Jim Harbaugh Q&A

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Jim Harbaugh Q&A

Head Coach Jim HarbaughPress Conference January 12, 2012San Francisco 49ersQ: Was today a Friday practice schedule for you?
Harbaugh: Yes.

Q: So, usually you have the walk-through then you go to practice, it wasnt that open window today. Did practicedid the walk-through go long, or?
Harbaugh: No, no.

Q: Thats the way you had it scheduled?
Harbaugh: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you guys wereIm surprised you guys werent out there, but you were welcome out there through the 12:25pm... Did Director of Public Relations Bob Lange try to blame me for that? Sounds like there was some...
Yes.

Harbaugh: Yes? Tried to throw me under the bus on that, Bob?

Q: Did everyone practice that you expected to practice? Everyone but TE Delanie Walker?
Harbaugh: Yes, I believe so.

Q: Have you sensed any change in your teams mood this week, or has it been business-as-usual type approach?
Harbaugh: I dont know about business as usual, but its been focused. Its been loose. Both of those at the same time. Pleased with our preparation. Confident in our plan. Happy the way the players prepared.

Q: Have you done anything to keep it loose, to make sure that theyre loose going into this game?
Harbaugh: No, I think our guys do a great job of that themselves.

Q: Jim, what would you ideally like to see out of your offense on Saturday?
Harbaugh: A lot of things, a lot of things. Score more points than the Saints, number one. Execute, move the ball, not turn it over. And then quite a few other things.

Q: Jim, this team worked really hard to get home-field advantage for the playoffs. When youre taking a group, many of whom have never played in the postseason, into a playoff scenario for the first time, how important is it to have that home field where everything stays the same during the week, the preparation, theyre going to their own stadium, how important is that going to be for them?
Harbaugh: Well, I think its an advantage. They work very hard for it. They earned it. And they get the benefit of that. So, its not to say that teams dont win on the road in the playoffs, because historically they do. But, I think our team goes into this game confident and bold and with a great amount of respect for the New Orleans Saints team as well. Great amount of respect for who they are, what they do, and what theyre capable of.

Q: WR Michael Crabtree said that your advice was dont overcook it this week. Is that accurate?
Harbaugh: Yes.

Q: What does that mean?
Harbaugh: Well, the analogy would be like not to overcook it like a burnt piece of meat. That doesnt taste real good.

Q: Like preparation? Dont spend too much time thinking about it?
Harbaugh: That and just go into this thing and trust their own instincts. Trust their gut. Make it about the team. Trust the team. A guy doesnt have to do too much. Hes got to do his job and has the ability to trust his team because hes on a good team. Prepare and understand the Saints as well as possible. Focused and loose at the same time.

Q: Did you sense any more energy level from the team just from the fact that they had a week of rest?
Harbaugh: Theres been great practices. Its been a tremendous week of preparation and practice, and our guys have been high energy. And I think some of that is definitely a result of having that week off.

Q: Are you focused and loose?
Harbaugh: I am. I feel like I am. But you know what, it just never really matters that much how I am, or just a coach. Just going to be standing over there on the sideline. To me its the players. Where are they at in their preparation, their understanding of this game plan, and what their morale is, how they feel physically. If they feel good, I feel good.

Q: But dont they take cues from you? If you seem tense and uptight wouldnt they be?
Harbaugh: I kind of go off them. Like I said, I ask guys all the time, how do you feel? And they say, well how do you feel coach? And I say, well how do you feel? You feel good, I feel good. Thats kind of how I look at it. Doesnt matter how I feel, its how they feel.

Q: But how does QB Alex Smith feel? Alex is pretty clear hes not in it to out-stat Saints QB Drew Brees. Thats not the point of this. How important of a step was that do you think for any quarterback, particularly Alex? That its not you versus the other guy, its not about you putting up 300 yard games. Just win the football game.
Harbaugh: How important is that? I think thats very important. I think theres a confidence there. Theres a confidence in your own ability. Theres a confidence in your team and confidence in your preparation and your plan, and again, your teammates. That youre part of it. Youre part of it. Youre a cog. And hes a big one. The biggest one on the team because he handles the ball every single down. And its no different on our team than it is on other teams. He does the most out there. Hes got a lot on his plate and probably by the nature of the position, he touches the ball every single play. And I think that its not a feeling, its a confident feeling in your team that you dont have to do more than what the team asks you to do.

Q: It was about a year ago that you met Alex Smith for the first time I would imagine. Do you recall any of those meetings? And do you remember sitting down with him and looking for certain things in him that you wanted to see before you committed to him as your quarterback?
Harbaugh: Yes. I wanted to get to know him. I had never met him before. I was kind of just looking in through the key hole. But I guess the things I wanted to know, boil it down to one thing was did he want to start. Did he want to be in the fire, or did he want to wear the ball cap backwards and backup somewhere. And I really felt that he had the competitive drive, the wanting to prove himself, and wanting to do it here. And thats the thing that probably intrigued me the most. That character of wanting to come back and do it here in San Francisco, which is pretty rare. Probably somewhere between rare and extinct, not just for football players but for just about anybody. Most guys would say, the heck with that Ive had enough, time for a fresh start somewhere else. And I thought we could really work with that kid. To me that was special.

