Do you have any injury updates from what you told us after the game last night?
“Yeah. [RB Matt] Breida, ankle sprain, he’ll be out this week. [WR Dante] Pettis, MCL sprain, he’ll be out this week. [TE Garrett] Celek’s a concussion, in the protocol. [WR Marquise] Goodwin, calf contusion, we’ll re-check him on Wednesday. [CB] K’Waun [Williams], same knee issues, we’ll re-check him on Wednesday. That’s it.”
Can you kind of look back on what Matt’s season has been and how he’s had to battle through that ankle injury and what you got out of him?
“Yeah, I think Matt’s had a very impressive season. He started out great filling in, losing [RB Jerick] McKinnon at the beginning of the year. I think Matt stepped in right away and played like a number one back. I think he was up there for a while close to leading the league in rushing. Got a ton of explosives. Had a good yards per carry. He got hurt early on. He’s battled every week to get in there and play for us. He’s ended up hurting it every week, also. So, it’s lingered all year. Just a credit to him to still be effective when he’s been out there and been able to help us throughout this year has been unbelievable. He has not been 100-percent for a while. That has affected his production. It has made it harder for him to look the same way he did at the beginning of the year. But, it shows you the type of guy he is that he can still take it to a whole other level the healthier he gets for next year.”
Watching Matt and seeing him go through most of the season, does it give you a better idea of how he fits in in the long-term and how you can use him when McKinnon comes back and you have a full stable of running backs?
“Yes. I think we learned a lot about a lot of our running backs this year. Not just Breida, but also [RB] Raheem [Mostert]. We went into this year just with Raheem mainly as a special teams guy. The games that he played in where he got a go at running back, he did a hell of a job. But, Breida, just getting through the whole year with him, carrying that load because he didn’t do as much of it with [Jacksonville Jaguars RB] Carlos [Hyde] last year, he showed what he showed last year at the end of the year and he got only better. What was neat about him was he was still able to play through injuries and stuff. I know, unfortunately, he was hurt throughout the year. It was the ankle that lingered the whole time. Besides the ankle and stuff, he was able to handle the wear and tear with the rest of his body.”
The way some of the younger defensive players are playing, it looks like it’s going to create some competition in the offseason. I know this past offseason, part of it was the state of the roster, but there wasn’t tons of training camp competition. It was kind of like, ‘Well, who’s going to be at right guard and everything else was kind of set.’ Even like I said, I don’t know how much you could’ve avoided that. But, I guess, A, looking back, could you have done more to create more competition and B, looking ahead, do you think that’ll be beneficial to the fact that the roster might be in a spot where you can create more competition? That was a long question. Hopefully, you got it, sorry.
“It’s alright. I’ll try to have a longer answer. No, you definitely want to create competition as a coaching staff and personnel department, all of us, every year. But, you can’t always do that. We look back, what could we have done differently? You want your draft picks to come in and compete with the guys from the year before. A lot of those guys aren’t ready to right away, especially in training camp. That happens throughout the year. So, usually, it could be other guys on the roster or free agents that you bring in. We’re at a situation where I don’t think we’re able to bring in a ton of free agents just to compete with guys. But now, we’ve got two draft picks in our history now. Both of those draft classes are competing with each other harder. We’ll definitely bring in a few free agents. But, you can’t bring in a bunch at every position just to compete. Free agents cost a lot more money and those are guys that if you are targeting, and it depends where you go, but usually you’re targeting them to be a special teams, backup role, or targeting them to come in and be a starter. The longer we’re here, the more we’ll be able to put these drafts together, the more the competition will come up. I think that’s what’s been so good just as you said at the end of this year that some of those draft picks and everything from this year have stepped it up and are definitely showing some of our draft picks from the year before that nothing is a lock going into next year. You say nothing is a lock going into every year, but players see better than they hear. They can see guys who play well and they can see guys who play bad. They know when a guy has the capability of beating them out.”
You’ve mentioned, obviously, you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. You’re never staying the same. But, how do you go about reinforcing that message through this offseason, just given how things didn’t necessarily translate through last offseason when the team ended on a good note?
