San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media one last time before the team took off for Miami.
“Alright, injuries today; [LB Kwon] Alexander was limited, [RB Tevin] Coleman didn’t practice, [DL Dee] Ford was limited, [LB Dre] Greenlaw and [WR Dante] Pettis were full, and [S Jaquiski] Tartt was limited.”
Is Tevin doing a little bit more out there and how is he coming along?
“No, he hasn’t been doing a little bit more yet. He went through the walk-through and stuff, but not in practice.”
When we talked to you last time, you didn’t have the results from the MRI. Did that confirm your initial thought that he was maybe trending towards playing?
“Yeah, they were positive results. We’ll see how he is next week, but he wasn’t able to go today.”
What makes this Kansas City offense different than some of the other big-time offenses you’ve played this year, like New Orleans, Baltimore?
“I would say probably just the overall speed. We had three receivers under 4.4 and the quarterback’s arm strength.”
There was a viral clip this week, you were suggesting to a sideline official that there might be a holding call on the play and it ended up happening. How often does that happen during games for you and are there times when officials either don’t take your advice or actually kind of get annoyed when you’re suggesting that kind of stuff?
“No, I think it’s pretty common for all coaches. You just hope, when it’s man-to-man coverage, you hope the play is on your sidelines so you can alert guys to stuff. Sometimes it’s tough for those guys, especially when you have switch releases and receivers moving in and out. So, you just try to give them a heads up where we’re looking. But I mean, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Usually it has to do with whether they PI or not.”
How might your Super Bowl experience help you in this game?
“Just knowing what to expect. I’ve been through the process before, knowing what’s down there, knowing how it goes just media-wise, the extra commitments you have. You want to keep everything the same, which you try as hard as you can, but it is the Super Bowl. There are some different commitments you have to go to, so knowing the things that will be different already is good for guys who have been there, whether it’s a coach or player.”
Beyond CB Richard Sherman’s obvious skills and coverage, what has he meant to this team sort of in the locker room and by the way he carries himself?
“I think he’s meant a ton. You can probably ask each guy and probably get a different answer. He’s helped us the most by how he’s played, but also having a guy that’s been there and done that, especially having a young team, and when you have guy who guys have grown up watching a little bit, especially over these last seven years, and being in big games like this and even starting out the year 8-0, going through that and having guys who have been through that and kind of been at the top of the league halfway through and being able to rely on some players who can help echo how tough it’s going to be to keep that going. Any time you have guys with experience who have been through it who are also one of your better players, it helps a ton.”
How did you devise your practice schedule this week and what do you think you’ve accomplished?
“We just had a normal week. I think we had, it was nice. If we had to play Sunday, we’d be ready. So, any time you’re able to go through a week like this where you can go through a whole normal week and not actually have a game on Sunday, tomorrow we’ll still do red zone and stuff like that, and Sunday we’ll travel out there. It will be nice to have a long plane ride for myself, kind of go through the whole week of everything, and then we’ll start over on Monday and Tuesday where we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We know what we have, but we have a week of tape where we can clean some stuff up or take some stuff out and some more stuff come to us, we can put some stuff in.”
What does G Laken Tomlinson bring to your line?
“Laken’s been a stud since he’s been here. He’s only been getting better. I think he’s at the top of his game right now. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He has the athletic ability to really move fast and make guys run from numbers to numbers. He also has the power and size to move people just north and south.”
Your run blocking scheme seems to have gotten more exotic as you’ve gone along in your third year. Is that the ability of players? Is it guys knowing the playbook more?
“I think it’s a little bit of everything. I think our staff does a real good job. [Run game coordinator] Mike McDaniel and [offensive line coach] John Benton, just the stuff they look into each week, where they can really isolate in the run game. The more you see how people try to defend you and how people stop you, the more things you try to put in to counteract that. Playing with a group of guys, especially on the O-Line for going into our third year, I think helps guys execute all the stuff. You can put in some new stuff and it doesn’t overwhelm the guys, and then just add in some of the speed element with all of our backs, a number of our receivers who have helped in the run game, not just blocking, but also that they’re a threat to get the ball out a lot of times. I think all that ties together.”
