All season long, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has said he has four starters on his defensive line. In his third season out of Louisiana State, Pierre Garçon has earned the trust of his coaching staff. Though he may technically be a backup, Jean Francois has played a role in helping the 49ers put together one of the league's stingiest defenses. 49ers.com spoke with Jean Francois about the close-knit nature of the defensive line and the team's mentality after securing its first playoff berth in nine seasons.
Q: Does the team still have the mindset despite clinching the division last week?
A: Everything's the same. The only thing that's changed is we won the division title, that's about all. We're taking steps. The first step was to win the division title, now we've got to come out faster and more explosive. From here on out we won't worry about the playoffs, won't worry about anything else. You just have to give it all you've got these last four weeks; go out there, win and execute. And we got to have fun.
Q: How have you grown in your third NFL season?
A: Even though I'm in my third year, I don't consider myself a veteran. I still look up to the older guys like Parys Haralson, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Carlos Rogers – dudes like that. On the defensive line, it starts with Justin and Ray – those two are brothers. Just to have that camaraderie, you know that in tough times they got your back. There's never going to be a time that you're going to see them turn on you, saying, 'He did this and he did that.' You already know someone's going to lift you up, pat you on the back of the head and say, 'Let's go and get ready for the next play.'
Q: The defense hasn't given up a rushing touchdown this season, is that something you guys talk about?
A: It's good for the fans to talk about and good for the organization, but for us, we just got to keep playing and executing. We can't worry about those statistics. I understand we haven't given up a 100-yard rusher in a long time and haven't given up a rushing touchdown, but you can't focus on that. As soon as you focus on that you forget about the whole game.
Q: What do you like about matching up with a big, physical running back like Arizona's Beanie Wells?
A: I always mess with him. Me being an LSU guy and him being from Ohio State, I bring up that 2008 BCS National Championship game every time I see him (LSU won 38-24). But he's a well-respected back, a big back. I understand he's been dinged up a little bit, but that's not going to stop him from running. I think he just had 228 yards recently, so any time you slip up or sleep on him, you see what he can do to you.
Q: How grateful are you that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was retained when head coach Jim Harbaugh took over?
A: It's great because he knows us and we know him. He knows what he's trying to get out of us and what to expect from our front seven. Not only him, but to have the guys up front like Smith, Sopoaga and McDonald come back and to have a couple of new guys like Demarcus Dobbs and Ian Williams, it's a plus. Jimmy knows how to work everything; he knows what type of guys he wants in the room and he's got them. He's having fun with it. You see him on the sideline – one minute he's got the mean mug going, the next he's got a big smile on his face. He's got two buttons down on his shirt and his chest hair showing; he's Jimmy. That's his personality.