Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan felt there was a ‘strong possibility’ 49ers would get Kirk Cousins

Sep 6, 2018 at 7:17 AM--

You know the story by now. Team needs quarterback. Team trades for quarterback. Quarterback wins five games to end the season.

The San Francisco 49ers started last season with Brian Hoyer as their starting quarterback. He failed to win a game. Head coach Kyle Shanahan then decided to go with rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard. He won one game in five starts. In the middle of that stretch, something miraculous occurred. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots called and practically gifted a franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers.

Still, Shanahan was not convinced. His long-term plan in San Francisco was always to one day reunite with former Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. It was up to Garoppolo to change his mind. A little over three months later, the quarterback was signing a then-NFL-record five-year deal worth up to $137.5 million to remain in San Francisco.

In March, general manager John Lynch shared what it was like for Shanahan to move on from the thought of reuniting with Cousins, whom he helped Washington draft in 2012 as the offensive coordinator there.

"We made the trade, but then there were some days that Kyle Shanahan was like in mourning because I think everybody knows his master plan was to have Kirk Cousins come in eventually," Lynch said during an interview on ESPN Radio. "I was proud of Kyle because I think he knew this was the right thing for our franchise and he didn't hesitate."

"In mourning" may have been a bit extreme in describing what Shanahan was feeling at the time. The head coach wishes Lynch had chosen his words better.

"I told him how bad of a choice of words that was," Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday. "But, no I understood what he was trying to say. I have a lot of respect for Kirk, and I think he's in a very good situation and went to a very good place, and I'm very happy for him for that with what he's been through.

"I'm extremely happy with who we have here and where we're at, and the decision that we made on who to go with before that."

Cousins' name came up last year as Shanahan and Lynch started to map out the future of the franchise. Of course, so did several other options. Still, at the time, Cousins seemed like a realistic possibility for the 49ers.

"We always knew that was a strong possibility because I didn't think [Washington was] going to franchise him three years in a row like no one else did, and I thought we'd have a very good chance," Shanahan said. "So, I think that's what we knew was a very strong possibility of happening and I think we fell into another alternative option that was pretty darn good."

On Sunday, Garoppolo and Cousins will face each other for the first time. At least, they will face each other's respective defenses as neither will be on the field at the same time. However, the media will bill the matchup as "Garoppolo versus Cousins." It will be the face of the 49ers versus the quarterback who could have been in his place.

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