Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly
From the time QB Davis Mills first started playing to now, what were some things that showed you he better understands the offense now?
"Obviously, Davis, he's a very smart and intelligent kid. When you're sitting in a classroom setting with him and you're able to ask him questions, a lot of times he's able to give you the correct answer just because he's got a high level of intelligence. What has really started to click over the past couple weeks is on the practice field, you were able to go out and see that intelligence translate into success throughout practice. Different things that we had talked about in the meeting room, watching tape, different disguises, things along those lines, he was able to go out and execute on the field on a consistent basis. The ability for him to be able to take the information from the meeting room and be able to apply it on the field has grown over the past couple weeks. Hopefully again, he'll take another step this week."
Recently, has QB Davis Mills' growing understanding of pre-snap and run-pass option details allowed you to open up the playbook more?
"Sure, I think that's definitely a piece of it. He's made good decisions for us since he's been back. Even beforehand, for the most part he was making good decisions in those areas. That's always a part of the game that we've hoped to have, and hopefully we can continue to grow it."
What does it mean to have WR Brandin Cooks back off the Reserve/COVID-19 List?
"Any time you're able to get a player like Brandin back, it does wonders for you as a coaching staff and the ability to kind of implement him into the game plan has been great. With that being said, I think those other guys did a great job last week coming out and showing they're fully capable of handling the workload, too. Chris Conley made great plays for us, Nico (Collins) made some really big, strong catches. Chris Moore, his catch over the middle was one of the better ones of the season. All those guys that were given the opportunity – Brevin Jordan stepped up – to show that they can carry some of the burden, if you will, in our passing game, and they all did a great job. Obviously, when you get a player of Brandin's caliber back, it gives everybody a little bit of a boost. But those other guys, namely Chris (Conley), Nico (Collins) and Chris Moore, showed that they are fully capable of doing everything that we want them to do."
Are you seeing more things from TE Brevin Jordan after the catch and overall progression since training camp?
"Yeah, I think that's probably the case. That's the case for a lot of these guys, a lot of these young players. You can say the same thing for Nico (Collins), you can say the same thing for Davis (Mills), even Jimmy Morrissey up front. These rookies, when you start to get to whatever week it is now for us, they've played a lot of football, so they're able to play at a higher level and you're able to see the things where they're naturally gifted, and their natural ability starts to show more because they're not thinking. They're able just to go out and play and react. I heard Lovie (Smith) talk about the experience with younger players, and players just continue to get better the more they play. That's something that I think holds true on the offensive side of the ball, too. The less they're thinking, the more natural they're able to play and you're able to see their natural ability show up more."
When a quarterback is not thinking as much, what does that open up for you as a play caller?
"Being able to put a little bit more on his plate, being able to trust him to be able to see some things that get us in and out of some different plays, which he's done a really good job of over the past few weeks. I know last week we talked about the ball he threw to Phillip (Dorsett II). Last week, one of the last third downs he did a good job getting us into the correct play. He's doing a good job of being able to handle more and more every week in terms of being able to operate within the offense."
With DB Tremon Smith asking to get more snaps on offense, how do you balance players that want to get offensive snaps? Is there anybody else that's been asking for that?
"Nobody's really been asking other than Tremon. It started off as a little bit of a joke in terms of like, 'Yeah, if you score, we'll have a conversation.' The more you watch him with the ball in his hand, he's got unique ability to run with the football. He's fast, he's got good vision, he's a strong runner. It would only make sense to try to put him in a position to where he can come out and help us on offense, and he did a good job in his one carry. So, yeah, that was kind of the deal. I went up to him in Jacksonville after he returned it and I'm like, 'I think it's time to have that conversation right now.' But he did a good job and he was more than willing, and I'm glad it turned out well for us."
When you say QB Davis Mills' decision-making has improved, is that more about his ability to read defenses or the ability to know when to use his arm strength with confidence?
"I would say really both aspects there. Obviously, going through the reads and understanding what the defenses are giving him, how it's going to play out, the timing of certain plays definitely plays a factor in it. But also the last part that you hit on there is being able to rip it, to throw confidently, to not kind of guide the ball, he's done a great job of being able to sit here over the past couple weeks especially, and sit back there and stand in the pocket and really rip and deliver some throws for us. Both of those aspects play a factor in terms of his decision-making, and again, he's made strides. Luckily for us, we've got a couple more opportunities for him to go out and continue to make those strides here over the next few weeks."
Does his accuracy and decision-making mixed with his arm strength set him apart from other quarterbacks?
"Again, I think hitting back on the experience. The more he's playing, the more he's seeing, the more comfortable he is with everything, not just sitting back there and seeing the defense or learning the offense. But sitting back there and knowing you've got four dudes coming down the pipe trying to put you on the ground and having confidence in the guys that are doing a great job blocking for him up front, so there's a lot that plays into it. Again, he's doing everything we're asking him to do and we're pleased with the progress he's made."
Recently, have there been more moments where QB Davis Mills has asked to go for it on fourth down? What does it take for a quarterback to be able to have that conversation with you?