“I think the experience will help guys understand that more. You can say anything until you’re blue in the face. But, guys have to feel it and they have to be worried about something. We had a lot of guys that I think did have a lot of success at the end of last year. I mean, everything you say is it’s always a new team. Everything is going to start over. Last year doesn’t mean anything. I do think guys believe it and they want to do it right. But, you truly don’t know until you experience things. Our guys did experience that. They saw that this year was very hard the way we had to start out. They’ll remember that. They’ll know what we went through this year. They’ll know the grind of it and everything we had to fight through to get some wins. Them going into next year on that, I think individually, that helps everyone come in a lot more locked in, a lot more ready, understanding the urgency of this league and that nothing is easy. Everything’s hard. You’ve got to expect it and you’ve got to embrace that.”
How did DB Tarvarius Moore play in your estimations and has he put himself in a position to compete with CB Ahkello Witherspoon or whoever else is at that cornerback spot for next season?
“He’s definitely put himself in a position to compete. He’s out there playing and we’re taking the good with the bad. He had some good plays yesterday. He also had some bad ones. He got beat in coverage a couple times that he can do better on. It was nice at the end when he did get beat, that the guy doesn’t quit. He doesn’t stop. He still tries to play through the guy and physical. Caused a fumble there at the end that gave us a chance to win it. So, Tarvarius, I’ve been happy with. By no means was yesterday perfect, but him getting out there and competing will make him better.”
In terms of Dante Pettis’ season and coming on in the last month or so, was there any one thing that you noticed really quick with him or was it something that as he got more experience, he just started to get in a better flow of things?
“I think he just truly had to go through it to understand the urgency of the NFL, and just all the stuff that you have to go through to get open on a route. Dante’s had success everywhere he’s been before. I know he expects to have it at the NFL level, too. I think it takes a while for a guy to learn why he isn’t having it. Dante is a hard worker. He does everything you ask. But, I think it took him some time to realize how hard you have to go on every single route. How exact you have to be with your technique, with your feet. How aggressive your hands have to be. You don’t get much man-to-man in college. You never have to worry about beating holding because you beat guys so bad. Now in the NFL, guys are on you every play and you can’t just push them off. You’ve got to be good with your feet, you’ve got to win at the line. I think it took Dante going through failing a little bit earlier in the year coming back from his injury, really trying to ride him on a bunch of things just to where he started to pick up that, ‘Hey, maybe I can take it to another level.’ I think he gradually did that as the year went. Then fortunately, he had some success to go with that. Hopefully he learned a little bit of the success he can have the harder he goes and he’ll take that into this offseason. Like you guys said earlier, he’s going to get better or worse and we need him to get better. We need him to get better every day. As long as he works, I think he will.”
Yesterday CB Richard Sherman said that in his opinion, S Marcell Harris has put himself in a position to compete for a starting spot next year. Can you talk a little bit about what you’ve seen from him the last few weeks?
“I agree with that statement. Whether it’s four games in a row he’s played, maybe five, I think it’s four, but his first game out a ton was Seattle where he struggled a little bit and he’s gotten better each game since. Marcell’s got the talent to play. He definitely has the ability and we love his mindset. You guys can see him out there. Even if he’s wrong, he’s still flying around trying to hit people. He doesn’t hesitate. The more experience he gets, the better he’ll get and I think he’s shown the teammates, the coaches and the fans that he has a chance to help us next year. He’ll be right in the mix competing with a number of other guys.”
I think yesterday was WR Kendrick Bourne’s most productive game. Where has he improved the most as far as getting separation this year?
“He’s been more consistent with his feet. Sometimes he gets excited and slips a little bit and he’s done a better job staying up. His hands, I think everyone can see, even when he’s covered, he steps to the ball, he has aggressive hands. I don’t know about his height and weight, but to me, he plays like our biggest receiver. He’s a big guy out there, because of his hands and the way he attacks the ball and he’s fearless going over the middle. I know our quarterbacks really like throwing to him.”
