Kyle Shanahan spent the first part of his offseason pouring over quarterback tape, from Matthew Stafford to Deshaun Watson to Mac Jones and finally Trey Lance.
The 49ers head coach wanted to a deep dive into all the possible options and find the best fit for his offense. Shanahan told NBC Sports' Peter King that he was excited about the prospect of drafting Jones when the 49ers were sitting at No. 12. But Lance was the last quarterback he studied, and he immediately fell in love with the North Dakota State star and sent general manager John Lynch some of Lance's film with a simple message.
After he finished his pass-through of tape study on Lance, he emailed Lynch between 20 and 40 plays of Lance so he could see what Shanahan was seeing, and he told the GM words to this effect: I’m obsessed with the type of stuff we can do with this guy.
After the 49ers made their blockbuster trade up to the No. 3 spot in the 2021 NFL Draft, most expected Jones to be the 49ers' QB of choice. While Shanahan had to weigh Lance's athletic ability and mobility against Jones' precision accuracy, the 49ers' power brokers never wavered in their desire for Lance to be their franchise QB, which they cemented Thursday night when they finally made the pick.
"We can go back to January for the timeline which we don't have enough time to go through," Shanahan told reporters Thursday about Lance always being the top choice. "But this is something that started since our season ended and our evaluation of people, starting with where we thought people were going to be available, whether we thought people were going to be on the trade markets, everything. We've been very high on Trey from the beginning. From Day 1.
"When we made the trade, we knew exactly where we were going and what we were doing," Shanahan said. "Now, we wanted an opportunity to go look at everybody."
While Lance will likely need a year to sit and develop, Shanahan believes he has everything needed to elevate the 49ers' offense to the next level and deliver multiple Lombardi Trophies.
"I love his natural ability to play the position," Shanahan said Thursday of Lance. "Then when you add in a type of running element, which I've always been intrigued with, but when you've got a guy with the skillsets as far as speed and size, to where you're not going to make him a runner but if you can get in certain formations where the defense knows you will run him if they don't honor him, now everything is different. If you can ever get a guy like that and make 11-on-11 football then I think you got a guy who can change some things for you.
"But it always comes down to yeah, you can dabble in that, but you better be confident they can do everything else. He has played a year of football, it was at a smaller school, so that does take work. You're not going to see it all, so that's why it is a hard process and that's why there is no guarantees for any of us. So it's about believing."
There still is a ton of work ahead for Lance and the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo will play a big role in the rookie's development this season, as the 49ers enter into a similar situation as the 2017 Kansas City Chiefs, who had a young rookie quarterback named Patrick Mahomes sit behind Alex Smith for a season before taking over.
That plan worked to perfection for the Chiefs. Shanahan and the 49ers hope to have the same success with Garoppolo and Lance.