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Kyle Shanahan talks C.J. Beathard, bad tackling, Derwin James

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

Week 4 Starts Now

Kyle Shanahan discusses C.J. Beathard’s first start of the season and the Week 4 matchup vs the Chargers.

Posted by San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What was the idea to bring in the free agent quarterbacks? Just to keep taps on those guys in case you need them down the road?

“Yeah. We needed to take a look at all those guys, see where they were at. Some played in preseason, not all did. I just wanted to take a look at them in person.”

It’s going to take time for them to learn the offense. Why not sign one this week so they can start that process?

“I wish we could. I wish we could sign extra of all players. I wish we could sign extra quarterbacks, extra wideouts, extra safeties. But, you’ve got a 53-man roster. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up. In order to sign somebody, you’ve got to cut someone or put them on IR. We’ve got a lot of guys that are questionable this week where we won’t know until the end of the week whether they’re playing or not. So, those aren’t IR candidates. They’re definitely not guys we want to cut. It just makes it tough.”

Down the road, would you want to have three quarterbacks on your 53-man or the two guys and one on practice squad?

“If it works for our roster, you’d always like three. If it works. It just doesn’t always work. We’ll see how this plays out week-to-week.”

Is the team at all looking into trade possibilities at quarterback or is that not something you’d do?

“No. That’s not something we’re thinking about.”

Did QB C.J. Beathard get going right away on Monday, come in and start going to work on the Chargers? How has the preparation gone this week with him?

“Good. He’s done what he does every week whether he’s starting or he’s the number two. The whole team comes in on Monday and usually it’s all dedicated towards the day before. So, we spend all of that, from when they come in until about four o’clock. Then, the nights, coaches get a head start on this week’s opponent. Tuesday is their day off, so guys do stuff on their own. C.J. has a routine that he always does. Comes and meets with [quarterbacks coach] Rich [Scangarello] for a little bit.”

How did you address with the team just QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s situation and how to get over it?

“Just like they had to get over [RB Jerick] McKinnon’s. I think everyone has been around enough. This happens a lot. Not always with two guys here in the first three weeks, but almost everyone has been a part of something where they’ve lost a guy like this. It takes a little time, like I said on Monday. You’ve got to talk about it. You’re down a little bit about it, but when you come in today it’s time to get ready for the next game. We go through the game plan and you see the guys, feel the energy in the room. I think our guys are pros. They know how to handle this. We’ve got 13 games left in the season. There’s a long way to go. There’s not time to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. It’s time to step it up and win some games.”

Did you get any offensive reps for QB Nick Mullens or is all of his work scout team?

“They usually get a couple reps. C.J. would get a couple reps when Jimmy was going. Now, Nick will get a couple reps. But, most of that work is on scout team. That’s also what’s hard about a third quarterback because they don’t get reps. Your third quarterback is usually given scout team looks as a safety or an extra receiver just to help guys out. Most of their reps go on scout team. They get a couple each period. Usually it’s run plays. And, they’re doing a lot of stuff on air.”

Is there any carryover whatsoever where Nick’s practice squad or scout team reps would replicate what you guys are doing offensively?

“To a degree. Sometimes there’s carryover. The nice thing is when defenses are similar. Nick will be going against our defense most of the week in practice and the team we’re playing on Sunday has a very similar defense. So, this week, that would be a benefit. But, it’s definitely not always that situation.”

Is Garoppolo hanging around and kind of helping out as a glorified assistant coach?

“Yeah. Jerick’s been doing the same thing. Jimmy’s been around. He was around all day Monday. I saw him yesterday. He’s been in the meetings all day today. I know he’s going to have to wait a couple weeks for that swelling to go down. I’m sure when he gets the surgery, he’ll disappear for a little bit because they’ve got to stay in bed and make sure to heal. After that, he’ll be around a lot. It’s not the perfect scenario, but you’ve got to make the best out of it. There’s certain areas you can get better from sitting, watching and listening. I know Jimmy will attack that as much as he can.”

C.J. was saying the other day he felt it would be a lot easier this year stepping in than last year. What’s the biggest difference you see in him from year one to year two, particularly when it comes to things slowing down for him and getting through his reads quicker?

