How much work did you do on Christmas?
“Just woke up and enjoyed my Christmas. Had a nice meal with my wife. Towards the end of the night, started getting started. Just tried to stick to the routine.”
What did you take away from your last game against the Bears?
“I thought I did a decent job of leading the offense, making smart decisions when they were there. Really, the two plays that just stuck out with me clearly are the turnover and then the fourth down. I guess just something to learn from. The NFL, every game is going to be close. There’s always important moments of truth. I guess as I continue to develop, is how well I can succeed in those moments of truth. That’s always the challenge and that’s always what I’m trying to get better at.”
What was your critique of the turnover?
“It was just an unfortunate play. I left the ball too far out in front of him. I didn’t think it was a bad read. But, it was bad execution on my part. We can improve from that. Really, changed the game. Just really unfortunate. Wish it didn’t happen. Wish I didn’t throw it too far out in front.”
Speaking of throwing to WR Marquise Goodwin, you have a really good connection with TE George Kittle and WR Dante Pettis. But, it seems like you and Goodwin haven’t quite linked up like that yet. You guys haven’t practiced together as much. How’s the chemistry working?
“No, I think it’s just the ebbs and flows of the game. If you look in the third quarter, we had two play passes that were going to Marquise. Unfortunately, we didn’t get them off. The opportunities are there for me and Marquise. Just always working. No matter who I’m throwing to, just got to have the chemistry, got to work together. It doesn’t matter who I’m throwing it to. It’s just how the game works, how the play ends up. So, I don’t think it’s anything that’s like, ‘I’m better with this guy compared to this guy.’ I think it’s just natural how the game operates and how the game flows.”
How do you emotionally approach this game knowing this is the last meaningful game you’ll play until whenever? You have the exhibition season, but this is the last one of the season. So, how do you feel going into that playing in the Coliseum against one of the NFC’s best teams?
“Well, it’s very cool playing in the Coliseum. I actually just got finished watching the ESPN 30-for-30 on the L.A. Raiders way back when. So, it’s kind of cool. I just got done watching that and now I’m going to play there. It’s pretty cool. But, my mindset doesn’t change for any game that I play in. You get to play football. It’s the best sport on earth with a great opportunity to go play against a great playoff football team. That’s why you play the game and that’s why we’re pumped for this last game of the season. One last chance for this 2018 group to be together. We’re excited about it and going to take advantage of it.”
How has T Joe Staley guided you through these starts and maybe calmed you down or revved you up?
“Joe’s awesome. You never know what you’re going to get. He’s got a very dynamic personality. But, he’s a great role model and great leader for the locker room. He has guided me along very well. Let’s me know what I do wrong, what I do right, what I do good, what I do bad and I make sure that I get very honest answers from him. He’s one guy I can go to and say, ‘Hey, how do you all feel when I do this compared to this? Hey, what do I need to do better?’ So, for him to answer those questions the way he has, it’s really helped me and it’s definitely helped guide me along in just commanding the offense and making sure that everybody’s operating, all 11 guys on the same page. He’s obviously a big role model and a great help for this entire organization.”
Obviously, being thrown into the offense midway through the season must have been tough. But, how tough has it been dealing with a revolving door of running backs? You had RB Raheem Mostert out there, RB Matt Breida and now RB Jeff Wilson Jr. How difficult has that been not having a single back behind you?
“Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s a part of the NFL, next man up mentality. Whoever is going to get the opportunity, we trust that they’re going to work really hard and obviously take advantage of the opportunity. We trust all of our backs and I think they’ve all done a very impressive job. So, it’s definitely a challenge just getting comfortable with different guys. But, at the same time, you’ve got to adapt quick in this league as a player and as a team. It’s just one more challenge that we have accepted and worked really hard to just be successful no matter who’s out there.”
What did you see out of Mostert, in particular, before obviously he snapped that arm?
“Raheem was actually really coming on strong. If I remember correctly, I think he had a turnover one game and the next week coach [head coach Kyle] Shanahan really challenged him to basically reach his potential. He was making great strides the last couple weeks before he got hurt, really coming on as a strong running back. Obviously, special teams ballhawk. We know he’s got all the talent in the world on special teams. He was starting to put that talent to use at running back. So, I think he did a really good job before he got hurt of coming on strong. We hate he got hurt because he was really turning into a special player.”
Was it on his touchdown, George told me I need to watch like a different angle of the replay that you did a Conor McGregor swagger walk behind the play.
“What game was that? I forgot.”
The Raiders game.
“Yeah. We were having way too much fun. We can keep that off film. But yeah, just having fun out there with my teammates, for sure.”
Have you thought at all about what you’re going to do in the offseason during the time when you can’t work with the team and you have to work by yourself? Have you thought at all about that?
“A little bit. You’re always thinking about the things you can get better. I know where I need to improve in my game. I know where I can get better.”
Where is that?
“Just things you can always work on. Poise in the pocket. Clearly, people are going to say arm strength and velocity. I don’t think it’s hurt me that much this year. But, I can always improve throwing the ball. Footwork, ball fakes, the things that help me be successful in this league. I can always take that to the next step. So, I’m excited to get home in the offseason and just focus on things. That’s the cool part about just playing is you know where you need to improve. It’s really up to you how much you improve. So, I’m excited to take on that challenge.”