Q: In a year across the league where the running back, his role wasnt diminished, but it was greatly reduced because of great passing. Frank Gore was kind of rock steady for you guys. Was that an anomaly? Is that just the way Frank Gore has been for this franchise over the years and you saw that in him? That you can count on this guy to be a consistent back and help your offense move the chains?
Harbaugh: What are we talking about?

Q: You have Frank Gore in a year where the running backs were not the stars in the league. It was wide receivers and tight ends. Frank Gore has 1,200 yards and he pushed the ball for you guys this year. Is this an anomaly? Are you guys different than other teams? Or is it Frank Gore?

Harbaugh: I dont know that Im ready to agree with you that somehow the running backs are insignificant in 2011. I dont think they are. The team that passed for the most yardage, the New Orleans Saints, has a tremendous running game. Frank Gore is one of the elite backs in the National Football League. Hes had a tremendous year. Were lucky to have him. Then theres the leadership that hes provided this football team. It has been phenomenal. He has stepped up. He has been a consummate team guy the entire year. Hes been a big key to our success.

Q: The theme overcook it, did that go to your coordinators, too? Maybe dont put too much in there? Dont layer it up too much? Or was it not for them?
Harbaugh: Its pretty much for everybody.

Q: Do you think this is, youre not going to tell me, I know this
Harbaugh: Were not going to get into scheme and talk about what were doing to do or what were not going to do.

Q: Do you think there is a risk of trying to do too much in a game plan for a playoff game?
Harbaugh: I think every game is different. Every game has its own separate identity. Its own season almost. 16 game plans, 16 different games. Now this is 17. Our approach to it as a coaching staff was to try to get to know the Saints as well as we possibly could. Do the best job that we could of putting together a game plan, in all three phases, that our players would be the most successful in. I feel confident in that. Also, in the fact that our players have understood and practiced it. Combed through it. Troubleshot it pretty thoroughly. Feel confident. Feel like our players can therefore go out and just play. Not have to think as much. Theres a lot of thinking, theres no question about it, but when they know it, they practice it, then they can play and react at a fast tempo.

Q: Former Saint C Jonathan Goodwin brings some playoff experience with Pro Bowl and Super Bowl. How important is that to this team where you have so many guys who have never been in a playoff game before?
Harbaugh: I dont know. We havent really made that monumental of a deal out of it. Whos been in the playoffs, who hasnt? Is that a good thing, is that a bad thing? How much does playoff experience count? Weve got guys that had never been there, thats for sure. But, maybe thats a good thing. They havent been there. Its like kids that havent played a game in a long time. Theyre excited to do it. Like I said, I think where were at right now mindset that they can go into this game confident and bold and theyre ready to play. Theyre ready to go.

Q: What has Jonathan Goodwin brought to this team so far this season?
Harbaugh: Hes been a tremendous player. First of all, hes played 16 games for us. Hes started 16 games at, you could argue, the second most important position on the offense. Hes been a block of granite up there for us. Hes done a great job communicating calls and understanding defenses as its happening on the field and communicating that to the coaching staff on the sideline. Hes just been a rock for us.

Q: Given the emotional intensity that comes with a playoff game, have you as a coaching staff and the players emphasized whatever youve done to minimize turnovers this year? Have you emphasized that in practice?
Harbaugh: Oh yeah, always try to do that.

Q: Has it been ratcheted up at all now? Because theres so much emotion around, has that been ratcheted up at all this week? Maybe you returned to it more as you did in the beginning of the season?
Harbaugh: No, we havent overcooked that part of it. There have been no threats of bodily harm. Is that what you were asking?

Q: Has TE Delanie Walker been ruled out for this game?
Harbaugh: Dont think Delanie is going to play this game.

Q: TE Vernon Davis talked a little bit yesterday or the day before that there was a lot more to this offense for him to do as far as reading defenses and stuff. Can you maybe share whats been your view of his progression along the way and how its manifested itself? I know your red zone percentages have improved late in the year.
Harbaugh: Vernon? Vernons been tremendous. A lot of the things that dont show up on the statistic sheet, like the way he has blocked for us in all situations in the run game, and in the pass game. Hes been explosive catching the ball for us as well. Made a lot of big plays for us. Hes just an excellent football player.

Q: You had said throughout the season that the offense was going to be a progression. Was there a time that you saw a big jump in the players as a whole? When they really started getting that step ahead that you can share with us?
Harbaugh: Not one inflection point that I could refer back to. I think its been a steady pursuit of getting a mile an hour faster, a percent better, every day. I think that was the goal. Thats what actually transpired with our guys.

Q: Vernons specific quote was that, it was almost like he wanted to quit. It was too much information early on. Did you sense that from any of the offensive guys early on that they were overwhelmed by the playbook?
Harbaugh: No, I didnt. I did not visibly see that, where they hit a wall or anything. Ive seen that before in other teams, been on or coached. I didnt sense that with our guys. I think the biggest reason is that these are smart, smart guys. This group especially. Very football savvy, very book smart, football smart group. Thats been very fortunate for us to have a group like this.

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.”