Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Simms wonders if 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is changing how he views QBs

Feb 24, 2021 at 6:02 AM--

Last year, Kyle Shanahan watched as Patrick Mahomes rallied his team late in the Super Bowl to dash the San Francisco 49ers' hopes of a sixth championship. With Deshaun Watson wanting out of Houston and interested teams contemplating what it might take to acquire the quarterback, should he force a trade, the coach has to look back at 2017 with at least a little regret. The 49ers could have had Watson — or Mahomes for that matter — and perhaps never would have had to wonder "what if?"

The 49ers passed on both quarterbacks because the plan was to acquire Kirk Cousins during the rebuilding process. So Shanahan and general manager John Lynch used their first-ever draft pick as a duo on defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

It's been assumed that Shanahan is somewhat stubborn when it comes to his preferred quarterback traits. Most believed that he doesn't necessarily want someone who can improvise. Instead, the coach seems to value quarterbacks who run his plays exactly as they are laid out and can tough it out in a collapsing pocket without getting flustered. It's what he liked about C.J. Beathard heading into that 2017 draft. Shanahan even compared Beathard to Cousins.

"He processes the game so well," Shanahan said in the draft war room after making Beathard a third-round pick, per Peter King. "Tough as s---. Got a chance. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins."

Shanahan's close friend Chris Simms, who admits to having no inside information into the coach's thinking on the subject, wonders if Shanahan is changing the way he looks at quarterbacks.

"I heard Kyle make some comments during the year to where I think maybe even he's maybe realized like, 'Hey, I like these quarterbacks that do what I say, but s---, I'd like one that can maybe bail me out every now and then too,'" Simms recently said during the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. "I said it during the year. I thought some of the comments I saw him make about Josh Allen and (what) Robert Saleh (said), to me, that always jumped out to me. I never really heard them say some of the things they said there where they're very impressed by him."

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Shanahan and Saleh both praised Allen before facing him during Week 13 — a game San Francisco lost 34-24.

"The skill set that he has, with his mentality, you don't see many guys that big, who can run that fast, who also have the mentality to run people over," Shanahan said of Allen, leading to the matchup.

Simms wonders if a potential change in how Shanahan sees quarterbacks might prompt a move by the 49ers to correct their mistake from four years ago.

"Again, I think you look around the NFL, the way the game is being played right now," Simms continued, "yeah, those quarterbacks can make up for so much, and they can make a lot of explosive plays. And the 49ers, of course, are a team that I think, yes, you should make this move (for Watson).

"They have no great need on their roster. Nothing where you just go, 'Oh my gosh, they're so depleted in this area.' They're pretty much ready. It's a little bit of depth here, a corner here, OK, a safety. The offense is ready, and to me, that would make sense."

Shanahan has proven that he can work with any type of quarterback. Robert Griffin III was an example of that. Still, the preference was always for a Cousins-type of passer under center.

The topic has come up before. Shanahan was asked in December if he's changed the way he evaluates quarterbacks. His response led some to wonder if the coach might stray from what has been assumed to be his preference.

"I don't know if it's because I'm a head coach — maybe, I don't know — but how I evaluate everything is always changing," Shanahan told reporters. "I mean, things change, people change, you start to see you can win football games with any type of quarterback, as long as they are good enough. And you can be good enough in hundreds of different ways."

Added Shanahan: "I don't think you have one certain type you're looking for. You're just trying to find a guy who is better than about 98 percent of the people on this planet, or in this country, and when you find that, you get him, and you adjust to him."

You can listen to the entire Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast below.

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