Breakfast with Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo

Breakfast with Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo

Dec. 22, 2010MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comSt. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo does not have to play any cat-and-mouse games leading up to Sunday's matchup against the 49ers that might end up deciding the NFC West champion.When asked Wednesday morning on a conference call with three Bay Area reporters if he were prepared to announce the identity of his starting quarterback for the game, Spagnuolo answered, "I don't think I need to do that."Rookie Sam Bradford is clearly their quarterback. He has started all 14 games, and figures to be in that role for a long, long time. Bradford this season became the third rookie in NFL history to throw for more than 3,000 yards, joining the likes of Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan.The 49ers, meanwhile, are trying to keep Spagnuolo, a defensive mastermind, guessing whether he'll see Alex Smith or Troy Smith on Sunday. Alex Smith is 4-1 as a starter against the Rams, while Troy Smith threw for 356 yards in a 23-20 overtime victory Nov. 14 against St. Louis.REWIND: Smith, 49ers overcome penalties, Rams in OT
Spagnuolo joined 49ers reporters Wednesday morning on a conference call. Here is a little of what he had to say:--Does the uncertainty at the 49ers' quarterback situation impact the Rams' ability to put together a game plan?
Spagnuolo: "We had a similar situation last week for Kansas City (Matt Cassel or Brodie Croyle). I've always been a firm believer, there might be a few things here and there, but you're defending the system. The thing I know about San Francisco is they run the ball terrifically well. They have a great offensive line. So we'll have to prepare for both in some regards. There are slight differences. But there are a lot of other things that that football team does offensively really, really well and they do it well with either quarterback."STATS: Alex Smith 2010 splits Troy Smith 2010 splits
--Is it different preparing to face a 49ers team that does not have running back Frank Gore?
Spagnuolo: "Again, I'm not so sure it does. I look at Alex Smith as a very athletic, quality quarterback. And we know what Troy Smith did to us last time, so I put both quarterbacks up there high. We prepare for a very good quarterback whoever's taking the snaps. And I have a lot of respect for Frank Gore, and it's a shame that he got hurt. But I know this, they have two very good running backs, and one I'm very, very familiar with (Brian Westbrook) and have a lot of respect for, and I know the rookie has done a good job too, (Anthony) Dixon."--After game against you guys, teams seemed to have a book on Troy Smith . . .
Spagnuolo: "I wish somebody had shared that book with us. He had a terrific game against us."--Was it a priority to keep him contained in the pocket that game?
Spagnuolo: "Oh, yeah. We knew. They had the game in London before they played us. They had the bye week. I thought he played terrific, and we didn't finish some things. We had some chances, and he made us miss. He's a terrific athlete and a good football player, he had a great day that particular day, but we're moving on. They've had a lot of games since then. We have, too. We face each other on Sunday."--Is there a mental edge you have, as the other team plays a cat-and-mouse game at quarterback?
Spagnuolo: "We don't get all wrapped up in that, to be honest with you."--Is there a sense of accomplishment of how far the Rams have come under your leadership?
Spagnuolo: "There are a lot of people involved in this whole thing, and we knew it would take a lot of people. What we're most proud of is everybody to a man or woman in this building has bought in and embraced what we're trying to do. We've seen some fruits of that in recent weeks, and we'd like to see more. We have a very difficult challenge coming up this Sunday that's what want to stay focused on. When they tell us the season's over, whenever that is, we'll reflect back on what we've accomplished and where we go from there."RELATED: Spotlight on the Enemy -- St. Louis Rams
On the difficult loss to the 49ers in Week 10.
Spagnuolo: "At that particular time, you feel it. And then the guys here in this building, coaches, players, administration, have learned when you go through the adversity of losing a football game, you dust yourself off on Monday and you can't stay focused on the past, and you move on to the next one. It was meaningful because it was a divisional game. But they're all the same. We feel the same way when we have one point less than the opponent at the end of the game, it counts the same in the league standings."--Did you get any clarification from the NFL Office after the controversial pass-interference penalty called on safety O.J. Atogwe in overtime that set up 49ers for winning field goal?
Spagnuolo: "I'm not going to go back to that play. We've moved on from all of it. All the plays in that game. The officials officiate. Whatever they see, they call. And both teams live with it and move on and play."--Bradford has seen a recent dip in production. Is there anything that you can point to as a reason?
Spagnuolo: "We look at it as a complete 11-man procedure here. Certainly, the quarterback is the most important guy on offense, so people will look and have certain perceptions when you're doing well and not doing well. But Sam has been -- this is an obvious statement -- a tremendous addition to this football team, not just on offense but to the team, as well. The other 10 guys guys in the huddle are there with him, they respond to him. He'd like to a have a few plays back. We all would. But he's a resilient guy and a tremendous, tremendous, fierce competitor. And that's what we love most about him."RELATED: Sam Bradford season stats
--On what he's seen from the 49ers' secondary.
Spagnuolo: "I just showed a tape to the team. The one thing I see back there is that they're very opportunistic in the secondary. They make a bunch of plays there. They're a good defensive football team. It all starts up front, but they've made a bunch of plays. Nate Clements is a terrific football player. They got some safeties playing well. (Shawntae) Spencer does a nice job. I look out there, I see a good, solid defense out there -- all 11."

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”