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“He knows where to go with the ball, which to me is one of the biggest things for any QB”

Washington Football Team v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan met with the media after Friday’s practice to discuss what makes Alex Smith a good quarterback, why the running game against Buffalo was the 49ers best this season, and much more.

Who has the say on whether the roof is opened or closed? Is that your say and what’s the thought process that goes into whether you decide whether the roof is open or closed?

“I think it is because they keep asking me, but I want it closed the rest of the year. If you can have perfect elements, then I would like perfect elements. So, you do it to help the kicker, you do to help the quarterback.”

How did WR Deebo Samuel make it through the week and is that foot something you’re just going to have to kind of manage through the rest of the season?

“He had a real good practice yesterday, a full-speed practice. So, I think he recovered well, and I think he’ll be good to go. It wasn’t hurt because of his old injury. He just had something happen in the game, but he’s good now.”

How can you get your run game going more the rest of the season?

“I thought our run game versus Buffalo was one of the best it’s been since we’ve been here. That’s why you’ve got to look at it, you’ve got to watch it. You take away those goal line runs that we had, all runs inside the three-yard line, and then we had a negative, I think, nine-yard run when we down blocked and we tossed it to [RB] Tevin [Coleman] when the D-End got up the field that left us with 13 carries for seven yards a carry or 6.8. Our analytics guys give us all the stuff. They told me it was our most efficient analytics running game since we’ve been here. So, that was one of the more frustrating things. I thought we blocked as well as we’ve done and I thought we were running the ball very well. They controlled the ball very good and we didn’t convert a couple third downs. That’s why I think 14 of our runs were, I think in the first 20-something plays of the game. So, I was very happy with our run. Hope we block the same way we did then and I hope the game works out to where we can get more called.”

T Trent Williams sets such a high standard and there were a few games earlier in the season where it was like, ‘Oh, maybe he missed a block or he missed an assignment or something.’ Anyway, I haven’t noticed that recently. Was some of that early in the season just getting familiarized with the offense and is it accurate that he’s kind of found his groove?

“Yeah. I like your hat by the way, Longhorn. I don’t know if you lost a bet or true fan. Did you go there? Nevermind. You’re muted. You can tell me later.”

No, I attended school at your first job actually, UCLA, but I have a lot of hats.

“All right. Well, that’s your best one. Could fix your bill. What was the question? Yeah, Trent. No, I think Trent’s been awesome since he got here. The Philly game, there was a couple plays that stuck out, so I know he got a lot of attention for that and he had a couple bad plays, but O-Linemen usually do have a couple here and there and they were just kind of, the spotlight was on him, but I think Trent’s played at a high level all year. He’s just like everybody.

He’s been able to stay healthy. He missed some games because of the COVID stuff, but he’s been practicing and as that happens, you get better as the year goes, but there was never a time that I thought he was playing bad. He was playing at a real high level when we started.”

What’s the most challenging part about facing this Washington front and Washington Football Team DL Chase Young? Trent Williams said he saw a few similarities between him and what DL Nick Bosa can do on the field, just kind of his behavior. What do you see between the two of them?

“It starts with their D-Line. I think everyone knows that. It’s a very special D-Line and then they’ve got a really good scheme behind it and the seven guys behind it are playing very well together and playing very well tied to that D-Line. I agree with what Trent said. They come from the same school and they’ve got a very good D-Line coach there. So, you see a lot of good moves and stuff that they’ve always coached, but also two different types of players. He’s got a lot of speed and it’s not hard to see exactly why he was a top guy in the draft.”

Apologies for a non-game-related question, but just coming to the end of the year where so many of in-person interactions have been done virtually like this and your team meetings and stuff like that, what’s been the biggest change, the biggest difference for you in terms of, I guess, the way that you go about your team meetings, the way that you just kind of sit there and handle press conferences? Has there been one thing that’s felt just particularly different for you this year and then a quick follow-up after that if possible?

“All right. Yeah, the first, when we first started Zooms and when everyone was in quarantine in the offseason, I was surprised by how normal it felt. I thought you can connect well with people through Zooms and stuff, and just our players. Everyone was in quarantine and we had some of our most fun meetings, because you’re only allowed a certain amount of time and you get done with the football stuff, but no one had anywhere to go. So, we all just sit there and hang out with each other, just talking on Zoom and really just making fun of each other and making each other laugh. In the long haul, you miss a lot.

You miss the interaction and being around groups of people and the teaching aspect of it. You can learn and it’s good, but it’s not as good. It’s like going home. My kids were all right watching Zoom for a week or so, but now they’ve have been doing Zoom meetings in school for like six months, it feels like, and when I was home for our bye week and getting to see it, I can just tell my son can’t pay attention on Zoom anymore. When you’ve got to wake up and go to work or wake up and go to school, when you get in an office and stuff and you’ve showered and you get there and you’re a lot more ready.

When you Zoom from your house and you’re just Zooming from your bed or Zooming from your couch, you’re not as quite locked in. So, that’s what I try to tell our players. Like, yeah, it feels good on Zoom, but you are missing a little bit and you might think you’re paying attention, but you’re not as locked in, you’re not present as much. So, at the end of the week, you’ve got to do a little bit extra. You might have to go over it a little bit more because don’t kid yourself. Don’t think it’s the exact same. What’s your follow-up?”

You probably might’ve answered it there, but it was just whether there are sort of aspects of it that you like? Then when you mentioned just kind of the challenge of teaching, logistically what is the biggest challenge?

