Nick Sirianni

Q. How’d you find out the news that LB Shaq Leonard was signing with you guys? And realistically how much can he help you down the stretch? (Dave Zangaro)

NICK SIRIANNI: Just found out through – [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] and I talked earlier today. Obviously really excited about that. We just feel like he adds that depth to our team with some of the injuries that we’ve had there.

With that being said, I did think [LB] Christian Elliss played a good game yesterday. But he just gives us some more depth there through a place where we’ve had some injuries, unfortunate injuries.

Q. Now that you’ve gotten to look at the film a little bit, they had a lot of yards after catch, which typically they’re very good at, but typically you guys don’t struggle that much with. What did you see when you reviewed it? (John McMullen)

NICK SIRIANNI: They did a good job of getting their guys some balls in space. Like for instance, the last–I thought that was a really good call by [49ers Head Coach] Kyle [Shanahan]. We were in four-minute mode of trying to get to the quarterback, trying to create some confusion in the run game, and Kyle called the screen to [49ers WR] Deebo [Samuel] in that scenario. Hats off. They got us as far as we are trying to sell out for the run, and they got us on a screen.

First of all, that happened, which accounted for a lot of yards, and then I think it was just some uncharacteristic missed tackles. A tackle is kind of like when you drop a ball, right? To put it on the offensive analogy, when you drop a ball, the coaching point isn’t to say, ‘catch it.’ You tell them how to catch it, right, what went wrong.

There were some fundamental things, whether it was us lunging at guys that are good with the ball in their hands. I think that happened a couple times.

We didn’t run up to the guy and break our feet down a couple times. We call that long stride, short stride. That happened a couple times. It was just some uncharacteristic missed tackles by us. In general, we’re a top-10 team as far as missed tackle percentages, and so it was just a couple fundamental things we did.

Then like I said, Kyle did a really nice job calling some plays in the right moments that got them some big yards as well.

Q. A couple players, CB James Bradberry among them, mentioned how some of the defensive calls put the players in tough spots and talked about the pre-snap and at-the-snap motions. Everyone really knows about 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. My question is: What could have been done in terms of the game plan coming in to combat against that? (Jeff McLane)

NICK SIRIANNI: I think the major thing is just making sure that our detail is on and, ‘hey, here is the job requirement for this if this look happens and that if that look happens.’

Not necessarily is the answer to say, ‘do more,’ right? When you get a team that does a lot of different things like that with the motions and stuff like that, it’s to make sure that everyone is on the same page at all times.

That’s our job as coaches to make sure that the job description is very clear. ‘Here is what we do against a Y motion;’ ‘here is what we do against an F motion;’ ‘here’s what we do when we get to an F motion returned back;’ ‘here’s what we do against F motion in speed, like a jet motion;’ ‘here is what we do with a little short motion or a shift,’ right?

So, the answer — again, sometimes the answer is to add this wrinkle or that wrinkle. Against a team that does a lot like that is just to make sure everybody is on the same page. I think that’s where we just didn’t do a good enough job of just making sure everyone was on the same page as far as, ‘hey, all the little different things to the different motions they could do.’

We just have to put the players in better positions to succeed. When I say that, I knew what the plan was, I knew what we were going through. That’s not by any means anything at [Defensive Coordinator] Sean [Desai]. That’s me. I’m looking at myself in the mirror saying, ‘well, maybe this was too much here in this one. We’ve got to describe this one out a little bit more here.’

So, I just want to make sure everyone’s clear on that when there is a mistake like that, that falls on the head coach, so that falls on me. And we’ll be better from that. Again, it’s just cleaning up some of the job description things we know we need to get better at.

Q. When you look at the defense’s performance yesterday, do you see it as kind of an isolated game that you can flush or a sign of maybe some issues that have been masked over the last few weeks because you had won games when maybe the defense wasn’t at its best? (Reuben Frank)

NICK SIRIANNI: We feel like we need to play and coach better on that side of the ball. There is no doubt about it. We feel like we need to play and coach better on the offensive side of ball.

I think special teams is doing a really nice job in a lot of the things that they are doing. We don’t live in that world of like, ‘well, we won, this masked that.’ I think that can mask it sometimes in the outside world and in the media, but we don’t live like that here. We address all problems.

In fact, you can get after guys even harsher and better after a win than you can after a loss. So, I’m not offended by the question, but I definitely don’t live that way and our coaches don’t live that way and our players especially don’t live that way to say, ‘hey, here is a mistake that happened’ but brush that aside because we won. We’re going to attack it every time.

But to answer the question you asked, we know we got to get better on the offensive and defensive side of the football and clean up some of the mistakes we made. Yesterday wasn’t good enough on either side of the ball and obviously that’s where we were on the lopsided end of a loss.

Q. What was behind the lack of the running game when the game was still in hand or close? Why was it the right decision to have RB Kenny Gainwell outpace RB D’Andre Swift in snaps? (Tim McManus)

NICK SIRIANNI: To answer that second part of it first, Kenny has been our two-minute back, third down back in certain situations.

