A couple days removed from a blockbuster trade that gave the San Francisco 49ers the No. 3 pick in this year’s NFL Draft and following a successful free agency period, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media about the trade, the signings, Jimmy Garoppolo and why 49ers’ football is family.
“…[F]ree agency starts and yes, it’s important for some dominoes to fall on,” Lynch said. “I believe the first one was [FB Kyle Juszczyk] and we were very excited. He was someone who’s a very important part of this football team in every way, with the way Kyle and his staff utilizes him in a multitude of different ways, to being a great example for everybody here in terms of the work ethic and what you put into your body to be successful in this game. Then Trent [Williams]. Trent was obviously a major priority. He’s one of the better players in football in my mind…[U]ltimately, we were able to get something done and we were thrilled. So, everything plays into it, but probably more so the idea of going ahead and doing that, but also having plans of rolling with Jimmy as well. That probably was influenced by our success in free agency in our mind. We all know that this will be judged over time. To kind of keep the whole thing together was influenced by the success that we were able to have in free agency.”
Jimmy Garoppolo is on the Clock
On Friday, the 49ers and the Miami Dolphins pulled off a blockbuster trade that sent San Francisco the third pick in this year’s NFL Draft and sent the Dolphins the 12th pick, as well as first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a third-round pick in 2022. Miami ultimately used that 12th pick to move up to six this year. Those are the details. The implication: the Niners are drafting a quarterback and Garoppolo’s time as QB1 has a shelf life.
“…I know he wasn’t totally excited about it, like you’d expect, but Jimmy handled a great, like he always does,” Shanahan said. “We were very straight up with each other and I told him how we felt, this doesn’t change any of his circumstances right now…[H]e’s still coming in here and trying to lead this team. I told him how excited I was that free agency went a lot better than we anticipated with being able to sign a lot more of our own players than we had thought going into it. And then we got a real good team coming back here and we still plan on him leading us and getting as far as we can with it.”
Lynch and Shanahan were very open that their intent is to draft a quarterback with the third pick, but, at least for now, the plan is to keep Garoppolo. As the 49ers went through free agency, signing their top players and re-emerging as a Super Bowl contender, the move made a lot of sense.
“…I think we’ve been fairly consistent and resolute about Jimmy being a part of us this entire offseason,” Lynch said. “I think probably the equation, the combination of both moving up and keeping Jimmy, that probably crystallized as free agency, in our minds, went well, that that could be a possibility…So, I think you try to keep a lot of balls in the air, try to see what your options are…we’ve been pleased with Jimmy. We know we can win with Jimmy and then ultimately, we arrived at this deal after free agency that, okay, if we’re going to move up, let’s do both. I think that became something that was more viable in our minds once free agency went, as we feel in our hearts, in a positive direction for us.”
This team is built to succeed and to contend, so in a perfect world, having a veteran QB who knows the system while the rookies sits and learns, is not a bad thing. That is assuming Garoppolo can stay healthy, which has been problematic for the veteran quarterback.
“I’m sure Jimmy was a little pissed off from it, just like I would be, too, but me knowing Jimmy, he’ll be fired up and come in and he’ll work his butt off,” Shanahan said. “Knowing Jimmy, the more mad Jimmy gets, usually the better he gets. So, if Jimmy just gets madder and he stays healthy, I mean, this is going to be a good thing for Jimmy, too, which could be a great problem for the 49ers.”
So, Who are They Going to Draft?
Like there’s any chance they’d tell us. Assuming Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson go at 1 and 2, respectively, conventional wisdom tells us it will be Alabama’s Mac Jones, Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Justin Fields. Shanahan and Lynch confirmed they will attend Alabama’s second pro day on Tuesday, but they should be able to see Fields at a later date.
“…We talked to [NFL agent and Fields’ agent] Dave Mulugheta the other day and he said that they’d be able to set up another one [for Fields],” Shanahan said. “That’s why we chose on Alabama. So, I’m excited to see him eventually in person, but also got a lot of tape to go off, too, which I know he’s going to throw it really good in person and be really fast in person also.”
