who sometimes it’s harder to get those type of guys to slow down and be patient in the pocket, because they just move faster. I think that’s what has been impressive with Jimmy and I’m sure he does get that from watching a guy like Tom do it. You want both in your game. Jimmy does have both. That’s what allows him to stay in the pocket and let things develop. When there isn’t one he does have a chance to get outside of there and extend the play.”
I suppose that quick twitch that you talk about is something you can’t teach, so that’s the one thing that you want to have coaching a quarterback is a natural ability?
“Yeah, there’s a big balance between it all. Sometimes the better athlete you are growing up, you don’t sit in that pocket very long. You drop back and you just run. Usually you’re a better athlete than everyone else, so you just run around and get touchdowns and make plays and some guys go to college and continue to do that. A lot of people win Heisman’s doing that kind of stuff. Eventually, you get to the NFL and you can’t always do that. You have to learn how to sit in the pocket and let a play develop and I think that’s tough for guys who have been great athletes because it’s all about reps and you’ve just never had to do it before. Then you’ve got some guys, to me, like [former NFL QB] Peyton [Manning], probably Tom, I don’t think they were ever that fast or running around on a football field just making plays with their legs. I’m sure since Pop Warner and early on, they learned to sit in that pocket and go through progressions and do stuff. That’s why those guys are a little bit better at it when they get to the league, because they have been doing it their entire life and they don’t have to just learn versus NFL defenses. When you have both of that aspect, it definitely gives you a higher ceiling to be successful.”
Would you classify Jimmy as a risk taker?
“I don’t know yet. He’s definitely taken some. So, we’ll see as this goes. You want guys to be aggressive and let it rip. You just don’t want guys to guess. You want guys to see it and believe it in and not hesitate and think about it and let it go. When guys do that, it usually gives them a chance to be great. It’s also going to give you some games where you have a lot of picks and stuff and you just didn’t see it right and it’s how you respond to those and what do you learn from them. Does it make you more gun-shy and do you get worse as it goes because of it? Or do you learn why you saw it wrong, why you made that pick and you get better? I think if you look at a lot of the great quarterbacks through all-time, a lot of them, especially early in their careers, they have had a lot of picks. They have had a lot of pick-sixes and stuff. Those guys learn from it and get better from it and the guys who don’t, it usually gets a lot worse.”
I noticed you have the guys walking out with the boombox in the tunnel before the game.
“Yeah, I was told the players asked for it. They said it was a little too dull when they left. We have music in our locker room and there was a time when they left the locker room and they had to go on a little bit of walk and sometimes they would sit in the tunnel before they were allowed to go out and they lost their energy because they didn’t have good music going. So, we got them music.”
Is it the same song each time?
“No. I’m not sure. I never walk out at that time. I think they play something different all the time, but you’d probably have to ask them.”
You’ve had six games in Levi’s Stadium so far. What’s your take on the atmosphere? Are you hoping that this two-game winning streak will bring a little bit more on Sunday?
“I hope so. I hope we play better there than we have so we can keep that going. I think there has been times, like in that Rams game, where I thought it got pretty loud for us. I thought our fans were great in the Giants game in that second half, when we gave them some reasons to get into it and excited. I know the Seattle game was bad. Jimmy came in and threw that touchdown at the last second. I was going off the field very frustrated and I heard our fans still cheering and excited because of the way it ended. So, I do think there has been some good things in our stadium, but considering how our record has been here this year and the last few years, obviously we’ve got to give them a little bit more to be entertained and have reasons to get excited and get there early and have their energy throughout four quarters.”
You have a familiar friend back in the locker room in WR Max McCaffrey?
“Yeah, it was weird seeing him. He looks a little bit like his dad. It was nice this time of year when you’re not in the playoffs and things like that, we had some guys go down so you have some roster spots where, I haven’t been in this situation much, where you get an advantage to where you get a chance to take some people off other people’s rosters and take a look at them before this offseason goes. Max is the one I studied coming out. We worked him out in Atlanta. I know our personnel department was high on him. So, it was nice to get that opportunity.”
What strikes you about the Titans defense?
“They’re very good. They’re very talented. I think it starts with their front seven. They’ve got two good edge rushers and they’ve got all their players inside are good. [Tennessee Titans DE Jurrell] Casey I think is, I haven’t played him in a couple years, but he’s been one of the better three-techniques in the league for the last few years. They’re sound in what they do schematically. [Tennessee Titans assistant head coach/defensive coordinator] Dick [LeBeau] has always been that way. They present you issues with their pressures and things, but they also do it in a sound way. They’ve got good players, good coaches and they play very physical.”