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Former Washington HC Jay Gruden says 49ers would have traded massive draft capital for Kirk Cousins

Jay Gruden had some eyebrow raising comments on The Kevin Sheehan Show.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and his infatuation with quarterback Kirk Cousins is well documented. Shanahan worked with Cousins during his tenure with the Washington Football Team and hoped to bring him to San Francisco soon after becoming the 49ers head coach. Washington severely mishandled negotiations with Cousins, which eventually enabled him to sign with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency.

Washington’s head coach at the time, Jay Gruden, joined The Kevin Sheehan Show this week and reflected on the Cousins situation. He made some pretty dramatic statements about what the Football Team could have received for Cousins in a trade during his appearance.

“Well, I don’t know exactly what we could’ve got, but I know it would’ve been more than just one number one pick. I would imagine we could’ve got their number one for at least two years and then a couple of number twos in my opinion.”

When Gruden was asked why, if Cousins was so valuable on the trade market, did Washington not pull the trigger on a trade, he pointed to the franchise’s history with Shanahan:

It was San Francisco. Obviously dealing with the Shanahan’s was something that they did not want to do. I don’t think they could stomach Kirk Cousins being succesful for Kyle Shanahan.”

It’s hard to believe Shanahan would have been willing to give up four premium picks, including the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft to acquire Cousins. I have been as critical as anyone of Shanahan’s transactions, but this does not align with how he handled the quarterback position.

Like the rest of the NFL, Shanahan knew that Cousins would be a free agent following the 2018 NFL season. The 49ers had plenty of cap space and were far from Super Bowl contention. So they were happy to wait for Cousins to become available on the open market. Frankly, it would be surprising if the 49ers were willing to trade even one first-round pick for Cousins.

We have a recent precedent for Shanahan targeting a disgruntled player in Washington. Left tackle Trent Williams is one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL but sat out the entire 2019 season because he wanted the Football Team to trade him. When they did, the 49ers acquired Williams for a fifth-round pick and a future third-round pick. Far from premium value for elite talent.

While Gruden was one of the top decision-makers with the Football Team during Cousins’ final years with the organization, he was not in charge of player personnel. That responsibility fell to former (and since disgraced) general manager Bruce Allen. So while Gruden sounds confident in his statements, he also litters them with “in my opinion” and “I don’t know exactly what we could’ve got.” It may make an entertaining soundbite that the Niners were willing to trade everything for Cousins, but it’s probably not worth putting much stock in it.


Rob had a different take as he took Gruden’s word for it, given Washington’s history with the Shanahans.

Before the carnage that likely will befall us tonight on Monday Night Football, let this little nugget from today’s 49ers in Five rattle around in your brain, if Kyle Shanahan had his way, the 49ers still would have given up multiple first round picks for a quarterback, it just would have been Kirk Cousins four years ago.

Appearing as a guest on The Kevin Sheehan Show on Saturday, former Washington Football Coach Jay Gruden said this after Sheehan said the 49ers were willing to trade the second overall pick for Cousins in 2017:

“I don’t know exactly what we could have gotten, but I know it would have been more than just one No. 1 pick. I would imagine we could have got their number one for at least two years, and maybe a couple numbers twos, in my opinion. You’re talking about a $100 million quarterback, you know. You’re talking about the starting quarterback for your franchise for the next five or 10 years, and obviously that’s what some teams were looking for.”

So why the hell wouldn’t Washington have pulled the trigger on that kind of a haul? Simple. Daniel Synder’s pettiness.

“Obviously, dealing with the Shanahans was something that they did not want to do. I don’t think they could stomach having Kirk Cousins be successful for Kyle Shanahan. I think that was probably, in my opinion, that’s probably why they didn’t want to do it with San Francisco. And I think there was still some hope that we could re-sign him.”

It’s impossible to know for sure where the 49ers would be right now if they had made that move and brought Kirk Cousins to the Bay Area. But, certainly, a move like that would have completely changed everything about the Kyle Shanahan era.

What we can take away from this, however, is just how much Kyle Shanahan stans Kirk Cousins. They say you never forget your first love, and clearly, that was the case with Kyle and Kirk. There’s a reason he was “in mourning” over not getting Cousins after the Jimmy Garoppolo acquisition.

One other thought popped into my head. How much did the regret over not maximizing the return on Cousins play a part in the Snyders being willing to trade Trent Williams to the Shanahans in 2020?

For a fan base that has blown multiple Super Bowls in the past decade, there is now one more question to put on the massive pile of what-ifs for the 49ers.