Meanwhile, Lance would make a lot of sense, so tune in on April 29. Having Garoppolo gives San Francisco the luxury of picking the QB of the future, not necessarily the QB of 2021.
“I think you weigh all that stuff in, especially when you have a month to really do it,” Shanahan said. “You look at our team and everything, and you want to have an idea of what this guy can do right away, how he fits in your team right away and what that means for the future, but I don’t think you want to make a decision to move up to three and do what we did just based off of what’s the best for one year. So, you want to take that into account, especially when there’s a number of candidates there. It’s not like there is just one guy. So, when there’s three to five guys who could be there, you’re going to take all that into account, but we’ve got to make sure we get the right guy for the future, not just this year.”
49ers Football is Family
As players re-signed with the 49ers over the last couple weeks, a theme among them was not only coming back to a contending football team, but also coming back to a family.
“…Kyle didn’t have to sell anything to me,” Williams said. “I already knew what this place has to offer, I knew what he has to offer, and I knew what the front office would have to offer, for not just me, to this team.”
When Juszczyk spoke about the now-infamous FaceTime calls with Lynch, Shanahan and 49ers’ CEO Jed York, the fullback talked about feeling close to the organization.
“…To get FaceTimes from your owner and your GM and your head coach and speak with their families and be comfortable, it’s like I’m speaking with my own family,” Juszczyk said. “It’s not one of those awkward conversations that’s just, ‘Yes, sir. Yes, sir. We’re going to do great, sir.’ It’s just real conversations and real genuine joy. That’s why I feel so connected to this program.”
This sense of family is something that’s been ingrained in the organization for a long time and it was a priority for Lynch and Shanahan when they came to Santa Clara in 2017.
“That is important to us,” Lynch said. “I think it’s a part of this organization’s fabric and culture long before we got here. I look at the great championship teams. Those guys are still close. They all live around here, a lot of them do and they’re extremely close. I think of the best teams I played on, those teams are close and it felt like family. Yes, you take examples, you take note of things that happened during your career. I’ve always said that [former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach] Tony Dungy was always very influential in terms of he talked to everybody who came in the building, he talked to everybody who left and he just was extremely honest. [Former Denver Broncos head coach] Mike Shanahan was very much that same way. I think it’s one of the things Kyle and I hit it off on is our own families are very important to us, our extended families, which are our teammates and we try to be as upfront and honest, as forthright with these guys. We try to understand that yes, it’s a business, but we can still get close with these guys as well and I think we’ve done that. I think it serves you well in a situation like this.
“There were a lot of great surprises to be honest with you. A guy like [DL] D.J. Jones. We never thought we’d have an opportunity to bring him back. Those decisions that you make are gut wrenching in terms of prioritizing because we like them all, you know, but you have to say, ‘Okay, we’re going to try to get these guys done. These guys might out-price themselves for what we can do.’ Unfortunately for those guys, this was a weird year where the cap came down drastically and there were a lot of players left out there and the hard thing is when players have performed and then that market’s not there. What we try to do is say, ‘Hey, look, if it’s a one-year deal, we know you, you know us. This is a great place for you to go show your value so that next year you can go do this again and maybe at that point we can be a part of it.’ We’re very fortunate that a lot of those guys, [CB] K’Waun [Williams], D.J. [S Jaquiski] Tartt, even like [CB] Dontae Johnson, I mean, those guys came back to us, [CB] Jason Verrett. Jason’s situation was different, but all those guys are important to us. Family’s important to us and really excited that we got so many of them back.”
Families have their ups and downs, but at the end of the day, trust and openness are what matters.
“…I’m really proud of that we have a place with our GM, all our coaches, our players, with our owner, that you can get an honest answer from people,” Shanahan said. “It’s tough to do in this business because it’s very competitive. There’s so much stuff going on, but I feel we’ve got a place where everyone shoots each other straight and that is close to a family. Sometimes it’s not always good. Sometimes you might upset people for a couple of days, but you at least know who you can trust and those are usually the people that you stay close with most of your life.”
Next up, the NFL Draft.