When you were installing the game plan or putting it together on Tuesday or Monday night, whatever it was, how much did you enjoy that process and did you draw on some plays maybe that you’ve been storing in the vault for the last couple of years?
“No. You never store plays in the vault. You throw everything you know out at Tampa Bay Week 1 based off of what coverages you’re going against and then you spend Monday and Tuesday working hard to try to come up with new stuff based off of what you’re going against. No one ever really saves a play. There’s not the magical playbook. It’s just tying your guys together, going against whatever schemes, fronts, and coverages you’re going against. I would be very surprised if anyone in the history going forward could ever come up with a new play. There’s only five eligibles, and it’s probably been done before. So, it’s how you mix those five guys and how you set stuff up.”
You’re known for coaching your quarterbacks in particular pretty hard. With QB Jimmy Garoppolo, is there ever like a healthy give and take or is it always like yes Kyle, no Kyle?
“I mean, Jimmy and I talk, there’s always, I don’t know what you mean by give and take. I’m not like an authoritarian. Is that the right word? Probably shouldn’t have tried that. My wife will make fun of me. No, I just talk to him like a normal person. I can be a little bit of a hot head. He’s probably a little more calm and has a more even demeanor to him which I think we pair together very well that way. But, I think we’re pretty close to where when he knows how I am and I know how he is, so regardless of how we are on a given minute or a given play, we’re both competitive people, and we both know we’re both here to try to help each other be the best we can be. Whenever you have that, you can just genuinely coach someone and not have to worry about anything else, just whatever’s in your mind. You let it come out of your mouth. When someone knows what your intentions are and who you are as a person, it really doesn’t matter how you show your personality.”
When you were talking to CEO Jed York in January of 2017, what was important for you to get from him, if he were to become your CEO?
“Just how important it was for them to win, just the commitment to it. I think everyone says that they’re trying to win every single year, but I don’t think all teams truly mean it, and you don’t want to go to a team that’s just a marketing firm. You want to go to a team that truly the most important thing is to win a Super Bowl. Everyone says that, but your actions show it, and that’s what was, I got to really believe in Jed by spending about four hours with him in that first interview. That was so neat with the opportunity he gave us with the way our contracts were, [general manager] John [Lynch] and I coming in together. I mean, everything that he said, he backed up, and you never know until you get somewhere because it’s always hard off just an interview and things like that. But, since I’ve been here for three years now, whether we started 0-9 or went 4-12 our second year, that’s only gotten stronger, and he’s validated that more and more each day.”
How much did the secure contract speak to you when you knew that you were the fourth coach in four years?
“I mean, I think it said a lot just in terms of, I think he might have been the one who brought it up first. I can’t exactly remember. But, he was, he said he was very committed to try and turn this around, which I think everyone’s pretty committed to turning things around, but I always say you want to do it the right way, which is not a quick fix. You’ve got to, no matter what you do, if you’re doing the right thing, you’re still going to make some wrong decisions, and you’ve got to be able to weather that storm. It’s very, very tough in this day and age where everything’s critiqued, there’s articles on everything. I remember growing up and how hard it would be for me personally, just as a kid, and probably my family, that after a bad game and how worried I’d be about those two articles in the paper the next day and what everyone at school would say to me. Now, I don’t even know if they do that anymore. They’re on phones nonstop, and it’s just articles that keep coming. So, that stuff’s over. I can’t believe I used to worry about those things. It’s very hard for people to stay the course and to stay positive with things. Jed, I think, showed that in every aspect of what he said to us when we were going through the interview process, and it’s been right on and better than I could have even asked for since I’ve been here.”
You talk to people around the league and nobody has anything bad to say about John Lynch. They gush about him, maybe more than I’ve heard anybody. Did you know that about him, how likable he was, how popular he was?
“I always felt that. Usually people like that just on average, usually, I think, I’m like, all right, the person’s got to be somewhat phony. What’s he really like? No one is really Captain America. So, you’re waiting to see how they are really. That’s probably the opposite of how I am. But, then you get with John day in and day out, and that’s genuinely who he is. Anybody who knows him feels the exact same way. To have that type of personality that’s just exactly who he is and on top of that to be one of the most violent, physical players I’ve ever seen, I think it’s as cool of a combination as there is. I think that’s why a lot of people respect him, and he’s like that all the time.”
