Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan
ILB Brian Cushing
QB Tom Savage
Conference Call with 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What have you thought about the job that Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel has done this year?
“(He’s) done a good job. He’s doing a good job adjusting and putting guys in position to make plays. We always can improve, everybody can improve, but I think overall he’s done a good job.”
How’s ILB Brian Cushing doing?
Does having ILB Brian Cushing back give you more flexibility, and especially with the SAM linebacker spot with OLB Brennan Scarlett out, can ILB Zach Cunningham or ILB Brian Cushing being able to play there?
“First of all, it’s good to have him back. Secondly, as you know with me, I’m probably not going to get into how we’re going to use these guys. But, there’s a lot of flexibility with all those guys because of the skillset that they have. So, (Benardrick) McKinney could be out there with his length. Obviously Brian (Cushing) has played inside most of the time he’s been here, but he can play outside. Zach (Cunningham) played defensive end in a nickel scheme last week. So, those guys can be moved around.”
When you were able to speak with ILB Brian Cushing, what was the general message you got from him or vice versa about him coming back to the team, the time he missed and where he’s at right now?
“He and I have a good relationship. I have a lot of respect for him. He came back in, we talked for a while, I told him kind of what our plans were for him, especially relative to last week. We wanted to see what type of shape he was in. There’s a difference between working out in a gym somewhere and being in football shape, so we wanted to have a week to do that. It’s great to have him. I wanted to travel him to the game even though we were still using the roster exemption on him. He came to the game. Leadership, he was in the leadership meeting. It’s great to have him back. He’s a Texan and it was great to have him back.”
Do you expect ILB Brian Cushing to be in for a normal amount of plays this weekend? Is there a pitch count for him?
“I don’t think anybody’s on a pitch count this time of the year. We have to find a way to win. I think it all depends on how the game unfolds. They do a lot of different things, San Francisco I’m talking about. We’re going to try to match what they do in certain ways and some of that will involve packages that have certain players on the field, others will have certain other players on the field. He’ll be in there, though.”
How have you seen Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel grow his relationships with his players this year?
“He has very good relationships with his players. If you know anything about Mike (Vrabel), one of the things about Mike is he takes a vested interest in his friendships, his relationships with his players. He knows a lot about every guy, whether it’s family things or whatever it might be. So, I think that’s one of his strengths is that he’s got strong relationships with the people around him.”
How do the relationships Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel has with his players help him on the football field?
“I think it helps in the fact that those guys are going to play very hard. I think they play hard for us. I think they play hard for each other. But, I think part of it is their respect for our coaching staff, him on defense. I think it’s important to know your player on a personal level so that when things are going a certain way in a game you can kind of figure out what the signs are that can help get that player back to what he needs to focus on, things like that. So, I think it helps in a lot of different ways.”
Do you see Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel being a head coach one day?
In this past game, you had to adapt on the fly with TE Stephen Anderson as the main tight end with the injury to TE C.J. Fiedorowicz. Now you have a week to build some more things, so what do you think you can do with him now?
“He’s got a versatile skillset. I thought he – obviously, he caught some passes and made some big plays for us in the game. Too bad we couldn’t win the game because if we had won that game, obviously he would have had a game ball because he made some big plays. But, I thought he blocked well. He’s a tough guy. He’s a tough guy. He’s not concerned about contact. He really plays hard. Very, very smart player. Works very hard. Has great questions. So, yeah, we can do different things with Stephen.”
With the way that you guys have suffered injuries this season, and even last week in particular where four or five guys were knocked out of the game, how much would it help if the NFL expanded gameday rosters?
“I think that – look, I know that there’s really a few schools of thought on this in the league, but coming from where I’ve come from, who I’ve worked for, learning how to develop players, I don’t think there’s any question that there should be an expanded practice squad roster and an expanded roster on gameday, I think. Forty-six gameday roster, obviously with us, lately has been very difficult. When you experience six or seven injuries in a game, you’re down to 40 players, and really it’s 37 because you’re not putting (Shane) Lechler at linebacker or (Jon) Weeks at center or Ka’imi (Fairbairn) at safety. So, it’s really minus those three. They’re specialists. They’re really good at what they do but they’re not every-down players. I think there’s a lot of room for conversation on that. But again, I’m just a head coach and I don’t really have a lot of say in that, but I have some definite opinions on it.”
