General Manager John Lynch & Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference
General Manager John Lynch & Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
Press Conference – April 29, 2021
San Francisco 49ers
I was hoping you guys could walk us through the timeline on this decision? The storyline out there is that QB Mac Jones was the guy that you liked about a month ago when you made that trade, but that QB Trey Lance has made sort of a furious comeback in the last couple of weeks. Is that accurate?
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan: “No, it’s not. We can go back to January for the timeline, which we don’t have enough time to go all the way through. This is something that started since our season ended and our evaluation of people and starting with where we thought people were going to be available, going to people who we thought could be on the trade market, everything. We’ve been very high on Trey since the beginning, since day one. Yes, the person everyone else was speculating about, we liked him, too. Just honestly, to go through this whole process where no one has known, my friends, coaches, anybody, how [general manager] John [Lynch] and I feel and how we felt this whole time. We do that because you don’t want to sway people in this building. You want everyone to give you, just work their butts off and give you their honest info and that’s why we don’t share at all how we felt about our conversations when we were on vacation talking in the first two weeks of January about these quarterbacks and comparing them to NFL guys. When we made the trade, we knew exactly where we were going and what we were doing. Now, we wanted an opportunity to go and look at everybody, but I think just looking at this whole process, I think I was in Mexico the day we made the trade and within hours, there’s at least two people who are out there speculating that their opinions are they think we’re taking Mac Jones and ever since then, I’ve kind of just watched every single person assume that that was accurate and that those weren’t opinions, those were facts. We didn’t feel that way from the beginning. I wouldn’t have said there’s no chance we wouldn’t have. We were going to go through this process and I would never have said it couldn’t have ended up being him, but I know how we felt about Trey the whole time. To watch that happen and to kind of watch everyone just assume, because a couple people say something, that’s exactly how you feel, we weren’t going to work to correct that. At all. I thought that could be an advantage for us, especially when you look into stuff that just came out today. Stuff that, I mean, you never know with this league. If the whole NFL is assuming you’re doing one thing and you’re not doing that, I’m not going to work hard, and John, we’re not going to work hard to correct that. So, let that be, and whatever way that went, it was going to go and it was crazy to watch where it all went, but no one has known anything but us. So, it’s been fun to watch. I haven’t been in many situations in my career like that and when you get an opportunity to go through something like that, it is really cool to find out about people in your building, how they handle it. It’s really cool to kind of watch people in the media, too, a little bit and just see who gives opinions, who gives some sources that you watch it and you’re like, ‘All right, I know that’s not true. So where’s that going?’ And you just get to see people for two months and how things are. I haven’t been in many situations like that and it was kind of neat to see. You learn a lot about your organization. You learn a lot about other people, but you try to lower your head and you try to do what’s right and not be affected by any of that. It’s just been interesting to watch and sure glad that it’s over. I’m glad that we got our guy. I’m glad we feel so good about it and I’m just pumped to get him here.”
General Manager John Lynch: ” I think the only thing I’ll add to that, because that’s a really good timeline, and I think a pretty comprehensive outlook and kind of where we’ve been, but I think the blessing of it all was that we got to tell Trey Lance and Trey Lance didn’t know before that. We got to make a young man’s dreams and a family’s dreams. I think we got to know a person that impressed us as much on the field as he did off the field and he was outstanding in both ways. That goes for a lot of these guys, but with Trey, that was a special moment to be able to talk to him because I think it was true surprise. He had a hunch, I believe, and I’m interested to hear from him, but that was the first time he heard it when we were able to call him. So, that was a pretty special moment.”
So, some of the crazy stuff that went on today also was that there was talks of you guys possibly trading for a veteran quarterback that belongs to another team. So, were there any talks yesterday or consideration about pursuing a trade for such a player?
JL: “I’ll answer that and you’re talking about the MVP of our league last year, and I don’t know about you guys, but to me, when the MVP of the league might be available, and I didn’t know that, I’m just reading the tea leaves just like everybody else and saying, ‘Hold on, is something going on here?’ Yeah, we inquired and it was a quick in to the conversation, it wasn’t happening. As we’ve said, we’ve been convicted and excited for a long, long time. So, we went right back to where we’ve been, and that’s really excited about adding Trey Lance to the 49ers and we’re thrilled about that.”
This is for Kyle. John, you said that you were going to defer to Kyle for this decision. Take us through Trey Lance. What is it about him that was attractive to you?