“Yeah, I like it because it’s very convenient. There’s some times, like we weren’t allowed to come in the office on Monday and Tuesdays. It was different here because we live in our office right now in this hotel, but back when I was back home and I had to Zoom from home on a Monday, I mean, it was my first time in my life not being in an office on a Monday after a game. It was kind of nice just sitting in there where I could Zoom and get all my stuff done, but then still be at home and lock in to all game planning and everything where no one can come in and interrupt you, except for my kids, but they got the message after a little bit. So, you can concentrate more and it’s just convenient that, hey, I didn’t have to go all the way to the office to have that one meeting I do on a Monday. I could sit here and really get ahead and lock in and use my time a little better.”

What makes Washington Football Team QB Alex Smith a good, winning quarterback and why is he having the effect on Washington that he’s having?

“I mean, because Alex, he’s a very good quarterback. He always has been. He knows where to go with the ball, which to me is one of the biggest things for any quarterback. You read coverages and stuff and there’s always a spot, there’s a hole in it and you want to get the ball there, and Alex is efficient at doing that as anybody. When you pair that with, and why is he helping them so much? They have such a great defense. When you’re playing as one of the top defenses in the league, and then you have a quarterback who knows where to go with the ball, you don’t have to do a lot of risky things because of what your defense is doing and then your quarterback’s not going to turn it over. He’s going to be very efficient, allows you to stick with the run and you can play the right type of ball that you never beat yourself.

When you have a top defense like that, that’s a very winning formula just to win games. Teams have to really come in and beat you and, in the NFL, a lot of teams lose it. A lot of teams lose it. When you’ve got the defense that they have, when you’ve got someone like Alex who’s very consistent with where he goes, they’re usually not going to lose it. You’ve got to come in and beat them and it’s tough to do with some of the talent they have.”

LB Mark Nzeocha, is his IR window still open and have you guys decided what you’re going to do with him? Then, would you be activating TE George Kittle and QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s IR windows the next week, since you’ll be down to your final three weeks?

“Yeah, Nzeocha, we don’t have to do it this week. I think we still have another week. I would like to do it. A lot of that goes into the whole roster and who’s going to be available on Sunday. So, I think we have until one tomorrow to decide on that. Yeah, I mean, I didn’t even think about whether we were going to activate their window or not, but there’s only three weeks, so I assume so. I don’t know on that. If that doesn’t count to the playoffs and we would wait unless we knew for sure they had a chance to go next week and I don’t know if they have a chance to go yet.”

Two questions, one is probably pretty stupid. What was your reaction to Washington’s name change? Then, do you see any similarity in terms of the moves that Chase Young uses to Nick Bosa, coming out of that Ohio State University associate head coach/defensive line Larry Johnson school of defensive linemen?

“I didn’t have much reaction. Just watching it like everybody else did. It was weird at first and now it’s not, so everyone just moves on. It seems like a big deal at first and you realize a week later, it’s not a big deal at all.

Yeah, it was what I was saying earlier. The guys are wired differently, their skill set and they’re both, obviously, worthy of the first pick in the draft on almost any year, but they’re wired and move a little bit differently. But, yeah, you do see, when you’re coached by the same guy and a really good coach like he is, you can see some of the flashes of some of the same moves.”

Is there anything particular that you emphasized for QB Nick Mullens facing this defensive front and then who is playing Chase Young on the practice squad this week?

“We had a bunch of guys playing Chase Young. We were down a lot of guys in practice this week, so a lot of our practice D-Linemen were playing D-Line and O-Line, especially when we lost a couple O-Linemen yesterday. So, it wasn’t one guy, it was a bunch. What was the other question?”

What did you emphasize with Nick Mullins this week?

“Almost the same stuff I’ve been emphasizing every week with him. Do what you’re supposed to do in terms of, what play’s called, you read the coverage, you go to the right person. Don’t try to make stuff up, be aggressive, but do it within the play. I thought Nick did a real good job of that last week. He made the right plays. I know he’d love to have that pick back on third and, I think it was third-and-goal on the five. He could have done that better.

His other pick, it was a good throw. He was just unfortunate with it tipping off [WR Brandon] Aiyuk’s knee, but I thought he played very well. Then there was a couple of times in the game where the play wasn’t there and he still went off schedule and made a couple off schedule plays to [WR Kendrick] Bourne, which I thought was a great job.

That’s the stuff I want to see him do because he’s very good at seeing it the right way, letting it go with no hesitation, but sometimes when you try to get a little riskier in terms of you might be down 10 points or you might feel like we need to make a play, I love when he does, but I don’t want him to force that stuff because turnovers are really what have cost us here when we’ve lost games and I want him to be better with the ball in that way. I think he was last week, minus the third-and-goal on the five.”

DL Arik Armstead is your Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. What does he bring to the locker room and to the building in terms of being a positive influence in terms of community work and social justice issues?

“As far as in the locker room, Arik doesn’t, he’s not the most outgoing, talking guy. Like when you first come here, you don’t think you’re going to know him within a week. Arik’s himself and he’s the same every day. I think some people can interpret that the wrong way at first, but watching the guy the whole first year, some of the stuff he played through, when he, I forget whether it was his thumb or not, but I think he shattered his thumb in the Washington game in the first quarter. We didn’t even know about it until the game was over and he had to go on IR because of it.

So, I’ve just seen the guy battle through so much stuff and be so tough for us. The way he practices every day, the way he grinds, it’s really hard for these big guys to go out there and practice at a level that we want them to and Arik, who’s been around a little bit, does it with no hesitation and that to me is a leader by example. He shows up every week and he does every job that we ask him to do. Out in the community, I don’t get to see a lot of it, but I hear about it. I know Arik’s involved in that stuff all the time.

I know he has a big reading program, I think, in Sacramento. I know California is very important to him, being from Sacramento and I think all the local stuff that he does in our area. I know even down here, living in this hotel and not being able to do that stuff, I think he’s Zooming and reading books to schools on Mondays and Tuesdays from Zoom. So, Arik’s a really good dude, a really good player, and glad he’s on our team.”