49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has history of bold draft choices
Kyle Shanahan prefers a type.
He looks for certain specific traits in quarterbacks. Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers’ current quarterback, may or may not have those traits, although he’s a good, winning quarterback.
Could Shanahan have his eye on another quarterback, someone in the upcoming draft? Someone unexpected?
Remember, Shanahan wanted Kirk Cousins in 2012 when his team’s owner, Dan Snyder, insisted the Redskins draft Robert Griffin III. Shanahan did not want Griffin, so he insisted the Redskins also draft Cousins in the fourth round. Shanahan was a bold 32-year-old at the time. And he was right. Cousins became the far superior quarterback.
Shanahan also wanted C.J. Beathard in 2017 and passed on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Wrong choice, but bold. Shanahan isn’t afraid to think for himself and make moves no one else would dream of. He has the courage of his convictions more than most coaches in the NFL.
So if there’s one quarterback in the upcoming draft who fits Shanahan’s prototype, it might be someone under the radar, just as Cousins and Beathard were.
It might be Washington quarterback Jacob Eason.
But let’s first establish exactly which quarterback traits Shanahan searches for.
When Shanahan had his introductory press conference in Santa Clara in 2017, and the 49ers had no quarterback on the roster, he spoke to a small group of reporters and explained how he evaluates quarterbacks:
“If you aren’t an extremely talented thrower — which means it’s effortless, you don’t think about it, you don’t have to go to all these quarterback gurus and work on your motion, you were born to throw — if you don’t have that, it’s very hard to succeed in this league. You’re always looking for one of those seven throwers on the planet, whatever that number is. I’m guessing there’s only around seven. I hope to get one of those seven guys.”
So Shanahan looks for arm strength. That’s the first trait.
Garoppolo, for all his strengths and gifts and talents, isn’t one of the seven most-talented throwers on the planet. He has a quick release, but he doesn’t have a particularly strong arm. Film of Garoppolo shows this.
Eason’s arm lacks nothing. It’s elite. It’s one of the four strongest arms in the world along with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. No exaggeration. Eason can flick the ball 50 yards on a line. He has a world-class arm, and he’s the only quarterback in the upcoming class with at least one world-class trait, other required traits being poise, field vision, accuracy, elusiveness in the pocket, to name a few.
When Shanahan lies awake in bed at night, and replays the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs in his mind, he must think: “I’d be a Super Bowl champion right now if I just had a quarterback who could complete a 40-yard deep pass down the middle of the field. Is that so much to ask?”
Garoppolo missed that pass during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Eason completes that pass in his sleep.
Shanahan loves the big play. Meaning he values accuracy down the field. That’s the second trait he looks for: downfield accuracy, which is different from arm strength. Downfield accuracy requires timing and touch.