Do you have any idea where things are at with TE C.J. Fiedorowicz going forward?
“That’s a good question. There’s been no discussion with him yet. I think in these situations you have to let the player kind of first of all, get back to where he’s feeling normal. He’s taken some shots, obviously, he’s had three in a fairly short period of time. So, we’ll wait to see really when he starts feeling better, we’ll sit down and talk about him and talk about what he’s thinking about things. But, C.J.’s (Fiedorowicz) been a really, really top-notch football player for us. Great guy to have around and we expect to have him in the future, no doubt about it.”
Is there any point in the offseason where you look over training, training camp, practice schedules and things like that to see if there’s maybe anything that you guys can do to help keep guys healthier during the season?
“I think that’s a very tall task for us as coaches and strength coaches. I think it’s a very tall task and I’ll tell you why. I think that with the time off that these guys have when the season ends, they’re basically gone away from us for almost four months, three-and-a-half months, and we’re not allowed to really talk to them. It’s a ridiculous rule. I’m sorry. It’s part of the CBA that I have no agreement on, and hopefully when the CBA comes up for review again they’ll change these things because they ask us to develop players and how are we supposed to do that when for four months out of the year we can’t even see them, can’t even talk to them, can’t text them, can’t call them, can’t meet with them. When they’re in the building, we can’t even talk football with them. If they want to come in here and lift on their own, they can’t even get conditioned by our coaching staff. Our players, when they want to throw in the offseason, when they’re not here for offseason program, they can’t even throw passes to each other on our practice field. They have to go the University of Houston, Strake (Jesuit College Preparatory), other high schools to find places to throw. Think about that. And then, people want us to have these guys in shape and all those other things. And look, our guys are great, they come back in shape, they do a lot of good things in the offseason, but our job is really once they get here is to coach them as good as we can on the short time that we have them here.”
QB Tom Savage took a lot of hits in this last game. Physically, how is he doing this week?
“Good. He’s doing good. Look, we just had basically a jog-through today, but he’ll be ready to go.”
What do you like about the moving of TE MyCole Pruitt and WR DeAndre White from the practice squad to the active roster?
“Start with (MyCole) Pruitt, he’s really done a good job since he came in here. He’s made some plays for us on the scout team. He’s done a good job on special teams on the different units that we’ve used him on there on scout teams and he’s earned the right to be up. He’s played. He played in the playoff game for Minnesota. He’s played football in this league. So, we’re excited to see what he can do. DeAndrew (White), we really liked him in training camp. I thought he had a real shot to make our team in training camp and then he dove for a ball, made a great catch, but he landed wrong and he had a pretty significant injury. So, we felt like in the best interest for us to move on at that point and hopefully try to get him back when he was healthy and that’s what we did. It’s good to have him back on the team, no doubt about it.”
Are you hopeful that WR Will Fuller V can play on Sunday?
You guys had Minnesota Vikings QB Case Keenum a couple times here and he’s had such a strong year in Minnesota. What do you remember about his development, and especially the second time when he came in for those two games, just watching him continue to evolve and get to this point in his NFL career?
“He was with us in our first training camp here, really did a good job. Very smart, really good leadership qualities. Then, when we brought him back at the end of that year for two games, we beat Jacksonville and Baltimore and he played really well for us. Whatever happened, happened. We moved on and he’s been in a few places, but now he’s having a great year. We have a lot of respect for Case (Keenum). We think he’s a heck of a player and an even better guy with a lot of great qualities, no doubt about it.”
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
What was the difference in QB Tom Savage last Sunday?
“I just think he was probably a little more consistent throughout the game. He kind of stayed even keel. I just thought he continuously made good decisions, like you said. There’s not one thing or another that I noticed right off the bat that was different. Tom approached the game the same way, same type of work week. I do think, though, that throughout the game there was no periods of ups and downs, it was just a consistent performance throughout. I thought that really helped us in the end.”
