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Singletary's Notebook: Nov. 23



Opening statements:**

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen. How are you doing? Just to go over some of the injuries: [RB] Michael Robinson has a stinger. That's going to be MRI'd today. [SS] Michael Lewis, quad strain – left quad strain. [WR] Arnaz Battle, right leg strain. [WR] Jason Hill, left ankle sprain. [TE] Delanie Walker, forearm contusion. [LG] David Baas, right ankle sprain. [LB] Joe Staley just has a trap spasm. [CB Marcus] Hudson, back strain. We'll see how he looks today and MRI it this week. [CB Tarell] Brown, left knee contusion. [S] Reggie Smith, abdominal strain non-related to the groin injury.

Just to get into the game yesterday, a few comments about the game. No, it is a game that we did not play well, a game that we did not tackle well, a game that we did not execute very well – particularly in the first half. And, what I have to say about that is not going to be motivational, it's not going to be – it is going to be fact. It's just a matter of when you have a team and you know you have players that want to be a good football team, they want to be good football players, you just have to work harder to get there. As a coaching staff, we just have to coach better. We just have to coach better, smarter. All of the little things that we're striving to get done, we just have to get them done. It's as simple as that. Yes, I am confident that this season will be a good season. We've got six weeks left. We've got six games left. I am convinced that going forward, that we will play better. I am convinced that in a situation like this, we have to continue to make some changes, whether they're personnel changes or whatever, to continue to try and get the people on the field that can get us where we need to go. Other than that, it's disappointing that we did not play well yesterday. We did not start well. But, we just have to continue to get better. Now, your questions."

On what if he means making the playoffs when he says "good season":
"At the very start of this season, our goal was to win enough games to go to the playoffs. That is still our goal. That has not changed, will not change. We're a team, in my mind, we're good enough to do that. We're running out of games and we're running out of time, but we are better. That's just something that I will not try to go through the 'ifs' and the 'buts' or whatever. We just have to get it done."

On whether coaching smarter entails tailoring the offense to QB Alex Smith's strengths:
"I would think that as we continue to move forward and [offensive coordinator] Jimmy Raye and I, and [quarterbacks coach] Mike Johnson, Alex Smith, you have to continue to learn what his strengths are. It would be, from the very first game that he played in Houston after that game, it would be very easy to say, 'Oh, that's Alex Smith. Let's put him out there,' not taking into any consideration that the defense may be a lot different. Maybe there's something that they're giving up. Not every time that you see it, that's what it is. We're continuing to learn his strengths. We're continuing to have him communicate to us what works for him and what doesn't. I think, as we go forward, we have to really look at what's working for him and what works for the offense and continue to do more of those things."

On whether running the spread offense might suit his strengths better at this time:
"When you say spread offense, can you explain to me exactly what you mean?"

He seems to perform better when he takes the snap in the shotgun formation with more receivers on the field.
"Well, let me ask you this, just to make sure that I'm clarifying. So, you're saying he seems to work better from a shotgun with more receivers on the field. What if he had the same number of receivers on the field but he was still under the center. Would that still be spread to you?"

No. I think he does better out of the shotgun.
"You think he does better out of the shotgun."

It appears the results are better.
"OK. Alright, that's fair. I would just say this: I think for him, when – and I just went back to look at all of his time from Houston to yesterday – he's done well whether he's under center, he's done well whether he's got two backs in the backfield, he's done well whether he's got two or – I think the biggest thing for him is having time. I think that's the most important thing for him. It's to have time. I think one of the worst things that we could do right now is to put Alex Smith in shotgun and say, 'OK. Let's go get it guys. Here's what it is.' And just let him throw 40, 50 times a game and let's see where you end up. As I'm looking at Alex Smith right now, Alex Smith, to me, is throwing as well as any quarterback in the league right now – as I'm looking at him right now. He is as accurate as any quarterback in the league right now. I think the smartest thing for us to do continuing to go forward is not to take all of training camp, not to take all of what we have gone into this season and just throw it out and say we're going to go to shotgun. I think the smartest thing for us to do is to continue to open it up as Alex Smith allows us to, as he continues to communicate, but we've got to protect him as well, and not just throw him out there because the first time he gets an interception, the first time he gets a tipped ball it is, 'Well, why are you doing that? Do you think you should open it up that much? Do you think you should expose him that much?' I think we have to be smart about what we're doing. I think we have a good thing going with him. Unfortunately, we haven't done that in the first half, but I think we have a good thing going with him in terms of just allowing him – to every game like he had yesterday, or hopefully on the other side of that thing will be a win, but every game that he has where he can throw like that, it's all of the time he's missed, all of the crap that he's gone through, it gives him that confidence going forward to know, 'I can do this. I can get this done.' So, hopefully, that starts coming in the first quarter and the second quarter and going forward, maybe you can run a little bit more."

