Knapp excited to return as part of new Raiders regime

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Knapp excited to return as part of new Raiders regime

INDIANAPOLIS -- Within hours of joining Dennis Allen's staff, new Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp made a phone call to his quarterback.

Initially, there were questions about Carson Palmer's future with the Raiders after Hue Jackson, the man who brought him to Oakland in a blockbuster trade, was fired.But there is no longer any uncertainty about Palmer's role with the Raiders in 2012. Both Allen and Knapp have come out in strong support of the Raiders incumbent quarterback.

"I've heard all these great things about him before I got here and since I've been here," Knapp told CSNBayArea.com before returning from the NFL scouting combine.

"Talking to him on the phone about a half-dozen times, and I think I'm just as excited to work with him as he is to work in our offense."

Knapp, who previously worked for the Raiders during the forgettable Lane Kiffin era, is excited, all right. He used a form of the word six times in a six-minute interview.What's not to be excited about?Knapp spent the past three seasons as quarterbacks coach with the Houston Texans. The allure of returning to California was great, but he said he was even more eager to sign on with Allen and new general manager Reggie McKenzie.

"There's a definite positive vibe going on," Knapp said. "I was very excited to see what Reggie's plan was when I came in and initially met with him.

"D.A.'s energy is contagious with everybody. The players are feeling it. The guys who have been in the building for a long time -- equipment guys, trainers, video guys -- are feeling it. It's neat to be a part of something at the ground level and build this thing."

There isn't a whole lot of building that needs to happen on offense, as Knapp already has the main component of a passing game with a veteran quarterback. And he is reunited with one of the more dynamic running backs in the league.

"I was here last in 2008, and Darren McFadden was a rookie that year," Knapp said. "I'm excited to get back with him. He really fits our run scheme well, as far as the zone scheme which I'll be implementing with our coaches. That's a great starting point for me."

While Knapp has been in the NFL, he has been on staffs that regularly enjoyed success on the ground with such running backs of varied styles, such as Garrison Hearst (49ers), Warrick Dunn (Atlanta), Justin Fargas (Raiders) and undrafted Arian Foster (Houston).And Knapp believes McFadden has the perfect running style for the offense the Raiders will employ.

"He doesn't mess around when he runs," Knapp said. "When he makes a cut, he's going north and south. And he has the ability to go the distance any time the ball is in his hands. That's hard to find in this business because there is so much speed on the field on defense. Darren has the attributes to be able to take the ball all the way and score."

Knapp said in addition to Palmer and McFadden, he has also spoken with pending free agent running back Michael Bush, backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor and guard Cooper Carlisle. Due to new NFL rules, his first chance to begin coaching the new system to the players will be April 2.

"There will be a learning curve," he said. "I think that happens with any transition with a new team. But we'll have plenty of time to get it implemented. Whenever we're in a start-up mode like we are here, like a start-up company, it's my job to make sure that we don't do everything at once but piece it correctly together. We'll have building blocks, so to speak, to implement the offense."

And he'll have plenty of help.Steve Wisniewski was retained from the former staff as an assistant offensive line coach. Knapp added Frank Pollack, with whom he coached with the Houston Texans. Pollack knows the zone scheme from his training with legendary line coach Alex Gibbs and Texans line coach John Benton.

The Raiders also retained running backs coach Kelly Skipper, who served on the same Oakland staff with Knapp in 2007 and 2008. Another key individual retained is veteran coach Al Saunders, who held the title of offensive coordinator under Jackson and is back as "senior offensive assistant."

"It was great to be able to retain Al Saunders, who knows football and football's football," Knapp said "And he has enough years of experience, and he'll be very helpful in game-planning and talking about personnel."

With Allen's background on the defensive side, Knapp figures to have autonomy to run the show on offense. But Knapp said he does not look at it that way.

"I want Reggie's input on personnel and D.A.'s input on football stuff," Knapp said. "Those are two bright minds. That was a big reason I came here. The environment of how Reggie and D.A. envision the building and the team really coincides with what I believe it takes to play winning football. So I'm looking forward to getting a chance to work with those guys to help implement our offense and work together to win a championship."

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.”