Shanahan: "You’re always trying to improve and get better."

Coach Shanahan Monday Press Conference.

Opening comments:

“Injuries from yesterday; we’ve got [DB Tarvarius] Moore with a stinger, he’s day-to-day, [CB Ahkello] Witherspoon, ankle, day-to-day, [DL Cassius] Marsh came in this morning with concussion symptoms, he was placed in the protocol this morning. [LB Mark] Nzeocha, groin, we’ll re-check him on Wednesday. [LB] Malcolm Smith, same thing, Achilles soreness. [WR] Pierre [Garçon], we’re going to end up getting him scoped tomorrow. So, he’ll go on IR sometime this week. [RB Matt] Breida, ankle, we’ll re-check him on Wednesday. [S Jaquiski] Tartt, stinger, same thing on Wednesday. [CB] K’Waun with his knee, we’ll re-check on Wednesday.”

You said Garçon will go on IR later this week?

“Yes. Yep.”

Have you spoken to Pierre about his future, what he plans to do? He’s getting up there in age, obviously.

“I know he plans to play.”

He does?

“Yeah.”

He’s going to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery?

“He’s getting his knee scoped. Is that the same thing?”

Same thing.

“Alright.”

I’m not a doctor.

“Neither am I. That’s why I struggled with that question.”

You have doctors who tell you?

“That’s true, and they told me it is getting scoped.”

WR Kendrick Bourne has been filling in now for four or five weeks at that spot. What’s his progress been like in a starring role?

“The same thing that he did last year. You know, it was the same role he did last year. I know [former NFL WR] Louis Murphy started the games, but it was the same amount of plays and stuff like that. Bourne stepped in and did a good job. I want him to be more consistent and continue to get better. [WR Marquise Goodwin] Quise came in and split time with him yesterday at the Z position, also. But, no, Bourne has made some plays for us this year.”

What was your approach with Marquise yesterday?

“It was what I said earlier in the week. We were going to feel it out as the week went. I thought he had a very good week of practice and got better, especially as the week went. He didn’t work at Z all week, but he was comfortable with it. Quise understands our offense pretty well. Just talking to him Saturday night and seeing where he was at, we told him if he felt good with it, we were going to throw him in at Z a little bit more so we could leave [WR] Dante [Pettis] on the field a little bit longer. He was up for the challenge and did a real good job in there.”

Dante was saying after the game that these last few games, he’s felt a lot more comfortable because of those extra reps. Is that kind of the goal going forward, there are some rookie mistakes here and there, but to get them out of the way right now?

“Yeah, that’s definitely the plan right now. It started in Tampa. But, that’s something just realizing as coaches, Dante, we haven’t been ready to throw him out there a ton because he’s shown he’s not 100-percent fully ready to handle that. But, what has been neat to watch him is, when we didn’t have a choice and had to throw him out there, he did some things that he wasn’t ready for that we anticipated. But, by going through it, he got better as the game went with it. He made some mistakes in Tampa in the first quarter that he was better in the second quarter and got him some experience that he needs. I thought he was better in Seattle after that. Just being out there playing more, he is a very smart guy who listens and understands what you’re saying. But, you’ve always got to put athletes kind of through those situations so they can feel it themselves. He has, and he’s gotten better from it.”

Two of your veteran guys on defense, LB Malcolm Smith and NT Earl Mitchell didn’t play any snaps at all of defense. Are you just kind of wanting to see the young guys like LB Elijah Lee and DL D.J. Jones? Is that kind of the idea, to get them out there and kind of play these young guys?

“You would like to. But, it’s got to take more than that. Those guys in particular, Earl, I think has had a very good year. I think Earl has been better this year than last year, and I think Earl played good last year. It’s very hard to get a number of noses up on game day. So, having Earl up throughout the year is why D.J. hasn’t been up very much. If Earl ever fell off and D.J. was doing a lot better, we would’ve made that change. But, Earl’s played well throughout the year. But, it came a time and had to sit Earl down and tell him it was nothing against him but we needed to see what D.J. can do. Earl has done well throughout this year, but in order to get D.J. some playing time, we told Earl that he was probably going to have to sit down. Then, when [CB] K’Waun [Williams], we worked him out before the game and K’Waun couldn’t go. It allowed us to have an extra one up so we got Earl up. But, didn’t expect him to play unless there was an injury. When it came to Malcolm, I think you guys are aware of what Malcolm has been battling all year. That’s why he has been coming out a lot during games, regardless of who is in just because it’s tough for him to play for four quarters. We thought it would get better over the Bye week after we did some things. It hasn’t, and he came to us a couple days before the game saying he was really struggling to get through it. We agreed with him. So, we went into it starting Elijah for that reason. We were ready to bring Malcolm in if need be. But, Elijah handled it very well and did a good job, so nothing happened.”

These are coaching decisions. But, what kind of say does general manager John Lynch have with you as you try to map out the roster and evaluate it?

“Everything. I mean, we talk about everything. Yeah, definitely.”

