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Kyle Shanahan talks 49ers losses, C.J. Beathard’s development, Matt Breida injury

The San Francisco 49ers head coach met with the media on Monday to go over Sunday’s awful loss to the Arizona Cardinals. We have a full transcript.

Opening comments:

“[RB Matt] Breida, he’s not going to practice on Thursday. It was positive news. It wasn’t a high ankle sprain, but it’s still definitely a serious sprain. So, probably end up being doubtful this week. [WR Dante] Pettis won’t be going, either. All the guys we’ll have to re-check on Thursday before practice; [T Joe] Staley, again, a knee, [C/G Weston] Richburg, knee, [OL Mike] Person, knee, [TE Garrett] Celek, quad, [TE George] Kittle, knee, [WR Marquise] Goodwin, thigh and hamstring, [CB Richard] Sherman, calf, [DB Jimmie] Ward, hamstring, and [LB Reuben] Foster, shoulder.”

You guys aren’t practicing Tuesday or Wednesday?

“No. I’ll probably mess up the days all week. Today is a bonus day for us. Tomorrow is our Monday, and Wednesday will be our Tuesday. Thursday is our Wednesday.”

When you say Dante Pettis isn’t going, does that mean he’s not practicing or he’s not playing on Monday?

“No, he won’t be playing this week, either.”

Is the schedule just the way the schedule is or is it because of the injuries you want to give guys more--?

“No. It’s just because we have eight days. So, we thought it would be good today to give guys more rest. The treatment guys came in and did all that. Tomorrow, we’ll treat tomorrow as the day after the game and go through our normal process with the players, give them Tuesday off, which will be Wednesday, and we’ll start up our regular day Thursday, which I will call Wednesday. It’ll be a confusing week for me and anyone that talks to us outside of this building.”

Is the injury situation lightening up to the point where you would think about adding a third quarterback this week?

“I see it as a very similar situation right now as last week. We’re talking about this stuff every Monday. We had a number of running backs in today to work out. We haven’t come to a conclusion yet on the quarterback. We’ll look more into that tomorrow since tomorrow will be a Monday. We’ll still have two more days.”

Are you looking to add a running back this week?

“Possibly. We’re trying to see how our guys are, how the health of Breida is. It was better news than anticipated, but it’s still not great news. So, we’ll see that over the next couple of days. It was good to take a look at some guys today.”

You were so good a couple weeks ago disclosing some names for the quarterbacks. I would assume you’ll do the same right now for the running backs. Who came in today?

“All I remember was jersey numbers. I don’t remember all of the names. Sorry.”

Are they proven?

“I don’t want to leave anybody’s name out. It’d be insulting to them, because I should have them all like that, but I just don’t.”

Is RB Jeff Wilson Jr. in the running to be elevated?

“Yes. Jeff will definitely be in the running. I can tell you, [WR] Jeremy McNichols we worked out because we had him here throughout training camp and stuff. There were four others.”

When looking at a quarterback, same question you’ve been posed, are you looking at a practice squad guy or are you looking as a backup to QB C.J. Beathard?

“We know [QB] Nick Mullens is our backup to Beathard. So, we’re looking for a guy who would have the chance to come in and play if C.J. went down and Nick was going so we could have an immediate backup right away. You’d love to ideally find that as a practice squad guy, but we haven’t been able to do that yet. Either one which would fit that situation better.”

You’d look at probably carrying three quarterbacks?

“Yes. That’s more the way we’re planning on going. We’re kind of hoping we can buy some time until our roster situation makes that easier.”

Why were there so many false starts yesterday? What exactly happened on the one where TE Garrett Celek got called for a false start while the official was over the ball?

“That one threw me off, too. I didn’t even think the game was going on at the time. So, I didn’t totally get to see it live. I think watching it on the film, and I haven’t got to speak to the guys yet today, it looked like [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice flinched a little bit before the play had started, which I didn’t even know if that was legal or not. Then, Celek followed. They went offsides and they called it.”

What about some of the linemen were jumping? Were the Cardinals drawing them off?

