Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan talks Jeff Wilson, Robert Saleh, Russell Wilson, returning home after Seahawks beat 49ers

Jan 3, 2021 at 7:09 PM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters after the team's 26-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

"Injuries from the game: [DL] Dion Jordan had a knee and did not return. Don't think it'll be too serious. Go ahead"

How would you how would you describe your emotions just in terms of maybe frustration or loss relief that the season's over, or are you full steam ahead into 2021 already?

"No, I'm very happy to seasons over. We we've been, you know, once we eliminated from the playoffs, we were ready to move on a little bit and get to next year. But we had to finish it and it was really proud of the guys today. I thought those guys competed their off in all aspects. I told them to hold their heads high. I didn't think, it wasn't a moral victory or anything because I believe we should have won the game. There was a couple of plays that we just needed to make at the end that we didn't and they did. And they were able to pull that off. So that was disappointing, but I'm so proud of our guys. They gave all they could in every opportunity that they had. I'm excited this year is over. And now it's time to figure out how to improve us."

You alluded to it. But how excited are you about getting back to the Bay Area, I guess in a few hours?

"Very excited. First time I've ever packed two days in advance for anything. We're all excited to see our families and everything. We got a little break. Some of us saw our families over Christmas, which is nice. Some weren't able to so it's been way too long for a number of guys. And just, being stuck in a hotel for I think over 30 days. I mean, that does wear on you a little bit. Not just me, but the players, the cooks, the equipment guys. Everybody involved with us is ready to get back home."

Given the parameters in Santa Clara County, how will you handle things like exit interviews and physicals and things like that, that typically end a season?

"Yeah, I mean, we're going to have to be smart with everything, but I look at it, the way we kind of did business since we've been there. I mean the way we've done all our business with all our zoom meetings with everyone spaced out. We had that as good as set up as, I would say, almost anyone in the country. The main thing is we can't go out and practice football anymore and we don't have to worry about that right now."

You've seen that from Russell Wilson a few times, but you know, when you have the 10-point lead, I am sure you're not comfortable with him. Was that just kind of a vintage fourth-quarter performance by him?

"Yeah, that's why they win a lot of games. They try to hang in there until the fourth and thought we had enough of a lead to do it. And I thought there was a couple plays that we missed that we would've had a much better chance to kind of put the dagger in them a little bit, which is always hard with Russell. But, the plays he made at the end, just extending those plays, thought we had a couple of chances to get him in the pocket. And when he's squeezes through there, I mean, that's why he's one of the best to play this. And, that's why he's one of the better guys in the league. And, that's why they ended up pulling it out there at the end."

RB Jeff Wilson Jr. scored another two touchdowns today. I'm guessing he's one of the bigger, bright spots of the season. And just how hard did he finish it off today?

"Honestly, I feel like Jeff's done the same thing every time we've asked them to. Even last year. We didn't ask them as much last year, because there a few guys ahead of them who were playing at a very high level. And at that we were a little more fortunate with injuries last year at the running back position. But this year losing all of our guys pretty early that played last year, got him some opportunities fast. Then unfortunately he got hurt too. And then he was able to come back to the end and finish strong. And I think the main thing with Jeff is, like a lot of guys on our team, him doing his part throughout this whole off season and us doing our part to figure out how we can help him and anyone in any way. We've got a lot of good players, but we've got to find out how to handle the wear and tear of an entire season."

This is probably the last game for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. How much was that discussed or talked about with the players and was it any sort of motivating factor do you think for the defense's energy throughout the game?