On whether you can just be a passing team:
"I think going forward, even if you look at the Indianapolis Colts, they aren't just a passing team. They may pass more, but depending on the team that they are facing and whether they need to slow the game down or speed the game up, whether they are ahead in the game, or whether they are behind in the game, whether this team has a great pass rush or they don't, I think all of those things become a factor in how many times you are going to throw the ball. I think if you sit down and talk to Peyton Manning, I think one of the first things that he would tell you is that he loves handing the ball off because it is one less interception that he has to take the risk of taking. I do want to have a balance because I believe that if you can run the football, it forces them to respect the pass. It makes them vulnerable and vice versa. Football will always be that way, and when you have a balance, when you can effectively create a balanced attack, then it makes you a better football team. You can go into the game and Alex Smith to me is becoming a complete quarterback. The thing that I'm thankful that he's not doing is crying about not throwing the ball more. I'm really thankful that he's not doing that because he can sit back and look at the number of passes that he's thrown in the game and sit back and look at how accurate he has been. Some quarterbacks would be saying that and that really haven't been as successful as he has been throwing the ball. Some of them might have been crying more about not throwing the ball, even in the media. He hasn't been doing that, which shows me more about who he is, but from what I'm seeing from him, I'm excited about him and there are still some things that he's missing. There's still some reads that he's not getting, which makes it even more exciting, but we are going to get the offensive side of the ball going. I'm talking to Jimmy Raye too much and Jimmy Raye is talking to Alex too much and Alex is talking to Mike Johnson too much and we are talking to each other too much for it not to get where it needs to be so we can have a successful offense. With all of the weapons that we have – our offensive line, that's a work in progress. Hopefully, they are just going to continue to get better and just give us enough time that we need for Alex to get the ball out and for us to have some successful runs and go from there."

On why it is impossible for them to go to a spread offense at this point:
"I think when you are talking about a team going to the playoffs who hasn't been to the playoffs in seven years, the No. 1 thing you have to have is consistency, and to develop consistency, you have to have a certain number of repetitions in something before you can be successful at something. When Alex drops back and he throws that eight-route or that route where the receiver runs and he comes inside. For him to go back and throw that pass and have confidence that pass is going to be there as he goes back and he's looking at that safety. For him to do that, he has to do it 100 times before he can have confidence of knowing he can throw it at this speed because this time I am throwing to Jason Hill. I can throw it at this speed because this time I am throwing it to Michael Crabtree. You have to know the receivers. You have to have a feel for how fast those DBs are going to close on it. It's all of those little things that go into throwing that football with the confidence and the zip that you need in order for it to get there. So if I'm going to open up the offense, every step that I take as a quarterback, if it's a three step drop, it takes time to get the rhythm down, just in the three step drop. If I'm just dropping back and my footwork isn't good and I'm trying to make sure that I'm timing it with the receivers that are going there and if he's not there or my footwork isn't good, it's going to be a pick. It takes time to get that. So instead of working on this 100 times, I'm working on 'this'100 times, it's a big difference and if that's what you've been doing in training camp, it makes a big difference."

