The flurry of quarterback rumors linked to the San Francisco 49ers during April was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. From backups like Teddy Bridgewater and Garnder Minshew to Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers.
Last week, we were told that Jimmy Garoppolo would be traded by the same media members who convinced us Mac Jones was the pick at No. 3.
Now that the dust has settled, the Niners QB room didn’t get the complete makeover that some figured would happen. Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance, and Nate Sudfield are the three likely candidates to make the final 53.
How close were the 49ers to acquiring Rodgers? Not close at all, really. On The Rich Eisen Show, head coach Kyle Shanahan told Eisen that he reached out to Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur to inquire about Rodgers’ availability:
“The exact truth is I didn’t want to wake up the next day, on Friday, and see Aaron Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks in this league, traded, without doing any due diligence on it. So I just called Matt and asked him if there was anything to it, and Matt told me I’d be wasting my time if we had Lynch call.
And so Lynch did not call anyone the next day. But, yeah, I did reach out to Matt the night before and asked him, ‘Hey man, I don’t want to wake up the next day and see that Aaron was traded for something, and I didn’t at least look into it.’ So, that’s what I did with Matt, and he gave me a very quick answer.
So, I didn’t even tell John to call [Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst]. So I think it worked out, I guess. We were happy to get our guy, and hopefully, it will work out for them.”
The 49ers didn’t have the ammunition to acquire Rodgers, anyway.
Perhaps if they offered three first-round picks and a third, that would have helped start the conversation. No. 3 is valuable, but after that, a bunch of second-round picks wouldn’t have enticed the Packers to make a trade.
Knowing Shanahan picked up the phone is a good sign, though. You don’t want to leave any stone unturned. The potential of Lance is undeniable, but getting a finished project like Rodgers doesn’t compare to a rookie.
Shanahan also explained what he saw in Lance that made him want to draft the talented youngster out of North Dakota State. Based on his answers, a big part of trading up was due to the 49ers not having to sneak around when talking to quarterback prospects. Here’s Shanahan talking about his evaluations had the Niners stayed put at No. 12:
“At 12, you see two guys on tape, like, ‘Man, if any of these guys are there, I for sure would take them. And you know what? There’s probably other guys too I would take at , so I think there might be five I would take at 12.
“Then we get up to a spot that is high. Now, I know we’re for sure going to get [a quarterback]. And before we did that, I knew for sure we wanted one.”
The 49ers ended up trading multiple first-round picks to move up to No. 3 to draft Lance.
When we look back on this trade in a couple of years, it’ll tell us a lot about whether the team overpaid — especially if Mac Jones and Justin Fields are comparable to Lance. I understand Lance was “their guy,” but if the team could have had Jones at No. 12 or Fields at No. 10 and kept two future first-round picks, you can expect some backlash.
Shanahan spoke about how he didn’t have to act in secrecy when speaking to players once the team moved up to No. 3, which he made clear was a worry had the 49ers stayed at No. 3:
“So, when we got there, you’re allowed to go through the whole process of falling in love with the kids, really getting to know them, and not having to tip your hand off to anyone. Because something I don’t like to do is I don’t like to call a lot of players and stuff because usually when I do, they’ll tell their agent or they’ll tell someone, and then it gets back to people. And people trade right in front of you when you’re one pick away, and you lose people. It’s happened to me a number of times, and I’ve seen that happen just in my life a bunch. That’s always your biggest fear.
So, I’m not going to tell anybody anything, and once we got to three, though, it didn’t matter. I could call these guys. They could tell whoever they wanted (that) I talked to them. And that’s what allowed me to feel so good about it.”
Put yourselves in Shanahan’s shoes for one second. If Lance was his guy the entire time, and he traded to No. 4, 5, or 6, and another team jumped him, Kyle would never let himself live that down.
The trade-up ensured he’d get his guy while being able to speak freely to any prospect the team wanted to. Some believe the 49ers paid a price that was too steep to move up. It almost comes off as a “peace of mind” deal, the way Shanahan spoke above.
Here’s Shanahan explaining what else he’s looking for in a QB:
“When you’re going off the tape, it’s only half of it. It allows you to believe in what they can do and stuff, but until you really get to know that guy and the whole makeup of a person — quarterback is a different position, and it is so hard.
And it’s not just about the ability. You have to have an unbelievable amount of ability that isn’t just in height, weight, and speed. It also isn’t just an IQ. It’s in playing the game really fast in a pocket, having to decipher through things, being able to change your vision up, and all that stuff, and being able to handle the pressure of, no matter how good you are, there’s going to be a lot of times that everyone tells you how bad you are. And how can you handle that? Will that make you better or worse?
That’s why — look at all the quarterbacks that have been drafted over history — it’s a crapshoot. No one totally knows. Everyone’s got some pretty good ideas, but you can’t just go off the tape. You’ve got to take the whole accumulation of everything, and that’s not just an easy answer or a quick thing to do.”
I’d say Lance gets through his progressions quickly and shows that he has no issues understanding what the defense is doing.
Now, there will be an inevitable learning curve jumping to the NFL, as would be the case with any QB. Luckily for Lance, he couldn’t have gone to a better situation. Now, it’s on Shanahan to put the rookie in a position to succeed both right away and for the foreseeable future.