San Fran always has its place with Shanahan

Denver coach Mike Shanahan, San Francisco's offensive coordinator the last time the 49ers won a Super Bowl, talks Broncos and 49ers and gives his takes on several subjects regarding the two teams, including the Niners' improvement in 2006, his relationships with 49ers coach Mike Nolan and 49ers patriarch Bill Walsh, and the Broncos' late push for another playoff berth.

On San Francisco's improvement from last season: "You can see if you take a look at their offense, any time that you run the football as well as they are running it, Frank Gore is getting well over five yards a carry, and they are a very physical football team. They have been doing that on offense, defense and special teams. They are much improved from over a year ago. They have kind of dominated the game with Seattle, so we know what they are capable of doing. They are playing extremely hard. You take a look at the defense and how they shut down Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson, who are two backs who are averaging 3.2 and 3.4 yards per carry per game, you know you are getting a team that is playing exceptionally hard and making plays."

On 49ers running back Frank Gore: "He is a great running back. He has got great illusiveness, speed and he is everything you look for in a running back. Very talented."

On if Gore is a Broncos type of running back: "Yes, Gore can make you a good coach very quickly. He's got everything it takes to become a great back and they don't come around very often."

On Gore on draft day in 2005: "To be honest with you when you go back I can't remember specifically, but with his injuries and he was hurt. You know we had guys who talked very favorably about him, and I wish he was here. I can't get in trouble for that can I? Is that tampering?"

On 49ers coach Mike Nolan, a former Denver assistant from 1987-92: "Mike and I go back a long time as assistant coaches here. We used to run together and work out together, and obviously he has been in the league for awhile and he does a great job. He has been a great coach, coordinator and assistant coach, and I know he will do a great job at San Francisco just like he is doing."

On the competitiveness that Nolan shares with Shanahan: "He is a guy that is in great shape and he stays in great shape. We have always been pretty competitive, and he is younger which means he is really hard to keep up with. He is a guy that takes care of himself."

On if he feels that the Broncos are enjoying the game more since snapping a four-game losing streak: "I think that any time that you have a setback like we did, you have got to step up as a team and do it. Every man has to do it. I think that is what we have done. We had some tough losses in there, and we knew our backs were against the wall so we stepped up the last couple of games and we all know it is for nothing if we don't take care of business this weekend."

On if he considers benching his starters against San Francisco if Kansas City loses Sunday: No. If I didn't do it last year (in regular-season finale at San Diego), do you think I would do it this year?

On what makes running back Mike Bell so effective at the goal line: "I think he has great leaping ability, and he has excellent power. He is one of those guys that if we are at the two, three, or four yard line, he can catapult and get in the end zone two or three yards deep so he has some great explosiveness. You can see that the first time he took the field and he has a nose for the goal line any time he is inside the five."

On if he feels that last season, when he moved cornerback Champ Bailey to the back of the bump-and-run, that he was taking a risk: "No, not at all in fact. Just the opposite. Champ was used to playing a lot of bump coverage and any time you can isolate a great defensive back on anybody, you feel like you can take a guy out of the game. But to get to the next level, a guy like Champ has to be able to play off where he can read the quarterback, read the steps of the wide receiver and use his intelligence to go along with his ability and that is one of the reasons he has been able to get the interceptions that he has been able to get. If you isolate him one-on-one with a wide receiver, he can take that wide receiver out probably 98 percent of the time, but he wouldn't be able to make plays on the ball. You evolve as a defensive back just like Champ has done. He has done a great job at picking it up and at least been keeping an open mind to try something a little bit different."

On if he thought it was possible for Bailey to have an even better season this year than last year: "Well it all depends on how much people want to throw his way. Sooner or later, they will quit throwing his direction. I think he has had eight balls thrown his direction this season, and he has eight picks (nine), so I wouldn't advise throwing over there. It is really amazing when you take a look at the percentage of balls that have been thrown his direction and how many balls he has come up with. It is a credit to his preparation and obviously the type of athlete he is."

On the weather for Sunday's game: "I don't know yet, they say it's supposed to snow on Friday. It's pretty nice today."

On if the airport in Denver will be clear enough for landing: "Probably not, you are going to have to bus."

On the win-and-you're-in-the-playoffs factor: "I don't think it impacts our preparation. We knew a couple of weeks ago that we were going to have to win out in order to make the playoffs, or at least have a chance. With attention to detail, we know if we do win we are in, so we control our own destiny."

On the 49ers playing playoff spoiler: "We expect them to play well. I know this time, of year I've been in this same situation as a head coach these guys are playing for their jobs even though there is nothing at stake from a playoff picture. These are NFC guys giving everything they've got and if they don't usually they are not around the next year. If you go back in history, you can look at teams who weren't playing for anything that have beaten teams who were five times over the last four years. Not only did they beat them, but they beat them quite convincingly."

On Jay Cutler's progression: "It's not his first start, since he's been here since the off-season programs in the OTA days. You are going through your off-season programs and your pre-season games, it's a process. I think everyone looks at the first game and says what an improvement, but he's made an improvement since he has been here. He will continue to grow as he gains experience."

On Cutler's arm strength: "Yes, he won't take second to a lot of people with arm strength."

On his decision to switch from Plummer to Cutler: "You just don't make the decision from one day, it goes over time. When you do make the decision it's one that you base on the off-season, summer camp, pre-season, the regular season and how they handle themselves on a day-to-day basis. I thought Jay gave us the best chance to win and I think he's been doing an excellent job."

On his contact with Bill Walsh and Walsh's impact on his career: "I talked to Bill when we played Oakland. That morning right before the game I gave him a call and asked him how he was doing. He was hanging in there, and he was in good spirits. I've been in contact with Bill for a number of years since I have been an assistant coach and a head coach. I think the world of him and I'm hoping he's doing well."

On some of the important things he learned from Walsh: "Well, I was never with Bill Walsh on his coaching staff, but I've been around him when I was with the 49ers under George Seifert, and I've followed his career and watched a lot of his meetings when I was in San Francisco because of all the tapes. His career speaks for itself. Not only the three Super Bowls, but the innovations that he brought to the game, the west coast offense and all the intricacies that go along with it."

On what stood out about him from watching the tapes: "That he's a great teacher. You can tell that he takes pride in his communication with the players, and the message that he is trying to convey to his team."

On rookie Elvis Dumervil: "I wouldn't call him a surprise because we drafted him. Anytime you get a guy that's under six feet as a defensive end, you are not sure of a guy until he goes out there and does it. He really has been fun to be around he's a great kid with a great personality who enjoys playing. He's got some very long arms that give him great leverage at his size to control offensive tackles and get his hands under their bodies before they can contact him. That's a little bit unusual, because a guy who is 5'11 doesn't have arms of that length. He has the arms of a guy who is 6'6."

On if his height was a topic of discussion before drafting him: "Well, it wasn't the height it was the arm length that went with the height. We saw the arm length was there, but even though the height wasn't, that's usually a big factor in a pass rush."

On the Broncos' tight end production: "We have for the last few games. We didn't have a lot of production early, but for the last four or five games our tight ends have become more involved."

On the reasons why the tight ends have produced the way they have: "Yes, there are reasons for it, but it all depends on what defenses want to take away. Anytime you are not throwing to your tight end, you are going to get a lot more double coverage to your wide receivers. When you start to get the tight ends the ball, you are going to take the double coverage away from the wide receivers and that can free up one of those guys. Defenses can take away what they want, but you have to be able to capitalize from different positions."

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