Kyle Shanahan has long been linked to current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.
The 49ers' coach served as the Washington Football Team's offensive coordinator from 2010-2013 while working for his father, Mike, who was the head coach over that same span. Kyle hand-picked Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, which was a particularly notable selection considering Washington had used its first-round pick on another quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
Griffin went on to be named the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Cousins backed him up for their first three seasons in the league. But Griffin missed the entire 2015 season due to injury, opening the door for Cousins to take over, and he has been a starting quarterback ever since.
After a 3-13 season in 2013, the Shanahans were fired by Washington, and ill will still exists to this day on both sides.
When Shanahan was hired as the 49ers' head coach following the 2016 season, San Francisco had a major need at quarterback. At the same time, Cousins was seeking a contract extension from Washington, which proved to be a very contentious and elongated negotiation. Naturally, the 49ers were connected to Cousins in numerous rumors, almost all of which involved San Francisco's No. 2 overall pick in 2017.
Ultimately, the 49ers didn't trade for Cousins, and instead entered the 2017 season with Brian Hoyer as their starting quarterback. Cousins then went 7-9 in what turned out to be his final season in Washington, and then signed with the Vikings in free agency.
In explaining what he regrets about how the Cousins situation played out, Jay Gruden -- who took over for the Shanahans and was Washington's head coach from 2014-2019 -- contended that Washington could have received quite a haul from San Francisco for Cousins.
"I don't know exactly what we could have gotten, but I know it would have been more than just one No. 1 pick," Gruden said on "The Kevin Sheehan Show" on Saturday. "I would imagine we could have got their No. 1 for at least two years, and maybe a couple No. 2s, in my opinion. You're talking about a $100 million quarterback, you know. You're talking about the starting quarterback for your franchise for the next five or 10 years, and obviously that's what some teams were looking for."
So if that kind of package was on the table for Washington, why wasn't it accepted? Gruden believes Washington ownership didn't want to send Cousins to Shanahan, due to their prior relationship.
"Obviously, dealing with the Shanahans was something that they did not want to do," Gruden added. "I don’t think they could stomach having Kirk Cousins be successful for Kyle Shanahan. I think that was probably, in my opinion, that's probably why they didn't want to do it with San Francisco. And I think there was still some hope that we could re-sign him."
Whether or not it's true, Cousins was not worth the price to San Francisco that Gruden theorized, particularly given Washington's lack of leverage in the situation. The 49ers soon acquired Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick, and have since identified Trey Lance as their starting quarterback of the (not-too-distant?) future. Cousins, meanwhile, has been relatively successful in Minnesota, and Washington has posted just two winning seasons since Shanahan was fired.