Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Transcripts: What Mike McDaniel and DeMeco Ryans said ahead of 49ers-Cowboys

Jan 13, 2022 at 4:52 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans spoke with reporters after today's practice. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel

Has the word reached you about the potential job interview? Has anything been set up and just what's your approach juggling, at this time of year, being an offensive coordinator for a playoff team and in the back of your mind also knowing that you could have a head coaching opportunity down the road?

"Yeah, it has. But as far as juggling, there is no juggling. It's about the Dallas Cowboys and the 49ers offense going down there and performing and the 49ers team, doing whatever it takes to try and get a W against a very good football team. And that's it."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019 had game-winning drives and such, but it seems like maybe he's taking that to another level this year, just his play in the clutch. And sometimes it hasn't worked out, like Seattle or Tennessee, but he still has had some pretty memorable moments. What is it about him that seems to get even better when the stakes are the highest?

"I think he's exhibiting even more ownership of the offense. And I think he's really flexing his mental ability to have his vision forward and take any obstacle as a challenge and really we're seeing the best football Jimmy has played. His teammates can feel it. I think you guys feel it. I think the fans feel it and that to his credit, just reps in the system and cutting it loose and his teammates playing well around him."

As far as WR Jauan Jennings, obviously we've talked about him being in that New England Patriots WR Kendrick Bourne role. Is that something where those guys, because there's so much attention on third down on your other guys who are probably more notable, that those guys get favorable matchups more of the time and is there an intangible quality to guys on third down to be able to show up in those spots?

"Yeah, it's interesting. They both have similar boisterous, same guy day-in and day-out type personalities. But as far as the play, it's when a lot of reps come on third down, third down's where the most man is. So you better be able to separate and have some route running skills. As far as who they go against, they go against the same people that everyone else does. We motion and formation things in multiple ways and we don't really have one-trick ponies in the sense that you have to be able to operate in the slot and you have to be able to operate outside. So he's been doing an outstanding job as he's gained opportunities and much in the way that we relied on Kendrick Bourne, we've become accustomed to relying on him as well."

What strikes you about Dallas Cowboys OLB Micah Parsons when you're watching him?

"What doesn't strike me? Micah Parsons, it's the first time I've gotten to study him. I'm alive, so I've heard about him. And he's been noisy this year and is very impressive. I think it's a great match. Working with [Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn and they're getting a ton out of him. He is a multi-tooled defender that can win on the line of scrimmage and can track from the linebacker position. He gives people problems and I can see why I knew his name before I had studied him and seen him play."

You guys always talk about, everybody talks about, the league being a copycat league, especially when it comes to schematic things, but from a personnel standpoint when a guy like WR Deebo Samuel has a season that he did and does things the way he did them do you think that's going to become something that other teams are looking for or is that just so hard to replicate finding a guy who is as versatile as he is?

"No, I think any time people kind of approach some uncharted territory, it kind of opens people's minds. But if you've watched any of the draft coverage the last couple years, people have been trying to find the next Deebo. The problem is there's one Deebo and maybe that opportunity will open it up for other guys with his skill sets. But he's a rare player that for him to be able to contribute in the way he does, shoot it's taken time for us to adjust just because you're going step-by-step with a player learning your offense. You want him to master stuff before you move on and we've learned this year that, 'Hey, this guy can handle more things within our system.' And we can find different ways to get him the ball because he's truly special at doing so."

From the Cowboys defensive personnel, they have at least three pretty accomplished, capable pass rushers and they have what looks like an elite cornerback. Are they in some ways reminiscent of the Rams, just from who they put on the field?

"Yeah, they've got really good players and they play hard. It's a testament to their coaching staff and those individuals on the field. Their defensive structures are much different, but it's similar in that if you're not on your Ps and Qs, they can embarrass you. And that's a fact that they've had tremendous success and really given offenses this season fits because you cannot take a down off. You can't be off on your sets. They are screaming off the ball. You have to be prepared for them down-in and down-out. Otherwise, you don't give yourself a chance to win the game. So in terms of being very skilled, having a very good pass rush, it is similar schematically. It is the juxtaposition. It's a little different."

I just want to circle back to something you just mentioned about Deebo, that it's kind of an ongoing process for you guys in figuring out how to use him. How much does that kind of open up your imagination and challenge you having a guy like that in terms of, we can look at it and say, well, you've thrown it with him, you've thrown it to him, you hand it to him, you've done all these things, but how much are you still kind of in the lab always trying to cook up new things with him?