“C.J. is very impressive. He was last year in terms of he’s very smart, he always knows the game plan inside and out, he works very hard, he is a thinker and he also is a reactor out there. Going through it the first time and stuff, it’s always slower no matter how hard you work at it. I think he went through the five games or whatever it was that he got to play for us last year, had some ups and downs and then I thought he got to sit back and watch Jimmy and watch someone else try to go through it. I think that helped him going into the offseason. I think when you practice and stuff, you always practice as hard as you can, but when you’ve been through those situations you’re a lot more deliberate in what you are doing. You know why you’re doing it. You’re not just doing it. I think C.J., he listens to everything the coach says. He does everything we ask. But, when you go through it for yourself, then the next year you actually know why you’re working on it. I think when you know the why’s and you have the experience of it, I think it’s a lot easier to improve.”

How much better is this supporting cast around C.J. now than it was last year when he played?

“I think it’s a lot better. I thought it was a lot better at the end of last year. When C.J. came in, it was pretty bad timing. Right when C.J. came in, we lost [WR] Pierre [Garçon], which was tough because he was our main veteran out there. We had to play with a lot of younger guys, or guys who hadn’t had the experience. Those guys kind of grew throughout the year. They finished the year strong. So, I think they’ve come in better this year. I think we’ve added a couple new guys this year. So, I think he does have a better group.”

You talked about guys being professional, coming in this week ready to move on. For you personally, is it hard at all to reset or recalibrate this week when your fortunes have changed this dramatically?

“I feel the same way everyone else does. It’s hard that night. It’s hard the next day. It’s hard if I sit around and want to think about it. Nothing can stay like that in the NFL. The game next Sunday isn’t moving. It’s going to be there. That’s why it’s nice when all the players come back in the day, you’ve got a game plan in and you have no other choice. You move on. You have to. I’ve been in the league a while, you start to understand that. I think players do, I think coaches do. When you get around the guys and stuff, I think everyone gets upbeat. No one will, we always will feel bad for what happened to Jimmy, but we’re good. We’re excited to practice today. Promise we’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”

When you bring in seven guys like you did yesterday at quarterback, can you give us a little picture of how that works? Do you work them all out together? Do you have them throw?

“Yeah, we worked them all out together. We had a number of guys catching for them, some coaches just standing in spots. It’s not like we can get all the routes because we’re just trying to take a look at all these guys. All of those guys are people we’ve seen film on before. I kind of think workouts are extremely overrated. Lots of people can throw on air. Everyone who plays at the NFL level can throw on air. It’s how you play the position. So, you go off the tape that you’ve watched. You bring guys in just to see where they’re at to make sure they haven’t just been sitting on the couch for the last couple months. They’ve still been working out. They can still function. Then, you mainly go off of what you saw on tape.”

Do you rank them, your top three, in case you need somebody you know who to call first?

“Yeah. We do that.”

Where are you at with the defense? It seems like it’s been better in those two road games after halftime. They played pretty well in the first three quarters of the home game. Where are you at with the defense and what do they need to do to play a full 60?

“I think the most obvious one is we’ve got to tackle better. I think you guy can see that statistically. You can see it with your own eyes just watching the game. We have to tackle better in order to improve. In this last week, I thought we had too many mistakes versus a good offense that gave them too many freebies in that first half, which put us in a huge hole. But, yeah, the first thing I would say is the tackling.”

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said last week the big thing with tackling was taking the right angles and that’s been his emphasis. But, are guys maybe not breaking down and not slowing down when the tackle is there? Is that contributing to it?

“Yeah. I think it depends on what type of tackle you’re talking about. Like, if you’re all by yourself in space, you better close that distance, break down and make sure you wrap up and drive through him. If you’re in a crowd and there’s a bunch of guys there, you don’t want a bunch of guys just sitting in a chair waiting. That’s how eight more yards happen. You want a hook player, and you want a curl-flat player squeezing on people, both of them going through them at the same time. That’s kind of the essence to zone defense. That’s what you want, people not breaking down on. You’re not always in zone defense. It’s not always a pass play. Sometimes it’s a run play out on the screen. So, the main thing from what I’ve seen, when we do run and hit, you can’t just hit. You have to wrap up and roll him. You have to drive him through the ground. Guys in this league are big. Guys are strong. You can hit them very hard and they still stay on their feet. It happened a lot with [Minnesota Vikings RB] Dalvin Cook in the first week. It happened with a number of players versus Kansas City. It’ll happen with these guys if we don’t wrap up. You can hit hard, but you’ve got to bring your legs and you’ve got to use your arms, also.”

