Kyle Shanahan Recaps ‘Thursday Night Football’ Win over Raiders

The 49ers head coach evaluated the team’s Week 9 win against the Oakland Raiders and discussed the competition at QB.

Opening comments:

“Injuries: [RB Raheem] Mostert, broken arm, he’s going to have surgery today. [CB Emmanuel] Moseley dislocated his shoulder, he’s going to have surgery Tuesday. [TE George] Kittle, chest contusion, he returned. [DL Ronald] Blair [III], shoulder, returned. The guys who missed the game, [DB Antone] Exum [Jr.] is still in the protocol and [LB Reuben] Foster and [S Jaquiski] Tartt, hamstring and shoulder.”

What’s Mostert’s prognosis, just given how graphic that injury was?

“I’m not sure. I wasn’t told how long it’ll be. I know he’s going on IR, so he’s out for the year. But, I’m sure he’ll be fine by next year. Broken bone, different than ligaments and things like that.”

You’ve got two guys on the practice squad. Would it be a competition next week to see which one of those guys gets elevated?

“Yeah. We haven’t decided yet. I know we have two good options on the practice squad. We possibly could bring in some more guys to work out. We’ve got some extra days with the Thursday night game, so we’ve got a few days to decide on that.”

You haven’t decided on the starting quarterback for the next game?

“No, I haven’t. The players got four days off. I don’t need to decide yet, so I’m taking my time with it. Also, I wouldn’t want to do that with all the guys out of the building. I’d like the whole team in here, too, when I decide that.”

What’s going to go into making that decision?

“Just who we think gives us the best chance to win versus the Giants.”

When you went and watched the tape, what did you make of QB Nick Mullens’ performance?

“I thought he was very efficient, made some big plays. Getting to number two in his progression on that throw to Kittle, did a hell of a job. Kittle made a hell of a catch on it, too. A couple of the plays down in the red zone, also. Did a good job getting rid of the ball, changing his arm angle a number of times and got us in and out of the huddle very efficiently.”

A lot of the guys after the game were talking about just his work ethic, how much he puts into it. George Kittle was saying that he has crowd noise on his phone and he listens to it at home to practice calling out plays. How much of that do you see? What do you make of that?

“I didn’t know about the crowd noise, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. That’s the type of guy he is. That’s kind of what I meant last night when I said he’s a machine. He’s always working. If you came in and didn’t know anything, you would think he’s always preparing to start that week. He’s been that way since the day he’s gotten here. Took him a while to get reps even when he first got here in the first OTAs and everything when we had four quarterbacks in camp. So, it took him a while to get reps, but whenever he did, he was always ready. He’s gradually earned more and got him to the moment he had last night.”

Philosophically, do you generally believe in sort of the hot hand or do you look at it in a situation like that, or maybe other situations in the past, like maybe a guy, who in QB C.J. Beathard’s case, who would be healthy maybe he deserves it because he earned that job previously?’

“You’d love to give people who deserve it and earn it and everything, but it’s all about who gives you the best chance to win. That can be a week-to-week decision, that can be a quarter-to-quarter decision. You do everything you can to win games. So, you try to make every decision, not just about personnel, but what you do in the building, everything is ultimately about wins and losses so you decide what gives you the best chance to win.”

Do you take into account just how the teammates react to him? It seemed like so many guys not only appreciated what he did, but what he’s done leading up to that point and that’s why they really respected how he played last night?

“Yes, definitely. You take all that into account. Again, it’s only one player. It’s only one position. How it affects a team also affects who gives you the best chance to win. I think all of our quarterbacks have a lot of respect on our team, starting with [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo], going to C.J. and then Nick. All our guys work pretty hard and I think all our guys are pretty tough guys. I think all three of them have a lot of respect from the guys on our team.”

Last year’s win over the Giants wasn’t part of the streak at the end, but it seemed to lead to that. Did last night’s victory have a similar vibe to you of the Week 10 win over the Giants?

