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Kyle Shanahan admits 49ers eventually got lucky with Jimmy G

Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to start against the Broncos on 'Sunday Night Football' after Trey Lance's ankle injury.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Boy, did John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers get lucky with Jimmy G.

Lynch, the 49ers’ general manager, and Shanahan, the head coach, didn’t exactly keep it a secret that they were going to trade veteran Jimmy Garoppolo at the end of the 2021 season so they could make room for No. 3 overall draft pick Trey Lance.

But Garoppolo suffered an injury to his right throwing near the end of the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams at it was severe enough to require surgery.

There went Garoppolo’s trade value. So the 49ers came around to thinking Garoppolo had more value as a backup to Lance than to trade him away for say, a fourth-round draft pick. Lance suffered a season-ending leg injury last week against Seattle and now here he is. The guy the 49ers wanted to trade will be their starting quarterback again this Sunday night when San Francisco visits the Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.

Credit: NBC

Lance played like he was a long way off from playing like a quality quarterback in a season-opening upset loss at Chicago while Garappolo was steady and efficient in a week 2 win against the rival Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

“Yeah, definitely,’’ Shanahan said in a conference call Wednesday with the Denver media. “At first it seemed unlucky just because of how good of how good of a player Jimmy is and we for sure would have got something very valuable (in return) that would have helped our team. Then it seemed unlucky because of the surgery and things like that. And all the other quarterbacks became available after that so I felt like the luck wasn’t great.

“And that’s what led him to come here as our backup which we felt we were unbelievably fortunate the way it worked out. Never thought that we would lose our quarterback for the year in the first quarter of week 2.

“So now that all that’s happened, now I feel very lucky that the trade didn’t happen a while ago. All of it ended up working out, and things happen for a reason and hopefully he’ll make the best of it going forward.”

Shanahan had a transient upbringing, as all children of football coaches do. But his father Mike had 21 years in Denver as a Broncos’ assistant (7 years) and head coach (14 years) and so the game Sunday will be a coming-home game for Kyle.

“I moved a lot in my life. I never lived in a place longer than 4 years,’’ Kyle Shanahan said. “But I moved back to Denver three different times and but … most of my friends growing up with that I stayed friends with are from. That’s where my wife’s family’s from and that’s where my parents live so I go there to visit them a lot but I loved growing up in Denver.

“It’s a great town and my best memory was my senior year in (Cherry Creek) high school when they beat the Packers for the Super Bowl. That wasn’t just my best memory in Denver that was one of my favorite memories in life. That was an awesome, awesome day.”

Credit: AP
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan celebrates with his dad, Mike, after the NFL NFC Championship football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 37-20 to advance to Super Bowl 54 against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Matt York)

He carries on his dad’s legacy in many ways, one being his offensive system that is heavy on the zone run and play-action pass. Problem is, the Rams’ Sean McVay, the Packers’ Matt LaFleur, the Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel, the Bengals’ Zac Taylor, the  Browns' Kevin Stefanski, the Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell and by extension the Broncos’ Nathaniel Hackett also run a variation of the Mike Shanahan offense. Even if Mike Shanahan last coached in 2013.

“Everyone has their own little twist and foundation where they come from,’’ Kyle said. “I mean I wish not so many people did it. So it doesn’t make me that happy. Defenses practice against it other weeks and not just deal with it our week and three days of practice. That’s the only thing that’s changed for me these last few years because so many defenses see that week-in and week-out so they’re just a little more used to it.” 

“But you know, my dad put a real good system in a long time ago and it’s changed a lot but just growing up and watching it and not even knowing that system that’s how I saw football. I didn’t really start understanding it until I got into the NFL and now it’s me trying to understand it through other people’s eyes be it Tampa Bay with (Jon) Gruden and then working with (dad) in Washington it really evolved there.

“We both have a similar foundation but we also saw a lot of things different. Even though Washington wasn’t the most fun time it was a such a great, important time for me to be with my dad for those four years and to kind of really see where I wanted to go with the offense I wanted to run the rest of my career.’’


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