Was it even more impressive considering who you had to play with due to injuries in the game?
“I think so. From the start, it’s never been about who’s out there with him, is it the first team, even when he was second team or scout team, when he was doing that when Deshaun (Watson) was playing. He really kind of focuses on doing his job and really does have a pretty good way about him in terms of trusting whoever it is that’s out there with him and just kind of going about his business and getting things done the way he needs to. I think he’s kind of done that from the start, so it was impressive but not surprising to me.”
Do you think QB Tom Savage has done enough this year to show that he can be a quarterback in this league?
“Yeah, sure. To me, it’s evident Tom can play in this league and perform in this league. He’s done that. The games are important because they’re a way for us to keep improving, keep going out and trying to get wins, and I know that’s what he cares about. So, within that he’ll have a chance to continue to prove himself, which he’s done already in my opinion. I just think in his mind it’s all about going out, trying to get a win against San Francisco, improving and playing better. That’s really where our focus in the quarterback room is right now.”
What’s the most impressive thing you think he’s done this year?
“I think, like I talked about, just handling every situation that came his way, whether it be in a starting role in the beginning or after starting from the Indianapolis game on, or whether it be being a good teammate and being a backup and running the scout team and helping Deshaun in every way that he could. I just think he’s handled pretty every stage and every situation that he’s been put in very professionally and gone about it in a way with a positive attitude and whatever role he was in, just kept on working to get better. That’s been impressive to me.”
He seems to like throwing to TE Stephen Anderson and Anderson seems like he’s getting better and better.”
“Yeah. I think especially on Sunday it stood that that Stephen won a lot of routes. It was kind of something that we went back on last year and looked at that Stephen had won some routes when he got his opportunities, when he was out there, we felt like he understood leverage and was able to kind of get off the line of scrimmage and attack defenders in ways that got him open. We talked about that in the offseason. I think it showed up again in the spring, it showed up in training camp. For us it was something that we knew about, we talked about, and Stephen did a good job, he did a real good job running and winning routes on Sunday. As the game went on I think it’s one of those deals where you realize the guy’s winning and you go to him and good things are happening so you keep going to him.”
What can a game like last Sunday do for QB Tom Savage’s confidence?
“I think when you perform well, I think there’s no question it always kind of is going to boost your confidence going on to the next game. I do think Tom keeps a great view on it where it’s all relative, you know what I mean? He looks at it – and the thing we talk about it in the room is you have to acknowledge things that you’ve done well, you always have to keep in mind the things that you’ve done poorly or things that you need to correct, but at the end of the day I also think he does a great job of understanding it’s about winning and it’s about putting the ball in the end zone. We still didn’t get that done. So, for as good as the performance was, as much as it can help him individually and go there, he realizes that ultimately we didn’t get done what we needed to get done, so there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement.”
ILB BRIAN CUSHING
How does it feel to be back?
“It feels good. It feels fitting. Obviously it’s something I enjoy doing, so it just feels right. It’s been a great feeling to be back this past week.”
What did you say to your teammates and your coaches when you came back?
“Well, obviously I talked to my coaches and a lot of the players. I tried to explain the situation as best I could to them, to an extent. I’m obviously with my coaches a great deal amount. We talked a bunch and (I’m) just very regretful and I felt terrible about it. It’s just a very tough situation. Any time I’m absent from here, I feel like I’ve let a lot of guys down, let a lot of fans down. This is the number one thing in the world I enjoy doing. There’s no question in my mind about that. When you practice with a guy the entire offseason and camp and you expect to be there and you expect to be accountable and you aren’t in that particular situation, it’s upsetting.”
What caused the suspension?
“Well, I don’t want to get too much into particulars, but there were a good amount of things bothering me in this past offseason, most mentally, and I was getting a prescription medication that I should have been more careful with and should have communicated with the league a lot better about. I take full responsibility for it and it’s something now that I’m working with the league and taking again, through their terms and through their doctors to OK it. So, that’s the biggest thing, and the encouraging thing is there are other guys in the league that are allowed to take this. That’s the process we’re in right now, to hopefully get that done.”
