Kyle Shanahan

How serious were 49ers about signing Tom Brady? Kyle Shanahan explains

How serious were 49ers about signing Tom Brady? Kyle Shanahan explains

Would the San Francisco 49ers really consider signing Tom Brady to have the quarterback replace former backup Jimmy Garoppolo?

In short: Yes.

The 49ers never offered Brady a contract in free agency, and head coach Kyle Shanahan insisted to The Athletic's Tim Kawakami that his team "didn't come close" to signing the 42-year-old quarterback.

But Shanahan confirmed he and general manager John Lynch had discussions about Brady as rumors emerged that he may leave the New England Patriots.

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"We had to seriously discuss it to decide whether to go forward to where it could come close or not," Shanahan told Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show," as transcribed by NBC Sports Bay Area. "So it didn't come close, but that's why John and I had to put the time into it."

Our Tom E. Curran was among the first to report in early March that San Francisco was a legitimate suitor in the Brady sweepstakes. Brady is a Bay Area native and six-time Super Bowl champion, after all, and the 49ers had just lost Super Bowl LIV to the Kansas City Chiefs.

At the very least, Shanahan and Lynch were aware that Brady was ready for a change after 20 seasons in New England.

"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."

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After some deliberation, Shanahan and Lynch determined Garoppolo was their guy, showing confidence in the 28-year-old despite his underwhelming performance in Super Bowl LIV and a torn ACL that cost him 13 games in 2018.

"We felt great with where we were at, and kind of confirmed how we are with Jimmy," Shanahan said.

So, there you have it: The Niners actually did give thought to engineering a Brady homecoming but ultimately chose his ex-backup, leading Brady to land with a "dark horse" in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

How Jimmy Garoppolo won his 49ers teammates over soon after Patriots trade: 'It was sick'

How Jimmy Garoppolo won his 49ers teammates over soon after Patriots trade: 'It was sick'

MIAMI -- George Kittle was dressed as a pirate. It was the day before Halloween of his rookie season. He was going to celebrate the holiday as any 24-year-old would. Then, as any 24-year-old would, he peeked down at his phone to check on a notification.

Jimmy Garoppolo had been traded by the Patriots to Kittle's 49ers. He had a new quarterback.

"I said, 'Wow, that's really interesting.' It was cool," Kittle remembered. "Jimmy G. Two Super Bowls. Hell of a leader. It's fun to have someone like that."

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Kittle and other Niners this week remembered the deal that sent Garoppolo to San Francisco and in the process changed the course of the franchise. They couldn't have known exactly what they had then. Garoppolo had only two NFL starts to his name. But now, sitting in front of microphones in Miami in the days leading up to Super Bowl LIV, they couldn't believe their good fortune that Garoppolo landed in their laps. 

The hints that they had something in Garoppolo came early. 

"Honestly, it sounds cliche but it's real, it was at the first practice," said fullback Kyle Juszczyk. "He ran the scout team the first day. And that first period he absolutely diced our defense. You could see it in his footwork, his mechanics, the confidence that he emitted. You could see that this guy was the real deal."

For Kittle, the sign came loud and clear that his offense had a new leader. It came before Garoppolo even made his first throw from under center. 

"It was funny, his first play under center, he has a really good cadence," Kittle said, referring to the quarterback's calls at the line of scrimmage. "He has a good voice for it. Right after he said, 'Hut! Hut! Hike!' for the first time, everyone was like, 'Whoa! Nice!' It was sick."  

"Very authoritative," offensive tackle Joe Staley said of Garoppolo's line-of-scrimmage vocals. The 13-year veteran smiled and added, "He's commanding. Lets you know he's there."

It came together quickly for Garoppolo in his second professional stop. He started five games after being traded, winning all five, and completing 67.4 percent of his passes at a clip of 8.8 yards per attempt. 

He tore his ACL after three games the following season, but rediscovered his 2017 form this season. The Niners went 13-3 with Garoppolo taking the snaps. He completed 69.1 percent of his throws (fourth in the NFL), threw 27 touchdown passes (sixth), and put up an 8.4 yards per attempt figure (third). 

"I didn't really know much, actually," Staley said of Garoppolo's days in New England. "I remember the one game he had in Arizona where he started and did really, really well. But didn't know much. Didn't have much of a reaction [to the trade] either way. Knew everyone was really high on him. 

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"Then he came in here and he really blew me away. In the huddle. All the little nuances of being a quarterback. The command that he had. His quick release. You could definitely tell that he was trained in that Patriots system as far as getting rid of the ball fast, which is awesome for an offensive lineman. He's continued to grow and develop since he's been here. It's been awesome to see him get to this point."