"I know how much the players respect Robert as a coach and love him as a person. So, I wouldn't say that today was any extra. I feel like that's why they fight for him every week. I mean, when you've got coaching staff who knows what they're doing and also is connected and invested in the players, all guys want to do is be coached the right way and they want you to care about them. And Saleh does that as good as anyone. I was very happy with what he did throughout the whole year. I will be very surprised just like you said, if we don't lose them. I don't know what's wrong with people if they don't hire him. I mean, he's as good as you can get and knows more about football, all three phases. And he's going to hire the best staff. He knows about players. He knows who knows what they're talking about. Who doesn't know what they're talking about. And he also knows how to deal with people. So, I hope everyone's not very smart and doesn't hire them so I can keep him. But, I'm expecting not to have them. But, we've got a lot of other good guys on our staff and I know there'll be a number of options and we've got a number of good players. And what we built here over the four years with Saleh, with the whole coaching staff, and we haven't made many changes. So, there's a lot of guys who we've all grown here together. And we've got a lot of players who are used to it too. So, I expect whatever we ended up deciding here. And obviously we'll wait to see what happens with Saleh. But, I know that the Niners will be all right."

There was a report today that Robert would interview with the Falcons this week. Can you share at this point, whether you've been asked permission by teams to talk to him about their vacancies?

"I don't think that we have. I'm sure that'll happen all tomorrow. I mean, I don't think, and no, that never happened with me until the Monday of. A lot of people try to do it out of respect to you. And I know Saleh is going to have a number lined up and I think he is going to get one with Atlanta pretty fast. I know it's a little weird situation with these guys interviewing out of zoom and not kind of the normal way that you do it. So, I am pretty sure that he's got one with Atlanta tomorrow and I know others will start coming later in the week."

Statistically, I think that was LB Azeez Al-Shaair's best game in a 49ers uniform. Were you happy with the way that he seized the opportunity this year after New Orleans Saints LB Kwon Alexander left to New Orleans with more playing time?

"Yes. I mean him and [LB] Dre [Greenlaw]. Dre got that last year but then Azeez to come in and base and take that role. And then today, when we lost Greenlaw, being able to stay out there every down. Azeez has done a lot of good stuff for us here in these two years. And it will be a big off season for him though. I liked a lot of the stuff we saw today. But, I want him to keep getting better. Keep trying to own that role to get it become a starter full-time and also being better and helping us out more on special teams."

You said you can't wait to figure out how to improve us. And obviously you're going to answer a hundred million quarterback questions this off season, but I want to know where do you think you guys can improve defensively just based on how your unit performed this year?

"I think we can improve everywhere. I mean, we've got to get some guys healthy back, which when you lose some big time pass rushers, that changes a lot of stuff. So, I think one of the biggest things is figuring out, getting our guys healthy. Getting them the right program, which I know most of them already started. And then when you have a good nucleus of players and you've got a good scheme, you don't sit there and necessarily always just target, 'Hey, this, whatever this stats said, we have to improve in this.' I mean, you do that as you watch tape and everything, but you look at all the options. You look in the draft hard, you look at for a free agency hard. And you see who has a chance to make your team who can improve your team. And you just go at it as hard as you can."

You spoke about how the players have not given up at all in this season, but did you sense as like a little bit of sense of relief now that you're finally able to go home, that it's finally over? And then what's the next step for you and the team?

"There's no doubt there's relief. That's been adding up. So that was my worry, just from human nature, when you start to get concerned about how miserable you are in a certain area and you want to get home and things like that. Letting your circumstances affect your job and things like that. And that's why I was proud that our guys didn't do that, but there's no doubt they're ready to get back. And just for us going forward, we'll work this week. I want to figure out a number of things with the coaches, which I don't think will happen right away unless we get to play that out, see if anything does happen to Saleh or any other coaches on our staff who could get some opportunities. And then usually after that, try to get away for a little bit. Just out of the building, away from some of these guys that we've been around every day. I know they would probably like to not see me for a little bit. But then out of the office, you've got to figure out a bunch of stuff. I mean, you get to be with your family, but you've got to be on your own little schedule. So, whenever I'm not with the family, usually for entertainment, as sad as it is, I'm probably watching some film. And now, sometimes it's going to be college players. Sometimes it's gonna be free agents. Sometimes it's going to be our guys. Also, we'll see if there's an opportunity to talk to other coaches if things open up and maybe guys to interview and stuff to see if they can upgrade our staff or whatever it might be. And that's kind of usually how you spend January getting all your ducks in order in that way and try to get everyone back right after the Super Bowl. And that's when you just start hitting it hard with everyone working together and getting ready for combine whatever will happen with that."

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