San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator is a pleasure to listen to whenever he has media availability. He keeps things light and is honest with his answers without giving “coach speak.”
Much of the topics Thursday were surrounding the 49ers running backs, and why not, as each back who was active Sunday was banged up at one point — save Trent Cannon, who played one snap.
Before we get to McDaniel’s comments, here’s what head coach Kyle Shanhan had to say about Mitchell and Sermon on KNBR Thursday:
On Mitchell: “He has the most outside chance. Hopefully he’ll get out there tomorrow, but we’re waiting for the pain to go away. We’ll take that up to Sunday if we have to.”
On Sermon: “Had a real good day today. Hopefully he’ll get cleared by tomorrow.”
That doesn’t sound promising for Mitchell.
McDaniel was asked how much newcomer Jacques Patrick needs to get up to speed to play Sunday:
“There’s a lot of offense and a lot of plays, so there’s a lot of get up to speed in the process. There was some carry over with the scheme that they do in Cincinnati in terms of the run play specifically. So, it hasn’t been starting from square one, but again, it’s learning a new language.
The good thing about our offensive is that you can kind of compartmentalize portions of it, learn what you need to learn. And there’s no shortcut. There’s been a lot of hours worked by [running backs] coach [Robert] Bobby Turner [Jr.] and him putting in. We’ve got a couple of new guys and that’s kind of been the case for everybody. So, it’s been fun and it’s just opportunities to coach.”
Patrick is an interesting fit as he has the size, vision, and straight line speed to fit in Shanahan’s outside zone scheme. If you ask around about Patrick, he’s known as more of an inside runner.
McDaniel simplified any questions about a fit for any new running back on the offense: “Make sure that schematically you don’t do anything that challenges their brain too much because their job is to carry a football and not get tackled. And it’s hard to do that when you’re thinking too much.”
I loved that answer because this is not complicated. Allow your players to do what they do best. McDaniel said he’s been encouraged by Sermon this week after speaking with the rookie running back. He also acknowledged that the 49ers must be prepared in case Sermon can’t play.
McDaniel spoke about what it was like during the fourth quarter of the Eagles game last Sunday when seemingly each running back was hurt. His answer ties back in with what he said above about how it’s the 49ers job to have everyone prepared:
“Yeah. It’s not fun. It’s not fun at all. But again, it’s also challenging and that’s part of our job and responsibility to the 49ers’ organization and the fan base. So, you were prepared for the worst-case scenario, but you’re not super pumped up for the worst-case scenario.
Not because we have a ton of confidence in that player and that’s why he’s on our team, but more that you don’t want to put someone in a position to fail. So, you want to do stuff that your players are comfortable with.
So, it was wild and not the best-case scenario by any means. But that’s one of the things that we preach. One thing that [Head] coach [Kyle] Shanahan preaches all the time is that doesn’t matter. There’s going to be turmoil each and every game. It’s how do players respond? Okay. If a player doesn’t know what to do, it’d be great if the fullback or tight end told them what to do. You put it on the collective and he’s just in one week, far ahead of where he was last.”
I’m curious to see how long Mitchell will be out if he can’t play Sunday. If Sermon plays well, does Mitchell regain his starting spot at running back? This is a good problem to have if you’re the 49ers.
If there was ever a game to get your running game going, no matter who you’re handing it off to, it’s against a Packers team that has struggled to stop the run.