On whether he looks at the trend the league is leaning towards with passing teams being more successful:
"I think every year coming out of the first half of the season, you have teams that pass the ball a lot and they look pretty good right now, but at some point in time, when you start talking about the playoff teams, they are going to have to run the ball and they are going to have to find a balance somewhere to run the football because if they are going to pass – here's what you have a lot and this is interesting, I like this, but what you have a lot is sometimes those passing teams, wherever they may be, whether it's New Orleans, Indianapolis whoever they might be, as you begin to get closer and closer to the playoffs, then those defenses get better, and if you are going to throw the ball a lot nine times out of 10, they are not just going to line up and show you what they are playing. They are going to make that quarterback work and more often than not, the quarterback is not going to be wrong and I just think that as you really get into the second half of the season and you begin to talk about the playoffs and those kinds of things, you have to strive for a balance and those teams that are throwing the ball, they have to be able to run the ball at some point in time. Now, do I think Alex can do that? Yes, I do. Do I think he will be given the opportunity to do that? At some point in time, yes, I do. I think I've said that before. I don't care if we have to throw the ball 100 times in the game. I really do not. I don't care if we run the ball 100 times a game. Do I like that better? Yes. Why? Because if I'm throwing it 100 times a game, chances are there are going to be some picks in there. I don't want that. I don't want to give the team anything if I can, but I'm not opposed to that. The common denominator for me and ever coach and every player that we have is to win. That has to be the common denominator. If that's not it, then we've got the wrong people. So yes, absolutely, whatever works, whatever the formula is, yes, I want that."

On whether he is discussing any potential personnel moves:
"I'm still looking at the film, still looking at the film. I am confident that there may be one or two, but I am still looking at the film."

On which side of the ball he is looking to make changes:
"I don't want to get into that, but there are a couple."

On the factors that led to a low rushing total against the Packers:
"I think one of the biggest things is you are behind. That's the No. 1 factor. That takes you out of everything. It takes you out of your game plan. Now you almost have to be in a panic mode like, 'Alright, let's get our best passing plays. The run, that's it. We have to try to make it a game again before we can run the ball.' Yes there was time on the clock, but on defense we were not playing great as well. They were holding the ball and we could not get off the field on third down. That made it difficult. Better to try and throw the ball and try to get somewhere where can try to make it a game again. Then we could have a chance to run the ball."

On whether the passing game may not click until next year:
"No, I won't say that. We don't have to wait until next year. I think it is a process going forward. I think after Alex played the Houston game, and maybe after the Indianapolis game, everyone wanted to see the spread. I think we have to continue to work on it because it is a work in progress, it really is."

On whether the team is still adjusting to Smith:
"I think everything worked out for a reason. Would it have been better for Alex if he had started at the beginning of the season? Absolutely, yes. For his maturation, the whole nine yards, would it have been better for our team? Probably not. Shaun Hill started the season and did a tremendous job managing the team, throwing the balls he needed to throw. But I think he took us to a place and that was about as far as he could take us and it was Alex Smith's time to get in. But I also think that Alex Smith really had a chance to grow some. I think Alex Smith, really for the first time in his career, had a chance to sit on the bench and look at another quarterback and be able to listen to the coaches and say, 'Shaun, I wouldn't have made that throw. Shaun, I wouldn't have done this.' And he would be able to say, 'Now how would I have done that?' Rather than it being him every year, maybe he wasn't ready, but that's all you got. I think that Alex grew some from that as well. I think for him, it was a win-win situation."

On his emotions on being 4-6:
"You know what, my first emotion is anger. It really is. Anger because it doesn't have to be like this. It did not have to be this way. But at the same time, excitement. Excitement because I am just thankful that we don't have a team where I am coming in here the day after, you are 4-6, you got your tail kicked the day before, and you know when look at that film, 'We can't do any better than that. We can't beat that team.' And I am looking at that schedule where 'we can't beat those teams either, we just have to build for next year.' No, that's not what we are. That's not what we are. Where we are right now is, we are still hurting ourselves. We are our own worst enemy. If we could just beat the enemy within, then we have a chance to go out and beat the one we are playing against. When you talk about a championship team, when you talk about changing the culture, when you talk about taking that next step – and we will take that step –  when you talk about taking that step, there is more involved in it. Even if you start the season and you are 5-0, there is more involved in it because you have to deal with some of the mental psyche that is involved in it and helping guys understand that you have to see yourselves different, you have to think different, you have to think like a champion. When you walk on that field you have to know, this is my game. When you start thinking like that and you start acting like that, when things go bad on the field you are able to take a step back and go, 'We are going to make this happen, it is not going to be like it was before. We are going to take that step and we are going to go to the next step. We are going to win this game. We are going to get over this, we are going to around it, we are going to go under it. Whatever it is, we are going to win this game.' When you start thinking like that, that's when you start winning those kinds of games we played in yesterday, when you start thinking like that, when you know that. We don't have enough of those guys there yet. But we will get there and we will get there this year."