“I think the similar vibe was that we’d been on a losing streak for a while. Last year, I think we had lost nine in a row and then won one so that was huge and it was the first win of the year. It was my first win as a head coach. So, I think that was a bit different. I think last night was more, it has been a tough season so far. I think everyone knows that. These last three weeks have been even a bit tougher. Some of these losses, especially the Green Bay one and the Arizona one, being on a short week, being down to your third quarterback and things like that, knowing you’re going to have 11 days before you play your next game. That’s a lot of time. You wanted bad to change how we feel. We haven’t been feeling great these last few weeks for obvious reasons. The only way to change that is to win a game, regardless of how it happens, whether it looks good or it looks bad. The only way you’re going to change how we feel is with a win. So, the fact that we were able to do that, I think guys were pretty excited that you’re going to feel good for a few days and then you get back to work. But, it was something that we’ve wanted for a while and I was real happy for the guys that they got it.”

On the touchdown run by Mostert, your right tackle T Mike McGlinchey was 50 yards downfield. Is that exactly how you drew it up?

“No. He wanted to get on TV longer, so he stayed up. He should’ve thrown early in the play, taken the guy’s legs out on the edge. I think the O-Line gave him the showoff fine for trying to be on TV following him down the field for so long. No, I’m just joking. He did a hell of a job. It was awesome.”

Now that you’ve had a chance to watch film, what can you assess from the success of the pass rush last night?

“Similar to what I said last night. It was just a huge group effort. I think all of the guys, they won their one-on-one battles, whether it was just speed beating them off the edge, whether they were just being physical pushing the pocket. Some guys moved the quarterback and helped other guys get sacks. I thought we held up in coverage very well, too, to where we got the quarterback to lose his patience a little bit and leave the pocket. We got some sacks before he got to the line of scrimmage. From a coverage standpoint, from a rush standpoint, individual efforts in the games and some of the pressures, I thought all around they just did a good job.”

Seeing LB Dekoda Watson be activated immediately and jump right into it--?

“I thought Dekoda played very well, and I thought it helped a lot. Dekoda has probably got our best speed off the edge. Just coming off the ball fast and he can turn it into power very quickly. So, having that speed on the edge that Dekoda brings, and also the bull rush that he has condenses the pocket got him some production, but also helps other people around him.”

Not to take anything away from Nick’s performance, but he wasn’t really pressured. It’s easy for me to say, but he didn’t have to make tons of really tough throws. In some ways is it tough to evaluate just because of the way it happened?

“Not really. You don’t overdo anything, and you don’t want to underdo anything. I’m not going to take any credit away from Nick. He did some really good things in that game, helped us have one of our better games of the year. It’s always easier when you play, I think, at a high level on all three phases. The defense plays that well, it makes it a lot easier on the offense and especially the quarterback. When the offense plays well, it makes it a lot easier on the defense. So, it goes hand in hand. But, Nick wasn’t just handing it off and protecting the lead. He made some plays that were one of the reasons we got that lead.”

CB Richard Sherman after the game credited you and the rest of the coaching staff for keeping things together. He said it is a drama-free locker room and things are very functional, maybe despite the record. How conscious are you of all those things? How much effort do you put into that aside form just your normal coaching duties?

“A lot. I think it’s very important. You work on Xs and Os and things like that, but Xs and Os are only so much. You’re not going to change a ton week-to-week. It has to do with the people in the building. I appreciate Richard giving coaches credit for that, but you only can do that if you’ve got the right players in the building, too. You can talk to people as much as you want. If people aren’t going to listen and don’t want to work or they aren’t the right type of people, when things get tough it’s human nature, it’s always easier to point the finger at someone else than to sit there and face some of the things you’re going through. I think we’ve got a special group of guys who work hard, that don’t point the finger. That allows us to overcome some of the situations we’ve been in. We don’t want to be in this. We want to get out of it. I think you’ve got a chance to get out of it when you have the right type of guys.”

Is it harder being sort of in the second year, being in similar situations like that?

“Yeah, I don’t know. This is my first-second year. I think people give you more of a pass in your first year. They give you less of one in your second year, and it’s going to get less and less as you go. I understand that. That’s also outside. It’s what you make of it. We’ve got 53 guys on our team. We’ve got a number of coaches. We’ve got a great personnel staff. We get together every day for team meetings and we split up and break up individually. We’ve gone through a lot of lows here so far, and we’ve gone through a number of highs. We’re still trying to form our identity. We’re trying to build our culture. I think we’re going through that right now. Like I always say, you don’t always have to label things good things or bad things. As long as you learn from them, as long as you’re working, then you’ve got a chance to get better. If you’re getting better from things, then it is a positive. I don’t to want to have to go through these losses, continue to to do it, but I do believe that we’re getting better from it.”

