Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

John Lynch thinks even Jed York believed the 49ers were drafting Mac Jones

May 3, 2021 at 9:49 AM--

When general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan approached Jed York about the possibility of trading up to the No. 3 overall pick, the San Francisco 49ers CEO made it clear that he trusted his team's top decision-makers and encouraged them to do whatever they felt was best for the organization.

They had one more ask, though.

Lynch and Shanahan also wanted to hold onto Garoppolo, who will earn a base salary of $24.1 million this year. That is a lot of money to commit to a player they were looking to replace. However, it does set the team up for immediate success.

"And he backed it 100 percent because he wants to win," Lynch told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. "We felt that gave us the best chance to win."

Lynch and Shanahan already knew they liked Trey Lance of North Dakota State. However, a deep dive into all their options was necessary, so they, along with their coaching staff and scouts, got to work on the evaluation process.

The 49ers' brain trust wanted to keep their opinions of the quarterback prospects a secret. They didn't want to influence the evaluation from their staff, and both tried their best to hide who they favored. Not even York knew until the week leading to the draft.

By that point, media speculation had been running rampant for a month. It was impossible to escape. Everyone had an opinion, and while most felt both Lance and Justin Fields of Ohio State were the better prospects, they also felt that Mac Jones of Alabama would be the choice. It was an option that didn't make sense for a lot of reasons, leading to a month of ranting from fans on social media.

Breer asked Lynch if even York thought the pick might be Jones.

"I think he did. I think he did," Lynch responded while laughing. "It's not like we were trying to keep secrets [from him]. We're really honest. We just wanted to let the process play out. And you never know what can happen, you know?"

The secrecy became a bit of a game to Lynch and Shanahan. There was no significant reason for it. After all, it was pretty evident who the team teams ahead of them were drafting. Lynch had previously commented that they "wanted to see how far it could go."

It went far. Very far.

It got to the point where it frustrated the entire fanbase, who were being fed the narrative that the 49ers surrendered so much draft capital to move up to No. 3 and potentially select a prospect that would probably be available later.

"It became kind of fun," Lynch told Breer. "Because just sitting back and watching people make stuff up—I can't believe this guy's saying this! It's impossible to keep anything a secret these days. It's not like we were trying to mess with people or anything, but it was like, 'We've gone this far, let's keep this thing quiet.'"

The 49ers liked Jones. They liked him a lot. They saw him as an option at No. 12. But it wasn't the Alabama quarterback that prompted the trade. Jones was more a safety net in case plan-altering flaws were found in Lance or Fields. As the speculation leaned toward Jones, the 49ers were falling further in love with Lance during the evaluation process, which started in January while Shanahan was on vacation in Cabo San Lucas.

"People say that—and we liked Mac a lot," Lynch said. "Mac's film was excellent. It was damn near flawless. He played so well. But I'm also telling you in January, Kyle sends me this tape, and we really wanted to give it its process."

Lynch is thankful for the trust ownership has put in Shanahan and himself, and the freedom they have to do what they feel is best for the organization. They got to draft for the future and keep the quarterback that allows them to win now.

"When [Garoppolo has] played, we've won," Lynch said. "We know we can win with him. And yeah, that made the whole decision in the first place hard. I think it gives us the best chance, first and foremost, to win. I feel like we have a team that's ready to. As an ownership, to have that commitment to allow us to do this, it really makes for a good situation. That just gives us a chance. Then we've got to go do it. We're excited.

"I think aside from Trey, our draft was very exciting. Everybody feels that way after the draft, but I feel like we're a lot better football team after free agency, after this draft. I'm very excited with where we're sitting. And we've got to put the work in. We've got a chance. Now we got to go do it."

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