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-Rams

Jan 27, 2022 at 6:09 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game 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

Regarding WR Deebo Samuel, I realize he's not getting like 20 carries a game, but playing running back in the NFL is not good for your career lifespan. I'm just wondering, did you guys ever have to have like a conversation of here's what could happen? Here's what this might look like? Not that you had to get him to sign off on it, I guess, but did you have the conversation to make sure he was up for what might be ahead?

"Well as we talked about before, this is uncharted territory for all of us, the coaching staff and the player. And it's something that you kind of feel your way through. No, I mean to be honest, Deebo just wants to ball. And he views himself as a leader of the team and he is a competitive guy that really wants to win and he thinks that he can help the team win every time he touches it. I think that one of the things that makes him great is how he's fearless, but he doesn't take huge hits all the time. I think that yes, running backs do take shots, but football players, if they play the right way, can take hits in a certain way that doesn't hurt them. I think he's built for it. And if you would've asked us before we had got to this point with Deebo Samuel, would it be smart to give a receiver you know, 8, 9, 10 carries a game like we have the last couple weeks? Yeah, you'd probably get some resistance, but this is a different player. He's not a receiver. He's a football player at the receiver position who also can play running back and we treat him as such and he would have it no other way."

When you look back at QB Jimmy Garoppolo when he got here in 2017, how have you seen him evolve as a leader?

"It's been really cool and the whole process, when you get new players, you get a small version of themselves and over time, it's one of the things that makes team sports and particularly NFL football, so special is you grow together and learn more about human beings. Like most people, you are your best self when you're most confident. He's his most confident when he has the most ownership. And he's been in big situations before and Jimmy's really cool because what a lot of people wouldn't know is more than a lot of quarterbacks have been around. He is a football player at the quarterback position. I don't know the exact details, but I know when he started playing football, he was a linebacker. And on gameday, he has a fire about him that as he is more confident and he expects more of himself, guys feed off that and it's organic. It's not, 'Hey, come on guys.' It's more like, 'Let's go.' And guys respond to that and it's been awesome to watch him through that process."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan's talked a lot about how one of the important ingredients in building the team is just getting as many guys as possible who really love football. I'm curious just from a psychological perspective, when you get a bunch of guys like that as individuals, and you put them into a group that forms a team, how does that manifest and help a football team on gamedays?

"It's addicting. It really reminds you why you got in the business. I almost got chills right now, you saying that because you've got a shared passion. A group of men that are relying on each other for a common goal. And when you love football you feed off each other and all of a sudden Wednesday's install isn't as hard. You're tired on a Thursday afternoon and you look over and you see a teammate leaving it all out there. Whether it's a player or a coach, just straining to be their best selves. It's impossible for not to motivate you and push you through and this team in particular, win, lose or draw, every week. It's one of the most memorable teams of my career because we've gone through hardships, we've gone through successes and we really work the same way every week, week in and week out. And I think it's critical to a team's success over the long term, because football is imperfect. Football is like life. It's about resiliency. It's not about if you're going to mess up, it's about when you do, how do you respond? And that's all this team does. And it's to credit the organization to allow that to manifest. For an organization to have one vision, that's the only way that could happen. And then coach Shanahan and [general manager] John Lynch really emphasizing that because you get what you emphasize and if that's not an important part of your puzzle, that doesn't exist. And I think that's one of the reasons you see energy that's real, week in and week out. Not just in our wins, but when we lose. I don't think people are ever left, like, 'Wow, those guys didn't try this week.' We play good football, we play bad football, but it is an enjoyable process and you're willing to live with any of the results if everyone's shared in their commitment."

I think this question is somewhat related to that response, but I remember when OL Colton McKivitz was drafted, the front office saying that he got the rare gold helmet status before the draft. I'm just wondering whether you've kind of seen that manifest itself in him and how he's practiced and how he handled himself in that Week 18 game?

"That's good intel. Are you in our draft room? Do you have a nanny cam? Yeah, I think you can really see that again, kind of like we were talking about Jimmy. You don't rush to judgment, you let people's personalities come out and Colton's a little quieter, but super dry sense of humor. And very serious about the sport of football. And yeah, I think what you see is that he had really good plays, he had some bad plays when he played. But the biggest thing is he stepped in for as good as a player that exists and we weren't talking about him. We weren't worried about him all game. As an offensive lineman, it's kind of like referees at times, no news is good news. And for us to be able to operate at a high level against, I'm just telling you this is as good of a pass rush and as big of a challenge. If you want to have a heart attack, go line up against all their pass rushers and oh yeah, do it for the first time that you're playing all year. That's a tough task. And I think that gold helmet, that person, the human being, you see what people are made of, what they've been doing behind closed doors. How they've been approaching their craft while they're on scout team. There's nowhere to hide in the game of football and we, saw, hey, he's been taking care of his business and growing, the last time we played the Rams."

