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Everything Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch said during 49ers’ end-of-season press conference

Feb 13, 2024 at 4:22 PM

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch held their end-of-season press conference on Tuesday, two days after the team's Super Bowl LVIII defeat. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

What has the last 48 hours been like for you guys?

JL: "It's been tough. It's gut wrenching. I think most of all, watching our players hurt, watching our coaches hurt, our staff, everybody who pours so much into this, our families. People forget the sacrifice that families make in an effort to go compete at the highest level. And it's exactly what we had an opportunity to do. That's exactly the stage that we put ourselves on. I couldn't be more proud of our organization, of our players, of our coaches, of our staff, because we put out an outstanding effort. And ultimately we're going to have to live with for a lifetime the reality that we didn't get it done this time. But I say this time because that's this time. It hurts. And right now everyone's grieving. It's not just going be okay right away, but you understand that the only thing you can do is use this fuel to propel us forward. And that's where our mindsets are at or at least where they will arrive at some point. Right now, there's a lot of people who are hurt because we poured it out there and it wasn't quite enough."

Is there a part of this game or the decision making or anything that you kind of look back on more than anything else and second guess yourself for?

KS: "Like I've told you guys before, anytime you lose, every decision you made, I mean you make a decision every play throughout that game. So when you lose, you'll go over that stuff always throughout the entire offseason, through cutups, through everything. But there was nothing that I thought in the moment that I did wrong. It was everything I was proud of that and I like the thought process behind everything."

What are your thoughts on, the defense this season and how defensive coordinator Steve Wilks did as coordinator?

KS: "I thought they were one of the reasons that we got this far. I thought they did a number of good things. They did a lot of good things in that game too. Just like our whole team. Our team did a bunch of good things this year, but came up short in the last game."

Can you talk about with LB Dre Greenlaw getting hurt, how did that play into the defense later in the game?

KS: "I can't tell you exactly, but when you lose one of your better players, it definitely doesn't help. So not having Dre out there was definitely huge, but they were missing some guys too."

JL: "Yeah, I think [LB] Oren [Burks] was fantastic. I'll say that."

KS: "Yeah, no doubt."

JL: "Oren stepped up in a big way, as did Flan, [LB] Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles. I thought they were tremendous. But when you've got a guy like Dre Greenlaw, he's an impact player. So does it have an effect on the game? Of course it does."

On Steve Wilks, have you guys spoken? At this stage in his career and where you want the team to go, is there any reason to think he won't be back next season?

KS: "No, that's stuff that we will talk about a ton as this week goes. We'll talk about a ton in the offseason. Where we want our team to be, our defense, our offense, special teams, and that's a lot of conversations, a lot of film, a lot of personnel and salary cap things we've got to discuss, Draft. So no, I haven't even watched the game yet to tell you the truth."

A few of the players that we talked to expressed that of all the deep postseason runs not ending the way you wanted them to, this one hurts them the most. Would you say you guys feel the same way and if so can you kind of pinpoint why that is?

KS: "Because we lost the Super Bowl in overtime. That's the one would be tied with it is losing the other Super Bowl. Behind that, you'd put NFC Championships, but everyone's goal is to win the Super Bowl. And it's great when you win playoff games. It's great when you win a championship and you get there. But getting in the Super Bowl, going through that with your teammates and your families and just the whole process of it, not many people know about it, but it's not fun to go and lose."

JL: "I think the other part of that, it's fresh. And we went to great lengths in '19, we had this opportunity and fell short. You know, you respond to that in such a way, 'okay, how do we make our team such that when we get here again, this is ours. And so you put all those things in. That's primarily is it the talent of our guys? Absolutely. But it's the spirit and we had a bunch of high-character guys that were made for this moment. So to come up short, that's difficult. I think you've got to hats off to the Chiefs, to [Kansas City Chiefs head coach] Andy [Reid], to the organization, and they've got a pretty special guy, at quarterback. He's tough to beat. We've got to live with that for a lifetime. But I think knowing how good this team was, our team, and to have those chances and not to come up, that makes it very difficult."

What kind of plan is there for WR Brandon Aiyuk this offseason and is extending him a top priority for you?

JL: "You have to prioritize all these things. Brandon's entering his fifth-year option. Brandon's been a fantastic player for us. Kyle calls him a warrior all the time because of the way he goes out and competes. That shines through. Anybody, whether you're a trained eye or whether you're a fan, you can see the passion he plays with. You can see the production that he's had. We're extremely prideful in what he's become and he should be as well. And so, your team is comprised of guys, veterans who've been paid very well, of guys who want to be paid very well. We've got one guy on our team who is pretty prominent who can't be paid real well right now because the CBA doesn't allow. So it's all one big puzzle. We've developed a good cadence over the years, Kyle and I, where he focuses on the season. We do all the planning and then we present things to him and we work through it. That's what we'll continue to do. But of course you want a guy like Brandon Aiyuk to be a part of you going forward."

