When the 49ers traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 in March, they did it with various objectives. One did not come to fruition.
Per Schefter, the 49ers believed that the Patriots coveted Jones. The 49ers wanted to have the ability to consider the quarterback candidates who would be left on the board after the Jaguars selected Trevor Lawrence and the Jets picked Zach Wilson and, if the 49ers so decided, to take Jones.
Obviously, they decided not to take Jones. Even more obviously, they were right about the Patriots.
The truth may even be a little stronger than this report. The truth may be that the 49ers made the move with the plan to take Jones, but that in the extended period of time between making the trade and taking the player, the 49ers changed their minds.
It’s not the first time something like that happened for the 49ers. In 2017, the 49ers didn’t seriously consider Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson (they could have picked either) because coach Kyle Shanahan had planned to sign Kirk Cousins the following offseason in free agency. In the interim, someone persuaded Shanahan to pivot to a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo. Four years later, someone persuaded Shanahan (who despite titles runs the football operations in San Francisco) to shift from Jones to Trey Lance.
With Shanahan calling the shots, it’s surely not an easy thing to do. Whoever decided Garoppolo would be better than Cousins and that Lance would be better than Jones had to find a way to get Shanahan to come to that conclusion on his own. Most assume that G.M. John Lynch was the quarterback whisperer, um, whisperer. Others suspect that it’s assistant G.M. Adam Peters who has gotten Shanahan to step away twice from his quarterback convictions.
The second one wasn’t easy. It required Shanahan to completely abandon his quarterback philosophy. He prefers pocket passers who run the offense with precision, confident that if the quarterback does exactly what the plays require, the plays will work. Lance introduced the second-play capability to the offense, giving them a mobile player who can (when the play that’s called doesn’t work) make chicken salad on the fly, improvising his way toward a better result like Mahomes and Watson, the guys Shanahan could have had four years ago.
And so here we are, on the first Sunday of the season. The 49ers took Lance, and he’s not the starter. The Patriots, without budging from No. 15, got Jones. And Jones has looked great, great enough to allow the Patriots to dump their veteran starter. If the 49ers had Jones, they could have done the same thing — saving $24.1 million in the process.
So, assuming that Schefter’s information is accurate (and there’s no reason to think it isn’t), the 49ers gave up two future first-round picks and a third-round pick for dibs on Jones. Basically, they paid dearly for “shotgun” and then decided to get in the back seat. While they may have found themselves leapfrogged by the Patriots if the 49ers stayed at No. 12, they likely would have gotten Jones or Lance — and they would have kept their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks in the process — if they’d stayed put.
Maybe it ultimately will pan out for the Niners. For now, it’s looking like they made a big mistake.