First question as far as why were we not in the run game or in that meaningful part of the game, I think where Kenny has more plays than D’Andre is when it turns into those situations. So, we had a lot of those situations at the end which lead to those numbers being like that.

As far as the run game, we know we have to establish the run game and we have to be better in the run game. We just have things that where you get on the positive side – there were a couple times where we got behind the sticks. Doesn’t mean you still can’t run in that situation.

But we have to be better as coaches devoting ourselves to the run game to take pressure off everybody. So, yeah, as we looked at it yesterday, there is no doubt that we have to do that. But part of the circumstance of the game led to the other things with D’Andre not playing as much as Kenny.

We know to get to where we want to go — and really all we really think about is this next game — but we have to be better in the run game and get more runs called to take some pressure off everybody.

So, yeah, we got to do better there.

Q. You have a lot of connections in that Indy building. What work did you do or what sense do you have of why it did not work out with LB Shaq Leonard there this year and why do you think it’ll be different here? (Zach Berman)

NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, obviously have a great relationship with a lot of people over there in Indy and a great relationship with Shaq. We’re confident in the player we’re getting. Confident in the person we’re getting.

Sometimes it’s different because you’re secondhand asking guys questions about somebody. You ask the people that you know. Like if I had never been in Indy I would still ask [Colts Head Coach] Shane [Steichen], hey, what do you think? How can he help us this and that.

Well, I get to ask Shane that question, some of the defensive coaches that question that I’ve worked with before, and I have my own feel of how the player is. Not just me. I remember when I was FaceTiming him last week. I was talking to him and then I put the phone on [Senior Offensive Assistant] Marcus Brady and Marcus started talking to him and then put the phone on [Tight Ends Coach] Jason Michael, and Jason started talking to him, and then I put the camera on [Passing Game Coordinator/Associate Head Coach] Kevin Patullo and then Kevin started talking to him. We all have that relationship with him as a player.

Again, we know we’re getting the right person, right leader, with all that. And we still have confidence from the tape that he still can play, and he’s been a high-level player in this league for a very long time; ’18, his first year in. That’s a long time to be — three-time all-pro player. Still has a knack to take the ball away. Still has that knack to run and hit the ball carrier. Still has the length that he had to make throws hard in the passing lane.

So excited about the player we’re getting. Again, I don’t want to make any mistake about it, I like our linebackers. I know yesterday was a tough day for us, but still have a lot of the faith in the linebackers and the people we have in the building. Just going to be a good addition with Shaq in this building.

Q. When it comes to LB Shaq Leonard, given his experience prior in this league, do you feel like he’ll be ready to play on Sunday against the Cowboys? What have you guys been able to do to help a lot of these veterans to get prepared, like LB Zach Cunningham or some of the other guys you signed mid-season? (Chris Franklin)

NICK SIRIANNI: Every position is a little different, ever scenario, every game plan is a little different. We’ll see. I don’t want to put expectations on him without letting him be here in the building for a little bit.

I’ll have a better feel for that. I know how smart Shaq is and how much he works at it. I know our coaches will work hard at it as well to get him up to speed.

Like I said, some game plans have less in them, and some game plans have more in them. The style of the team you’re playing. There are so many different things that go into it. We’ll have a better feel as the week goes, but we’re going to try to get him up to speed as quick as possible.

Q. I wanted to ask you about QB Jalen Hurts. Obviously missed the five snaps to go get examined for the concussion. He’s missed games here and there over the past few years. Did that bring back the reality of just how important it is to have him out there? Did you get a sense of that yesterday? (Martin Frank)

NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, I have a lot of faith in [QB] Marcus [Mariota]. He’s a great backup quarterback for us. Obviously, Jalen is our guy and any time he’s not out there you’re concerned because of how good Jalen’s been and the type of player he is.

But again, that happens in this game. I wouldn’t say there was any sort of concern as far as — yeah, I just feel like any time one of your best players is out you think about that, and you plan accordingly like that.

He was ready to go in five plays, so I don’t think it had a lasting effect on us.

Q. You were saying you had confidence in LB Shaquille Leonard in the tape that he can still play. You mentioned a few things, but specific to him in pass coverage, what were some of the things that you saw? Was it through things last week during his visit? What things do you see in that specific to pass coverage for him? (Brooks Kubena)

NICK SIRIANNI: Oh, man, he’s got a knack for the football. That isn’t just my vision of watching him play recently, but also the practice reps I have against him, not me, but our offense has been against him.

And so, him in pass coverage, his length and his instinct is really outstanding and he’s got a nose for the ball.

I remember a play in 2019 where he showed blitz… It was at Tampa Bay, he showed blitz, and then he backed up out of the blitz and they were running some sort of slant route over the middle, and he got his hands on the ball and made a catch like a receiver would, and then took it to the house for like 60-some yards. Ya’ll can look up exactly what it was. I remember him after that saying, ‘Coach, I played receiver too,’ and showed me a post he ran I think at South Carolina State where he made a really nice play. I remember watching that and said, man, I probably could put him in there on a post.

