The fifth-year coach was asked at Monday’s news conference if he and General Manager John Lynch could “say with certainty” Garoppolo would still be on the roster Sunday, after this year’s draft concludes.
“I can’t guarantee that anybody in the world will be alive Sunday, so I can’t guarantee who will be on our roster on Sunday,” Shanahan said. “That goes for all of us.”
A somewhat combative — some might say defensive — tone coated Shanahan’s remarks over approximately 30 minutes of back-and-forth with reporters. That led to speculation the 49ers are at least strongly considering Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at No. 3, as has been widely reported. San Francisco paid a high price for the No. 3 slot, having sent three first-round picks, including No. 12 this year, and a third-rounder to the Miami Dolphins last month.
Assuming quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) and Zach Wilson (BYU) are drafted first and second, going with Jones would also mean passing on Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, both of whom are widely viewed as having greater athletic ability and more upside.
Asked about Jones being a “wildly unpopular pick that a lot of fans have anxiety about,” Lynch smiled as Shanahan replied: “If you were excited about getting one of these guys at 12, you should be excited about getting one at three. It’s about whether you get one. So, let us go through the process — we’re going to get a good one. Yeah, I wish I could take that anxiety away from people, but that’s because people get excited.”
“We’re going to add a quarterback to our team,” he continued. “I think the way our years have gone in the past few years, especially when Jimmy’s gotten hurt, I think our fan base agrees with that and [would] be happy we’re going to solve that problem.”
Some 49ers fans, though, clearly aren’t happy with the prospect of Jones, who was generally thought to be a distant fifth among that quarterback group until reports of San Francisco’s interest quickly emerged after their trade in late March. That connection was bolstered when Shanahan and Lynch traveled to Jones’s March 30 workout at Alabama on the same day Fields strutted his stuff in Ohio.
“Everyone has a strong opinion, and most people let me know … but you can’t make decisions based off that,” Shanahan said Monday, claiming he has heard from fans while going out to restaurants or attending his children’s soccer games.
Then there’s social media, with which Shanahan said he and Lynch make a point of not “getting involved.”
“It is so irresponsible to let something like that affect your decision,” Shanahan said. “We do this for a living, and I think people should be proud of us that we won’t let that affect our decision. And then it’s up to us to live with the consequences.”
At another point in the news conference, when asked if he looks around the league to see what has been successful elsewhere and whether that factors into his decision, Shanahan mentioned the mobility of accomplished young quarterbacks such as Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. He added, however, there were “lots of different ways you can do it” and noted the success of recently retired pocket passers Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.
“You’ve got to take guys you believe are good enough to do it, whatever way that is,” the coach said. “There’s lots of ways to do it, and people are proving that more and more.”
Shanahan also asserted, “No one’s ever a slam dunk,” but he claimed that after he and his staff went through an extensive process, “I feel good about five guys at three.”
“Yeah, we had a guy probably at first back then,” he told reporters, “but we knew that wasn’t set in stone, and we knew the only way we could figure out a little bit more, especially when you can’t work out guys, you can’t meet with these people — there’s a lot of things you can’t do this year — the only way we can go off that is if we got closer to where we could do a little bit more in-depth thing that we didn’t have to hide, and we did.
“In that time, I think every candidate has gotten stronger. Yeah, we probably started with one in mind, but that one’s gotten better since, and so have all the other candidates.”
“We have a head coach who’s also our offensive play caller,” Lynch said. “I will always defer to him.”
The comments Monday by the 49ers’ brain trust all but certified that the NFL draft will kick off with three quarterbacks chosen. Two other QBs could go quickly after that, which apparently was a major concern for Shanahan.
“We could have sat there at 12,” he said, “and waited to see which one came to us, if one did. … But we made a decision in this process that we felt we needed to get a starting quarterback this year and add that to our team.”
“We wanted to dictate it,” Shanahan added, “and we also were worried maybe the one we ended up wanting doesn’t fall to 12.”
Without spelling out whom he plans to draft, Shanahan made it clear his choice won’t be influenced by public pressure.