If other guys are allowed to take it, do you feel that you should have been suspended?
“Well, I should have, like I said, talked with them more, got the OK with them. I obviously regret it and like I said, take full responsibility, but should have communicated with them a lot better about it.”
Were you taking Adderall?
Do you hope that fans and media receive this suspension differently since it sounds like it wasn’t something related to HGH or testosterone?
“I hope so. I hope they understand that I had an issue that I was trying to better myself with. As I’ve gotten older there’s been a lot of things that I’ve been worrisome about, especially with a lot of the other players that have played and retired and kind of the situations and conditions they’re in. Like I said, it’s just one of those things that I’ve tried to better myself with, but should have been more careful and (I) take full responsibility for it.”
How are you doing now?
“I’m doing really good. I’m doing really good. Like I said, I’m just extremely excited to be back with my team and playing the sport again that I love.”
Was it hard to be away?
“Yeah. Terrible. The worst part is watching guys knowing you can’t help. This is everything I do, everything I love doing. Yeah, it hurt a lot.”
You had the suspension in 2009 and then came back and suffered a lot of injuries. How frustrating was it to come back from all that and get suspended again?
“Extremely, because you’ve built your entire career to kind of get back up. I think we’ve touched upon it. There’s a massive range of things that you can test positive for. Extremely frustrating. I’ve been tested hundreds of times throughout my career and for it to happen again, it’s just – like I said, I should have communicated with the league a lot better about it and been more careful.”
Do you worry about your reputation?
“Yeah, I understand that, but I continue to plan to play for a good amount more. I understand that’s what comes with it, but I’ll obviously try to build that back up and do it the right way and (I) completely understand where that comes from but at the same time, I’ve got a great relationship with my coaches, I’ve got a great relationship with my teammates, family. They understand and (I’ll) continue to build from there.”
Do you worry about if this may affect your status on the team going forward and do you want to play football?
“I would like to play football, but at the same time I can’t worry about that. That’s a decision that’s out of my hands. I can play the best football I possibly can and leave that decision up to them. What’s done is done and I can’t worry too much about the past. I just have to continue to move forward and like I said, play the best football I can for this team.”
Was there anyone outside of your family you leaned on during the tough times?
“Yeah, family and a couple close teammates, a couple of coaches, current coaches. It was a good amount of people I talked to and leaned on that kept me in the positive, upbeat mentality. There were a bunch of dark days and I was very upset that I just wasn’t able to participate and be alongside these guys. That’s what’s most important to me. The good part was I was around my family a lot more, but at the same time, the hardest part was just watching the games and not being able to help and contribute as best as I could. Like I said, it’s in the past, it’s there now, and just looking forward to helping these as best as I can during this home stretch.”
QB TOM SAVAGE
How do you view building on this week?
“Yeah, just have to keep piggybacking there and limit the turnovers. That’s the main goal, is to get rid of that pick and win the game.”
What are some keys to eliminating the turnovers?
“I think it’s just between the receivers and I, trust and knowing where they’re going to be, and anticipation. It’s pretty simple when it comes down to it. Just have to go out there and be smart with the ball.”
Obviously the last play was a big play but do you feel like it was a big step for you to not turn the ball over up to that point?
“I do, obviously, because of the previous few weeks. Now I’m being labeled as a fumbler and a turnover machine, which I know I’m not. It comes down to just executing and doing it and then just proving to yourself you’re not a turnover guy.”
Is part of that just taking chances?
“I hate to say this, I think it’s the worst thing to say, but every turnover has its story of its own. I know you guys have heard that before, but that’s what it is. The last play of the game there, I’m throwing to the best receiver in the league and I threw it outside, he went inside. That’s just something that me and him have to work on. That comes down to, like I said, trust and anticipation. I think you can learn from each one and I think each one is different.”
Every game has added to your body of work. What do you feel like you are showing to everyone as you head into free agency?
“Hopefully I’m showing them that I’m a competitor and I can play in this league, which I know I can. I know I can go out there and make the throws. I know there’s nothing that the defenses are doing right now that are surprising me. I’m going in there prepared, and ultimately I’m a team guy. I care about this team more than anything in this world and it’s going to continue.”