"It's a competitive challenge. It's a wonderful opportunity. It's something that you really dream of as a coach in terms of being able to utilize people in different ways to try to find advantageous looks for the offense in general. I would say that we challenge ourselves to open our mind and really see how we can do our best to stress a defense out, but don't get it twisted, it's a good stress. Something that you're challenging yourself with because all he does is alleviate stress on gamedays for his teammates and coaches alike. It's a lot easier to figure stuff out on Monday and Tuesday when the problem that you're trying to solve is how do I get this guy the ball? And on gameday, 'Hey, Deebo, here's the ball.' That's the best thing for a coach that you could possibly imagine."

Just to kind of continue that Deebo talk, obviously we've seen him pitch the ball, run the ball, even throw the ball now. Year-by-year, how has he impressed you the most? And have you ever been around an all-around football player quite like Deebo?

"He impresses me because he's a guy that has an unbelievable will to get better. He's such a cool personality that he never seems stressed and it's kind of a misrepresentation of how diligent he is in terms of progressing his craft. I think he'll be done worrying about getting better when he starts getting some 50 to 55-yard punts off, because then his game is complete. But otherwise, he is working day-in, day-out to put his best foot forward and take advantage of the opportunity. He's a wise 25, soon to be 26-year-old on Saturday, and he's getting better and better as we progress. And as a result, the 49ers are getting better as well."

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

After a few games earlier in the season that didn't go so well, I know head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked like, 'Hey, what do you think of the job DeMeco's doing?' Kind of like you were in over your head and now this week he's being asked about you maybe being a head coach. I just wonder if you found it amusing the way the discussion around you has fluctuated somewhat wildly this season? And now you're, I guess a really good rookie defensive coordinator?

"Really, at the end of the day, I don't pay much attention to it. It really doesn't matter to me. It's just about the guys in this locker room and what do we put together, game plan-wise? How are guys going out and executing and what do they think? That's the most important thing to me. When it comes to the job, who thinks it's good, who doesn't, it doesn't matter. It's about our guys in this building."

You guys have had, to the naked eye, some issues there at the cornerback position, but yet you guys rank so highly in pass defense and total defense. What is the key when you go up against a high-powered offense that has big-play threats at basically every position? What do you kind of stress to the guys in a generic term?

"No matter who we're playing, I know Dallas they have a lot of playmakers, every position. They're loaded with talent all across the board, from the offense line out to the receivers, quarterback, everybody, they have talented players. But for us, it's not about who we're playing just about us and our technique, our fundamentals, owning those things and doing them to the best of our ability, playing as fast as we can possibly play, as hard as we can possibly play. And that takes care of itself, who you're going against, by you just owning your prep, owning your technique and doing what you're supposed to do and doing it collectively as a group. So it's not one man out there by himself. So that's how we approach it there."

How do you approach Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott?

"Dak has had an exceptional year. It's awesome to see, him coming back from injury has been very impressive for what he's done and the severity of the injury he's had. Nothing but high praise for Dak and how he's operating the offense. He's surrounded by talent, but he does a good job putting the ball on the money. He's a very accurate quarterback, smart guy, knows where to go with the ball. He's going to be a very tough challenge for us. We're excited about going against him, but we know at the same time it is going to be a big task for us."

Over the last half of the season or so, your run defense has been as good as any in the league. I know there were some bumps maybe very early in the season in that regard. How were they able to get it going, particularly in that area?

"I think our run defense improved drastically because of the unselfish play by [DL] Arik Armstead. I think people kind of forget we lost our starter in [DT Javon] Kinlaw early in the year and we were trying to figure that out inside. When you want to play good run defense, you have to have two really good interior defense lineman. And Arik unselfishly moving inside and [DL] D.J. Jones has been outstanding all year. He has had a dominant year, a career year inside and he's been consistent all year. That's why our run defense has been better because of Arik and his play. Arik continued to get better and better inside as the year went on. And D.J. has been as consistent as ever this year."

You guys haven't really blitzed this much this season. I think the fourth least in the NFL. Was that the plan going or has that evolved based on the way things were going? And is that kind of your style that maybe not blitz and play some zone behind that?

"Well, for me, my style is it's not about what I want to do, but it's about what can you get players to do and who are the players that you have and what can you do and what does each week call for? So each week for me, it changes, based on who we're playing and what do we need to do to win that game. People talk about blitzing, blitzing isn't always the answer all the time. Just because you have the most blitzes doesn't mean you're the best defense. So it's all about what do you need? What is it going to take to win that particular game? And it's not about how many times you blitz or don't blitz, it's about your defense playing together."

