Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh

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Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met the media in Santa Clara on Wednesday to touch on the New York Giants, Frank Gore's ailing ankle, Alex Smith's place among the NFL's best QBs and make a pick in this weekend's Oregon-Stanford matchup on The Farm:

Q: Do you place any added significance on this game because there could be playoff implications down the road as far as seeding?Jim Harbaugh: Theres great significance to this game. The biggest thing is its the next game. That always makes it the most important game.
Q: What was impressive to you about their win on Sunday against the Patriots?JH: So many things. What a good football team they have. How well they play on the defensive front, same with the offensive line. Just a really good team in the lines. Very good, elite quarterback and the skill position at receivers and backs, outstanding. Just across the board, linebackers, secondary, its an outstanding football team. Very good at special teams, very disciplined team, very physical team. They play well together.Q: How does it affect your preparation not knowing whether Giants WR Hakeem Nicks or Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw will play?JH: Well prepare like theyll play. Well prepare like their backups will play as well, you can only do it that way.Q: David Baas, their center, took part in a player workout that QB Alex Smith ran in June, had exposure to the playbook that you had given Alex at that point. Is that a concern at this point? Would that give him any extra insight that they couldnt get from watching game film and things like that?JH: I dont think so. There are eight games on tape that Im sure they have a good idea of what we do offensively.Q: Verbiage in that wouldnt be a factor, just knowing what he called plays and things like that?JH: David wont be in the huddle prior to the snap. I really dont think that would be. I think they have what they have on tape and thats the bulk of what theyll go off of.
Q: You spoke of the progress that Alex has made. Youve obviously done what a coach should do, blocking schemes and everything. Before this year, did you ever have any contact with him when you were still in the NFL and did you know much about him or just watching films and just reading and listening to people?JH: No, I had not met Alex Smith until I got the job here.Q: So all the stuff floating through the air, you dont pay any attention to that do you? The stuff like he cant play etc.JH: I was looking in through the keyhole, so to speak. I respected him as a player. I think people that know football and understand the game appreciate Alex Smith as a very talented quarterback. Hes every bit the elite quarterback as there is playing in the game right now. Appreciate all the talent that he has and what he brings to our team.Q: By saying that he is one of the elite quarterbacks, if you look at his fourth quarter performances this season is that part of the evidence? Why?JH: Again, its a whole body of work. Theres evidence really however you want to pick his performance apart. Hes playing at a very high level.Q: Is RB Frank Gores ankle at a point where you feel like he wont be limited this week? Has he shown some improvement on it?JH: Im not in Franks skin, never am, and thats always the hard thing when everybody asks me, How Frank is going to be this afternoon at practice? Hows he going to be on Sunday? Its just hard to predict how somebody else is going to feel exactly with any accuracy.Q: Has the training staff given you an update on Franks ankle that gives you any kind of feeling of where hes at?JH: I feel good. I feel good from what Frank has said and that he should be healthy to practice today, we anticipate that, and well go from there.Q: I think hes on pace for the most carries hes ever had in his career. As we go into the second half of the season, are you more cognoscente or careful of giving him fewer carries as the year goes on?JH: Cognoscente of it? Yes.Q: Are the additional carries more a factor of you guys having leads late in the game and your salting out games?JH: That has been a factor. Its an obvious one. Weve had some leads in the fourth quarter, third quarter where you have to run the ball more. Throwing it every down when youre down two or three scores.Q: K David Akers, how impressive has he been over his first eight games?JH: David has been darn near perfect, thats how impressive hes been. I cant imagine theres any kicker thats bringing more to their team than David Akers is this year. Look at the touchbacks, look at the field goals, the degree of difficulty on these field goals, 50-plus, 40-plus. Hes dealt with the wind here in Candlestick, hes kicked such a straight, true ball that the elements havent been a factor. Hes been rock solid on pressure kicks. You factor that degree of difficulty in and hes been darn near perfect.Q: Did you know his leg was this strong? Hes nailed four field goals over 50 and hes gotten all these touchbacks. Did you know he was coming with that much power?JH: We felt like he was the best kicker in the game and hes delivered on that.Q: In the game Sunday, there were several times where you guys had late shifts in the play clock and it seemed sort of rushed. Was it rushed or was that by design to have those shifts so late?
JH: Sometimes theyre designed that way, sometimes you get the look late and make the adjustment.Q: Is there ever a downside to having such a good kicker or a kicker you trust so implicitly that once you get in between the 40 and the 25 yard lines, subconsciously youre not as aggressive as you would be if you didnt trust him as much?JH: No. I dont think theres a downside to having a good kicker.Q: TG Chilo Rachal and CB Shawntae Spencer, those are guys who were regular starters here the past couple of years. Obviously, theyre not in those roles this season. From your point or perspective, how have they handled their new roles this season?JH: Theyve really been team guys, especially Chilo. I really have to take my hat off to him. He is really chomping at the bit to be in there, after practice, before practice. Really on point. His time will come again and he plays and contributes for us in our extra O-linemen package, hes on field goal, hes on kickoff return. Hes preparing like a starter and thats how we think of him. Especially pleased with him.Q: You had said on the radio the other day that you have a new play this week. When you unveiled the name of that play to your offensive team, what was the reaction?JH: They knew. Got a chuckle from the fellas.Q: Was that your idea to institute that name?JH: When we were at Arlington (National Cemetery) and Sergeant Skywalker just finished up talking to the team, he shared about 10 minutes worth of comments with the team. On the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. When he was done, Wide Receivers Coach Johnnie Morton and I looked at each other and go we need a skywalker and its got to be good, its got to be a good one, a good play.
Q: Hell be on the sideline for the Baltimore game?JH: Yes.Q: Will you have a chance to watch Stanford vs. Oregon on Saturday night?JH: Should be able to. We have meetings on Saturday night, but well have the TV on.Q: Who do you like?JH: I like Stanford.Q: It seems like the offense, other than the one 30-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Miller, hasnt had that quick strike ability that we saw in Philadelphia or Tampa Bay. Game plan can determine that. Is there anything in particular as to why over these past two games (inaudible)?JH: No, not one thing. Well just keep working on our quick strike ability and see if we cant get that better.Q: But has it been not a concern or something youve been looking at?JH: Yeah were trying to improve in all areas, see where the heck we can get a mile an hour faster and a percent better each day. Thats the way we go about things, thats the way our players go about them.
Q: Whats the challenges of facing the Giants front four? What makes them so good?JH: They are just fast, physical, up-field, strong men. Just strong people, that are very athletic. Thats a formidable combination. Our line is good, too. Weve got a good offensive line. Thats going to be two opposing wills that are going to be meeting each other in this ball game and it will be outstanding to watch our guys compete in that kind of environment.Q: Are they the most talented team youve played thus far?JH: Dont make a lot of comparisons from one team to the other. This is the most important game because its the next game. Expectations are well have a great day of meetings and practice in preparation for this big game.

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.”