The San Francisco 49ers open their pair of joint practices with the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, with a 10:15 a.m. padded session. This marks the 49ers’ fourth straight year of some kind of joint practice, and their third straight with the Broncos.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan discussed the value of the joint practices during his Tuesday press conference. He talked about getting to face new coverages and schemes on both sides of the ball. The teams will plan out the entire session to maximize the value for both sides, with a padded practice on Wednesday, and a non-padded practice on Thursday.
One coach who loves him some joint practices is New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. He runs them each preseason, and in fact, has gotten into the habit of doing them with multiple teams. With new CBA rules decreasing the amount of work a team can get in, joint practices provide an opportunity to increase the value of what they do get.
Back in 2015, Belichick discussed the value of joint practices as the Patriots were preparing for a session with the New Orleans Saints (h/t John Middlekauff). He talked about discussing with Sean Payton what their goals are, and taking what each side had installed on their own and work it against different schemes and player groups.
"This really isn't a game plan, what plays we run against the Saints or what they run against us and that kind of thing, trying to create advantages or use schematics to give your team an advantage. It's more evaluating individual players against different matchups and letting your players learn the execution of the plays against a different type of defense or against a different type of offense than what we're seeing over the last two weeks from ourselves.”
Belichick thinks the experience is valuable when they’re not trying to game plan to beat the other side because both teams are at different stages of preparation. Instead, you do what you’ve worked on, and you see how it looks straight up against a new look and group of players.
"I think more important than that is the work and the quality of work that you get and that's what really important to me -- having another team that you can work with that shares similar goals where you can structure the practices and the days so that they can be productive for you and the other team feels that they can be productive for them, so it's a win-win both ways. We're not really trying to gain an advantage here on anybody, and I don't think anybody's trying to gain an advantage on us.”
This is particularly interesting because the 49ers and Broncos each have a rookie head coach. Both have extensive experience as assistant coaches, but this marks their first opportunity to lead an entire team. Considering how regularly the 49ers play the Broncos in the preseason, and this marking the third straight year of a joint practice, this could become a regular thing as the two new head coaches grow in their careers.