Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan discusses potential offseason backup QB battle, Mark Nzeocha’s Pro Bowl bid, faith in Robert Saleh

Dec 7, 2018 at 2:28 PM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters after practice on Friday as the team prepares for the Denver Broncos. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

"Injuries; [WR] Pierre's [Garçon] out, [S Jaquiski] Tartt's out, [RB Matt] Breida's out and [CB] K'Waun's [Williams] questionable."

What was K'Waun's injury?

"Some knee issues."

Who's kind of like the backup slot?

"[DB] D.J. Reed [Jr.]."

Is he also the backup free safety?

"And possibly starting safety. Possibly starting nickel. He can play corner, too. I think he can play defensive lineman, also, so we'll see."

No offense?


You guys have gone through so many different safety combinations this year. Is that a big factor in miscommunication breakdowns?

"It's a big factor anywhere. Not just safeties, any position. We don't just play man-to-man every play. It's seven guys usually looking at the quarterback together. The more continuity you can have, the better. It's been tough with safety."

As far as that flanker spot, will WR Dante Pettis be kind of shifted in that direction this week?

"He's capable of playing all of them. Definitely don't want to give all the answers to the test yet. But, we'll have [WR Marquise Goodwin] Quise up, so we'll have five this week, which helps. So, we've got a little bit more flexibility in what we can do."

Has he been solely X the last two games?

"The last two games he's been X the entire time, yeah."

Is RB Jeff Wilson Jr. going to start at running back then?

"Yes. It's the one secret I just let out."

Not many choices.

"It just changed everything."

We've talked about the lack of continuity throughout the year. Obviously, it's a clear factor. But, how do you balance realizing that without using it as an excuse?

"You don't use it as an excuse. You just try to do your best every week. When you get asked questions, you answer them and you tell the truth. But, I'm not out here campaigning telling stuff. That's just a fact. It's part of the NFL. We're not the only team going through that. Lots of teams go through it and this isn't the first time in my career I've been on a team going through it. So, it's part of it."

How do you think your guys have handled dealing with all of that?

"Which part?"

Like, the different combinations in the secondary, communication and trying to rebound from--?

"I think they've handled it as well as they can, just from a mental standpoint and effort standpoint and not making excuses and things like that. You know our record. We'd like to handle it better. You'd like the next guy up, you don't miss a beat. You'd like nothing to change, but we have had inconsistency with the people in and I think that does lead to inconsistent play. So, I'd like it to be better, but I also understand it's a little part of it."

Would you expect LB Pita Taumoepenu to be up on Sunday?

"I think he's got a good chance to."

How has he improved since he got here as a pass rusher?

"I think he was a lot more raw last year. We know he's got good get-off and he runs all day. Just learning more moves and things like that. You don't need as many in college. You need more than a speed rush in the NFL, and he's really worked on his craft in rushing the passer hard. [Pass rush specialist Chris Kiffin] Kiff's done a lot with him in that area. Then, the run game, playing outside linebacker and getting better in his drops and things like that. Understanding football a little bit better. He's come a long way."

How has his strength improved?

"His strength?"


"I know he's put on some weight. I haven't checked his weight for a while. But, a year-and-a-half, two years almost now, spent a lot of time with [head strength & conditioning coach] Ray Wright. Pita works as hard as anybody, so he's a very strong, powerful guy. Not a big guy, but as an outside linebacker, is a good size for him."

CB Richard Sherman was kind of weighing out his blueprint for the rest of his career yesterday, including free safety. He said maybe a few years down the road. But, do you see that as something that could be in his future? Could he be one of those guys?

"He's a good enough football player to. Has the mind. He's competitive enough to do it. I haven't looked that far down the road, so I haven't been thinking about it much. It's neat to hear, guys who have plans to play for a long time and things like that. That is a transition that does allow a lot of corners to play a little bit longer. You need to be the right type of guy and it does make sense with Sherm saying that because he does have those attributes."

Where does QB Nick Mullens stand on the pecking order of your quarterback situation behind QB Jimmy Garoppolo? Obviously, he's starting. If the season ended now, is he the favorite to be Jimmy's backup going into next year or is that something that--?

"No. If the season ended now, they'd both be going into the offseason competing. Definitely [QB] C.J. [Beathard] was our two and Nick was our three and Nick came in and got his opportunity because C.J. was hurt and he's done good enough to keep that in all four of the games he's played. We'll see how that goes for these next four, but it was nothing against C.J. Nick came in and played well and there hasn't been a reason to put C.J. back in yet, based off of Nick. So, they're dead even to me. I know C.J. really wants another opportunity before this year ends. I can't guarantee that for him. We'll see how these games play out. But, I see them having a pretty good competition going into next year."

On Monday you said that everyone is being evaluated, including coaches. Do you anticipate making any staff changes?

"I don't know. That's something that, I anticipate a lot of things in terms of I know we're going to have some tough decisions to make, just personnel-wise, possibly staff-wise, just the whole building. But, I try not to make any decisions until the time comes. I want to let this all play out. I've just found out that you don't want to jump to conclusions. You want to just sit back, relax and see what happens and really study it. You never want to make decisions just to make decisions. When you do have a bad year like we have, just record-wise, I know that's what people want, they want drastic change, they want quick answers. The key though is to get it right and to make sure you do the best thing possible to put our team in the best chance possible to win. That's what we're going to do hard after this year."

It's been three weeks since we asked you about defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and you've obviously been unwavering in your support of him. Has anything changed in that regard?

"No. Saleh is a very, very good coach. He always has been, he still is and he's not a finished product either, like we all aren't. I think Saleh will continue to get better because he works at it, he's very smart and I think he's good right now."

How are Marquise's spirits and how have his teammates supported him?

"I think it was good. I think it was good just for Quise to be back in the building all week. We all know that he's dealing with some things and hopefully for him it gave him the chance to just get away from some of that stuff and to come in and be around his teammates and just play football to get his mind off of some things. You guys could ask him, but I felt him get better as the week went and I'm just excited to have him back with our team."

Following up on that, do you think he's ready from a mental and emotional standpoint?

"Yeah, I do. We'll see how much we throw at him. But, he had a good week of practice. He was here since Monday, he hasn't missed one thing. I thought each day he seemed better and better."

LB Mark Nzeocha is the leading vote getter in the Pro Bowl. Aside from his wild popularity in Germany, what do you think the reasons are that he's in the mix there and has he been an impact guy for you on special teams?

"Mark's done a real good job for us. He's done a really good job on special teams. He started out this year as our starting SAM linebacker and then when we had all of our backers healthy, he went back to a prominent special teams role when [LB] Malcolm [Smith] was at the SAM. Now that Malcolm is playing inside, we're back to using him on the outside backer. Last year he played inside backer for us. He took a huge step forward this year changing his position. We thought it was a much better spot for him. Mark runs and hits and usually if you run and hit, you're a pretty good special teams player."

Do you have a top three all-time favorite Denver Broncos?

"That's not a very softball question. I will definitely offend somebody. Everyone knows [former Denver Broncos QB John] Elway was the man, that's a little too obvious. My favorite was [former Denver Broncos RB] Terrell Davis. [Former NFL WR] Ed McCaffrey was my hero. That's why I always wore his number and tried to be like him just for my own self and being a receiver. Terrell and Ed always stick out.

You can throw Elway in, that's fine.

"I know, but it's just so obvious. I'll throw Elway in, yeah. He was definitely the best."

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