With Mostert, how big of a loss is that on the special teams side and how much do you have to take into account that part of it when looking for a replacement?

“Huge. I think for the two years we’ve been here, Raheem has been one of the better special teams players in the league. I think he’s earned that. I think we know that here and I think people who have played against him know that. What he’s done for us on offense just in these last three weeks has been huge. He’s really taken a step up. He got his opportunity with some injuries and faced some adversity right away when he got his opportunity with a turnover and he’s completely bounced back and made himself a hell of a back. So, these last three weeks, we all know that he’s made this team because of special teams, but these last few weeks he’s definitely made this team regardless of special teams. He’s been very good at offense. It’s going to be a huge loss for us, but it’ll open up some opportunities for other people just like some opportunities were opened up for him.”

As you continue building this team, some have said that Nick has gone from a nobody to a somebody. What do you make of that sentiment and has the team been fielding calls over Nick?

“I haven’t gotten any, personally. I doubt it yet, especially with the trade deadline over. So, they’re going to have to be patient on that. But, I think it’s your typical, when the third guy gets in, not many people know his name. He was an undrafted guy. Nick, he’s a reserved guy, he’s himself. He’s pretty by the book and a very normal dude. He doesn’t change for anyone. He’s not the guy who walks in the locker room the first day and everyone’s like, ‘Who’s this guy who just came in?’ They probably thought it was our quarterback coach’s younger brother or something like that. So, we messed with him on that stuff, but he doesn’t mind that stuff. He’s not trying to be someone he’s not. He’s not trying to act like anything. He just goes to work every single day and guys notice that and then they watch him play well. When people watch people work, it draws their attention. But then when they make some plays in practice and they do it in the preseason a little bit, then they earn the respect. The way he acts and the way he doesn’t change, he’s himself all of the time. That’s what leaders do.”

Does he seem like he could be a coach when he’s older?

“Definitely.”

Why didn’t he get drafted? There’s about seven quarterbacks that went. You obviously took C.J. in the third round so you didn’t need him. But, why do you think he went undrafted?

“Not a lot of quarterbacks do get drafted. It’s usually less than 10 each year and there’s only 32 starters in the league, it’s only one spot. Very rarely, not many teams keep three on a roster just because the three is never dressed on gameday. So, if people don’t see them coming in right away at having a chance to be a one or a two, people don’t spend a lot of draft picks on those. Nick’s not the tallest guy, he’s not the biggest guy so people are going to look to that stuff like you have seen guys in the past slide a little bit. He had a great college career. He played in a spread offense though so you weren’t always seeing him under center and things like that. So, that was hard to envision how he would be. That happens to guys like that. Most of the colleges aren’t under center and you’ve got to guess how they’re going to be in the NFL because they throw so many bubbles and screens and things like that which can give you very good stats but they’re not totally gradable things. Nick didn’t have a ton of that. But, the type of guy he was, the way he did play within his offense, we knew he was a good football player. We had an idea that he wasn’t going to get drafted and we hoped that we would be able to compete for him in free agency and we did.”

You brought him in for a visit, right?

“Yeah, we did bring him in for a visit.”

A lot of Xs and Os on the board and he nailed it right away?

“Yeah, and also when you bring guys in visits too that you want to develop relationships with them also because if they don’t get drafted then it’s recruiting. You can offer them a certain amount of money, but it’s not much money. Usually it’s they’re going to go to the place that they think they have the best opportunity at to succeed and so you like to bring guys in, if it’s not on a visit, to meet them somewhere to develop that relationship.”

Why didn’t WR Trent Taylor play last night?

“Once [WR] Pierre [Garçon] got healthy, we had to decide. We were only going to have five receivers up and it really came down to special teams. We’re good with [WR] Richie [James Jr.] or Trent in the slot. It wasn’t that we went with Richie over Trent in the slot. It was that we were good either way and Richie did a few more things for us on special teams.”

Is Trent fully healthy? He doesn’t look quite as quick as he did last year.

