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Kyle Shanahan talks Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard, Saquon Barkley

The 49ers head coach met with the media on Thursday. We’ve got a full transcript.

Week 10 Media Availability

Kyle Shanahan previews Monday Night Football game against the Giants.

Posted by San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, November 8, 2018

Opening comments:

“The injuries today; not practicing we’ve got [LB] Reuben [Foster] with his hamstring, [S] Jaquiski [Tartt], shoulder, [T Joe] Staley gets a veteran day and [WR Pierre] Garçon with his knee. [TE George] Kittle will be limited with his chest.”

Are there concerns about Reuben and Tartt being able to play on Monday or is it too early to say?

“Yeah, they’ll be questionable. There are concerns.”

You said last week that you would go with the quarterback that gives you the best chance to win. Why do you think that is QB Nick Mullens?

“Just the way he played. I think the way, everyone saw he played, I don’t think it was too tough of a decision. Our team played really well and he played well. It was going to be hard to not give him the opportunity.”

Did you spend a lot of time on New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley before the draft or did you figure he wouldn’t be there by your pick?

“We figured he wouldn’t be there by our pick. But, yeah, we still watched him pretty hard. It didn’t take too long to watch him to have an idea that he was pretty good, to have a pretty good idea that he wouldn’t be there.”

He’s got almost as many receiving yards, I think, as rushing yards. Was that evident coming out, that this is going to be a guy who can do both?

“Yeah, it’s evident that he is as hard of a guy to tackle as I’ve seen. So, whether that’s handing the ball off to him or throwing it to him, if that guy has the ball in his hands in space there’s not many people in the world who can get him down very consistently. You’ve got to get him out of space and you need 11 guys swarming to him.”

That leads to a question about your tackling which was a big issue early in the season. How has it been from your view in recent games?

“I think we’ve gotten better, definitely. We haven’t had a perfect game, which I don’t know if anyone has. But, yeah, I think we started off bad and I think we’ve gotten better.”

What will having a full week of practice do for Nick? Last week was pretty limited.

“I think it’s just good for him to go through everything. There was some pluses and minuses to it. Sometimes it’s a short week and you don’t have time to think about anything. It was nice coming off a tough loss to have that short week, too. But, now he gets to sit there. He doesn’t have to cram everything in in a day and a half. He’s got the whole week to kind of let it saturate, learn the play calls, spit them out easier, gets to throw some full-speed balls to all our players where last week there wasn’t one full-speed rep. I think it helps prepare him more and makes him more comfortable going into the game.”

Will he be the starter for the foreseeable future or will you make it a week-to-week decision?

“Just do week-to-week.”

Is it true that Nick wore a suit in his interview with you guys?

“Yes, he did.”

How rare is that?

“It’s not that rare. Some of the guys do it. Some of the guys look like they’re dressed for their media guide picture. They have their college-colored polo on. Some guys try to come and dress totally normal, which sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad. But, Nick was buttoned up tight, came in like he was interviewing for a quality control position. Did a good job.”

What else stands out to you about that interview and that process?

“The first thing that stood out, [quarterbacks coach Rich] Scangarello, our quarterback coach, had told us about him for a while. We watched him and liked him. Rich really liked him and put in the most time on him. The first thing that stood out is when he came in, thought he looked like Rich’s younger son. So, we kind of gave him a lot of crap for it on why he liked him so much. But, that was the main thing. He was dressed nice, looked like he was interviewing for a quality control job. You could tell why he was so successful in college just by how he talked and how he saw the game.”

What did you ask of him in that interview that you could share with us?

“I don’t remember anything in particular. There’s no groundbreaking questions I ask. I just try to spend some time with a guy, get to know really what he’s made of, what drives him, really who they are. So, I just have very casual conversations with people and just see where it leads to.”

So, you don’t do the thing where you test a player and give him a play and ask him 20 minutes later to draw it up?

“Sometimes. It depends on the type of person, what I think, what I’m trying to get out of the person. I have no format at all. I just see where it goes. A lot of times, especially in the position now, I’ll let a position coach get him in and drill him with that type of stuff. If I have doubts with them, I’ll try to eventually expose them and just see where it goes.”

I asked you last week if he seemed like a future coach. You said definitely, yes. What about him?

“Just the detail he works with. He loves playing, obviously. But, he loves the whole part of the game. Guys work hard. Most guys, if you’re in the NFL, it’s hard to stay in here if you don’t work hard. Then, there’s people who work hard, but they’re extremely deliberate in what they do. Everything they’re doing isn’t just to finish something and knock it out or to do it because you’re supposed to do it. They’re doing it because they genuinely are into it. They genuinely want to be great at it. Those people usually learn faster than others.”

According to TE George Kittle and Nick confirmed that after delivering the play call you would continue talking to him and he really wanted you to shut up.

“I know. He’s going to have to say it louder. I can’t hear him from the sidelines. That’s always the dilemma for coaches and quarterbacks. It’s funny because I know if I was a quarterback and someone was yelling in my ears, I would handle it much worse than those guys would. I struggle. I’ve almost gotten in trouble with head coaches for saying the wrong thing when you’re trying to think and make a play call and someone’s yelling in your ear, it’s hard to think. The hard thing with calling plays in games is we call it and we don’t know if they heard it or not. Sometimes, they need it again. The problem is it shuts off at 15 seconds. So, you’re just sitting there chilling and sometimes they go like this and need it again and there’s only 18 seconds on the clock. Well, you have two-and-a-half seconds to spit it out for them to hear it. Then, sometimes I think they didn’t hear it and I start repeating it again and they’re just trying to call it and I’m yelling it again in their ear and I’m driving them crazy, as I should. So, I wish there was a two-way talk on it. It’d be a lot easier.”