KS: “I mean, I could talk about that for a while, because it goes into so many different areas, but it always starts with me with the film. I try to watch a guy play the quarterback position, how he executes his own offense. Just kind of the natural feeling he has for the quarterback position, which, that part entails getting the ball to the right spots. You try to figure out what plays they’re doing and does the ball go to where it should go to? When nothing is there, how quick are they to recognize and make it off schedule or to get rid of it, just not take a sack and don’t make it worse? You start to watch some of that stuff with him and I just, I loved his natural ability to play the position, which was very impressive. Then when you add on a type of running element, which I’ve always been intrigued with but when you’ve got a guy who’s got the skillsets, as far as speed and size to where you’re not going to make them a runner, but if you can get in certain formations where the defense knows you will run them, if they don’t honor them, now everything’s different. If you can ever get a guy like that and make 11 on 11 football, then I think you’ve 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’s played a year of football, it is at a smaller school, so it takes work and stuff and you’re not going to see at 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 and you see what they ask someone to do and you see it very consistent and done at a high level. Then you look at the skillset, all the height, weight and speed and that stuff that to me comes last. Then you try to get to know the person and that’s what was really cool about where we got that. I didn’t have to be sneaky with trying to know someone where he could know I was trying to get to know him. I could say a lot of stuff to him. I could be very upfront with him and I got to know him. He’s a guy that I think is a very good person, comes from a very good family. I think he is very impressive in terms of his intellect, how he deals with people, how he just handles the social situation and I looked at him as a CEO of a company. If I ever knew anything about that stuff, but you put that to the side and it’s a hell of a quarterback, and this is someone that I believe in and I want to go to work with.”
Obviously, he hasn’t played a lot recently. Can you see him being a starter this season? Is it a competition with QB Jimmy Garoppolo and what’s Garoppolo’s status as you go into say training camp this season?
KS: “Yeah. First of all, I’m glad you asked about Jimmy. I totally bombed that on Monday. I hated how that came off. I talked to Jimmy about it right away. I didn’t realize that when I did it. A person I have a relationship with who sometimes when he asks me what I think is a silly question, sometimes I mess with him back and that’s kind of what I was doing. That was between me and that guy, had nothing to do with Jimmy when I said, ‘I didn’t know if we’d be alive on Sunday.’ I was just trying not to get my typical answer of, ‘Guys, anybody can be traded if you get a bunch of ones, John should trade me and I shouldn’t be here on Sunday.’ That’s the answer for every person on our team, but Jimmy’s situation is if he isn’t here on Sunday, I would be disappointed because Jimmy is a quarterback who’s played one year and took us to a Super Bowl and played at a very high level. He’s had some unfortunate injuries, but I believe in Jimmy as a person and he’s shown what he can do on tape. Now, we made this move, so it’s obvious what I hope and what I believe in with this guy coming in, but it would be a very tough situation if Jimmy’s not on our team. I want Jimmy to be here and I want this kid to be brought along. I want to see how he does and if it turns into a competition, it turns into a competition. I’d be excited about that if he showed he was ready for it and stuff, but we know where Jimmy’s at. He hasn’t played football in a year. He hasn’t been to an OTA. I’d love to get him out here. It’d be very hard for me to picture a situation Jimmy’s not here on Sunday, because that would be, I think, very stressful for us because Jimmy is a very good player and I think we can win with him. So, we’ll play that by year, but I expect Jimmy to be here and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.”
One of the things that jumped out with Trey that I was just curious how much it factored at your evaluation. He’s the one guy out of this group that was under center, did play action a lot, turned his back to the defense. How much does that maybe factor into what you’re looking at, just in terms of being able to project what they could become?
KS: “I think that just for everybody who tries to guess what we’re guessing, that stuff just makes our job easier, but it’s not like, ‘Oh, this guy plays in your scheme or you can see something that, all right, that’s why I’m taking the person.’ That helps people. It helps you visualize something better and it helps you can anticipate how they’ll be at the next level. So, it makes your job easier, but that’s about it. I liked that he had a bunch of stuff under center. It was good to see him do some play actions and stuff, but by no means is that what made it. That’s why you’ve got to look into so many different things and that’s what was harder about not having 2020. It was harder not being able to personally work out a guy, things like that. That’s also why, I think, for us to get where we got with all these guys and to be as aggressive as we were, I think it had to be at this spot, because we couldn’t have done as thorough of a job as we did. Everything is an educated guess and I feel very confident with our process, with my own life experiences and what I’ve been through, with the help of John, our staff, everyone in here. I feel very pumped who we got, and I feel very confident who we got. We’ll see how he does now. The more you can see on tape in college, the easier that makes it for us, but this guy made us feel very confident.”
I have two questions if I may. The first one you know—people talk about Trey Lance’s accuracy as an area to improve. Do you view that trait or that ability as something that you can coach up in terms of fundamentals, and also how involved was Mike Shanahan in the evaluation process?
