Gift of Gruden
Q: How are you holding up this season? Gruden: To me, it's been a very big challenge. Not only for me, but for our players and coaches. We've had a lot of adversity starting with the weather. We had some adverse weather here and we've lost some key players to injury. That has certainly played a factor in some of the things that have happened, but I'm very encouraged by the effort and the concentration that our team has provided. But, I'm very disappointed obviously being 3-6. Q: Do you preach to your team that there is still ample opportunity to get back into it by end of season? Gruden: I think the Boston Red Sox kind of proved to anybody if you have thick skin and you have some good players that believe, any obstacle is never too big to overcome. The big thing is that we just got to keep playing and try and stay short-term in terms of our memory. Try not to remember what happened yesterday or three weeks ago. Try to think about what you got to do today to get better because this 49ers team despite a little record is playing hard and doing some good things. Q: Why has Michael Clayton been able to adapt so well as a rookie and are you aware of how close 49ers were in taking him? Gruden: No, I'm not aware of how close they were, but obviously there was a great group of wide receivers this season. We've had some real horrific things that have happened. We lost Galloway for two months and Jurevicius. McCardell's situation never worked out here. Mike Clayton, he is a really good player. He's natural. He's got the size and physical attributes you are looking for. He has a great charisma and maturity about him. He's handled our system of football as well as any young guy that I have ever been around. He's got an incredible future ahead of him. Q: Was there a certain line in your mind between Clayton and next best receiver in draft? Gruden: I don't want to compare receivers. Somebody will get mad in two or three years. Somebody will remind that guy that he'll catch three passes against us. I'll just say this, we loved Clayton from the time we met him at the combine. Anybody that saw Louisiana State play football knows that he played safety, he covered kicks, he held for extra points, he's a go-to clutch kid and he's a big guy. He loves to play. He fits with what we do perfectly. We had our eyes set on him maybe higher than we should of, but obviously it has paid off for us. Q: Were you aware 49ers were interested in him as well? Gruden: I can't imagine anybody in the country not interested in Clayton. I don't think the 49ers and the Buccaneers were the lone ranger, in terms of Michael Clayton. Certainly his play, his style, his background speaks loud and clear. I think there were a lot of teams that liked him and would love to have him. Q: What has Brian Griese brought to offense? Gruden: He's brought consistent playmaking. He's added, I think his own spin on the attack. Nothing ever is the same when you make a change at that position, but he's been able to be very accurate with the football, he's been able to move the pocket a little bit and create some plays with his legs. For a guy that has only had 20-25 percent of the reps throughout training camp and during the early part of the season, I think he is handling our system quite well. I like him a lot. Q: Does he have chance to be long-term guy there? Gruden: There is no question. He's 29-years old and I'm kind of amazed really that a lot of people are surprised that he is doing well. If you just rank the all-time passing leaders in the history of football, if you are in to that—I don't know that statistic—that number that goes next to quarterback's rank, he's 12th or 13th all-time. He's 29-years old. He's been in a Pro Bowl. He's taken the keys from John Elway. He's played in a very productive Denver Broncos system. I think he has great skill. Yes, he's got every opportunity to I think be a great player. Q: Yet, he started there as a number three? Gruden: Well, we had a quarterback here and we still do that we think a lot of in Brad Johnson who broke a lot of passing records. He won a Super Bowl here. We got a promising young kid in Chris Simms, who we think has a great upside. Brian just took his turns and waited his time. Like most quarterbacks in this league, you are going to get your call and you've got to be ready when you get the ball. Q: Do you notice much of a departure from the Bobb McKittrick days to what 49ers do now? Gruden: I think the game has changed so much since I can remember from being with Coach McKittrick back in '89 I believe it was. Defensive fronts and stunts and the size and speed of these guys, the blitzes have changed and everybody has moved on a little bit from what Bobb McKittrick once did. Although he is still in my opinion one of the greatest coaches ever. Q: What are your thoughts on Tim Rattay and Eric Johnson as combination? Gruden: Pretty darn good. Eric Johnson, jeez. We struggled with the tight end the last two weeks. You can check that yourselves. With Crumpler and Gonzalez, we're well aware of who leads the NFC in receiving. I think this guy is a very instinctive, natural route-runner who has got better speed than people think. He's pretty good after the catch. Tim Rattay, although bitten by the interception bug a little bit last week, I think has been outstanding. At times, he's been great. He's tough as hell. He makes a lot of real good plays and we think a lot of Barlow at running back as well. Q: What kind of season is Derrick Brooks having and how might he be tracking Eric Johnson? Gruden: He's having a great season. I'm really pleased with his play and his leadership. His durability has been an incredible strength of his. He's going to have a lot to do with the tight end, although he plays on the weak side you see. Ian Gold and our safety man and Shelton Quarles, our middle linebacker, will have more of that responsibility. Q: What has Tim Brown added? Gruden: It's been great for me. I think he is one of the great stories that at least I've ever been around in coaching in my career. Fourteen years in this league, Hall of Fame first ballot guy in my opinion coming in here. Although his role has been reduced, he has much to do with Michael Clayton exploding onto the scene as any coach or any person in this building. He's an interpreter. He's a guy that can convey information, show the guy the tricks of the trade, teach him how to study and how to be a man in this League. Get up when you are hurt, practice with pain, study tape and listen in meetings. There is so much this guy has done for Michael Clayton. His legacy is going to be incredible with Mike Clayton I think forever.
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