"Obviously, everything that we're going to do and everything we're going to ask him to do, we have to make sure that he's comfortable with (it). There have been times over the past couple weeks where through the headset I've asked him how he feels about a play, and he'll either give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, and then we're off and going. It's either a yes or no, and ultimately at the end of the day, it's all about the comfort level of the players being able to go out and execute. If he ever voices something like, 'Hey, I don't really like that,' or 'Hey, yeah, let's go. This is good for us.' Yeah, we'd be foolish to not try and lean on those things and put him in a position to where he's super comfortable so he can go out there and play at a high level."
QB Davis Mills said about the WR Nico Collins touchdown that he didn't get yelled at because it was not an incompletion.
"Yeah, right, but there's part of that, again, that comes with he's not a puppy anymore. There's a couple times this year where he's done that. He did it in New England also on a fourth down play to where, 'Hey, we're going to give you that opportunity. That's going to be a part of what we're doing, and we're trusting you to make that right decision and do the right thing,' and he's done it. It shows a great amount of trust in Davis to trust that Nico's going to win on that route, and he did. Nico made a great play and Davis made a great throw. That's why they get paid and that's why both of those guys are here."
Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross
What was K Ka'imi Fairbairn working on behind the scenes while on the Reserve/COVID-19 List? How ready is he for Sunday?
"He's ready to go. He's working on his health. A testament to him to any mental preparation that he was doing on his own, but when you miss a game and you're a competitor, it hurts. To have him show and give the support that he gave to our specialist room was great. For him to be positive and help Dominik (Eberle) any way he could, that was great. Hopefully, he'll be ready to go this Sunday."
What do you think about the job K Dominik Eberle did?
"I've known Dom (Dominik Eberle) since the draft process a few years ago. Had a couple good workouts here, and then getting one chance to work with the core unit last Friday, had a perfect set. To come into a game like that, you don't expect to try and give him his first attempt at 50-plus yards outside of a PAT, and for him to go in and hit that speaks volumes to the preparation that kickers do. That's a thankless job when you're on the street and you're just waiting for an opportunity, and when you get it you've got to capitalize, and props to him for doing that. Super proud, and he should be excited for taking advantage of the opportunity that he did."
What did you think of DB Tremon Smith's performance on offense?
"Check out Tremon's high school highlight tape back in his Alabama quarterback days. He's a triple threat. It was exciting to see him, and he juiced that corner there. I wish he would've turned it all the way into six, but it was a nice run there."
Does it amaze you how many kickers are capable of long range 50-yard kicks now?
"I would say that in a way, there's a lot of guys that can throw a football but can't play quarterback. There's a lot of kickers that can kick a ball but can't kick effectively and efficiently in the NFL. It's a competitive league, it's a very competitive position. As you know, there are 32 spots in the world at it. There's a bunch more that are just nipping at any chance they can get. For Dom (Dominik Eberle) to come in here and show his talents, that's what your dream is. As a coordinator, it is a fortune to have somebody come in and execute that, because that is a long kick. When you're going into the game plan, that's not necessarily what you're thinking is going to happen, but whoever steps up at that point in time, be it a kicker, be it a position player, you're expected to go in there with the game plan to execute. He did just that. It is amazing, and to anybody on the street out there that's still working at it, that's exactly what you're working for. So, always stay ready."
Have you taken a moment to appreciate how your players have come together done and the job you have done with your special teams unit?
"I think that the mindset, there's always a point of reflection to look at the body of work. Then in the coaching side of things, the self-scout body of work. You're supposed to be critical of yourself as a coach and as what you're trying to execute on the field. I think in general, there's always time for that. I'm the type of person that is always going to look for what is up next. If you hear me on the sidelines, if you're a player they'll tell you that all I care about is the next play, and all I care about is the next game and the next day of practice, and this punt return walkthrough that we've got coming up. That's the way we try and stay focused. Whatever that end result is that happens on the field, that's because you're taking care of the now. We'll look back on those things another time, but let's see what we can focus on today."
How often do you have to deal with players like DB Tremon Smith asking to run the ball and get snaps on offense, and at what point do you start taking that seriously?
"Every other day, Justin McCray, who is an offensive lineman and a guard, he just walks up to me and goes, 'Coach, I got you. I can return the ball.' It happens on a daily basis. I just try to remind guys to stay in their lane with stuff like that. When you do try and accentuate everybody's attributes like Tremon and when he's asking for certain things, or at some point like Desmond King asking to play on kickoff and ends up with multiple tackles. Trying to accommodate as much as you can but at the same time doing what's best for the team."
Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith
How much have you been able to find film on Trey Lance? What have you learned about him while watching? How do you try to contain Deebo Samuel?
"Trey started earlier and he played a half in an earlier game, so we have some video of him. Kind of know exactly what type of player we will be playing. There is a difference between he and Jimmy (Garoppolo), but we like to think our defensive is flexible enough. You get in a game and you see what an offense is doing and if you need to make adjustments, you kind of do it from there. He (Trey) has a different skillset. He's more of an athletic quarterback, strong arm. You get drafted that high. We are playing a lot of those high draft picks that have great futures ahead of them. Let's hope it doesn't really start this week. For Deebo, he does it all. Of course, he can line up in a lot of different spots. Through the years, there have been athletes like that that can line up in the backfield, so you have to have a plan for them if they are being used primarily as a running back. He can line up of course at all the wide receiver positions. Strong runner. After he gets the ball in his hands, tough guy to bring down. One of the best players in the league. It will be a big challenge for our group."