You talked about making personnel decisions in the offseason, but guys like that, Earl and Malcolm and Pierre, they’re 30 or a little over 30 and a little more expensive. Are those guys, you’re talking about we have to figure out does it make sense to have them on the team next year?

“Yeah. Those guys understand the business, and they understand how it works. That’s stuff that you don’t ignore. That’s why you guys are asking the questions. It’s obvious. I talked about that with those guys. Those guys aren’t done. What, one guy in particular, what I said with Earl, he’s played very well this year. So, there’s a lot of football left in him. Malcolm and Pierre are battling through injuries that are legit injuries that have lingered all year, which you would like to as a coaching staff, or even a personnel department, you’d love for them to get healthy. Then, to let them go out and play so you can truly judge them because they are getting older, yes. But, they do still have some good football in them if they’re healthy. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to get healthy throughout this year. We’ve waited on Pierre for a bit. It was going very positive for a while. That’s why we felt real good about it. But, came back from that Bye week and it had gotten worse. We tried our hardest last week. He went out and went full-go Wednesday, it swelled up on him, caused him a lot of pain. After having that same thing through almost most of the year, especially it was the week before the Green Bay game that it really started coming, it was just lingering too long where P knew he had to get something done, a scope. So, we had to shut him down. Now, I saw P in training camp when his knee wasn’t bothering him. He was playing at a high level. It’s very hard to do that when you’re not healthy, especially the age these guys are at. Hopefully, they can get healthy this offseason and then you’ve got to make decisions. You don’t just get rid of people to get rid of people. They’re all good players, good people, people we love here. But, you’re always trying to improve and get better and that’s what we see. What’s the competition you can create? What are the options out there?”

Will you have competition this week to fill that spot moving up? Have you already informed whoever’s going to--?

“No, we haven’t. We’re not sure exactly when we’re going to do it to P to make it official. We’ll do it sometime this week. But, no we don’t know exactly what direction we’re going to go. We have a number of options.”

You had mentioned WR Steven Dunbar Jr. suffering a hamstring strain a few weeks ago. How has he been recently?

“Good. He was back at practice all last week. So, he was able to put in a full week of practice. Hamstrings linger a little bit. But, once you’re good enough to practice, at least he was healthy enough to be out there. I expect him to be better this week.”

Do you have any idea, I’m sure you just said it, but K’Waun’s injury, do you know the prognosis of that?

“I don’t. I think it happened a little bit in the game last week. It acted up in practice. It was definitely something he felt good about early in the week. Then, I forget whether it was Thursday or Wednesday, but it bothered him so we held him out on one of the practices. Thought it would clear up and get the swelling down by Sunday. But, it wasn’t. He tried to go and work out, but it was too much pain. Hopefully, he’ll be good this week.”

Did DB D.J. Reed Jr. play well enough to make you consider giving him another start there in the slot, regardless of K’Waun’s health?

“I wouldn’t say regardless. K’Waun’s played at a very high level this year and done a good job. I wouldn’t say just one game of D.J. Reed that he fully played better than him. But, D.J. did have a very good game. I was very excited to see him do some of the stuff he did as the nickel. I think K’Waun has done a hell of a job for us in these two years. So, if K’Waun is healthy, I expect K’Waun to be out there. But if he’s not, D.J. can hopefully do better than he did last week and it would be great to go in with some real good competition with those two next year.”

D.J. talked about, after the game yesterday, his ability to play faster at that spot because it’s closer to what he did in college. Did you see him playing significantly faster and having to think less than when he was playing free safety?

“Yes, definitely. It’s what he has more experience at and there’s less to do there. You’re lined up over the same guy the entire game and there’s not a lot of different stuff that you do. So, it’s an easier spot and definitely less pressure on him, especially as a rookie. He has more experience at it. D.J. wants to run, play free and hit and he does that very well. It showed up yesterday.”

We were talking about QB Nick Mullens last night about just how it was throwing to TE George Kittle and he said that he was open so often. He said that all of the receivers were open and he credited you for it. When you went over film today, did it look as open as you thought it was?

“A lot of stuff in the first half, especially the one they’re talking about, the one where Kittle was really open. That was a play-action where he inserted in the middle of the line and it’s tough for the guy who has him to decide whether to run-fit or cover. So, that’s how you get someone all alone. But, they do a ton of man coverage so I was able to get some guys in some good looks. The ones we had in the second half, we didn’t have nearly as many, but when we did have them, we’ve got to make the catch.”

Will you guys have an opportunity to get DL Kentavius Street out there to practice?

“Yes, something’s coming up this week. I don’t know the exact details on it, but he should have an option to practice here. He won’t be playing in the games, but we can have him out on the practice field soon.”

You might practice him this week?

“I believe so. I think so and I believe so. It sounds like you know, that’s probably why you asked. I don’t know if that’s this Wednesday or next Wednesday. But, as soon as he can. He’s ready to go. He’s been working his tail off with [head strength & conditioning coach] Ray [Wright], lifting too many weights. No, but he should be big, he can’t lift too many. But, we’re excited to get him out there and hopefully he’ll be good this week.”