You talked a little bit yesterday about why you didn’t have as many run attempts in the second half. After looking at the film, can you kind of go into a little bit more detail about that?
“Yeah, you get 21 plays. I think I had about five runs called. Two of them we threw run alerts on, or RPO-type stuff so that takes them away. They’re just tough guys to block, the fronts they’re playing, the way they were going about it. I also had a pretty good trust for our quarterback to not turn it over and where he was going with the ball. We were trying to do a lot of quick game and get rid of it quick and trying to get it in our guys’ hands and giving them chances to run away from their whole big front, get them more in their secondary and things like that. I thought once we started to do that we started to move the ball a little bit better. Unfortunately, we ended up having the pass that was intercepted, the one to Quise that really cost us and that’s the risk you take when you end up throwing too much. But, to me, that’s also what you have to do to try to beat a defense like that. If you don’t do that stuff, the only way I feel like you’re going to beat them is you’re hoping for a pick-six or something like that on the other side and it didn’t seem like that was going to happen.”
Just in general, it seems like young quarterbacks can come in at some point in the season and experience success, but a lot of the time they have trouble replicating that same success the next season with a whole offseason in between. Have you noticed that and what kind of uniqueness comes with that challenge?
“I don’t think people understand how hard it is to be successful in the NFL as a quarterback. You can be extremely good at quarterback and you can still have a very bad year. It’s not just on the quarterback. You have to have a good scheme. You’ve got to have receivers. You’ve got to have protections, you’ve got to have a running game. You hope you’re not going against a bunch of defenses that look like the one we went against yesterday. There are a lot of variables that go into playing quarterback and I think as always, because of the position, when you do well, especially earlier in your career, everyone is going to hype you up a ton. A lot of it is going to be warranted, but also a lot of it is going to be a little over the top. When you don’t do that well, a little bit of it is going to be warranted and also a lot of people are going to go over the top on you because they went over the top the other way. So, you’ve got to always look into a guy. That’s why I try not to ever look too much into the stats. You’ve got to be able to watch the tape and watch every play and understand what the quarterback is being asked to do. It’s just that it’s a very tough position to play and a lot rides on it with all of the other guys.”
QB Nick Mullens said after the game that he should have run and he knew that as soon as he threw the ball. In a situation like that, as a coach, do you even talk to him about that or do you just move on because there’s an understanding that, “Hey, you screwed up and it’s okay, we get it,” and no sense in rehashing it?
“We’ll watch it together so we’ll go over it. You don’t have to rehash it very hard when you’re dealing with a smart, honest dude who keeps it real and will admit it to you. Nick knows what he missed. By the time he came to the sidelines when I asked him, he already knew. Again, that’s just part of playing the position and it’s tough. Nick made a lot of plays yesterday, a number of them, when he broke the pocket looking for a big play instead of looking to run. That’s one of the reasons he hit [TE George] Kittle on a big one going across the field. That’s the one when he hit Kittle in the end zone, which I definitely think should have been a PI, but it gave the chance for a touchdown. Then he got out at the end and he broke. He was not really thinking about running, he has throwing in his mind and he sees someone down the field. Obviously, he made the wrong decision and he knew that before having to watch the tape. He knew that by the time he got to the sideline. So, you learn from it and hopefully next time he’s in that situation, he’ll run it. But also, Quise is a little bit more open and he throws it and Quise catches that ball and we win the game, I know we’re all going to be pretty happy with him too. So, you’ve got to take some of the good with the bad and he knows that he missed that. We all know that he missed it and hopefully next time in that situation, he’ll make the right decision.”
What do you guys have going on for the next few days?
“We’re really treating today like it’s a Tuesday after a Monday night game. I gave the players today off to be with their families. They always get Tuesday off so we’re basically treating it like a victory Monday for the players because they’re not going to come in until Wednesday. The coaches, I keep telling them last night was Monday night and today is Tuesday so we’re getting a full gameplan in today, doing everything today so we can spend a little bit of time at home with our families tomorrow also.”
Have a great Christmas.
“I appreciate it, guys. All that you do.”