In another world, the San Francisco 49ers are entering their season season with Matthew Stafford under center. The now-Super Bowl-winning head coach believed he’d be traded to San Francisco when the Detroit Lions made him available, so much so that he told now-teammate Jalen Ramsey that he “thought San Fran,” but according to ESPN, the Niners were rapidly outbid by their division rival Los Angeles Rams and the rest, as they say, is history.
When the opportunity cam up to compete with LA once more for a former Pro Bowler, this time for Christian McCaffrey, John Lynch wasn’t going to be caught flat-footed once more.
“I’m glad he’s not there,” Lynch said. “I always say, ‘Hey guys, it’s about us.’ … If you’re so focused on your opponents, you’re not going to do very well. But I also know the fastest way to success in our league is winning your division. And so, in part, it seems like a lot of these situations end up where it’s us against them in these things, and I’m sure glad he’s here and not there.”
As it turns out, this isn’t the only consequential decision involving San Francisco’s future draft capital that was fueled on by the Rams, with another very important decision coming in as a direct result of the Stafford deal.
The San Francisco 49ers Really Wanted A New Quarterback In 2021
With Stafford off the board and concerted desire to upgrade the quarterback position after an underwhelming 6-10 season, the Niners turned their attention to the 2021 NFL draft, where they held the 12th overall pick. With the Miami Dolphins already set at quarterback with 2020 first round pick Tua Tagovailoa, San Francisco decided to push their chip to the center of the table and exchanged three first round picks, one in 2021, another in 2022, and a third in 2023, plus an additional third-round pick in 2022, to earn a chance to take the third player off the board.
Would it be Mac Jones, the Alabama prospect who threw for 4,500 in 2020? Or Trey Lance, the electrifying FCS product who hadn’t thrown for 4,500 in his entire collegiate career combined? Either way, Kyle Shanahan wasn’t afraid to make the risk, as he detailed to ESPN.
“It just wasn’t like how I think it was for all of us 10 years ago to go, even 15 years ago when that stuff was unheard of,” Shanahan said. “You didn’t even discuss it. It’s always a risk in everything you do, and sometimes it’s a risk not doing it. But anytime you have examples, like … the Rams have given them to us almost every year, but I watch other teams who have done it too and it’s nice to watch people do it and see what’s good from it, what’s bad from it.”
In the end, the Niners went with Lance and while he hasn’t spent much time on the field, due to Jimmy Garoppolo’s on-field efforts in 2021 and his Week 2 injury in 2022, at least he wasn’t benched for Bailey Zappe on Monday Night Football in a move that got some humorously suggesting that the Alabama quarterback could ultimately end up in San Francisco in 2023.
Revisiting Matt Stafford’s Comments On San Francisco
Speaking with Ramsey on his Straight Off The Press podcast, Stafford laid out how he believed his trade prospects would play out before he landed in Los Angeles, as passed along by NBC Sports Bay Area.
“Now, did I think I was going to the Los Angeles Rams? That was the last team I would have ever thought I was going to,” Stafford said. “I thought I was going to be across the bay in San Fran. I thought San Fran. I thought maybe Washington.”
“I thought I was going somewhere else because of the situation that was going on here at quarterback and the contract and all that kind of stuff. I never knew that that was even a possibility. The way it all came together was wild. It honestly was kind of a made-for-TV movie.”
How would that movie have turned out if Stafford traded in his Honolulu Blue for gold and red? Unfortunately, that’ll have to remain in the realm of fiction.