Q&A with Jim Harbaugh

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Q&A with Jim Harbaugh

SAN FRANCISCO -- As quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Harbaugh earned the nickname "Captain Comeback" but he never authored come-from-behind drama quite like the fourth-quarter action that lifted the 49ers into next Sunday's NFC Championship. San Francisco's coach reflected on what the franchise's first playoff win since January 2003 meant.

Opening Statement:
Well, just really proud of our team. Youre going to live or die in these games. We lived. We move on and we move on in spectacular fashion. Really proud of our football team. I know there was The Catch. I dont know what youre going to call this one. The throw? The throw and catch? But it was a great play by TE Vernon Davis and QB Alex Smith. Vernon was huge today in this ball game. It was a great team effort. Great team victory. I also want to talk about our kickoff coverage. I think those guys are just the best darn guys in the business at covering kicks. A lot of other things. We knew they were going to make plays. We knew we were going to make plays. We felt that we would make more plays and it ended up that we made one or two or three more than they did.

Q: Talk about the job your defense did, particularly in the first half, forcing all the turnovers and getting you every opportunity to take the lead and take control of the game.
We got some spectacular stops. On third down, I thought they were outstanding. Five takeaways in the game. I know the special teams contributed to that as well. Very opportunistic today. Got pressure on their quarterback. Made plays on the ball, and made them when they were there to be made, our guys in the secondary made them. Got some huge stops in the game. It was a terrific job by our defense, once again. You just love the way they play. You love the way they compete. Love how hard they work on the field.

Q: Can you tell us the name of the play that the throw and catch was that won the game? Are you allowed to?
Yeah, the main part of the play was Vernon-Post. We told Alex, we said, Lets go to Vernon here. Its either Vernon or nobody. Quarterbacks Coach Geep Chryst did a great job calling that play. He designed it. It worked. Great job by Geep.
Q: What about the run by Alex around the left side when he scored there? Can you tell us the name of that one?
QB-9.
Q: Have you run either of those plays today? Or whens the last time you ran either of them?
Weve run the one with Alex. The one that Alex scored on, weve run that before. I cant remember exactly what game that was. It was a home game. I think it was the Giants. The Vernon-post was new to this game plan.

Q: What were the Saints showing you that youou felt like it was the time to break open plays like that. Were the Saints showing you anything particular in their coverages that you felt like those plays would be effective?
We were really taking some shots all game long. I felt Alex played extremely bold. Might be time to give Alex a little credit, huh? Spectacular performance by him as well. We just put things in his hands and our offenses hands. They really did a great job learning this game plan, understanding it and then going out and executing it.

Q: Have you ever had another play go running into your arms crying, tears running down their face ever?
A few times, but that was special. I dont know if there was anything ever better than that. I cant remember winning a game in such spectacular fashion as this one.

Q: What was Alexs demeanor like after the TE Jimmy Graham touchdown? On the sideline?
It was no different than it was any other point in the game. We knew we were down by 3 and we had to get at least a field goal to put it into overtime. Then he makes the great throw to Vernon on the go-route. Then we wanted to press it. We wanted to go for the touchdown and take our shots.

Q: Did you go into the game thinking that Vernon was going to be a big factor or did he make himself a big factor?
Vernon is always a big factor in any game plan. He was singled up a lot today. They were trying to bring heat and play man-to-man coverage. We won a few times with Vernon getting the separation and making the big run after catch. In the first quarter when we got our first touchdown, similar play to what Jimmy Graham made there in the fourth quarter.

Q: When you were practicing that play to Vernon, were you thinking that that could be the go to play for a situation like that?
We wanted to call it. We felt like thats the look we would get. It was really good game planning by Geep Chryst. He drew it up. He showed everybody how they would play. Got a good simulation of it in practice, at least two or three times. Worked on it. That was a great throw by Alex. He had made that similar throw in practice, too. The interesting thing about it though is that every time we practiced it, we practiced it going right. That was the first time we threw it going left, was this ball game. That was the best one. That was the best one of all of them, right there.

Q: When did Geep draw that up?
I think we installed that on Wednesday.
Q: How do you sense that thats going to be the kind of play that would work?
Just what he saw on film. Thought that that was a look that we would get. S Roman Harper would be on the goal line. Soft peddling into the end zone. Vernon would cross face and we would make the throw.

Q: So, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman decided at that point to go to it? Or was that your call?
Geep called it. Geep came over to the headset and called it. I relayed it in to Alex.
Q: When you hugged Vernon, what did you tell him? It looked like you whispered something into his ear?
I said hes a great football player. Theres a special place in your heart for players that play great in the big games. You love them all. You really do. You love all the players. But, the guy that plays great in the big game. Boy, theres just a little extra space for them. Thats what I was telling him, that hes a great football player.
Q: When you said it might be time to give Alex some credit, what did you mean by that?
I think exactly what I said. Time to give him some credit.

Q: That Alex run on the QB-9 play, is he reading anything on that play or he just gets it and sprints to the left corner?
Its to circle the defense. Its to get it outside to stretch it from hash to numbers to sidelines. He got a great block from WR Kyle Williams. A great, physical block. Thats Kyle Williams, number 10, blocking their defensive end. That set the play off. We got two good blocks on the perimeter as well. It was pretty free sailing. He had free access to get past the first down line. Alex has got great athletic ability, great running ability, and then took it down the sideline for the score.

Q: Youve been involved in a lot of big NFL games. How does this rank?
Right now, it feels like the best. It really does. Like I said before, I cant recall a win like this in this kind of spectacular fashion, as this by our football team. A great team win. Our defense played phenomenal football. Our special teams, the coverage units, they are the best in the business at what they do. The LB Blake Costanzos, the LB Tavares T-Goodens, FB Bruce Miller and CB Tramaine T-Brock. I know Im leaving somebody out, but they run down and cover kicks. They had a lot of opportunities to do it and they did a phenomenal job.
Q: What was it today that made you guys steer so heavy towards the pass and away from the run game? At least numbers-wise?
I thought we were pretty balanced. We got some good gains in the run game as well. We knew that they were going to turn it into a blitz game on the second and third downs. We were going to have to make plays. Both teams made plays. Both teams made plays defensively, offensively, special teams. We knew there would be an ebb and flow, but we would prevail and make more plays. Our guys executed it.

Q: How is that different as a player than as a coach? You did it as a player, these big NFL wins, but as a coach how is that different? Do you embrace it differently? Does it mean more?
Yeah, I would say it does. It means more. It means that these guys are my heroes, these players. I grew up dreaming of being an athlete. Wanted to be an athlete. Those guys that were athletes were my heroes. Pretty much burnt up my childhood days thinking about that. That times past me by now, but my heroes are still these athletes. Our guys and the way they play. Im just really proud of them. Loved the way they competed and fought today. This was an all day sucker and they prevailed.
Transcript courtesy San Francisco 49ers media relations.

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.”