After the recent firings in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is the only African-American head coach left in the league. As an African-American coach, do you find that upsetting? Is it discouraging to you?

"I think for one, the guy you mentioned, Mike Tomlin, is definitely a guy I look up to as a coach. You talk about just the consistency that he's had over the years, not to have a losing season, always in the playoffs. So he is definitely a coach that I look up to and I want to mimic, to be able to be in that position. I want to mimic a coach like Mike Tomlin with the success that he's had. So I think as this new cycle comes around, I think multiple guys will get opportunities and we'll hope to see some change there and see many other African-American coaches get that gig, get the head coaching job and be in a position to lead these young men."

Why do you think you've been able to maximize DL Arden Key's talent in a way that hasn't happened before for him and how much of a role has defensive line coach Kris Kocurek played in that?

"First of all, Kris Kocurek, he's definitely played a key role in the entire D-Line and how those guys have jelled together, how we've found that special mix of guys. I think Arden has put in the work to continue to get better and better as the year went on. And I think we've found that niche, putting him inside, he's been very effective inside. He's probably one of our most effective guys when it comes to rushing inside, so I'm very happy with Arden and what he's able to do. You saw that in watching him as a free agent, you saw what he could do inside as a rusher. And I think just with the group collectively, how they rush together, I think that's allowed Arden to garner some success because of the other guys that he has around him. Not so much of what he's doing, but just all those guys working together has allowed Arden to have a great year rushing inside. [DL Nick] Bosa his best year outside. [DL] Samson [Ebukam], his best year. So, it's not only Arden, but all those guys together have done an awesome job."

Were you pleasantly surprised with what you got out of LB Dre Greenlaw and CB Emmanuel Moseley after the time they missed? And is it fair to say that you guys are as healthy and deep as you've been all year?

"Yeah. I'm not surprised by Greenlaw or E-Man. I know what those guys bring, I know how they've played in the past for us. So I knew the ability they had and the type of plays they would be able to make for us. So I'm not surprised at what they're able to do. For me, it was just encouraging and excited just to see Greenlaw back out there from all the time that he's missed and to see him come back and wreak havoc in that game on Sunday, it was awesome to watch. But it's just a credit to those guys, the work that they continue to put in. Battling injuries are tough. It's hard mentally to come back from those things. We know the physical aspect of it, but I always just applaud those guys for overcoming that mental hurdle of the injury and still being able to go out and perform the way they perform. It's just a beauty to see."

I know a lot of stuff has gone into your turnaround in the second half of the season, but from an emotional level, was there anything to the Cardinals loss at home? I know a lot of guys said that was not up to the standard and it was just embarrassing. Do you think that played any kind of role in the turnaround, maybe hitting a low like that?

"I think the Cardinals game, it wasn't our best outing, one we're not proud of. But I don't see it a turning point or a moment that changed our season. It was a bad outing. We had a lot of guys out for that game. We didn't play good fundamental football. And when you don't play sound fundamentals, you're going to get beat. So that's one thing we pride ourselves on is doing it the right way, playing sound and being on our fundamentals. You come back to that game, we didn't tackle well, we weren't on our keys with what we were supposed to do and we got beat and that's what it came down to."

What's it like to be Kyle Shanahan's DC? I know you've known him, you've been on the staff, but to be his DC and, Kyle says himself that he can be pretty challenging sometimes? What's it like to be in the room, to be on the sideline for the first year as a DC for Kyle Shanahan?

"Kyle has been great. He's been very helpful throughout my first year as a coordinator. Kyle has been very helpful when it comes to ideas or scheme. What does he see from us? What are we doing? Things that we should probably look into a little bit more of changing, all those things when you're talking about having one of the best offensive minds in the history of the game, to have him on my side, I see it as an advantage. So it has been very pleasing to work with Kyle. He's been great. He is fun to work with and I wouldn't want to work with anyone else, man. He's an awesome head coach and love the work that he's done here."

Can you talk about what Nick Bosa's mindset looks like this week as he gets back to the playoffs for the first time since the Super Bowl and how much can you put on his shoulders? Obviously, you'd want to have the whole defense playing well, but how much can you put on Nick's shoulders for this?

"Yeah. Nick just has to be Nick. Nick doesn't have to press or do anything more. Like I spoke of earlier, it's about all those guys, everybody collectively playing together well around Nick and Nick playing well. Nick just has to come out and give us his best like he's done every week. If he just does that, Nick being Nick is going to be enough for us. And I think he'll have a good game for us."

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