Kyle spoke to us a little bit about T Trent Williams in motion behind the line and how scary he is when he is back there. Deebo Samuel is a guy who loves to have multiple positions. Trent Williams seems like he's very willing also to step up in different ways. What have you seen from him and how scary is he back there when he is running in motion?

"Have you ever been on the street when a car is driving at you? Yeah, it's scary. It's cool, just because it doesn't exist. I just haven't seen that and there's not a man that that moves that fast with that much power. It' cool to watch how big he is and how fast he is, but when he watched that play specifically, his assignment was to set the edge in the d-gap right between the two tight ends. And there was like a sliver this big, and our tight ends and fullbacks have been doing that for a couple years now. And even they were like, 'This is his first rep? Wow.' It tells you a lot about how slow the game is for him and how talented he is at the game of football, not just being athletic. So it is it was a cool thing to be a part of. That's another reflection of how much our football team likes playing football that when we first practiced that play on whatever it was, Thursday night last week, the defense is watching the scout team defense go, the starting defense is, and we ran the play for the first time and there was probably a buzz for the next five plays. Like, wow. And that's a testament to our football team in general and how they love to play football, which is why we all get excited to play. Not because we absolutely can predict that we're going to win this, that or whatever. No, because we know that, what is better than collectively working through months of uncharted, unforeseen circumstances, you don't know how it's going end, but you do it together. And you know that everyone's fully committed to it. So guess what? On Sunday, the Rams are going to get a best shot. They're one of the best football teams in the world. But how fun is that to just say, 'Okay, let's go give it our best shot. And we feel like we can play and beat anybody.' But guess what? So do the Rams. So it's awesome to be a part of. It's the coolest thing in sports and it's why professional football and specifically, the championship games are so cool."

Obviously, those guys down there, those coaches with the Rams, they know you. They know kind of how you go through the process with your successful plays, setting up other successful plays. So how far down that rabbit hole do you go of, 'Hey, this is what we've done. The first two games. These are all the things we could do off of it, but they might be thinking along those lines too.' Do you play that, you know that they know kind of game?

"We know that they know, that you know, that we know. No, it's a good question because that used to be a bigger deal I think to all of us on both sides. And we do know each other so well, we've both been on the same side of the ball. People forget that the defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was a wide receiver coach in Atlanta, under Kyle Shanahan. And I worked with him in the receiver room. So there's a lot of overlap, but you play enough games that you realize that you can talk yourself in and out, this way or that way. And really, it's just about getting our players ready to play. And this game isn't about who's the smartest or who's got the best tricks up their sleeve. This is something that both teams have been preparing for the entire season. So it's about the players going out and playing together. And the third time you play a team and you're in the NFC Championship, it's a little easier than it used to be in our careers when we first were playing each other. Now it's a little old hat."

When you guys are debating what plays to call, what's that communication like while you're up in the box and Kyle's down on the field when you're in a dilemma and you're trying to predict how the defense is going to go. What kind of communication is there between you two and then specifically during that timeout before Deebo's third down run before the field goal, did you weigh in on that with Kyle as well?

"One of the best parts of working for Kyle for so long is it's twofold. He expects good information from me. He expects that if I tell him something that it is the most informed information that I could possibly have. But, he also knows, and this is something that he's very candid about that, 'Hey, whatever your suggestion is, ultimately, I'm saying the play to the quarterback and I'm responsible for the outcome.' So it's an awesome working relationship that's very healthy in that way, because he knows my intentions, just like any other coach on the staff when they're suggesting something. And then you're also trying to just help the team and collectively make the right decision. He's responsible for every single play call. And guess what, after the game he's answering to you guys about why'd you do that and never once has he ever said 'Well, yeah, it was Mike's stupid idea.' But some of them were. That's awesome leadership It's one of the reasons guys enjoy working here and working for him. Generally, the play calls that work, I only try to suggest plays that work. Again, we're talking about stuff, but it is his play call, but he looks at it as his and I look at it like, 'Hey, I better be right,' because I know that he's trusting me whenever I do suggest something. All of which are just a communal-- we're just trying to win a game and whoever makes a suggestion, it doesn't matter. It's just hard. This business, it's a hard sport. Not fun when you lose. Really fun when you win, no gray. So we're just trying to win games and doing whatever it takes. And Kyle's the best play caller I think that exists and it's awesome to work for him."