KS: “I think you can help people with accuracy. I think accuracy is going to come down to the person. I always try to help you with accuracy by getting their feet in the right spots and doing things like that. I’m never going to sit there and demonstrate or try to pretend to tell him exactly how he needs to throw it. I try to get his feet in the right spot, his eyes in the right spot, because I think if you’re in a balanced position and you’re in the club as an NFL thrower, you will be. If things get off and your feet aren’t under you, your accuracy is going to follow. So, you’ll always hear it from me. But if someone struggles with that, you’ve got to count on the person to put the work in, in the offseason. Where do they go to with some of these guys—they work on it January late April, and then they get back with us, and it’s about getting into your feet and into the rhythm of an offense. The second question about my dad, it’s hilarious. Not hilarious, but the speculation of my dad is crazy. I have a dad who I love more than anything, who loves football, too. Every building I’ve been in going back to Tampa Bay—Jim Gruden used to come in with us all the time. Dads love to be around football and my dad does probably more than most. He really enjoys watching it. So, every year, going on the fifth year in a row, my dad’s come out in April for three weeks, mainly to let my mom get a break from him, spend some time with the grandkids and to come watch what we’re all watching because we just sit in a room, 30 of us, and watch college players all day. It’s something that I feel very fortunate that I have with my dad. I think a lot of people want to have with their dad. Some people go golfing together. It’s really cool that my dad can come and watch football with us, but to think that he’s part of this evaluation and stuff, it’s the same as I kind of feel about everything else. I’m not mad at anyone for it, but when people make speculations that we don’t come out and say exactly whether it’s right or wrong, then I get how it takes on legs and goes all these directions. But hopefully people believe what I’m putting out.”
JL: “Let me help Kyle a little out a little. Year one, in April, Mike started being out here. I think there was one day where I said, ‘Hey Kyle, can I, can I ask you something? Because I understand we’re new here, but your dad’s resume speaks for itself. He was my coach as well for four years. I’d like to have him in the draft room.’ Kyle wasn’t too keen on that. But, I said, ‘Believe me, man, this is a guy who’s won two Super Bowls. He’s learned more football than, I think, most people that have ever been around.’ So, he’s up there. He rarely says anything. Usually I have to ask the question, or now we’re all comfortable to where other people will ask it. I think it’s invaluable. He doesn’t speak much. But he’s a very valuable resource. I think, like Kyle said, it’s a special deal that he gets to experience it. He happens to be very knowledgeable, and we try to use that as an asset for our organization.”
I think you’ve basically answered this, but when you moved up to No. 3, you all said that you had three players you had identified as being worthy of that pick. Just to be clear, that was quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance. Is that right?
JL: “I think everybody’s been operating under the assumption too. I think for a while the understanding in the league it was probably going to be Lawrence to Jacksonville, Zach Wilson to the Jets. Now, obviously we do our due diligence. I think what we’ve been talking about is the other three that presented themselves. We saw them as very talented prospects. I mean, this is a very good quarterback class. Who knows what it will become? But those are the three I think we’ve been referencing more than anything. We never make assumptions. We do our due diligence on each of them. We did on Trevor Lawrence. We did on Zach Wilson. But, we felt pretty secure with relationships with intel, and it was pretty obvious that’s where they were going. It was the other three that we had in contention when we made that move.
KS: “There’s been so much speculation on all of this. That’s why I’m hoping we’re clearing some stuff up for people. We assumed the guys were going one and two. We were hoping there were going to be three that we were going to like. Just clearing all that up, at the time just going on tape, not talking to anyone, personally, there were two that I thought, ‘Oh, for sure,’ just off the tape. But, we can go through a lot of this stuff and see more. It’s not ending. These are conversations that we had in January. I don’t know exactly when the trade happened. But, just off of the tape and not doing anything, there were two guys I thought we could get that weren’t going one and two that we would have taken anywhere from three, all the way to 12. Then we moved up to three and going through the process, then I personally thought there were three guys that we could take. We definitely have an order and which ones we’d want first and stuff like that. That’s what we spent our time doing. It was pretty cool to get there and realize, ‘Man, all these guys, we like.’ It doesn’t mean anyone’s a slam dunk. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but we did know that we wanted to get a quarterback, and the only way we could guarantee it, we thought back in January, trying to think of where these guys were going to go after two, we could come up with a spot all the way from three, all the way to 11. I’m like, ‘Man, we not, we might not get anyone.’ At the time, the thoughts that we had, we didn’t think that was an option. I like what we did when you get there and then you ended up feeling stronger about the two guys that you already felt good about, and that third guy ends up being a candidate too. It felt good through the whole process and it got stronger as we looked more into it.”