On why the team didn't think like that after starting 3-1:
"Well, that's what I'm saying. I can only relate it this way. It is like this kid who is going to school, and maybe some of you guys can relate, I know I can. But it is like this kid who is going to school and this guy is taking his lunch money every day. You are tired of this guy taking your lunch money. You are bigger than he is, you are stronger than he is, you can take this kid. But because this kid has been built up so much, everything you heard about him, they say this kid is better than you and you believe that. You are going to continue to give the kid your lunch money until one day you decide, 'You know what, I'm done with that. I'm not giving you my money anymore and that's it.' That's the same thing in any situation whether it's football, whether it's life or anything else. I'll stop there because I don't want to be motivational."

On how great he's doing with his analogy:
"No, I'm done."

On whether anyone ever took his lunch money as a child:

On how old he was when it happened:
"[Maybe] seven, eight, nine [years old]. I was the last of ten kids."

On whether there is a difference to Alex Smith taking snaps under center in the shotgun formation:
"I do think it makes a difference, but the point that I was making is that he's had success whether he's been under center or in shotgun, and to me, I think it just gets down to that it's one thing when you see it on film, when you talk to him he has to give you that feel for 'you know what, I really feel better in the shotgun [formation] or I really feel better taking it from under the center.' I think he has mixed feelings about both."

On the possibility that QB Alex Smith maybe much better in the shotgun formation:

On whether the team can run off of shotgun formation just as effectively as taking snaps from under center:
"Running out of the shotgun [formation] and running from under center is a lot different because particularly having someone like Frank Gore. When you have a running back like Frank Gore, he is a hit-the-hole-downhill guy. He's not a fidget to the right and then give him the ball. When you're in the shotgun, you've got to figure out some kind of way, you've kind of have to work together on how you step this way and he steps that way. It's not like you're under center, you're going back, he's going forward –he's hitting that hole and you've this other guy running around here wrapping around the edge. No, it's not like that. It's different, you guys see what I'm saying? So it's different for the running back. For the quarterback it's great, but it's different for the running back when you've got that kind of running back."

On whether he understands the postgame statements by TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree about their abilities flourishing under the spread offense:
"I understand that they're excited. I understand that anytime that they have the opportunity to catch the ball, they know that they're in a spread situation, and particularly Vernon, he's excited anytime he gets a play called his way. If I were them I would get excited too, but if I'm Crabtree, I need to be a little more quiet because he just got here. He's just trying to figure out what day it is, he didn't go through all the other stuff and I'm kidding when I'm saying that. I just talked to him awhile ago and he is excited about the spread set, Vernon is excited, all of the receivers are excited. I'm sure that Alex is excited as well, but I think it's one of those things where that's why we coach because we also have to look at what's good for Frank. We also have to look at what's good for the offense as a whole. But we do want to honor what the players think about, particularly a playmaker – a quarterback and that's why we've been in so many conversations with Alex. You're right about the point that you're making, Alex is such a humble guy, a meek guy, don't how long he'll stay that way but it's a great thing to have a quarterback like that says 'what do you think, coach? What do you want?' But for him to be doing the things that he's doing right now, I'm not sure how long we're going to have that, but it's a great thing to have right now and I do want him to take that next step and be like, 'Hey, you know what, here's what I like, here's what is good for us. That would be good and I think that Alex is getting to a place of being more comfortable being able to communicate that way, and I think as we go forward, he will do that. He's certainly gotten better."

On the possibility of WR Josh Morgan returning kicks again in the future:
"That is a thought. Obviously we liked what we saw yesterday. Hopefully, if Josh Morgan is the kickoff returner, then hopefully he's not returning too many of them in a game so we don't have to worry about it too often. I just think that yesterday, he did a nice job when called upon. I don't know, but we'll have to look at that a little bit more."

On what the coaching staff can do to bring the level of intensity to the players higher:
"I think you keep working. If it were an easy answer, everyone would figure it out. I just think you keep working and you just keep believing it's coming. When I'm talking to the players, I'm looking at the players and also listening to the players. There are a lot of good things happening, but at the end of the day, I just know that we'll get there, sooner than later."

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