“I think [Arizona Cardinals DE] Chandler Jones got us a couple times. Any time you’ve got a guy who is tough to pass block, that will happen. I think there was one time that we were a little bit hesitant to go in motion on one play so we had to draw out the cadence just a little bit longer than usual. That was one time [OL] Laken [Tomlinson] lost his patience, which, for that reason I don’t put all on him.”

On the strip-sack that they returned for a touchdown, it was a delayed blitz. The protection went to the left and they came in from the right side. Was that an adjustment that should’ve been made before the snap or was it just a good call by them just given the situation?

“No. It just happens a lot. They blitz one backer and your running back picks him up, who is on the other side of the ball. So, the guy guarding him in man coverage has to come around. Once he blocks, then he hugs up. So, it’s not really a hot situation where it’s two to the backs. If you guys are following my terminology, it’s hot when two guys are to the backs, when it’s one guy and the second guy is hugging up in man coverage we call that pretty warm, which means you have time to get rid of it. But, the guy’s got to be open. That was the issue on that play. That’s why you see C.J. go to throw it. He was making the right read, just the guy wasn’t open. So, he pulled it back and he’s got to protect the ball when that happens.”

Those short passes and screens were effective on that opening drive and at various points of the game. Was that something that the Cardinals adjusted to after the opening drive?

“No. Screens are always hit or miss. Sometimes, you catch them in blitzes. If you can get it off and no one sees the guy you’re screening to, there’s a lot of room to run. Sometimes, you run them into blitzes and the guy you’re trying to screen two runs into stunting people and it’s a wasted call. Screens are always hit or miss. We were fortunate on a number of them yesterday and a few we weren’t.”

Did you game plan that because you knew that the Cardinals liked to blitz or because you knew you wouldn’t have a lot of downfield options given your receiver situation?

“We game plan them because we thought they would work in the game and they did to a degree. I thought they helped us out a lot, but there’s only so many screens you can call. I think we hit our quota yesterday.”

Matt Breida has never run more than 12 times in a game, but yesterday he ran eight times in the first quarter. It looked like he was going to have a monster career day. What was your impression of him in that first quarter?

“I thought he’s been running how he has all year. He’s been hitting it hard. He had a real good week of practice. I know he was limited with his shoulder and stuff, but his legs were moving a lot better than the week before after he hyperextended his knee I think versus Kansas City. So, I thought he was fresher going into it. He’s been running good all year and the guys have been giving him good lanes. It was unfortunate he had that injury. I’ve been real happy with Breida.”

Was the plan to ride him in that game?

“It’s never to ride him. It’s to keep him fresh. I think we got him runs early. But, no, there’s never, ‘Hey, we’re just going to keep handing it to this guy, the ball, until he falls.’ [Running backs coach Robert] Bobby Turner [Jr.] does a really good job watching him. He knows when they need to rest and he gets the next guy up when that happens. But, I think Breida has earned it to where we’re trying to keep him in longer than the other guys. You don’t want to do that too long. You’ve got to take care of him.”

On the first strip-sack, Staley took responsibility for it after the game, but it also looked like Beathard could have stepped up. He had plenty of room in the pocket. Is that something where he just needs to maybe be a little bit more aware of what’s going on around him so he can avoid that play?

“Yeah. It was cool of Joe to do that, and I think C.J. would say the same thing. He did step up in the pocket. He took two steps up. Chandler Jones, I thought, made a very good play. I think he needs to realize that when you’re going against a guy who is almost an alien with how long his arms are, you’ve got to step up even more than you did. Joe wasn’t bad on the play. He wasn’t perfect, either. C.J. didn’t just stand there. He tried to hitch up because we had Juice down the sideline. It’s a longer developing play. So, he hitched up twice to do it and right when Juice popped open, he went to throw and Chandler Jones’ arm got him, which I thought was more of a hell of a play by Chandler than anything I’d overcorrect Joe on or C.J., but C.J. definitely can learn from that. We’ll be seeing them in a few weeks. You can talk about his length, but I think he feels it a little bit better now.”

Do you see improvement in C.J.’s pocket awareness at all since obviously last year, but in the last two weeks?