This is for both of you. CEO Jed York was kind of tweeting things that you didn’t know who the pick was. You said it was a unique situation. Did he really not know who the pick was? Is this the first time you’ve been on a team or around a team where the owner actually didn’t know who the pick was going to be?
JL: “We were in the bunker. Apparently there’s been some entertaining stuff going on. He writes the check, so tweet away. But yes, he knew. We shared it with him. Like Kyle and I said, we’ve known for a couple of weeks. We’ve had a good feeling for a while, but we wanted to let the process and we committed to each other to let the process run its course. So, officially this Monday, Kyle and I kind of tied it, put a bow on it, and said, ‘This is where we’re going.’ We did that, and I believe it was Wednesday when we told Jed, I think. He’ll tweet it out here. But yeah, we let him know on Wednesday and that was the extent of it. [49ers Co-chairman John York] Doc York came into town last night. We got to tell him today and the rest, everybody else kind of learned when you learned, when Trey learned. That, to us, is pretty cool. Let me make no mistake, some people equate that with a lack of confidence and ability. That had nothing to do with it. We felt like we were in a unique situation to, number one, look out for the best interests, because you never know what’s going to happen. Who knows, the MVP of the league might become available. We felt like that was our duty. We were able to keep it that way. That’s pretty cool because, again, I told you about what a special deal that was for the player. I think he will forever remember that. I like surprises. So, I thought it was great that we were to keep it in-house.”
I know you like Trey Lance’s film. There’s not a lot of it. So how much did he grow on you the past few months as you got to know him and his makeup?
KS: “I mean, the film, there’s still a lot of it. It’s the same amount of film as Mac. He had the same amount as [Cincinnati Bengals QB] Joe Burrow from the year before. I mean, he’s still the same as a lot of guys. So, the film was very good. Unfortunately, didn’t get a 2020 year, so that’s what was tough. At first, you think, ‘Man, this is tough. Why can’t I see the second year?’ But we had a lot of time to watch 2019 and there are a lot of clips. When you collect all the pluses and minuses, that’s usually how I watch film, and by the time you’ve gone through it for four months and you have 400 clips of just pluses and minuses, and you do that for everyone. I had a lot more pluses for Trey. I just did. But, I start to think too, because you hear that. I mean, ‘He didn’t play this year, there’s not much film.’ Then when I go back to my notes and I just sort through them on the computer and I just watch all these good plays, I mean, there’s 160 of them. That was a lot of good tape for me. You always want more. You’d always rather have had a 2020 year. But, like I said earlier, maybe that’s a blessing. Maybe if you got a 2020 year, he wouldn’t have been available at three. So, we’ll find out.”
JL: “I think you talk about the person. We got to Zoom with them, I believe on two occasions. Then we went to the Pro Day and the Pro Day, we were watching them throw. There is some interaction after it’s over, but we were good. By that point we did feel like it’s pretty cool that you can. Obviously, face-to-face is better, but in this world, you better adjust. You better be able to improvise, and we did just like every other team. We got a good feel for who Trey is. I think one of the cool things for us at the, at the Pro Day walking out, we made a point to say hello to his parents. That was really cool because when you have a special young man like this, the good Lord had a good hand in that, but there’s two parents that were very responsible for how this guy carries himself. It is very impressive. And we got a chance to meet his dad, Carlton. It turns out Kyle was a ball boy here in ‘92. He was in Niners camp in ‘92. So, we got to share some stories about that. I believe his mom’s name is Angela, and his younger brother was there. So, it was really fun to get to say hello. Literally two, three minutes, but fun to get to meet the people. We were blown away by the person, the aptitude and the way he carries himself.”
Kyle, you said that Trey was like the CEO of a company. John just talked about his aptitude and the way he carries himself. Can you talk a little bit more on that and elaborate? Is that the kind of intangible you just can’t teach?
KS: “Yes. I think that, if I didn’t like the film, that would have been a negative for me. I would’ve been like, ‘You’ve got to hire this guy to be a CEO somewhere. This isn’t a quarterback of a team.’ When you watch the film, you see such a true quarterback in every aspect of how he plays. Then you meet and you’re like, ‘Man, this guy doesn’t have to be a quarterback. He can go be a CEO of some company.’ That’s a huge compliment. It’s a very impressive thing to watch the skillset he has, just how intelligent he is, how he handles himself. Then to know how he relates to all his teammates, just going up there and watching how his teammates talk about him, how they gravitate around him, watching some of them interviewed on TV. You can tell he’s going to impress a football team. He’d also impress a company. He’s going to be impressive in whatever he’s in.”