The team's going to change over the course of the next coming year. What are you going to miss about this particular group of guys? Is there a way to get that back for the next year?

KS: "You've always got to do it again. Start it over. But we had a real good team. I felt similar almost every year. '19 was a pretty special year, just how we played throughout that whole year. Similar in the way that I thought one of the hardest things after the game was just watching how much everyone hurt for each other. Guys are hurt for me. I hurt for them. You see your families, you see how much they hurt for you and stuff. I think that's what was real special about this group. Like, we had so many guys who were playing for stuff above themselves. Not to mention how talented our guys were. So I think that's what I'm going to miss the most about it. I think that's what our guys enjoyed the most about this year. I think they would echo that same thing. That's not something you can just make up, but that was pretty special. I think you've heard our guys talk about it a little bit. But, I also know a lot of those special guys are going to be here next year. You don't just pick up right where you left off, you've got to go through some stuff. You've got to go through an offseason together. We've got to grieve this a little bit and then come back stronger from it. But can't wait until we get to, what I told all the guys, I know I'm going to see everyone at volunteer phase one just pumped up, ready to go. So we'll see them then."

I know you said you haven't watched the film, but to go back to the third-and-five at the end of the regulation, the third-and-four, I think it was in overtime. What went wrong with the protections there, if anything?

KS: "Yeah, there's some confusion. They brought a blitz. Some mistakes inside. Just not getting the right guy to the right spot. Brought a hole up the middle."

I think you already answered this, but is Steve Wilks coming back next year?

KS: "I haven't talked to anybody yet. So yeah, I expect all our coaches to be back."

You called timeout at second-and-six with like two and a half minutes left in overtime. Did you see something you didn't like?

KS: "Yeah, I didn't like the look they were in and one of our players looked a little gassed. I didn't think I was going to use them all right there. So I thought it'd be a good time to use one."

Is it a challenging thing for a coach to get guys to pick themselves back up after something like this and do the things you're talking about? Is that a different type of challenge?

KS: "It definitely would be if we had to do it right now. That's why guys need to get away. This is real. You do have to grieve this. Our guys, one, they have jobs to do just like we do. And two, I think our guys really are passionate about their jobs and enjoy football a lot. So I think our guys are going to be hungry as ever coming back from this. Just like they were as hungry as I've ever seen a group of guys come into last offseason after how our offseason in Philly finished the year before. When you've got guys who really love what they do, that's what brings that passion. You've just got to put together a group of guys that are also good at it."

You said you hadn't looked at the game yet. When will you do that?

KS: "Usually when I'm ready to or when I have to."

Any inclination when that might be?

KS: "I don't think I have to anytime soon. But, I'm not really ready to right now. We got home last night. I just hung out, watched Griselda Blanco with my family. It's pretty cool. It's hard because usually I watch sports or read some on my phone and I don't really feel like doing any of that right now. So I got to catch up on some movies last night with my family. Then came in today and just really talked with players and stuff. Just got to say bye to a couple guys, which I'd love to say bye to everyone, but I can't talk to 60 people before this press conference. So we'll see if there's any people lingering here until probably seven at night. But that's really what we do these two days. I'm sure I'll come in here, it'll be a little bit quieter over the next couple days. I'm sure I'll turn it on pretty soon."

With your review of the defense, the roster's fluid during the season, but parts come and go. Did it seem like they struggled getting that cohesion? You had to get replacement defensive ends, you had safeties coming in and out without S Talanoa Hufanga and the nickelback role. Is fortifying that defense before you come back for offseason program kind of a main priority?

JL: "Yeah, I think a lot of the pieces have were there. You're always dealing with injuries. I think the thing that I have an immense amount of pride, you look at this defense, [DL] Arik Armstead, I think you guys learned today that he battled through with a torn meniscus, made a decision to play because he knew the opportunity. [DL] Javon Hargrave had a similar decision with a torn thumb ligament and decided we had too rare of an opportunity. Once our guys would allow him and our medical experts and oftentimes second opinions would allow these guys to play. Those things happen. That's the thing that people don't see at home the sacrifice people are making. I was really proud of our defense and the way they competed in this last game. I think that looked like I envisioned it looking. We were getting after them. Our guys, [S] Logan Ryan. Kyle jokes, but it's true. We started talking to him. He was on a Disney cruise with his family. He said, give me 10 days. He played an integral part in us getting to that final game. So there's so many of those guys. I think we have a really good nucleus that we can and will keep together. Yeah, of course we're always, an old coach that Kyle worked for, that I played for, [New Orleans Saints consultant] Jon Gruden used to say all the time, you never stay the same. You either get better or you get worse. And so we're into getting better. We'll make every effort to do that. We've got a lot of really good players that we've acquired in a variety of ways. The more good players you get, the tougher decisions you have. It's tough to take care of everyone. But, I know a lot of players want to be here. I've already had those conversations with people and there's a way to get it done. We're going to have to, it's nice that we're expecting 10,11 Draft choices with compensation picks and such. So we're going to be healthy there. You've got to have those guys contribute when you've got as many high-priced players as we have. We're looking forward to that opportunity to get into that process after these guys. He needs a break. My job's just getting going. I'm already, just talking about it, getting excited. But it's yeah, this is devastating. There's no way around that, but you move forward."

