When the GOAT is interested you have to consider it, even if you were just six minutes away from winning a Super Bowl.
The 49ers did just that with Tom Brady. The 42-year-old quarterback had a desire to leave the New England Patriots this offseason and come home to the Bay to play for the team he grew up cheering for.
While the 49ers never went super far down the Brady rabbit hole, coach Kyle Shanahan admitted he and general manager John Lynch had to look into the possibility. He is, after all, Tom freakin' Brady.
"We had to seriously discuss it to decide whether to go forward to where it could come close or not," Shanahan told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show." "So it didn't come close, but that's why John and I had to put the time into it. If you would have asked us that right after the Super Bowl -- I mean, Tom Brady, everyone knows what Tom Brady is, and how unbelievable he's been. But if you had asked us that right after the Super Bowl, that's kind of unheard of. It's a pipe dream. Like, you don't really think about that.
"We were just so happy with our team and happy with Jimmy [Garoppolo]. It didn't end the way we wanted. We can all do better -- myself, Jimmy."
[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
Brady ultimately signed a two-year, $50 million deal to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and brought tight end Rob Gronkowski -- who decided to come out of retirement -- along with him.
Looking into Brady was not a sign that Jimmy Garoppolo isn't the franchise quarterback. He led the Niners to the brink of a Super Bowl victory and should only improve in another full season in Shanahan's offense.
But when a six-time Super Bowl champion is interested in your team, you have to see whether or not the fit would be right. Brady's credentials are well-known, and for a team whose Super Bowl window is now, Shanahan and Lynch had to explore what the 49ers would like with TB12 running the show.
"All of a sudden, you hear arguably the greatest quarterback of all time is all of a sudden available, and there is a possibility that he could want to come to your team, and things like that," Shanahan said. "And when you hear that stuff, and it actually is realistic, for you not to look into it, to me, would be completely irresponsible. Once we realized and heard this could be realistic -- this isn't just talk -- we looked into it all, especially with the respect we have for Tom and everything, and how great of a player he is. We looked into it to try to see if it would be better for our team this year and in the future. When we weighed it all together, we didn't think it would.
"We felt great with where we were at, and kind of confirmed how we are with Jimmy."
Coming off an ACL injury that cost him almost all of the 2018 season, Garoppolo had to knock off the rust to begin the season. Once the season hit the halfway point, Garoppolo was in full command of Shanahan's offense. He led the 49ers to a shootout win in New Orleans over the Saints, and engineered a last-second victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
Garoppolo was shaky in Super Bowl LIV. He threw an atrocious interception in the first quarter that led to three points for the Kansas City Chiefs. He rebounded and was efficient in the middle of the game as the 49ers roared out to an 10-point lead. But with the game hanging in the balance, Garoppolo overthrew a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders on the could-be game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Shanahan loved the progress Garoppolo showed last season and full confidence he'll be even better in 2020.
"Jimmy had a real good year last year," Shanahan said. "I expect him to continue to get better. I don't think he's achieved his ceiling yet. Last year was his first year ever going through a full season as a quarterback. He hadn't played longer than five games, I think, in a year prior to that. He had some ups and downs, but I think he finished the second half of the year playing so much better than the first half of the year. Didn't have to do a lot in the playoffs, but I can't wait to get back, where he's not worrying about an ACL all offseason either.
"He's just grinding film, getting ready for the season, and hopefully he learned a lot from last year."
With Brady's interest known, the 49ers turned down an aging GOAT to stick with Garoppolo, believing he gives them the best chance to win a Super Bowl. Garoppolo won't take that as an offense. He knows Brady's greatness having backed him up during his time with the Patriots.
Now Garoppolo must go out and reward the 49ers' faith in him by leading the team back to the Super Bowl and finishing the job, with Brady and the Bucs now serving as a new NFC roadblock.