It felt like at the end of the game there, WR Trent Taylor and Dante got some redemption from miscues the previous possessions. Is that big for a young receiver, just to be able to rebound real quickly and flush those mistakes?

“I hope so because they were very, very big drops. I think we had five possessions in the second half and we didn’t convert a third down until our fifth one, the final one. On that, we converted two third downs which allowed us to finish the game. So, it’s tough to get going. We didn’t convert those third downs early and there were two drops that I thought we should have gotten and I know those guys should have too. So, they were big ones. Fortunately, the D held up and that gave them a chance to redeem themselves. Trent had the big third down that sealed it.”

Philosophy-wise, do you have a stance on running back fumbles, get it to them right again and make them forget about it or sit for a series, think about it, or is it case-by-case?

“Case-by-case. Sometimes benching a guy to make him think about it, if I thought that helped a guy, I hope we would have given him that urgency before the game started, not that we had to bench him to get him to realize that holding onto the ball is important. So, I don’t worry about any of our guys not realizing that. They know how important it is. I know [RB] Jeff [Wilson Jr.] has had two in two weeks. Especially that one yesterday was a big deal. We’ll keep watching if it happens. It’s something you can’t let happen too much. If it does, regardless of how well you run, you’ve got to make a change.”

In respect to Seattle, now that you’ve seen them so recently, what are the challenges that you foresee of going up against them this week?

“The same as it is every week. They’re not going to do much different. They’re going to play their three-deep, they’re going to challenge you in man coverage, they’re going to try to get off the ball and come after the quarterback every single time. They’re in an eight-man front all game anyway so you know it’s always tough angles in the run game. It is always easier to not get them at their place so they can’t jump the cadence as well. It’ll be the same as it always is, just not quite as loud.”

I know you apologized profusely to George a couple of times, but you have 27 plays in the second half, why couldn’t you just get him one catch for five yards? Was it something the Broncos were doing or why wasn’t that possible?

“First of all, I wish that we did and I definitely could have just said, ‘Hey, my goal in this half is to get George the record.’ We had a number of plays called to him. One, we had a lookey call to him and he got doubled so you go to Dante on it. That was good. Fourth play of it, we had a play called and they got under it in zone coverage so we threw it away. After that, I think you have to think in a very humble way when you call games. You don’t sit there and try to, you try to win the game and you try to do what’s right. When you get to a certain point, then you can do stuff like that. I’m not at all thinking that coming out in the third quarter. First of all, we have a lot of plays designed to go to him and when coverages go there, you go to somewhere else which is smart of them to take their coverages there after what happened in the first half. That’s why other people have to make them pay, which you get better opportunities. But, we didn’t get a lot to George. We didn’t stay on the field. We didn’t convert one third down. So, you don’t have as many opportunities as you do in the first half. I thought it would happen naturally throughout the game and then regardless, if we get the ball with a two score lead at the end, I promise you we won’t run an out, we’ll call a quick screen to him or something like that so we can get the record. Unfortunately, we got that ball at the end and it wasn’t. It was a one score game. We had to down it on fourth down in a bad way to still give them another play. So, it just didn’t play out that way where it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s just do this.’ Every play mattered there at the end so you’re just trying to call plays to try to win the game, not to break a record. That’s what you feel bad about. I wish he could have broken the record. He deserved to.”

You should have done a shovel pass to Kittle?

“We had one of those called. It was covered. If we would have forced it, then he would have lost three yards and now he would have needed eight yards instead of five. But no, you’re right. We wish we did. The only people that were happy were probably [former NFL TE] Shannon Sharpe and my dad.”

You said, I think on draft day you guys said that Kentavius Street could play either the three technique or the big-end spot. Have you honed his position at all since then?

“No because he’s not on the practice field at all. We just want him to get as healthy as he can be. We’re very excited about him. A lot of that stuff is interchangeable, just like the guys we already have. So, we’re excited to add him into the mix next year because we felt fortunate to get him. It’s tough to wait a year to have to wait for him to play. But, we loved his college tape and he’s been working his tail off to get healthy and I think he’ll be definitely in the mix next year.”

Statistically, Nick has had two really impressive games, particularly for a first-year starter, undrafted guy. I know you’re not super into numbers and you’re more into results, but what do you make of the way he’s played these last two games?

“Nick has shown that he can play quarterback in this league. He did a very good job in this game playing within himself, playing in a tight pocket. He made some really good throws with people around him. The second to last third down that really allowed us to finish out there on the field, the one that I tried to call a timeout before, he was the best on. Number one was covered, they jumped an out route and he went right to number two on Dante, high low on that MIKE linebacker. There were a lot of guys in his face. Not unblocked guys, but there was push in there on third down just like there always is, especially versus that pass rush. He hung in there and made some good plays. There was also a couple of times that I thought he saved a couple of sacks.”

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