“Yeah, I have. Definitely. I know yesterday wasn’t a great day in that area. I think it was a lot easier for everyone to see versus Los Angeles. I thought yesterday we got caught on the pocket a number of times. That didn’t all have to do with C.J. There’s times that it did. There’s times that they had some blitzes where he had to get rid of it. There’s times where we didn’t get open very well. By no means was C.J. perfect, but it was not all his responsibility.”

The saying is, “It’s never as good as you think or never as bad as you think,” but obviously yesterday didn’t look very good because of all of the turnovers. When you watched this thing today, did you come out of it feeling more encouraged than maybe when you left here last night?

“I know that’s the saying. Yesterday was one of the things that it was almost exactly what you thought it was. I think that’s the most plays I’ve ever been a part of in a game, besides going against it. It was the opposite in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. But, that was the first time that I think I’ve ever been on a team with over 90 plays. So, we had a lot of first downs. I felt like we were moving the ball pretty well. I think we had our best game on third down, our best game in the red zone. I thought our defense played very well, minus that first play. I thought they tackled better. I thought they did better on third down. I think we gave up two in the red zone which we could have done better on. But, for the most part, I felt like we were going in the right direction in a lot of areas that we’ve been focusing on, trying to improve on. Then you get to that turnover section of the stat sheet and that wasn’t the right direction. Five turnovers to zero is a pretty catastrophic stat and one that’s very hard to overcome.”

When you have, whatever it is, 92 plays, are you just repeating plays? Do you have enough plays that you don’t have to repeat or what’s that like for you as a play caller?

“It’s the same. You repeat plays all of the time. Sometimes you change up formations and stuff and you move guys different places, but you do that week-in and week-out, also. You don’t go through 1,500 plays in a year and have 1,500 different plays. There’s 50 things that we can do in different ways and we mix them up as the year goes.”

Can you talk about what happened in the missed extra point?

“Yeah, it’s just the exchange wasn’t clean. I think you can see a little bit more on the TV copy. The hold wasn’t real clean, I think he adjusted it a little bit at the last second and made us hesitate on it. We’ve got to be cleaner with the snap and the hold.”

Did either of the young Xs stand out to you, the guys that played that position yesterday?

“I was happy that they got some experience. It was a first game for them. I’d like them to improve going forward on that. I think both of them got their first NFL catches. They made some good plays, but by no means was it perfect. There are certain things they can do better, but I was happy to get them out there and I’m not scared to use them again.”

Is Goodwin going to be able to practice on Thursday?

“I don’t know yet. We’ll re-check him then. I hope so though.”

On that fourth down play, WR Trent Taylor’s touchdown, you were kind of going down the sideline. Were you just looking to get a better look at the defense pre-snap?

“Yes. If we had a look that we didn’t like at all, I was going to call timeout.”

I’m sure you’re not unaware of the perception. You’re 1-4, you just lost to a winless team, you’ve got a couple of tough games. Many people are like, “Well, the season is kind of lost.” It sounds like you addressed maybe some of that to some degree in the locker room yesterday. If you did, can you kind of share your message or what the message will be this week if you feel that it needs to be delivered?