What do you like about throwing to TE Stephen Anderson?
“He just creates a lot of mismatches. I view him as a receiver. I mean, that’s a quarterback talking. Obviously I don’t want him blocking, I want him out running. But yeah, he’s a smart guy, he knows how to get open and he’s a quarterback’s best friend.”
There have been a couple of times you have made plays on the move. Was that something you worked on this offseason on being able to do that better?
“I just think that’s the way is. I think that’s the way this league is going. You have to go out there and make plays on your feet. I’m not by any means a burner out there but I know I can extend the play enough to go make a play. The linemen are out there, they’re going to block their tails off. Sometimes people miss and you have to go make a play. I think that’s the job of a quarterback.”
Is it even more important to be a leader when the team is going through a tough time like this and you are trying to keep everyone positive and on track?
“Yeah, I think so. I have been here four years now. I’ve been in this locker room probably longer than a lot of the guys here. I’m comfortable with everyone and I think it’s important to just go out there and realize that injuries happen and this stuff, obviously it’s unfortunate, but we have to go out there and keep competing and playing and find a way to win.”
What is it like practicing and seeing ILB Brian Cushing back there again?
“It’s awesome. He’s one of the best linebackers of all time. Just a great guy to have back.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said there’s a chance WR Will Fuller V will come back on Sunday? What will it be like to have him back? And then WR DeAndrew White is back after being here in camp. What do you remember about him?
“With Will, there’s not much to say there. Obviously, he’s a burner. We can go and we can extend the field a little bit with him. I really loved DeAndrew White. I think he’s a great player. I liked him a lot in training camp. I thought he was a really knowledgeable guy with this offense and knows what to do out there, so I’m really confident and comfortable with everyone out there. I’m really looking forward to getting back out there.”
How happy are you with the way your health has held up this season?
“Yeah, I’m happy, obviously. It’s not the way we want to go right now. I think I’m 1-4, so I want to go out there and win games, but ultimately, like you said, I’m healthy and each week I get another crack at it. That’s the goal.”
What do you remember about QB Case Keenum about the quarterback and teammate?
“I just think the way he prepared, it was unlike anyone else. He was super prepared. He’s a great guy, a great locker room guy. Everyone always loved him here. I couldn’t be happier for the guy.”
Is his success kind of a reminder that for some guys in this league, it takes a certain situation at a certain time?
“Yeah, that’s just the way it is. Everything comes down to the right situation, the right time, right moment. I couldn’t be happier that he’s taking advantage of it.”
Is it in the back of your mind at all that these last couple of games are an audition for what could happen next year?
“I think all four years were an audition, even preseason. That’s just the way it is. It’s an audition for other teams and audition again for Houston. I just have to go out there and take advantage of it, but most importantly I want to win. That’s the most important thing to me.”
How do you think you’ve done?
“I think I’ve done good. Obviously, we need to go out there and win, but I’m confident in myself. I know I can play in this league. I know the team has confidence and the staff has confidence in me so that’s all that matters.”
Does that make you more confident when you play as well as you did Sunday?
“Yeah, absolutely. Going out there and throwing for 360, it feels good and obviously it helps anyone out there to realize that you can go out there and you can move the ball against a solid defense like that.”
How do you feel?
“No, I’m good. I’m good. I think the line did a great job. I feel healthy.”
You were knocked down 17 times in six days. Are you feeling it?
“You always feel it in the next day. Like I said, I’m super confident in the line and my protections. It’s part of the game.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH 49ERS HEAD COACH KYLE SHANAHAN
What’s the key to being successful and doing what needs to be done when both you and General Manager John Lynch are doing it for the first time?