You said some young quarterbacks can benefit from being thrown into the fire early and others need early success to build confidence. Would you put C.J. in the first group?

“Yeah, definitely. As I talked a lot about last year, I was worried because we didn’t have much of a choice. That wasn’t exactly the situation I wanted to put C.J. into. That’s why I think myself and a lot of our team earned a lot of respect for him. Not all the weeks, but some weeks, he was in a very tough situation. He never wavered, never saw his confidence change and when he eventually was benched and we put Jimmy in, you would think a guy would be less confident after that. You guys can ask him, but I truly believe he was more confident. Even though he struggled at times, he truly believed he could do it. Those are the kind of guys you want to go to battle with.”

Did he ever express to you his feelings when he was benched?

“Yeah. To a degree. Of course. I’m always going to ask him to, also. That’s a big deal to people. It would be a big deal to me if someone did that to me. I always try to talk to the guy about it and not make stuff up. You know it’s hard, so you’re not going to say it’s not. C.J., it was tough on him. But, he handled it like a man. He didn’t sit there and make excuses about it. He supported Jimmy as much as anybody could support a person. Nobody would’ve felt his frustration or anything. But, if you get someone behind closed doors and you talk to them, most people are going to tell the truth. If you aren’t disappointed in that situation, then something is wrong with you.”

Do you feel like the running game is better now than it was when C.J. was starting last year?

“Without a doubt.”

That, presumably, is going to help him a bit?

“Yes, you hope that’s, the running game takes a lot of pressure off of the quarterback. But, in order to run the ball, as I’ll always say, you also have to do good throwing because you’ve got to convert third downs, you’ve got to stay on the field. Buffalo played this team, I was just saying this stat to our team today, but Buffalo, I think they had 54-percent competitions and only had like 22 runs and they’re a team who really wanted to run the ball in their quarterback’s first start. But, they didn’t complete enough balls to run the ball where the Rams had 80-percent completion two days ago and that allowed them to get 32 runs in because you stay on the field. So, that stuff goes hand in hand. But I think a run game is the key for any quarterback, especially in our situation right now.”

C.J. didn’t have the greatest preseason. It didn’t look like he took the next step there. How do you explain that or what was going on, do you think, this summer?

“I don’t like to sit and make excuses for guys, but I was happy with how C.J. was in the preseason. I get why everyone else felt that way in the games. His stats weren’t very good, he didn’t get the best opportunities. Of course, he’s got to take some responsibility for that, but I was never bothered. He had a great training camp in practice. The plays that he did have in the game, I didn’t think he had a ton of opportunities. Sometimes it just goes that way. It happens a lot. Some years there will be a receiver who just has unbelievable stats and then no one can believe why he doesn’t make the team. It’s just because he’s had great stats and it worked out for him and it doesn’t look that way in practice every day. Then sometimes a guy has no stats and everyone can’t figure out why he made it because of what he shows every day in practice. Games don’t always tell the whole story. I know that’s what we’re judged off of and those were the results, but football isn’t a one-on-one game. You’ve got to assess every single play and what’s going on.”

Is RB Matt Breida going to be able to practice today?

“Breida’s not practicing today.”

Why do you think Los Angeles Chargers S Derwin James slipped in the draft?

“I don’t know. I was extremely surprised. He was a guy that we were very high on. One of the better safeties that we’ve all personally seen coming out. So, that was very surprising.”

Was his versatility, it seems like they’re using him in a lot of different ways. Was that evident in your scouting of him as well?

“Yes, definitely. He can play in the middle, he can play up at strong safety. We thought he was one of the best, it was just a couple of games he did it, but we thought he was one of the best pass rushers for Florida State. Even a couple of games he played defensive end for a number of plays. So, he’s done it at that versus tackles, he’s done it as a blitzer versus backs and tight ends. So, he’s a very good player.”