Are there times when you deliver a play call and say, ‘Hey look for this?’ Or, is it just really, telling them the play call?

“It depends on the quarterback. Some guys like it, some guys don’t. Depends on certain plays. Guys that don’t like it, I try not to do it unless it’s something specific. The quicker you can get to the line of scrimmage, the more you can help. Sometimes you say you’re anticipating something and then they do it no matter what. But, it wasn’t that look. So, you’ve got to be very careful with putting too much in their head. When you’re absolute, that’s usually when I like to do it.”

What was the play with QB Jimmy Garoppolo last year? I think it was early on the headset shut off and you talked about that he just winged it. Do you remember?

“Yeah, it was a goal line play. He went to quarterback sneak. He selfishly got himself a touchdown instead of the running backs. But, it worked, I liked it. He scored.”

Could Nick have handled this had he been elevated to the starters’ role last year, just given everything that’s on his plate?

“I mean, I like to say Nick can handle anything because he’ll find a way. But, it would be much harder to play at the level he played. He’s been working at that for a while. He worked as hard as anyone last year and he played scout team safety all last year. We spent most of last year this time messing with him on how bad his backpedal looked and things like that, on tape. But, he was a guy who just, he knew he had to do that, that’s how the league works. You don’t have enough guys to practice and he didn’t just sit there and mope about it because I get how people could because it isn’t a fair situation. But, he found ways to work on his own, to grab guys after, to go out late at night and do stuff. He’s obsessed with getting better and he’s needed the time to do it and it helped him get ready for last week.”

You talked about how he looks like a quality control guy and how he’s not the first guy you’d notice. But, despite all of that, does he have some natural leadership qualities?

“Yeah, definitely. I always say that there’s lots of different types of leaders, but the best type of leader, to me, is guys who don’t fail. They find a way to get it done and I think if you look at those people throughout their lives, whether they make it in high school, whether they get to college, they get an opportunity in the NFL, they might not always have it figured out right away but they find a way because they’re just so deliberate in what they do and they have the goals and nothing can get in their way. On top of that, he’s himself in everything he does. He’s not going to come in and try to talk differently to certain players. He’s going to be himself every single day and players like that. If a guy doesn’t come off cool to one group but he’s like that every single day, they’ll end up thinking he’s pretty cool. If he starts to talk differently to some people and then be himself to others, people don’t respect you. Nick’s a guy that works hard and that’s where it always starts. He’s a guy who’s not scared to be himself.”

Once the radio shuts off and Nick’s at the line, how much does C Weston Richburg help him out in analyzing the defense or making the line adjustments?

“He does a lot of it. We don’t do too much of that stuff. Most of it’s built in. So, he gets the O-Line in position and the quarterback has the rules that he goes off of that he knows his issues and his answers versus those issues. He can always override the center if need be, but we don’t ask him to go solve everything.”

Where are you with QB C.J. Beathard? I think a lot of people saying two years in a row, he’s lost his job. They look at his record and say he’s proven maybe he’s not the backup quarterback here. Where do you think he is in his career?

“I feel the same about C.J. now as I always have. I get that we’d love better results and love for his record to be better. C.J. did some really good things that are very encouraging to show his ability, that he can play in this league. Then he had some games where he wasn’t as good. I don’t put that all on C.J. I put it on our entire team. There are things he could have done better, but I believe C.J. has the ability to play in this league and I think he has shown that. I think it’s very hard in this league when you get a record like that, when you have turnovers and stuff. That’s what’s so hard about our profession that people are going to come down on you extremely hard and they’re going to look to the quarterback. They’re going to look to coordinators, they’re going to look to the head coach. That’s tough stuff for people do deal with. I think C.J. is strong enough to deal with it though. He is confident in himself, not for any fake reason. He’s confident in himself because he truly believes he can do it and he can. I truly believe that. But, I think it’s very hard when guys, guys get washed out quickly because of all of the pressure. I don’t think everyone totally knows exactly why you win and lose. Everyone wants to pinpoint it on the obvious thing and that’s usually the guy who touches the ball most. But, I think there’s a lot more that goes into winning and losing. [Minnesota Vikings QB] Kirk Cousins in his first nine games, do you know what his record was? 1-8. He had 19 picks and 18 touchdowns. C.J. is 1-8. I think he has 13 picks. It doesn’t mean that he’s him, but I also know that a lot of people gave up on Kirk because of how he started and everyone wanted to put it on one guy when it was a lot more than just that. C.J. needs to improve, needs to get better. But, you can’t overrate all of the stuff that people put on one person who think that you just can’t play. C.J. has the mental toughness to get through that and eventually, someday, I don’t know when, he will get his opportunity. Hopefully he’ll heal up, get fresher and learn from what he did good and what he did bad.”

He acknowledged the other day he was kind of disappointed. I’m sure you would be disappointed if he wasn’t feeling that way. Do you relay stories like the Cousins thing to him when you’re talking to him to make sure his confidence stays up?

“Yeah, definitely. C.J.’s story is not over and that’s what I want him to know. You’ve got to realize that the whole world will say, ‘This is what you are,’ and I’m not mad at the world for that. People watch sports and that’s what they think. But, C.J.’s story is not over and he has the ability, he has the toughness, he has the mind, to be a very successful quarterback in this league. Don’t let other people tell you it’s over because it hasn’t gone the way you wanted it.”

Do you feel the emergence of Nick will bring out the best in C.J., in both of them, in terms of competition?

“Those guys are very self-motivated. There’s not a time that you’ve got to give them a kick in the butt to do something. Those guys, they put more pressure on themselves than someone else. So, I don’t think that will make either of them better. I think C.J. started off well and I think he went through a tough stretch. I think it is good for him to sit back and get fully healthy and heal up and watch someone else do it. He’s only a play away from getting in. So, he’ll be ready.”