March 26, 2021 will go down as one of the most pivotal days in the John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan era.
The 49ers pulled off a blockbuster trade to move up nine spots in the 2021 NFL Draft, sending their No. 12 selection and their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a conditional third-round pick in 2022 to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 3 overall pick.
The brain trust of the club made this move to solidify a chance to draft their franchise quarterback of the future. Sources close to the situation confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area that there are no plans to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, but the 49ers clearly have long-term goals in mind.
The most striking aspect of this move is the potential it has to define the Lynch and Shanahan regime’s place in 49ers and even NFL history.
If the 49ers draft the quarterback of their future in April and the next several seasons include multiple postseason appearances and a Lombardi trophy, the general manager and head coach will be remembered as geniuses.
If who the 49ers draft at No. 3 ends up as a repeat All-Pro or even Pro Bowl player, Lynch and Shanahan will be spoken about as ahead of their time football minds and tapped as brilliant evaluators. It even would reduce criticism of any whiffs on future moves into being deemed small mistakes.
If their plan works, the 49ers will have turned their riskiest move into their biggest triumph.
There is, of course, myriad possible outcomes resulting from what unfolded on Friday.
If whomever the 49ers draft on April 29th ends up being considered a bust, fans and football pundits alike could tap the entire Shanahan and Lynch era a failure. It could overshadow the team’s meteoric 2019 rise from coaching the Senior Bowl in 2019 to an appearance in Super Bowl LIV less than a year later.
It could eclipse the 49ers front office’s intuitive discovery of All-Pros George Kittle in the fifth round of the 2017 draft and Fred Warner in the third round of 2018.
There have been a number of NFL teams in recent history that have traded up to select the quarterback they thought would lead their franchise to multiple championships.
The New York Jets moved up three spots to take Sam Darnold at No. 3 in 2018. The trade of first-rounders cost them two second-round picks that draft and an additional second-round pick in 2019. In just three short seasons the relationship between the club and their quarterback has soured.
In 2016 the Los Angeles Rams moved up from the 15th position, trading with the Tennessee Titans to select Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall pick. The Rams gave up a first-round pick, two second-rounders, and two third-round selections while getting a fourth and sixth-round selection along with the move.
After five seasons with the Rams, Goff will start anew in 2021 with the Detroit Lions.
The trade that the 49ers just procured with the Dolphins coincidentally mirrors the one that occurred when Shanahan’s father Mike was the head coach for the Washington Football Team.
In order to move up four spots to take Robert Griffin III in 2012, Washington gave the Rams their first-round picks the following two years (2013 and 2014) along with their second-round selection in 2013.
If the 49ers truly do not have intentions of trading Garoppolo, they already will be raising their odds for a positive outcome. Allowing a rookie quarterback to sit behind a veteran and giving them time to acclimate to an NFL offensive system likely will produce a more positive result.
Throwing a young quarterback into the fire is a recipe for disaster, especially considering the 2021 NFL offseason could be held virtually once again due to COVID-19 concerns.
Shanahan and Lynch have done a commendable job changing the culture of the 49ers' locker room, which led to a Super Bowl appearance in February of 2020, but how the future unfolds following the team’s moves on March 26th will have repercussions on the club for seasons to come.