Is there a value to that, just contacts around the league, contacts in college that you know they kind of like John, and maybe it’s a little easier to deal with?
“Yeah, probably. I think at times, we do it both times. I think it can help us play a good cop/bad cop role sometimes. He’s better at one of those, and I’m better at the other. John, he doesn’t have to try. That’s who he is. I think we both are who we are. I think we’re very similar people, but come off a little bit the opposite in some of those ways. I kind of respect anybody who I just know what they are. I think the hardest thing is when you’re trying always to figure out who someone is. John is one of the few people I’ve met in my life who seems that on it and that good all the time. That is exactly who he is.”
How did your father most shape what influenced the coach you are and the play caller you are?
“I think a lot. I mean, not by what people would think. He didn’t have, he wasn’t sitting me in a room growing up teaching me how to do stuff. We were real close. I think like a lot of father and sons are. I always felt like I was closest with my dad compared to my friends, which I’m sure my friends would say the same thing, but I always felt extremely close with him, not to mention that he had a cool job, and I loved hanging around it. I always so badly wanted to play. So, I was always trying to do that and be something I really wasn’t. So, I was always focusing on that, but you don’t realize how much that stuff helps you until you kind of get into work and you realize the advantages you have and some of the stuff like, man, I guess maybe I was learning as I was growing up and paying attention to a lot of stuff. I don’t think that’s just totally unusual with me and my dad and father and sons in football. I think that’s, if you go by percentages, I think a lot of kids follow their parents into work, especially if they have a good relationship with them. They enjoy what they do, and they get to grow up seeing a line of work all the time. I think football’s no different. What’s cool about our job is I was able to go to my dad’s office a lot more than I would have if my dad was performing surgery or doing something like that. Being a ball boy, then when I was trying to play, being able to work out up there. Back then, it might have been against rules, but people didn’t care as much. Every OTAs and mini-camp, I was doing one-on-ones against the players every day. Stuff like that is, you look back on it, and it was really cool. I feel very fortunate that I had those things.”
A lot of players say that when they get the install, that it’s like Christmas morning, FB Kyle Juszczyk in particular. Is that enthusiasm and excitement for that unique to them, or is it what you usually see?
“I think it’s what you usually see. You hope that. You hope you have guys that really enjoy football, and then you hope that you put together a plan that challenges those guys that they still think they can pull off. The whole part of a plan is putting something together and giving the players confidence that they can go out there and have an advantage. So, you teach the plan, you sell the plan all week, you show them the looks. And it doesn’t always start that way, I don’t think, but by the time you get to Saturday night, I hope that we’ve given our players a plan that they’re very confident to do.”
In these last hours before you leave for Miami, you’ve got players out there signing autographs. How important is fan synergy to keep the players fired up as they leave for Miami?
“I hope our players are fired up regardless, but our fans are been unbelievable this year. I mean, just the way they’ve traveled and everything. Every game we’ve gone to, they have traveled unbelievably well. It was, the way they were in New Orleans blew our minds. It was the coolest thing ever to see the videos after the New Orleans game of our guys, of our fans, going down Bourbon Street and stuff, chanting some of our Niner chants and stuff. It was very risky of them, but also pretty cool. Our fans have been great. Everywhere we see them, they’re pumped up. When you see them pumped up, it makes us that much more excited.”
How much of an influence does TE George Kittle’s love for the running game reverberate around the offense? Is that a thing that you’ve noticed among other players is he’s sort of a ring leader when it comes to stuff like that?
“Yes. It starts, any time one of your best players, who everyone, I mean, he had more yards in the pass game as a tight end in the history of the NFL last year. So, any time you have a guy like that who’s one of the best players on your team who’s always just talking about running the ball and playing the physicality in the game and giving everything you can, it helps you hold everyone else a lot more accountable, and rarely do you have to. When people are watching guys like that do that type of stuff, when they watch guys like Sherm play the run and things like that, it makes your job a lot more easier. When your best guys are doing it, everyone else really doesn’t have much of a choice.”