Following up on that, you mentioned how hard it is to beat Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. I know you don't think a lot about AFC opponents, but just knowing the success they have and they could always loom as kind of that final boss at the end of this thing, how much do you have to think about what you need to do to get past that team in particular?

JL: "I mean, we're constantly evolving in our vision, we call it W.I.T., what it takes. And they're not just words. They're what we believe in. One of the things we added after '19 was finishers. We need finishers in every area of our team. We've got a lot of those and it still wasn't quite good enough. And so, you go back, we'll continue to improve this team. We've got in my mind, I couldn't be prouder of Kyle, his leadership with this team, he gives us an advantage every time we take the field, the way he leads his staff, the team and nobody else I'd rather work with. And I'm right here for him and with him and we came in here talking about wanting to compete and win championships. That hasn't changed. It's only gotten stronger and I believe we've got the core and nucleus and people to get that done. It's a kick in the gut to get this close and not get there. So, I hurt for everybody here, but the only thing I know how to do is pick yourself up, let it hurt for a while, use that as fuel and move forward."

After last Super Bowl, you had to trade Indianapolis Colts DT DeForest Buckner, which you didn't want to do, but financially it had to be done. Do you envision being able to keep all the major high-priced players this time around?

JL: "Yeah, there's some challenges. I hope so. I think we're set up to do that. It takes putting the whole thing together and there's also things we have to plan for going forward. So, you can't just be reckless, we never will be. It goes back to the draft being so critical because those guys making and contributing to your team are very critical. But it goes back to the whole piece. So it's early. We've been obviously looking and planning for these things. Now we get to include Kyle and his staff on those talks and we'll have a great plan moving forward."

Some of the players after the game said they did not know the new rules for overtime. And Brock just said that he kind of went to quarterbacks coach Brian Griese right at the start of overtime for a refresher of the rules. Do you think it was important for the players to know the new rule as it pertains to overtime in the playoffs?

KS: "Well, yeah, I mean we did say and we told everyone as we were waiting for the coin toss, hey, review everyone with them, make sure they're sure before we go out. So, we asked the position coaches to do that, but I didn't cover it in a meeting on the Super Bowl week. I don't think that changes anything. We did it with our analytics department. We decided that going into the playoffs, I think you guys know how I've explained how I make decisions with that stuff in the past. I take all the information I can get, especially ones I haven't been in, and our analytics felt that was the best way to go. But as you guys know, I don't always just go with that. I take into account what they say, what they think is right, and then I go off my gut in the heat of battle and I knew what they felt going into it. And when I think about that during the moments I have to make the decision, I think the type of game it was did match what they felt was the best way to do. It did seem more like a field goal game. And our defense had been out there for a real long time right before that. So, I didn't feel at all to override that at the time."

JL: "Some other context, I believe we just closed, I think it was 11-play drive that we just closed the game with. And when you're playing Mahomes, you're chasing him a lot, so there's a lot of effort that's expended. I think the context from there is you need some time to get fresh. And so, all those things play into it and those were sound decisions.

That was a decision that was made during the week, basically?

KS: "Yeah, I mean analytic decisions are made on a piece of paper so you can read that and understand math and what they think about going off that, but that's why. But I always make it in a heat of battle with that information. And I mean, if it was like the Super Bowl the year before, the one that seemed more like a shootout, I think I might've felt a little bit differently. But having that information going in and the way ours was going, I didn't feel differently. I felt accurate with what they had recommended."

Given how the flow of this season went and a lot of the pressure the Chiefs generated in the Super Bowl, is it your early inkling that one of the priorities this offseason will be to invest in pass protection and fortify that part of the team?