“I totally understand the frustration and I understand the question with our record. You go into last year and a lot of people were expecting it more last year so we didn’t get it quite as much. The way we finished, I totally expect people to be more frustrated because I think people did have higher expectations going into this year. So did we. We thought we’d start better than 0-9 last year last year also though, even though the expectations weren’t quite as high. I think it was a tough blow early in the year, as everyone knows, losing [RB Jerick] McKinnon and then losing our starting quarterback. So, I do think that takes a toll and I think everyone understands that. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t win games. I think we’ve played in two games now without [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] and I think we have been more than capable of winning both of those games and we haven’t gotten it done. So, you try to look at that and you just try to say to the players, ‘Why did we lose those games? What did we do good and what did we do bad?’ I think there’s lots of answers in there of what we could have done better to win. That’s really all you can focus on. I understand the pressure that people have, players, coaches, personnel people. It’s different in this day and age where you hear everything. It’s hard to simplify your world. With social media, when guys go home, even if they don’t listen to things, their wives do, their girlfriends do, their brothers do. That’s the world we live in. So, when you go through that stuff and you don’t meet outside expectations, it starts to affect you. I just try to constantly preach to our guys to be stronger than that, to try to not pay attention to that. Because, that’s not going to help you solve any problems. That’s part of what we do, that’s part of what we signed up for and we expect it. Now, are we capable of winning these games? I definitely think we are. I think you could look at numbers or you can watch the film. I thought we did a lot to where we should have won that game yesterday. But, I can tell you exactly why we gave ourselves no chance to. We had five turnovers and they had zero. You can go to the Los Angeles game and we can talk the same way and I can come up with things. When you have no chance in hell and you look at that, then that’s pretty discouraging. I know we’ve been through some adversity. I know this is the hand that we’ve been dealt and I think we have the people in our organization, I think we have the players, I think we have strong enough people who can deal with it and man up and find a way to win. It’s never easy. It definitely gets harder when you do have injures and things like that. But, we have people in here who can win games. We could have won that game yesterday and we came up short. That starts with me. We’ve got two days to deal with it, two days to look through all of it and when our players come in we’ll be moving on to Green Bay. We’ll have another chance to do this. That is what’s cool about the NFL, no matter what happens you get a chance the next week to redeem yourself. If we don’t, it’ll be just as hard as it is now, if not harder. But, we don’t plan on that happening. We plan on getting this out of our system here over the next couple of days. We plan on manning up, coming to work, not worrying about things that we can’t control and focusing on getting better. I’ll be very surprised if our guys don’t do that.”

The other side of the turnover thing is that you guys didn’t force any. I think Richard Sherman said that that’s tied back to the pass rush and numbers say you guys haven’t gotten much. Going forward with the pass rush, what’s the balance you have to walk between staying true to your scheme and maybe varying what you need to do in terms of blitzes or getting more creative to generate the pass rushing game?

“I think that’s what we’ve been doing. I think we blitz a lot more than we have in the past. When everything’s perfect, you can just sit there and play cover three every single play, get home, have your four guys underneath drop, make them check it down because it’s going to happen very fast, your corners stay on top and defend the go’s, your middle-third safety just defends the post and then there’s no other responsibility. The quarterback is going to have to get rid of it on one hitch and he’s going to check it down. Then you’re going to see how fast 11 guys can fly to the ball and hit. That makes life very easy and it makes it very hard for an offense to get to. When you don’t have all of that firing and it’s not going as well as you want, you have to do other stuff. You have to mix in man coverage. You have to mix in two-shell defenses and you have to blitz, which we have done. You do too much of that and you’ll get guys in bad positions. You run zone dogs to get pressure there, but if zone dogs don’t get home, then sometimes you can have a defensive end, even though it’s a zone dog, they still are going to end up having to man a guy through their zone. You can have a defensive end manning a tight end on a corner which isn’t always good. So, then you try to bail out and play three-deep. If the quarterback can sit there and take a bunch of hitches and move people, you’re going to open up a zone somewhere else. So, it’s keeping the guys off balance. I think our defense did a pretty good job of that yesterday. I think they had their times in Los Angeles where they did a pretty good job of that, especially versus that quarterback, [Los Angeles Chargers QB] Philip Rivers. I do think that there are some things that we’re doing alright and I think there are some things that we can get a lot better in. I think we’ve been close to winning. It’s not an excuse. We definitely should have won more games than we have. But, I’m not going to sit here and look for some crazy answer. I think it’s all right there and you can understand it with your question. We can do better than we’re doing and we have to mix things up like we have been. We’ve got to find ways to not turn it over and get the ball in the end zone.”

I know RB Raheem Mostert got off to a rough start with that first carry yesterday, but if Breida can’t go, could you see him being a significant part of that running back rotation and take some of the load off of RB Alfred Morris?

“Yeah, he needs to get there. Raheem is one of the best special teams players in the league and that’s why he’s going to always be up on game day. But, he is also our third running back and your third running back can be a very important factor in the game at any moment, the way our backs have struggle to stay healthy through these games. So, the more confidence Raheem can get, the more confidence we can get in him, the more it will help us. Raheem has the ability. He’s an extremely tough player. It’s very important to him. He works at it, not just special teams, but he works at offense. I know it was unfortunate. He went in on his first carry, had that fumble. He came back in later, made a pretty good run, but Raheem is someone who does have to step it up for us when people go down.”