Let me start by saying right up front that Taylor Price, Digital Media Coordinator and lead writer over at 49ers.com, is one of my boys. But that didn’t stop me from asking him some hard-hitting questions.
But seriously, I caught up with Taylor on Wednesday night to get some insight into the 49ers as they prepare for the Super Bowl. He’s in the locker room every day and I think he has a good sense of what’s happening within the organization.
After we talked about the Jessica Simpson Weight Watchers commercial (don’t ask), Arizona State football recruiting and the hottest mixtapes out right now, I started grilling him about the 49ers. Here’s what I got:
TDdaily: You cover the team, but obviously you’re also a fan because you grew up in the Bay Area. I know you’re optimistic, but when did you feel like this could be your year?
Taylor Price: I can’t help but think about the Patriots game as when I felt we had something really special. In that game, there were big moments for offense defense and special teams, but also all of the guys who have had a huge impact late in the season really started to emerge—Kaepernick, Crabtree, LaMichael James. And to go into New England and beat Brady and Belichick, and the whole city of Boston—I mean everyone from the cab drivers to the bartenders were against us—that kind of showed that we can go all the way. Kaepernick beat Brady in New England in December. Things like that don’t happen every day. I think that was the defining moment of the season for us.
TD: Since that game, there have been so many stories written and told about Kaepernick, but what is he like on a day-to-day basis? What kind of presence does he command in the locker room?
TP: The guys really like the way he carries himself. He’s got swagger. It’s not fake. It’s not overconfident. It’s just, “This means something to me.” He didn’t come in with the attitude that he has anything guaranteed. He wanted to earn his way and prove himself. There wasn’t a sense of entitlement. He let his work ethic and play do the talking. And it has to be tough being thrown into the mix with nine Pro Bowlers on the team and now you’re being asked to lead the offense. You have to be careful how you do it. So I thought the way Kap was confident, but not pumping his chest, said a lot about him. Pat Willis has talked about coming into the facility and seeing Kap already out there warming up. That shows he’ll do whatever it takes. He’ll get there early and stay there late. And the guys responded well. They love Kap. Offense, defense, special teams, they all respect what he’s done. The chemistry he has with everyone showed at the end of the NFC Championship Game. I was on the field just before the 2:00 warning and the Falcons were in the red zone and on the verge of taking the lead. He went out there during a timeout and said, “This is for the Super Bowl, let’s get it.” And the guys looked back and said, “We got you.” It takes a lot for a young quarterback to go on to the field with a group of that many Pro Bowlers and say something like that. You’ve got to love that. He’s not afraid to be himself and he’s not afraid to be a leader.
TD: And after that game, when you guys clinched a Super Bowl berth, I bet the locker room was crazy.
TP: There were a lot of bear hugs. Obviously, everyone was happy. But the thing people don’t see when they look at a football team is the family aspect, and not just the players. You have trainers, equipment staff, video guys, PR guys, executives, and everybody who works with the team who have put in the long hours. Just having that moment as a whole organization was great. Also, there were some former players in there, and it was cool to see that blend of old Niners and new Niners. The honorary game captains were Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Charles Haley and Bryant Young, and they were in the locker room soaking it up with all the guys. Then you had former players like Merton Hanks and Eric Davis too. I grew up as a fan of the team, so to see the old generation and new generation share the same excitement meant something to me.
TD: It’s only been a few days since you guys clinched a spot in the Super Bowl, but has anything changed around the facility, or is it business as usual?
TP: What struck me today was just how much media there was and that all the media attention that wasn’t strictly football-related. There were a lot of reporters asking non-football questions, but these guys are still preparing for a football game. I think someone went around asking, “What’s a better name, ‘Harbowl’ or ‘Super Baughl?’” And they just have to smile and go along with it. I know the players want things to be as normal as possible, and I think as far as the preparation for the game goes it will be. But there are a lot of distractions that come with the Super Bowl, and it’s only going to get worse when we get to New Orleans.
TD: Now let’s talk about you for a minute. You’ve covered sports for a long time, but now with everything you do with 49ers, social media is huge. How do you think social media has changed the way a game like this is covered?
TP: I remember watching Super Bowl XXIX, when the 49ers beat the Chargers, and nobody was checking their iPhone every other minute looking for updates. So the cool thing about being a part of it now is that there is so much more access and insight. Back in the day when Montana was hitting Rice for all those touchdowns, you filed your story and people read about it in the newspaper the next day. Now it’s cool that we can provide so much more. Take the interaction the team had in Atlanta. It’s cool to see Charles Haley talk pass-rushing with Aldon Smith and to see Eric Davis talk to the secondary then for us to be able to share that. When you have Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, it’s just more ways to keep everyone looped in to what is happening. Also, you can go back and celebrate the things those previous teams have done and work that into what we’re doing currently. One thing we did the team was create a campaign #QuestForSix. And we’ve been covering the history of the 49ers postseason with it. It’s pretty cool. Last I checked, I think #QuestForSix has 62,000 posts on Instagram alone. Nike just made a t-shirt that says Quest For Six with our team marks and the Super Bowl logo. It’s one thing to look at this team and say Harbaugh is great and we have a lot of Pro Bowlers, but without the five Super Bowl teams before this, the 49ers wouldn’t be as big as we are. So it’s cool to be able to link all of that together with a simple hashtag.
TD: Looking ahead to the game, what matchup are you most excited to watch?
TP:Vernon Davis against their linebackers. Vernon averages 110.5 yards in the postseason and has five touchdowns in four games. I want to see if he can continue that ridiculous postseason production against Baltimore’s linebackers.
TD: Over/Under: Frank Gore, 100 yards.
TP: I don’t know if it really matters. Because not only do we have Frank running the ball, LaMichael James has been productive lately and Kap can pop off some big runs. Frank doesn’t necessarily need 100 yards for us to have a big game on the ground. Last week, he had 21 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns. And yards don’t matter at this point. Those stats are for fantasy football. At this point it’s all about winning.
TD: I meant to ask this earlier, but when did Michael Crabtree become such a beast?
TP: It’s hard to say he hasn’t been a beast all season. If you look at third-down receptions, he was killing it all year and he was near the top of the League in catches for first downs too. The back-shoulder throw, the fade, wide receiver screens, you’re seeing more of that now. The playmaking ability has always been there. The confidence has always been there. What you’re seeing now is more routes, more development, more time in the system and he’s being more incorporated more in the red zone.
TD: You’re a homer and I know you think the 49ers will win. Why?
TP: Because they’re a team. It’s not about each individual. It’s about the group as a whole. There is a belief. None of them want to come back from New Orleans without the title. It means so much because they’re doing it for each other. Coach always talks about doing things as a team, and that’s what they do.