Motion performance expert Tom House is a really famous quarterback who has worked with New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and New England Patriots QB Tom Brady. He says that quarterbacks can add as much as five miles per hour if they just have the right mechanics. Is he someone you would want to work with or someone like him?
“Yeah, I’m aware of his reputation. He has a great reputation throughout the landscape of the NFL. He has worked with some very prominent quarterbacks and like coach Shanahan has mentioned, helped take [Atlanta Falcons QB] Matt Ryan to a new level. So, if that opportunity comes, that’d be really cool. But, I’m excited just to improve the things that I need to get better at.”
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay credited you for being able to keep your eyes downfield while you’re getting rushed. What goes into having that mindset, sort of that philosophy as a quarterback and what goes into being able to do that?
“I think the way I mentally operate, I guess you could say, is that I’m so focused on my progressions that you just can’t let the rush affect you. I think part of being a successful quarterback is having a natural feel for movement in the pocket, pressure in the pocket, where’s it coming from, things like that. So, I guess some of it is natural. But, in my mind, I just try to stick to my progressions and that’s how I distribute the ball.”
How difficult can it be to maintain that after you take some big hits?
“Yeah, it’s definitely one of the biggest challenges that a quarterback faces, the mental strength and discipline to, after you’ve taken a couple, to still stick to what makes you successful. That’s sticking to your progressions, distributing the football. It’s a challenge that every quarterback in the NFL faces and the best ones are really good at that. Don’t flinch. That’s what a lot of people say and it’s definitely true.”
When you look at the Rams defense, what particular challenges do you anticipate?
“Well, they’re definitely talented. The pass rush, of course. [Los Angeles Rams DT] Aaron Donald has had one heck of a year. He’s a great player. [Los Angeles Rams DT Ndamukong] Suh up front has been a nasty player, is very aggressive. So, we’re aware of their pass rush. Then, their secondary, mixing in and out of coverages and things like that. They’re a good defense and we’re excited about the opportunity on Sunday.”
You mentioned arm strength and velocity. Do you think that that’s something you need to work on?
“I don’t know. I’m sure you could find some throws on film that if I would have thrown it faster, it would have been complete, I guess. But, you can always get better, you can always improve and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Do you think that’s that scenario that someone can improve on, you’re not just born with a certain arm?
“I think everybody is blessed with different gifts, but at the same time, you can always improve your gifts.”
In your official NFL.com scouting report, it said that you didn’t bring your legs all the way through and that was sort of the source of your perceived lack of velocity. Is that a fair critique?
“I don’t know. It also said that I was going to get cut after rookie minicamp too, on NFL.com. So, I don’t know.”
You’re going into Sunday with another combination of wide receivers. Can you talk about how you adjust, how you prepare when you’ve got another combination coming up?
“I think the biggest thing is just having a great week of practice. We had a great practice today, it’s a great start. We’ve been working together for a while. Ever since OTAs, all of the guys, we had plenty of offseason throwing sessions. I mean, we’re working every day together. So, even if we haven’t gotten game snaps together, we’ve been working every day in practice. So, I think the chemistry is there and we’re excited to go show it.”
Does it kind of help because you worked with WR Steven Dunbar Jr. through OTAs?
“Yeah, Steven has been one of the most loyal 49ers this year. People don’t even know who he is yet, but he’s worked really hard. He’s caught all of my passes after practice every single day. We actually have, maybe the best chemistry out of all of the receivers. He’s done a great job of just staying the course, trusting the opportunity that’s going to be given to him and he works hard every day. So, I’m excited for him.”
Kittle is within striking distance of the single-season receiving yards record. Obviously, Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce is in that mix too. Are you cognizant of that and would it be meaningful to you to help him reach that?
“Yeah, definitely. We’re aware of it, we know the situation. But, at the same time, we’re trying to win the game. So, if it happens, it happens and that’s awesome. Kittle has had one heck of a year and he deserves a ton of credit. But, at the same time, you’re playing to win the game. So, we’ll see how it shakes out.”
What have your impressions been of CB Richard Sherman as a teammate?
“Sherm is awesome. He’s a super nice guy, great teammate, very helpful to the young guys. I love taking advantage of picking his brain. He’s very specific in the coverage rules, the different looks, the way he sees a quarterback when he’s playing corner, the way he sees the quarterback’s feet whether it’s quick game, drop back, play pass. So, all of the things that you really don’t know how a corner thinks when he’s playing out there. You get to ask him those type of questions. So, it’s been really cool having him around and be a great player for us this year. He came in and was a leader from the start. Sherm’s been awesome.”
He’s been a pretty big cheerleader of yours saying you could be starting for a lot of different teams. Maybe he’s trying to have you traded, I don’t know. But, has he shared the respect he has for you and what you’ve done this year?
“What was the question? Sorry.”
He seems to have a lot of respect for what you’ve accomplished this year. Have you had that conversation with him or has he shared with you anything like that, like you’ve done a heck of a job or whatever it is?
“Yeah, I definitely know that he supports me. What he said after the game meant a lot. The fact that I’ve earned his respect I think is the biggest thing coming into the building. For me, I’m always just trying to gain guys’ respect by the way I play, by the way I handle my business. The fact that I earned enough respect from him for him to say those words was pretty cool. But, I’m always trying to earn his respect every day and that’s kind of how I operate. But yeah, Sherm is a great teammate and we’re all striving to be like him, for sure.”