Kirk Cousins talks with then-Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after a preseason game in 2014. (AP Photo/Richard Lipski)

The Kirk Cousins-to-San Francisco speculation may have peaked before the Redskins hosted first-year Coach Kyle Shanahan and the winless 49ers at FedEx Field last October. The occasion prompted much reminiscing in the days leading up the game about Shanahan’s four-year tenure as the offensive coordinator in Washington under his father, Mike, including Cousins’s first two years in the NFL.

“Kyle believed in me when it was just potential; there was no production,” Cousins said before throwing for 330 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-24 Redskins win. “I hadn’t done anything to earn his belief, and he believed in me.”

Cousins, who was playing his second year under the franchise tag and wasn’t long for Washington, respected Shanahan and credited him with much of his success. The 49ers, who benched veteran Brian Hoyer for rookie C.J. Beathard in the second quarter of their loss in Landover, were desperate for a quarterback. A Cousins-Shanahan reunion in the Bay Area made sense. Two weeks later, San Francisco traded a second-round pick for New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

“We are thrilled for Jimmy to join the 49ers family,” General Manager John Lynch said in a team release. “Jimmy is a player we have researched extensively since Kyle and I joined the 49ers.”

What did the move say about Cousins? Had the 49ers’ reported interest in Shanahan’s former pupil waned? Not exactly. The Cousins-to-San Francisco speculation officially ended when the 49ers signed Garoppolo to a five-year, $137.5 million contract in February. During an interview with ESPN’s Trey Wingo and Mike Golic on Wednesday, Lynch confirmed what many had assumed: Shanahan always really, really, really wanted Cousins.

“For Kyle, I think the thing I would tell people is, we made the trade, but 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 then, even then, Jimmy had to really prove himself. Kyle, I think, was really smart. He 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, he put him in in a position to succeed.”

Garoppolo replaced Beathard as the 49ers’ starter in Week 13 and guided San Francisco to a 5-0 record to end the season.

“I would tell you that Jimmy really impressed Kyle to the point that he said, ‘This is our guy,’ ” Lynch said. “We’re excited in that. He really didn’t have a thorough understanding of what we were asking him to do. He kind of piece-mealed game plans that we were putting together. So our thought process is, if he can go through a complete offseason and really master the system, it can get even better. We just gotta keep adding talent around him and we’re very excited about his future.”

Things turned out okay for Cousins, too, after he signed a three-year, fully guaranteed $84 million deal with the Vikings last week. Cousins and Shanahan will have another chance to reminisce about the good times, and perhaps wonder what could have been, when Minnesota hosts San Francisco this season.

(Via Niners Nation)

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