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

I wanted to ask you about the third-and-11, it was the Packers last offensive play when Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw deep for Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams. One of my questions was S Talanoa Hufanga played just two snaps, why was he in on that play? Pretty good play. And also, was the fact that, obviously he started closer to the line of scrimmage, do you have a sense that Rodgers thought Davante might have been singled up on CB Dontae Johnson on the play?

"Yeah, Huf is in just because during that time, that's the particular call that I wanted with that personnel out on the field. And as for what Rodgers was thinking at the time, I'm not sure. I'm just happy that it worked and we were able to get off the field."

About I guess it would be Week 13, it seemed like the pass rush sort of went to a different level over the final six games. And then obviously getting five sacks in the last two playoff games. Just curious if there was something that clicked, if there was a change in emphasis or mindset with the pass rush? I know you guys emphasize it all the time, obviously, but just wondering if there was something specific and also how much DL Arik Armstead and his play over that stretch had to do with that?

"I think with the pass rush and just overall, our guys just continued to get better at working together. So when we work our stunts, our games, just collectively as a unit, guys just continue to get better. And it's just a matter of just getting reps. And we have a lot of new guys we added to our team and it goes to [DL] Samson [Ebukam] and also [DL] Arden [Key] inside as well. So those guys just had to get more familiar, more comfortable with what we're asking them to do. And I think now they are comfortable and you see the pass rush just being more effective now."

Wondering about bulletin board material that once upon a time was a big thing in sports and in the NFL. I'm wondering if that was anything that you paid attention to when you were a player, whether it's something you utilize or see the players utilizing now, or is it something from a kind of a bygone era?

"Yeah, I think now with the way there's a continuous flow of information. So when it comes to bulletin board material, you have so many different outlets, so many different people saying different things. So I don't know if nowadays there is some particular bulletin board material that can get guys pumped up. And I've always looked at bulletin board material as how long is that going to last? You're there when the game is on the line, third, fourth quarter, nobody's thinking about what was said throughout the week. And if you have the guys and it takes bulletin board material to get them to play harder or to do their job better, then you've probably got the wrong guys out there. We think for our guys, we have a great group of guys, great group of men who just love playing football. And it doesn't matter what anyone says on the outside. There's no bulletin board material to make us play better. We want to be our best every time we step out on the field. So what's said it really doesn't matter, so I think for now in this generation, maybe it helps some guys, but I feel like that's a bygone of a past generation there."

Obviously, you worked with LB Fred warner a lot in your previous position. When you move over to coordinator and you've got new responsibilities and things, how beneficial has it been for you to have a guy who not only you've worked with, but played the same position you played, who can kind of be your eyes and ears on the field? And how do you think that's grown as the season has gone on?

"It's been great to have Fred. Training him from a rookie to where he is now, I know he knows the position. He knows the ins and outs of the position, he knows the techniques that I'm asking him to do. Now it's just been awesome to work with him. We have a really great relationship, on the field and off the field. So I love Fred. Fred is the guy that really gets our defense going. Without him, we couldn't do a lot of the things we do just because of the communication piece. It's huge, being that guy in the middle and he just does an awesome job of communicating to the front guys, the D-Line and also to the back end guys. He ties everything together. He ties everyone together, so without him we wouldn't be in this position we're in now, if it wasn't for Fred."

DL Jordan Willis had quite a game in Green Bay. What have you seen from him? Not that we weren't expecting it or it's a surprise, but it seems like he's had a huge growth period kind leading up to that game?

"Yeah Jordan, he actually had a really great training camp. He was one of our better guys in training camp and it was just unfortunate that he had the suspension and he had to miss time. But Jordan has been doing this early on in training camp. So it's no surprise. It's just a matter of missing football for such an extended period of time. It's just a matter of getting back, used to it, getting the muscle-memory back, so to speak. So Jordan just, he's been continuously getting better and better and better each week. And what a game, Jordan won us that game because of the play that he made and I'm so happy for him. To be away from us for so long and to be here at this point in the playoffs and to come up with such a huge play for our team, I couldn't be more excited for anyone than Jordan man. It was just huge play on a huge stage, so I'm happy he was able to get the recognition and credit that he deserves for making a big play for us."