KS: "I mean, you want to invest in wherever you think makes you the best team. You can sit there and load up on O-Linemen and draft them three years in a row and go spend on free agents and then not have many people score touchdowns and things like that, or rush the quarterback. You can do a lot of that type of stuff. It just depends how it goes. But in that game, I didn't feel like we were struggling just blocking them. I think we missed a few blitz pickups, which that's what they do, that's why they're second in the league at that stuff. That doesn't always come down to O-Linemen that comes down to kind of hot throws, things like that. But you're going to always try to upgrade at everything. But that's when all these discussions that go into it, like trying to upgrade to just beat that team or anything like that, when you look at football and the way it works out and the amount of games that you play to get in the playoffs and just two or three playoff games to get to the Super Bowl without there being a series to play, like you don't, you think of what are your options? What team do you have? How can you get better through the Draft? How can you get better through re-signing your own players? How can you get better through free agency and what does that affect years to come? And you look at that every single year and you try to become the best team possible with the situation that you're in. You don't just say, 'Hey, we're upgrading here this year.' You've got to make sure that's available. And if it's not then you get stronger in a different area. There's lots of ways you can win. You just have to keep trying to find that way."

So much of this falls on a quarterback to deliver a Super Bowl. What did you take away from how Brock handled the Super Bowl and how he handled the aftermath of it?

KS: "I thought Brock was unbelievable. I mean, everyone has plays in a game, every single person that you want to take back. But Brock not turning the ball over in that game, making a number of plays, taking us down there to take the lead earlier on, I mean, at the very end of the game to take us down to take the lead. I thought we didn't get it done, so none of us, all of us obviously could have done another thing. But I was real happy with how Brock played and real happy with how he played this year. And I thought Brock was unbelievable. I mean, one of the most impressive seasons I've been around for a football player and a quarterback and he was just a stud through it all."

Did Brock address the team in meetings today?

KS: "No, no one addressed the team today. I mean, he might have talked to guys after, and I know he spent a lot of time with guys after the game. But I mean, players voted him as our Len Eshmont award winner. So, that says what those guys thought about him. And we're excited about Brock."

How much room for improvement is there for Brock? What are areas you'd like to see him improve and how much can having an actual full off season without surgery help him?

KS: "I think just Brock, when I say Brock's a real guy, it's because when he does something he always understands, when he makes a mistake or he does something well he always understands why. It never seems just fortunate, he processes it very well. The way he approaches practice and games is always the same. And so Brock, just anything that he's struggled with this year, when we watch cut-ups together he needs time to correct it but those are things he'll figure out that he struggled with because we'll be able to put it all on tape and show him and he'll see it right away and he'll get that done throughout OTAs and have it good by training camp. I mean, that's how he was last year, mentally. Some of the things he would see that he struggled with during the year that we couldn't quite correct during the year because Wednesday, Thursday, Friday practices aren't really like that. It's hard to develop some of that muscle memory and things. You're just trying to get through the game plan and get ready for a new defense. But I remember last year when he saw some things and he would just be like, 'man, now I see it all together. Like I'll be all right when I come back.' And we didn't know because he was hurt, but by the time he got in training camp he had it solved. You do it in your backyard, you figure it out like it has to click though and you have to see it and you have to feel it. And that's what was so cool with going through it with him last year."

Four years ago, you guys concluded that you couldn't keep two high priced defensive tackles on the team at the same time. You could have a scenario where you've got two high priced wide receivers. Have you thought about the long-term having two guys making top dollar?

KS: "I think we could have had two, there's always give and take and we were trying to have two but then when we realized to have two high-price D-Tackles, we're going to have to lose two other players and a draft pick. And so, it's like balancing all that out. I mean, you can figure stuff out but then what's the risk of that? What do you lose? And that's why everything ties together. That's why they've gone through a thousand different scenarios over the last six months, over the last two years. What's two years ahead? But there's no like, 'hey you can't do this, you can do that.' Like it's which way do you want to go and whatever way you want to go, that'll be a huge advantage but also you have to take away from another spot and that's how you balance that out and you don't balance that out until you know all your choices. Well, if we do this, can you go a different way? Is there a player available in free agency that would allow us to do something different? Is there a guy in the draft? Are there a few choices so if there's one guy there you can't do, all that plays into it and that's why those are discussions that don't stop until you really have to make those decisions."

People say now it is proven you can't win the big one. But you know Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid couldn't win the big one and your dad couldn't win the big one and there are a lot of coaches that were like that. Does having that perspective of history, I mean particularly family history, help or do you even worry about the perception?

KS: "I mean, you'd love to fix perception because I would love to win one for what I know about football and I know if I fixed perception that means I did everything I wanted to do, which isn't to fix perception, it's to win a damn Super Bowl. But I also know when you say big games, we've had to win a bunch of big games to get to Super Bowls. We've won a lot of big games here. We've won a lot of big games to get into playoffs. The fact that we keep getting there shows you guys how much we've been able to win big games and I think you guys are aware of that. But these two Super Bowls have been tough losing to Kansas City. But to think that if we win that, it means I can win a big game? No, that means our team won the Super Bowl. That's what I understand. You guys can have any narrative you want, but the success or the failure, it comes down to one game and I hope that I can be a part of a team that wins a game at the end of the year, but to say that the Niners can't win a big game would be an extremely inaccurate statement."
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