The Niners are back in the Super Bowl after a 4-12 record last season. Back in the Super Bowl with a chance to win one for the first time since January 1995. And thanks in part to Tom Brady continuing to play at an MVP level the season Garoppolo was dealt, thanks to the Patriots holding onto Garoppolo until midseason that year, all it cost the Niners to change everything was a second-round pick.

"I think," Juszczyk said, "we got him for a bargain."

Kyle Shanahan reflects on 28-3 collapse, gifting of Jimmy Garoppolo from Patriots

Kyle Shanahan reflects on 28-3 collapse, gifting of Jimmy Garoppolo from Patriots

MIAMI — The most famous comeback in Super Bowl history — maybe sports history — happened in Super Bowl 51 three seasons ago.

Everyone knows the Patriots role in it. The credit for the tsunami of playmaking on both sides of the ball when all margin for error was spent is shared between dozens of players and coaches.

But when the blame is ladled out, it mostly falls on the shoulders of one man. Former Falcons offensive coordinator and current Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Shanahan wasn’t responsible for the ineptitude that led to blockheaded holding penalties, Matt Ryan’s lack of pocket awareness, or the defense’s inability to get off the field. But he was the one calling the shots when his team blew a 28-3 lead. And he was the one who, after Atlanta had reached the Patriots' 23 with four minutes left and a 28-20 lead, dialed up a first-down throw. That throw turned instead into a sack. Then came the hold. Then came an incompletion. Here came the Patriots.  

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I asked Shanahan if Sunday is an opportunity to drive a stake through the heart of that memory.

“Not really,” he said. “I know it comes off that way from a media standpoint, the narrative. I’d like to drive a stake through that if it works out right. But that stuff, as a coach, it was harder for me early in my career.  

“The four years in Washington (as offensive coordinator from 2010 to 2013) helped me a little bit where you start to realize that you can’t worry about what everyone says, you just got to prepare and do as good as you can and not hesitate.

“Sometimes when you worry about being blamed for stuff that’s when you will hesitate and make mistakes. I go through everything. I’m always hard on myself but I try to lay it out there, lay it on the line and not try to play it safe. We’ll see what happens this week but that’s how I treated every game before that Super Bowl, that’s how I treated that Super Bowl and that’s how I’ll treat every game going forward.”

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Even though he was victimized by Bill Belichick — a longtime friend and admirer of Shanahan’s father, Mike — the Patriots head coach went out of his way to be gracious with the younger Shanahan after SB51, calling Shanahan to check in with him after the loss.

“I know him and my dad had a good relationship through the years, I remember when the Broncos beat the Patriots (in the 2005 playoffs), Bill coming into my dad’s locker room and talking to him. I got kicked out, but I remember my dad saying how cool it was, him coming over after they had lost and talk ball with him. He knew he was just a true football guy and loved talking ball any time.

"It was cool how Bill reached out to me after the Super Bowl just to talk and it was cool to spend some time with him at the Combine which I was very appreciative of (Belichick and Shanahan reportedly met “for hours” at the Combine). Any time that guy talks, everyone in the world listens. Especially someone like me who’s aspired to be a coach and tried to do things like he’s done.”

Belichick’s warmth for Shanahan didn’t stop at comforting words. When he was out of options for what to do with prized backup Jimmy Garoppolo, Belichick sent him to Shanahan and the 49ers straightaway in October of 2017. Belichick initiated the transaction with a text to Shanahan requesting the Niners coach call him. That’s when the ask — a second-round pick — was made.

This was a part of Belichick’s statement after he dealt Garoppolo.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jimmy,” he said. “I couldn't ask for him to give us any more than he's given us. The 49ers are getting a good player, and they're getting a good person, and they're getting a great teammate and they're getting a good quarterback. Jimmy is getting a good coach. His career is moving forward. He's a talented individual, was a great person to coach. I met with him weekly and, again, have a tremendous amount of respect for him. As his career moves forward we have to look to our team, both this year and beyond, and that's a consideration we have to make.”

It’s abundantly obvious that sending Garoppolo to a good football home was a priority for Belichick. And he believed Shanahan would provide that.

“Having someone like Bill say something like that is as cool a compliment as I can have so that feels great,” Shanahan said when asked to reflect on Belichick’s comments. “Hopefully that’s true. But I’m very glad he felt that way because I feel very fortunate that we were able to get Jimmy.”