“I think it’s being able to, first of all, respect and understand each other, know where each other is coming from because you have to make a lot of tough decisions and you need to rely on each other to give strong opinions to help you both get better. And when you have a respect for each other and you trust their intentions and where they’re coming from, it’s really easy to disagree with someone and learn from it. John will give me his opinion and I’ll give him mine and we agree a ton, but not all the time, but when we’re on a different page we’re able to talk about it. He’s able to help me see something differently or I’m able to help him see something differently, and I think that’s hard in our business when you come in separately, when guys have different contracts, you don’t totally know what someone’s agenda is, is someone trying to survive or they’re really just trying to figure out the best way to put a team together to give yourself a chance to win a Super Bowl. What’s pumped me up so much about John is he didn’t have to get into this business and he got in for one reason and it’s because he wants to be a part of a winning organization and have a chance to win a Super Bowl. When I know that’s all our GM’s intentions are, I really respect what he says and it helps me and even when we disagree, it makes me listen because I’ll know where he’s always coming from.”
Do you get into it with 49ers General Manager John Lynch like you used to get into it with former Texans Assistant Head Coach for Offense Alex Gibbs?
“Not quite as much. John’s (Lynch) a little more composed. But, I’m also smarter. John’s also a lot bigger than Alex (Gibbs) was, so I’m not messing with John.”
You’ve coached at quite a few places, but you’ve got so many ex-Texans on your staff. Why did you hire so many ex-Texans?
“First of all, when you become a head coach, you go and you see the guys that you can get, who’s available. I also think it’s very important in this business that the first thing is you need good coaches. You need coaches who know what they’re doing, who understand schematics, X’s and O’s, and who also can teach and relate to the players. It’s hard to truly know until you hire someone or you’ve been around them. I’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years and you can get very fooled in an interview and then you’re with a guy for a couple months and you realize he’s not what you thought he was. So, I go back to my whole career and people I worked with from Houston, Cleveland, Washington, Atlanta (and) you start to develop relationships where you’ve seen this guy coach, you know how he is in the office every day, the type of work ethic he has and when guys were available that I knew were good coaches and there was nothing for me to worry about, I think that’s one of the most important things you can do because you want that continuity with a staff, you want people who have worked together who understand how to deal with guys so people don’t take things so personally and I really think it helps people get on the same page faster and go in the same direction throughout adversity.”
When you were looking for a defensive coordinator, obviously you had a relationship with 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh from Houston, but what did you see in him that qualified him to be your defensive coordinator?
“What qualified him to me was his background and the places he had been, mainly Seattle and Jacksonville. What impressed me the most from what I remember of Saleh from Houston, I knew he was very smart. He was a quality control when I was there and I was on the offensive side. I think my last year there he got moved to assistant linebacker coach – I think, I’m not sure. But, Saleh’s a guy that I dealt with a lot in the office. He would ask me a lot of questions, just offensively, and I would go to him on a lot of things and Saleh was a guy who was very capable of learning every scheme. The scheme that we had there was Richard Smith, then it was Frank Bush. After I left I believe he was with Wade (Phillips) for a year. But, he learned, whatever someone ran, he knew it inside and out. He’s just a very intelligent guy who also has a way with him that I think he deals with people very well. Then, when he went to Seattle and Jacksonville, he learned a scheme that I have a lot of respect for just playing against over the years. After I was in Atlanta, they ran that same scheme also. I knew I wanted a scheme very similar to that. I also knew that there were some things about that scheme that I wanted to be different and not exactly like Seattle and Atlanta and Jacksonville, which is now San Diego. I thought Saleh was – he knew that scheme inside and out and I thought he was smart and had a big understanding of schematics to where he could adjust and put his own wrinkle in it, also.”
Since 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo knew only one system, how much has he been able to absorb of what you want to do? How much more do you have to teach him, or does he already know the 49ers offense?
“No. We have a long way to go in that aspect and it won’t get there until next year. The situation – he came in just in the middle of the year, having zero experience with our terminology and things like that and there’s just no way that him or anyone could pick it up in this time. You don’t get the type of reps that you do in OTAs and training camp. You miss that foundation, so everything’s kind of on the run. You’re not learning the foundation of a playbook, you’re learning weekly game plans. So, in order for him to fully understand it all, that’s going to take an offseason. But right now, it’s just week to week. We put in a game plan that we usually give to him Tuesday afternoon, he works on it throughout the week. It was our first time last week with him as a starter but it’ll be the same this week to where by Sunday, whatever we take into that game, he is comfortable with. No, it’s not our whole offense and everything we do, but it’s what we’ve gotten him repped at and what he studied throughout the week to be able to play.”
