Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

What was real? What wasn’t? Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch clear up weeks of 49ers rumors and speculation

Apr 29, 2021 at 7:37 PM--

Now that it's all over and the 49ers have decided on quarterback Trey Lance of North Dakota State as their selection with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft, how much of what was circulating about the pick throughout the past month over the NFL was actually true?

Not a whole lot, according to 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Ever since the 49ers made the decision to trade up from pick 12 to pick three in late March, the NFL newswire has been filled with speculation and reports about what the 49ers were planning to do. Many felt like the 49ers had their eye on quarterback Mac Jones of Alabama, who wound up getting selected at pick 15 by the New England Patriots. Some felt quarterback Justin Fields of Ohio State might wind up being the pick (the Bears wound up trading up to select Fields at pick 11). But to hear Shanahan and Lynch tell it, they've had Trey Lance in mind since the beginning, and everything else was just speculation that they sat back and willingly let unfold.

"When we made the trade, we knew exactly where we were going, what we were doing," Shanahan told reporters after selecting Lance Thursday night. "Now, we wanted the opportunity to go and look at everybody. But I think just looking at this whole process, I think I was in Mexico the day we made the trade, and within hours, there are at least two people out there speculating that their opinions are they think we're taking Mac Jones, and ever since then I've kind of just watched every single person assume that was accurate, and that those weren't opinions, those were facts. And we didn't feel that way. From the beginning.

"I wouldn't say there was no chance we wouldn't have (picked Jones). We wanted to go through this process, and I would never have said it couldn't have ended up being him. But I know how we felt about Trey the whole time. To watch that happen and to kind of watch everyone just assume because a couple people say something that's exactly how you feel, we weren't going to work to correct that. At all. We thought that could be an advantage to us, especially when you look at stuff (about Aaron Rodgers) that just came out today. You never know with this league. If the whole NFL's assuming you're doing one thing and we're not doing that, we're not going to work hard to correct that. So let that be. Whatever way that went it was going to go."

Why did Shanahan and Lynch take that approach? Part of it was to keep everyone in the building honest, but they also found it enjoyable to watch those in the media take wild guesses about what the 49ers would do.

"It was crazy to watch where that all went, but no one has known anything but us," Lynch said. "It's been fun to watch. I haven't been in many situations in my career like that. When you get an opportunity to go through something like that, it is really cool to find out about people in your building, how they handle it. It's really cool to kind of watch people in the media too a little bit and just see who gives opinions, who gives some sources that you watch it and you're like, 'Alright, I know that's not true.' You get to see people for two months and how things are. I haven't been in many situations like that. It was kind of neat to see.

"You learn a lot about your organization, you learn a lot about other people, but you try to lower your head and try to do what's right and not be affected by any of that. It's just been interesting to watch. I'm glad that it's over. I'm glad that we got our guy. I'm glad that we feel so good about it and I'm just pumped to get him here."

Lynch told reporters Thursday that the team had its eye on Lance, Fields, and Jones as possibilities with the number three pick and were operating under the assumption that Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Zach Wilson of BYU would go off the board at picks one and two. Shanahan said the team first started thinking about quarterbacks in January and at that time had a focus on Lance. But all along, only they knew what they were thinking, despite what came out in the press.

"This is something that started since our season ended and our evaluation of people, starting with where we thought people were going to be available, going to people we thought would be on the trade markets, everything," Shanahan told reporters after selecting Lance Thursday night. "We've been very high on Trey since the beginning, since Day 1. And yes, the person everyone else is speculating about, we liked him too. But honestly to go through this whole process where no one has known -- my friends, coaches, anybody -- how John and I feel and how we felt this whole time, and we do that because you don't want to sway people in this building. You want everyone to work their butts off and give you their honest info. That's why we don't share at all how we've felt, about our conversations when we were on vacation when we were talking in the first two weeks in January about these quarterbacks and comparing them to NFL guys."

Another storyline that circulated over the past few weeks was the possibility that Mike Shanahan might have some sway over what would happen at pick 3. Mike Shanahan did visit team facilities to sit down and watch film of draft prospects, but not much else happened from there.

"It's hilarious," Kyle Shanahan said. "Not hilarious, but the speculation with my dad is crazy. I have a dad who I love more than anything who loves football too. Every building I've been in going back to Tampa Bay -- Jim Gruden used to come in with us all the time -- dads love to be around football. My dad does probably more than most, and he really enjoys watching it. So every year, going on the fifth year in a row, my dad's come out in April for three weeks, mainly to let my mom get a break from him, spend some time with the grandkids, and to come watch what we're all watching because we just sit in a room, 30 of us, and watch college players all day. It's something that I feel very fortunate that I have with my dad that I think a lot of people would want to have with their dad. Some people go golfing together. It's really cool that my dad can come and watch football with us.

"But to think he's part of this evaluation and stuff, it's the same as I kind of feel about everything else. I'm not mad at anyone for it, but when people make speculations that we don't come out and say exactly whether that's right or wrong, then I get how it takes on legs and goes all these directions. But hopefully people believe what I'm saying now."

Lynch admitted, much to his head coach's chagrin, that he did ask to have his father's input back in 2017 when Kyle first became head coach. Lynch said Mike Shanahan doesn't contribute much but they do tap his brain when they get the chance.

"He doesn't speak much, but he's a very, very valuable resource... He happens to be very knowledgeable and we try to use that as an asset for our organization," Lynch said.

And then there's team owner Jed York, who claimed on Twitter earlier Thursday to not know who the 49ers were taking at pick three. It turns out that wasn't exactly true, but York actually didn't find out the truth about what was happening before Wednesday.

"Apparently there's been some entertaining stuff going on," Lynch said. "Hey, he writes the checks, so tweet away. Yes, Jed knew. Like Kyle and I said, we've known for a couple weeks and we've had a good feeling for a while. But we wanted to let the process -- and we committed to each other to let the process run its course. So officially this Monday, Kyle and I kind of put a bow on it, said 'This is where we're going.' We did that, and I believe it was Wednesday when we told Jed."

In the end, the 49ers got the guy they wanted, and they were able to do it without anyone else knowing what was going on. It brought with it the reward of being the first ones to break the news to Lance, who also didn't find out about the pick when everyone else outside the building did.

"The blessing of it all was that we got to tell Trey Lance, and Trey Lance didn't know before that," Lynch said. "We got to make a young man's dreams and a family's dreams. I think we got to know a person that impressed us as much on the field as he did off the field. He was outstanding in both ways. That goes for a lot of these guys, but with Trey, that was a special moment to be able to talk to him because I think it was a true surprise. He had a hunch I believe, and I'm interested to hear from him, but that was the first time he heard it when we were able to call him, so that was a pretty special moment."

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