In 2012, Washington gave up three first-round picks and a second-round pick to get quarterback Robert Griffin III. The coach and offensive coordinator at the time, Mike and Kyle Shanahan, respectively, were not on board with that approach.
Nine years later, Kyle Shanahan has made an RGIII-style trade of his own.
Presumably, the trade from No. 12 to No. 3 wasn’t made by owner Jed York, like the RGIII move was by Washington owner Daniel Snyder. Presumably, this move was all Shanahan.
It’s a bold move, to be sure. It possibly was influenced by the fact that Shanahan whiffed on Patrick Mahomes in 2017 by not fully evaluating him or other rookie quarterbacks, believing instead that the 49ers were a year away from signing Kirk Cousins.
Regardless, the investment is significant — and it underscores the belief that Shanahan has in whoever he’s planning to take, whether it’s Mac Jones or Trey Lance or Justin Fields or Kellen Mond (he’s No. 3 on the Chris Simms list of incoming quarterbacks).
By moving all the way to No. 3 in the draft, Shanahan is also buying insurance against the possibility that someone else secretly loves Jones or Lance or Fields or Mond as much or more.
And the picks devoted to whoever the quarterback will be makes it even harder to believe that the 49ers will put that player on the bench for a year while also paying Jimmy Garoppolo $25 million to play (or, given two of the last three years, not play) in 2021.
During the 2019 playoffs, Garoppolo sufficiently freaked out Shanahan to cause him to turn Jimmy G into Bob Griese for the rest of the division-round win over Minnesota and for all of the NFC Championship victory over Green Bay. During a lost 2020 season, Jimmy G’s inability to stay healthy sufficiently freaked out Shanahan to move on.
Why would the 49ers employ a half measure, keeping Garoppolo and putting Jones/Lance/Fields/Mond on the bench for a fully season? If Garoppolo stays healthy and the team gets back to the Super Bowl, then what? Common sense suggests that whoever the 49ers take at No. 3 is the guy, and that Jimmy G is gone.
Of course, common sense ain’t. But nothing the 49ers have done over the past few years suggests that they’d make an all-in move for a new quarterback while also potentially undermine that quarterback’s career by clinging to the guy in whom they no longer believe. If they’re telling the truth about Garoppolo and not simply posturing for a trade, they’re making a big mistake.
Shanahan doesn’t seem like a coach who would make a second big mistake, four years after he made his first big mistake by not taking Patrick Mahomes.