What can you say about the defenses performance on Sunday with the depth you guys had?
"I'm around that group each day, and nobody wants to hear about your injuries, COVID issues you have. If you have enough guys to line up and play, you are representing that team. I just know the guys practice hard. We knew what we were dealing with throughout. That's our world. Everybody is having to deal with some COVID issues. But we felt good about the guys we were going to play. We had a lot of young players, especially on the defensive line. It's late in the year guys are looking for an opportunity and most important job interview that you'll have. A lot of times you get the best out of them, but we had enough of our regular guys to kind of offset that a little bit. Of course, Justin Reid back in the back. Jonathan Owens had played one game before so we had gotten a chance to see some of the things he can do. Guys like Tavierre (Thomas), getting Christian Kirksey back so we had enough guys. I know a lot of people have been saying this, but I don't know if I've been proud of a group to step up against a very good Chargers team the way they played last week. We need them to do it again this week."
Do you think LB Kamu Grugier-Hill and DL Jonathan Greenard will be ready to play on Sunday?
"They are back in the building. That's a step. With what we are dealing with right now, as a coach, coach talk, 'Hey you play every play. One play at a time.' It really is one day at a time for us. We have a lot of our players back. Exactly how many will play, we don't know but more than we had last week. We will have some good options at the end of the week. "
What did you think about DB Tavierre Thomas being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week?
"Pretty excited for him because he does everything right. From the moment I met him, he's been the same guy, shows up every day. More coach talk, you know the guy that shows up with his lunch pail every day, that's him. Special team, gunner, whatever you ask him to do, he's there. He's versatile. We can do a few different things for him. It was a big deal that we have taken the ball away, but it's a big deal to not score a touchdown. Tavierre had been talking about that for weeks. He was going to be the one so it's good to see a guy like that have success."
How have you seen Kyle Shanahan's offense evolve over time?
"So, you assume by this grey beard that I've been around a long time? So, I've seen the dad, the grandfather and all, is that what you're saying? Well, truth of the matter I have. Some of the things that Mike (Shanahan) did back in the day, Kyle is doing and starting off with a commitment to the run and a commitment to a two-back run. That's what you don't see an awful lot of anymore. A lot of times, does a team has a fullback on the roster that kind of tell you how they are committed to the run but having that, there are a lot of things that you have to be sound. No team will give you more shifts and motions before they snap the ball then they do. Then you have to be sound just being able to play traditional running plays, lead, powers, stretch play, inside outside zone, all of that. It's merit, really good with play action passes. So, big challenge for us to make us be sound in what we do."
When you go up against a rookie quarterback, do you throw different packages at them?
"I think just in general we have to be able to disguise coverages and throw different things at an opponent. It doesn't matter if it's a rookie or not. I just know some of those young quarterbacks that we've played, there is something about experience. We have some young defensive players and you get better and better with experience. Our job is to, of course, try to disguise as much as we can before the snap. But then it just comes down to, if we are in zone coverage, reading the quarterback, getting a good break, you mentioned the pass rusher it starts with that up front. So, to be able to get some of our guys back we haven't seen in a while to be able to rush the passer when we get them in those situations is important."
Tight ends can usually be a security blanket for a rookie quarterback. What challenges do George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk present?
"You know, Kittle as a security blanket, he would be that way for everybody. I can talk the rest of the day about him. I'm a numbers guy too on potential. How many tight ends do you know that are 6'4", 6'5" whatever he is and over 250, runs a 4.5. He can vertical, long jump. All those numbers that mean something, showing explosion. That is tough duty. So, for any quarterback to have somebody like that to throw the ball to, he can line up anywhere. They'll put him in the back field, line him up as a wide receiver. That in itself is a tough duty. When I mentioned fullback early on, most of the teams used to have a traditional full back that just blocks and nothing else. That's different with San Francisco. They have a great athlete at that position, too. Our base package will have to be at its best this week. That's why it will be good if we can get our starting line, our starting linebackers back. Kamu (Grugier-Hill), (Christian) Kirksey, Neville (Hewitt), Garret (Wallow), those guys will be called upon."
Can you talk about the overall growth of this football team?
"First off, it's our first year together. I think everybody wants to play complimentary football. You just look at how Coach (David) Culley has explained the look of our football team, run football team, ball security, starting off with that. That's exactly what we got offensively this past week. Just like defensively, we've been trying to take the ball away all year to play complimentary football to our offense. They have to go hand and hand. You just start with complimentary football. One simple statistic, turnover ratio. Ball security on the offensive side and defensively taking the ball away. You have a chance just with that. Then if you throw in the run offensively and being able to stop the ball on the defensive side and keep the ball in front of you. We definitely believe in that. That's what our head coach sees in us being that type of football team. You look at my history and that's what I've always believed in. We need to play complimentary football two weeks in a row."