It’s just his length, his instinct, his ability to finish on the ball. Those are special qualities that he’s had for a long time. That length is hard to throw around, both horizontally and vertically. I have a vision of him at practice where we ran an RPO and he gave us a pull read on the RPO and then, boom, he sprinted back the other way and got his hand on the ball. I remember Philip Rivers was like, ‘He gave me a pull read,’ and I go, ‘I know. It was just an unbelievable play what he just did.’

It goes back to his instinct and his length. Looking forward to his addition to the team.

Q. I was just thinking back to last year. You had praised Miles Sanders for the way that he attacked an underthrown deep ball. I believe it was in the Colts game. I was just curious if you were happy with the way WR Quez Watkins attacked the under-thrown ball by QB Jalen Hurts against the Niners? (Jimmy Kempski)

NICK SIRIANNI: Oh, that one. Slightly different play and slightly different coaching point. So, Miles was running a go-route and then it turned into a scramble, and it was falling over his inside shoulder. So, the sideline was to Miles’ right, the ball was coming over Miles’ left shoulder, and so that is the one where we like to teach, hey, step back into him and play through the ball. Or slow down and let it fall over your inside shoulder and let the defender run through your back. I think it was [Colts LB] Zaire Franklin who ran through his back on that one and he did a great job of slowing down and doing that. Smitty [DeVonta Smith] had a very similar catch against Kansas City where he slowed himself down right there.

This was more of a jump ball, in my opinion, which is a little bit different. Like that was the type of ball where — because it was on a corner route now, so it’s slightly different of where the defender was coming — so on the go-balls the defender was behind the guy, right, and so he had to slow down to do that. So, it was a slightly different technique that you teach. On this one it was a corner, and the safety was out of it, and it was a corner route, and the corner was coming back. So, it was just slightly different angle and everything like that, and you just teach them to high point it in that particular case. The guy made a good play. I wouldn’t teach the technique any differently to Quez. I think in that scenario the guy just made a good play.

I guess what I’m saying is it’s just not the same fundamental because of the route, because of the way the DB is coming back on it. It’s a slightly different fundamental of how you would catch that football.

In that case, Quez did exactly what I thought he should do. Credit to No. 20 [49ers CB Ambry Thomas] for making a play on that ball.

Q. Just curious, the two brotherly shove plays at the end on the touchdown drive. Last week Buffalo Bills DT Jordan Phillips had the play, kind of concerning; C Jason Kelce said what he said about that. On those two plays, if you look at the first one, 49ers DL Chase Young is kind of grabbing QB Jalen Hurts after the play is over by the horse collar, and then on the touchdown, I think it was 49ers CB Charvarius Ward that shoved WR A.J. Brown. Is there concern that frustration from these other teams is going to lead to maybe one of your guys getting hurt because these guys are frustrated?  (Bob Brookover)

NICK SIRIANNI: What Chase Young did was legal. If you look at the rules, anything inside the tackle box, three yards from the line of scrimmage and three yards past the line of scrimmage they’re allowed to yank a horse collar. He’s just trying to make a play to keep Jalen out of the end zone.

And then the other one, that same thing happened — if you look back in the Super Bowl, that same thing happened with [Former Eagles WR] Zach Pascal and I want to say [Kansas City Chiefs DB Trent] McDuffie or somebody. They got into that pushing match there. Very similar to what happened with [49ers DB Charvarius] Ward and A.J. So, I’m not concerned about that. I’m really not.

I think the players in this league do a good job of playing their butts off, but also, they know that the livelihood of the players — I don’t think anyone is trying to do anything cheap out there. I really don’t.

Like I said with Chase Young, that’s a perfectly legal play and you’re going to get some of the back and forth on the touchdown there with A.J. and Ward on that one.

That’s part of football. No concern on my end there.

Q. One other thing, did you apologize to 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan after the game. There was some talk about the Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Chief Security Officer Dom DiSandro incident. (Bob Brookover)

NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, we just talked after the game. You just always are going through it. It was really more so to say to Kyle, we respect you guys and your team. That’s what that was about.

Q. Not to the belabor that, but there was a report that the league is looking into that incident on the sideline. Curious if you’ve heard from the league and what Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Chief Security Officer Dom DiSandro’s reaction today to being such a public figure? (Bo Wulf)

NICK SIRIANNI: No, I haven’t heard anything from the league. Dom is as good as they get in this business. I’m so thankful for him. He’s going to always try to diffuse situations, right? That’s what he does. That’s his job.

And so obviously unfortunate yesterday, but I know in Dom’s heart, he truly was trying to diffuse the situation right there. I’m sad that it came to what it came to, that anybody got thrown out of the game. The play was what it was. There was a lot of emotion in that game. I’ve seen Dom have to do that before where he’s trying to diffuse the situation. Again, that’s what he does. Yeah, I know where his heart is and it’s truly to diffuse the situation and to stop what was going on, on the sideline.