The trade for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo last year could turn out to be a turning point of the 49ers franchise, the moment when the dark days of the post-Jim Harbaugh era came to an end.
Once Garoppolo took command of the offense late last season, he was brilliant. He led the Niners to five straight wins to close the season and now appears to be the franchise quarterback of the present and future.
But as general manager John Lynch said this week, Garoppolo wasn’t the first choice of head coach Kyle Shanahan. On ESPN’s” Golic and Wingo” radio show Wednesday, Lynch said Shanahan’s hope when coming to the Niners was to lure Kirk Cousins of Washington to the Bay Area.
“For Kyle, I think the thing I would tell people is we made the trade and then there were some days that Kyle Shanahan was like in mourning, because I think everybody knows his master plan was to have Kirk Cousins come in eventually,” Lynch said. “I was proud of Kyle. Because I think he knew that this was the right thing for our franchise, and he didn’t hesitate. But even then, Jimmy had to really prove himself. I think it was really smart. (Kyle) didn’t play him right away. He waited until he had some semblance of an understanding of our scheme when he did put him in. And he put him in a position to succeed. And then I would tell you that Jimmy really impressed Kyle to the point that he said, ‘This is our guy.’ ”
Shanahan had worked with Cousins in Washington. The two had a good relationship and Shanahan admired the way Cousins – who now has left Washington for Minnesota – played the game. But Shanahan said he quickly came to be a big fan of Garoppolo.
“Everyone knows how I feel about Kirk,” Shanahan told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback. “And for anybody who knows how I feel about Kirk, I think this shows how I feel about Jimmy, the fact that we ended up doing this. I’m not a guy who’s going to get excited and just go with the momentum, at all. I usually do the opposite, question it to make sure I’m absolutely confident, and not go with the momentum or the excitement.
“Talking about Kirk, understanding where we could be in the next year, for me to feel this way about Jimmy? It says a lot about Jimmy.”
Shanahan said Garoppolo showed over the five-game winning streak that he’s a special quarterback and one he believes can be the centerpiece to the 49ers offense for a long time.
“I knew he was making some plays that just came very natural to him,” Shanahan told Breer. “He showed that he had a natural feel that you can’t really coach. He was born with it.”