John Lynch, just a couple months into his job as the 49ers’ general manager, wanted to give the impression the organization was hot on the trail of quarterbacks before the 2017 NFL Draft.
Regrettably, they were not.
Something Lynch saw during his trip to Texas Tech caused him to have second thoughts. But, ultimately, the 49ers remained with their original plan.
“That’ll probably haunt me for a while,” Lynch said on Sunday, the morning after he was announced into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his 15-season NFL career as a hard-hitting safety.
The 49ers held the No. 2 overall pick in 2017.
Lynch traveled the country to attend pro days of Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky among others. The 49ers ended up trading back one spot for the Chicago Bears to select Trubisky.
The 49ers picked Stanford defensive tackle Solomon Thomas with the No. 3 overall selection. Thomas never became more than a rotational player on the 49ers’ defensive line with six sacks in 48 games over four seasons. He is scheduled to hit free agency in March after sustaining a torn ACL in Week 2.
Mahomes already has won an NFL MVP, as well as a Super Bowl MVP. His Super Bowl victory came at the expense of the 49ers last year, as he rallied his team from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to a 31-20 victory.
Mahomes will be shooting for two in a row on Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla.
The 49ers signed veteran Brian Hoyer in 2017 to be a placeholder at quarterback. The plan under Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan was to spend the first season building the rest of the roster. The team envisioned adding a long-term quarterback -- most likely, Kirk Cousins -- in free agency the following year.
But seeing and meeting Mahomes gave Lynch something to think about, he said.
“I remember going to his pro day and, you know, we were in a different place as an organization and we had a different plan at quarterback,” Lynch said. “I remember going to his pro day, doing my job, but really it’s kind of a smokescreen because we were going elsewhere.
“And then calling our head coach, Kyle, and saying, 'We might want to rethink this,' because he put on a show.”
The 49ers passed on quarterbacks until selecting C.J. Beathard at the end of the third round.
Kansas City, meanwhile, traded their pick at No. 27 overall, a third-round selection and their 2018 first-round pick to the Buffalo Bills to move up to No. 10 to draft Mahomes.
The 49ers ended up acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade with the New England Patriots for a second-round draft pick midway through that season. Garoppolo remains as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
Mahomes’ performance at his pre-draft workout, as well as the interaction Lynch had with him on that trip, provided the clues of his future NFL success, Lynch said.
“You talk about the talent,” Lynch said. “It was a windy day in Lubbock, and I remember standing next to various NFL GMs and what-not, and everybody’s jaw was dropping because of what he was doing, throwing the ball into the wind, and finished with, like, an 80-yard throw. I mean, it was remarkable.”
Lynch spent time with Mahomes the night before his impressive workout and recognized his many other attributes, too.
“He’s an incredible kid,” Lynch said. “We went to dinner with him and got to share and started to see he had those other elements that we were talking about. And (he) wanted to be great. He’s a tremendous player. and he’s on a trajectory that he’ll go down as one of the greats, if he keeps it up.
“He’s got a great opportunity, obviously, to add to that legacy later today.”