The possibilities began to swirl through coach Kyle Shanahan’s head in January, after the 49ers’ disappointing 2020 season was over. The 49ers had just gone 6-10, failing to qualify for the NFL playoffs not even a year after their appearance in Super Bowl LIV.
Shanahan then began to consider the draft outlook, acknowledging the caliber of quarterbacks that would be options at the end of April.
Since the 49ers rewarded Jimmy Garoppolo with a five-year contract worth up to $ 137.5 million, the QB has only appeared in 25 of 48 possible games over the past three seasons. It may be unfair to call Garoppolo injury-prone, but the truth is the 49ers have had to rely on his saves for significant stretches in two of the past three years.
The 2021 quarterback class is talented, but Shanahan and general manager John Lynch knew they wouldn’t get their man if they stayed at No.12 overall. The 49ers front office had a decision to make, starting to reach out to teams on the possibility of advancing earlier this month.
“A lot of teams weren’t ready because it’s such a different year, so the process really hadn’t happened,” said Lynch. “You know, imagine this time, typically we would have gone to a combine, started 30 visits and all that stuff. This does not happen.
Shanahan and Lynch focused on re-signing their free agents. First, full-back Kyle Juszczyk agreed to return for a five-year contract, then left tackle Trent Williams signed again for six years. As the dominoes started to fall, the 49ers’ endgame started to materialize.
“I think the first one was Juice, and we were very excited,” Lynch said. “Trent was obviously a top priority, everything is playing out. It was probably influenced by our success with free will in our minds.
Undeterred, the 49ers front office kept in touch with the Miami Dolphins, who were most receptive to their commercial offers. Ultimately, both teams pulled off the blockbuster on March 26.
While Shanahan has defended Garoppolo since arriving in Santa Clara, the head coach has long-term goals and a vision for how to get there. Shanahan needs his starting quarterback to stay available to play.
“We watched how our four years went,” Shanahan said. “We’ve looked at how we want the next four years to go, and we’ll look at where we are with the project and what options are there. We were convinced that we were going to leave ourselves at the altar setting there at twelve o’clock. ”
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The 49ers’ brain trust wanted to put their ducks in a row while working under a shroud of secrecy. Lynch and Shanahan limited their visits to business days so as not to tell anyone about their plans.
Careful negotiations and strategic appearances led to the greatest movement of the Lynch and Shanahan era. The two hope the end product will have several years of success, but they also know that it comes with incredible risk.
“It was done with a lot of deliberation, a lot of study, a lot of opinions from several people and we finally came to the point that we thought it was worth it,” Lynch said. “We also, I think, paid a premium to do it early.
“One thing I always remember Bill Walsh [saying] when I was at Stanford, you had to beat your opponent with the punch. We felt like it was only a matter of time before the first domino fell and we wanted to be a part of it. It was a priority for our football organization in the future.
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