“I mean, you can ask Trent. I think he’s healthy enough to play. But, I think we all have got to take into account that Trent had back surgery this offseason and back surgery is a big deal, obviously. It really took Trent until a couple weeks before the season to really be full-go. So, he got healthy enough to play, but you’ve got to take into account that he missed an entire offseason of working out and preparing himself. Not by his choice. Trent prepares as hard as anyone I’ve been around, but he had some back issues. He’s fighting through that stuff which has made it harder for him, but he’s still good enough to help us out. But yes, he is fighting a little uphill battle with that.”

I realize you’re not ready to say anything about who’s going to start at quarterback, but it just seems like the situation lends itself to now you have a chance to kind of see what you have in Nick and say, ‘Hey, who is our best backup for next year.’ Do you kind of agree with that line of thinking?

“No, I don’t agree with that line of thinking. I mean, I do eventually, but that’s just not where we’re at right now. We’re excited to have a few days off here. We haven’t gotten that yet and we’re going to get it here just playing a Thursday night game. Thursday night games are tough, but the benefit of it is you get a few days off after. So, we’re going to take these few days off, we’ll come back in and when we come back in it’s going to be all thinking about the Giants and not really thinking about who gives us our best chance to have our best backup next year. It’ll be about the Giants. That’ll be the decision, as we go through the year and we get to the end of the year, those are things that I’ll think about very hard.”

Why do you think George Kittle lasted until the fifth round?

“That’s a good question because we didn’t know either. We thought he was going to go somewhere in the third or something like that, was our guess. One thing that, to me, looks like first-round talent, but we had a feeling he was going to fall just in the fact that he didn’t do a lot in the passing game. All we hear about is people talking about him as a run blocker and things like that which is one of the reasons we really liked him. But, the main reason was the pass game. He didn’t get to show that a ton which helped him, we thought, not get noticed in the first couple of rounds. But, we were very surprised he fell to the fifth.”

Two questions. One, did you feel it was going to be this easy on both sides of the ball or did it just look easy? Second question, your thoughts on the cheerleader who takes a knee?

“Don’t know about the cheerleader who took a knee on the second thought, and I don’t have a thought about that. On the first thought, no, you never expect a game is going to be easy, ever. This is the NFL. You’re going against NFL players and you’re going against NFL coaches. They have been in a lot of games. Thursday nights sometimes can play out that way. But, they have a good coaching staff, they’ve got a good quarterback. They have players out there who can make some plays. I was glad that it went the way it did, but by no means were we expecting that.”

Mullens’ performance last night was statistically the greatest debut ever. Did he somewhat take the decision out of your hands a little bit and earn a second start or is there more to it than that?

“No, I just don’t have to decide that right now in front of you guys. I would like to do it in front of our players and the people that it really affects.”

Richard Sherman talked about Nick Mullens being competitive even in seven-on-sevens and walk throughs and practice. Do you ever have to dial him down at all or do you just let him?

“No, you don’t dial him down at all. He tries to keep it to himself. He’s not real outgoing, but he can’t help it. You’re going to see the frustration and the fire on his face a lot. He is extremely competitive. He believes in himself. He’s a guy who, he won’t ever say it, but he knows he’s going to go to college and have a great career. He believes whether he gets drafted or not he’s going to go to the NFL and make it. He’s a guy who truly believes that if you just give him some time he’ll find a way. I think he’s done that throughout his entire life and he hasn’t stopped so far all of the way to the NFL last night.”

Is Moseley going on IR as well?

“Yes.”

49ers fans are passionate. There were some fights last night. Is there anything that you want to say to the fans on that topic?

“With fights? I think sporting events, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a sporting event in my life where there hasn’t been a fight. So, I do think that’s somewhat normal. But, I do think our fans were awesome last night. I think our fans are great. When you look at an entire stadium, I think people act that way is usually about one-percent of the crowd. I don’t think that is necessarily Niners-Raiders. I think that’s every high school game I’ve been to, anywhere. I think that just happens at sporting events because there’s a lot of passion at those and people care a lot about sports. I think that’s one of the cool things about sports, that people care that much. But, not when people get hurt and do things like that. I hear it was better than usual and I’m glad for that. But, I don’t think there’s any game that’s perfect.”

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