Fred told us that he had some words with the defense after that first drive in the Packers game. Do you count on him as the player on the field to do that?

"Yeah, I do. He got to them before I can get to them. So I was happy to hear Fred, going up and down, talking to the defensive linemen, the linebackers and the secondary. I was happy to hear him, just continue to encourage the guys and just tell them that they didn't do anything special. We just were not on point with our execution, our technique and fundamentals during that first drive. And we allowed them to go down the field, it seems like just easily. And he knows that's not how we play defense and that wasn't us. So Fred did a great job of snapping the guys back very quickly and we needed that. And that's what leadership looks like. Fred is not demeaning anyone. It wasn't pointing fingers. It was just an encouragement from their leader and the guys responded and they responded very well."

You and special teams coordinator Richard Hightower were on the Texans way back in the day. I think he was just a coaching assistant, maybe at the time. What do you remember about him back then and where you guys both are now? Do you ever trade stories from back in the day?

"Yeah, with me and coach Hightower, I think we came into the league together at the same time, he was helping, a defensive assistant there. A story about coach Hightower, back then we didn't have the communication on defense at the time, so all our calls had to be hand signaled in. So I remember me and coach Hightower, we sat next to each other in the meetings and we came up with all of the defensive signals together. So it's just so cool to fast forward from 2006 to here now, and to see where he is and just his growth as a coach and just his leadership style, the way he's able to lead our guys, it's phenomenal to watch him work. Just the energy that he brings every day. I'm so happy for him. It is really cool to see where he is now. And he's just a tremendous coach and I'm happy that we have him here with the Niners, because he's doing an excellent job for us."

I don't know if you know this, but there's been a lot of kind of concern about your cornerback situation throughout the year. Like, 'oh, this guy's not ready, he's going to get exposed' or whatever. I know there's a lot that goes into having a good secondary, pass rush and all that. But I just wanted to ask you about the fact that you've got DB Jimmie Ward, S Jaquiski Tartt and CB K'Waun Williams, who've been in this system for so long, and they're such veterans, their communication and everything, how key have they been to some of your overall success?

"Yeah, I think that was one of the most important things for me, getting this job as a defense coordinator, to be able to sign back free agents like Tartt, K'Waun, to get [CB Emmanuel Moseley] E-Man back, that was very vital because I knew the guys, they had a core standing, a base of what I wanted to do defensively and they had done it for such a long time and they've done it together for a long time, so there wouldn't be a huge communication hurdle with those guys. They've played a lot of ball together. That's what's allowed us to, guys interchange, we've changed guys out at the corner position, but our safeties and Kay-Kay at the nickel position those guys have been a mainstay for us at least four years. And it's probably is the most ball that Tartt and Jimmie has played, together in a season. So it's just for them to be healthy all throughout the year, that's allowed us to play the way we've played, because the safety position is the most important piece. They're the erasers. If anything breaks loose, they're up front, those guys can erase. Just like Tartt man, I don't know if he's getting much recognition, but the play that he made for us in that Packer game, it's what our defense is all up about. Like that effort play when the huge 70-yard pass broke out, to see Tartt and his effort on that play, that's what our defense is all about. That's what we thrive on. Having Tartt back there to make that play. If we don't get that, who's to say we're in this position, that we're even here this week and for Jimmie to come in and block that kick for us, it's not only on defense, but they're showing up on special teams as well. Those guys are very vital to the success of our team."

Fred said yesterday, the way you're calling plays, especially of late, is just unreal and then he talked about your calling plays, they're executing them in clutch moments, and there's a level of trust being built and developed between you and this defense. What is that level of trust?

"It's a level of trust that's just continued to grow throughout the year. I think there is a growth process with that trust, trusting that players are going to be in the position, where they're supposed to be when you need them there most. And it's just grown throughout the season. And not only the level of trust with me, but I know that our players trust each other, which is the most important aspect of playing defense. Guys have to trust each other. They have to know that everybody's going to execute their job flawlessly and they're going to be where they're supposed to be. And they're going to play as hard as they can. They're going to do it as fast as they can. So that trust amongst the players, amongst the coaches, it's all come to exactly where it needs to be right at the right moment. And I call it, but it's not about the calls. It's about those guys just executing the calls. That's what matters most. It doesn't matter what I call, they bring any call to life, just the way they play. And I'm so proud to coach these guys with the way they go out and operate every day."

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