Now that you’ve gotten to know QB Jimmy Garoppolo, what do you like about him?
“I put a lot of work into him in the draft. I flew down to Northwestern to work him out, got to go out to dinner with him, watched a ton of tape in college, continued to watch him through the NFL. So, I always thought he had the ability to be that type of quarterback and then when we he became available for the pick that we gave to them (New England), I thought it was a no-brainer. Since he’s been here – you never know until you get a guy in the building, but he’s acted the exact same way that he seemed the first day I went out to dinner with him four years ago. He’s a confident person, he speaks well, he’s good in social settings, guys like him, he’s himself, he works hard. He’s everything that you’re looking for personality-wise and ability-wise. That’s what’s fun about him. He’s still early, hasn’t played a lot of football in his career, and we’re real excited to work with him. It’s fun that we’re getting a chance to this year. I think it’ll lead into the offseason, give us a little bit more of a head start, but definitely feel very fortunate to have him here.”
What impressed you most about QB Jimmy Garoppolo at Soldier Field?
“Just some of the throws he made. When you throw a guy out there who’s had basically three practices of full first-team reps – he knows everything going into the game, but that’s not going to be automatic to you by any means, especially in the heat of battle and in that pocket. For him just to be able to keep his composure through that game, be able to make some big throws and to lead us down there on a long drive to get a win at the end and convert two big third down passes for us, I thought it was a real good start. He showed a lot of his ability and why people see him the way that we do. It was fun working with him on gameday and it also made it a lot more fun to coach this week, now that we have a game under our belt and he has a better understanding how we spend a game and I’ve got a little bit better understanding of how he is throughout a game.”
What’s your father, Mike Shanahan, doing and how much do you rely on him as a rookie coach?
“I talk to my dad a good amount. No more as a head coach as I did as a coordinator. Sometimes I’ll talk to him once a week and then there’s weeks where I talk to him five times a week. He keeps up on it all. He watches a lot of football. He’s got a whole library in his house, so he can watch all of our stuff. He also watches stuff around the league. So, he’ll call me a lot with questions and stuff that he thinks we could do better, but there’s not always the time for it, too, throughout a week with game planning and everything. He enjoys it, it’s always great to have him. He’s been a huge asset for me my whole life and right now, he’s living in Colorado, he’s enjoying life, he’s been out here. Last weekend, my wife came out with me to Chicago and then my mom flew out here and watched our kids for the weekend. So, he’s been doing a lot of that stuff and enjoying being a grandpa.”
Has the process of rebuilding a team been what you’ve thought or has it been tougher?
“No, I think it’s been kind of exactly what I’ve thought. I didn’t think it was going to take us until our tenth game to win a game, that was a huge challenge. I thought we’d be able to get some earlier in the year. But I had a good idea of the situation we were coming into. I thought we made some real good moves and improved our team a lot going into the year. It’s been tough that I don’t think our record’s been able to show that, but I’ve been proud with how the guys have really battled throughout the year. I feel like we’ve competed in each game. I feel like the guys have played hard. We’ve faced a lot of adversity through some injuries throughout the year. Every year in the NFL’s tough. It’s been that way as a coordinator, still is as a head coach, but I’m definitely enjoying being a head coach and I’m enjoying this organization and looking forward to these last four games and I’m even more looking forward to next year.”
What has impressed you the most about Texans OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney?
“He’s an issue. He plays violent, he’s an athlete, they move him all over. I haven’t played Houston for a couple of years. He was a good player the last time I played him and he’s gotten even better now. I hadn’t seen him on tape for a while and just watching him Monday, to be honest, it wasn’t very fun to watch him, to tell you the truth. You get excited hearing that J.J.’s (Watt) not in there, which thank goodness he’s not, but Clowney is, I think he’s really come through and he’s lived up to the expectations that everybody’s wanted him to.”