While the NFL's collective head spun Monday night — and not because of Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, and not because of Broncos-Chiefs on "Monday Night Football" — isn't it reasonable to think a certain quarterback in Ashburn picked up his phone, looked at the news alert, and said, "Um, Kyle . . . What about me?"
The San Francisco 49ers selected their quarterback for the future Monday night by pulling off a trade with the New England Patriots for Jimmy Garoppolo that has ramifications not just in Boston and the Bay Area, but well beyond.
There is room to debate about whether the Patriots botched the timing of the deal, holding onto Garoppolo too long and receiving "only" a second-round pick in exchange for Tom Brady's backup, who could have been their quarterback of the future. There's reason to wonder about the Patriots' safety net now, should Brady get hurt.
But even the 49ers' formal statement announcing the deal is striking.
"Jimmy is a player we have researched extensively since Kyle and I joined the 49ers," General Manager John Lynch said.
"Kyle," in this case, is San Francisco Coach Kyle Shanahan — you know, the former offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins, the son of the head coach here who drafted Kirk Cousins.
Here are the people most directly affected by Monday's trade: Garoppolo, incumbent 49ers quarterbacks Brian Hoyer (who was released) and C.J. Beathard, and Shanahan, still pursuing his first victory as a head coach as the season heads to the second half. Next on that list: I'd argue it's Cousins.
What we know from the deal: Lynch and Shanahan chose Garoppolo, a career backup who has completed just 63 career passes, over Cousins, a Pro Bowler last year who has thrown 85 touchdown passes and is in his third full year as a starter.
Throw that mix into the dominant story line of the NFL season in Washington — Cousins's impending free agency, and whether he's worth the gazillion dollars it'll take to retain him — and the New England-San Francisco trade has an impact here.
In the popular parlor game of "Where Will Kirk End Up?" San Francisco has toggled with the Los Angeles Rams (whom we'll get to) as the leading destination because of the ties those franchises now have to Cousins's career. We know the links: When Shanahan was the Washington offensive coordinator under his father, Mike, the team traded up to select Robert Griffin III in the 2012 draft — but then shrewdly spent a fourth-round pick on Cousins that same draft.
"Kyle believed in me when it was just potential; there was no production," Cousins told reporters prior to the 49ers' visit to Washington in October.
Now, Shanahan appears to have applied that belief to another quarterback. From Lynch's statement: "Albeit in limited game action, Jimmy has displayed the characteristics and traits that we believe are vital to being a successful quarterback in this league."
It's not terribly difficult to read into it: We've looked at Cousins's much-more-complete body of work — including 48 starts in which he has gone 22-25-1 — and chosen to place our time and money elsewhere.
The money: It's important to note that Garoppolo's rookie deal expires this season, and the 49ers could be making an evaluation of their new quarterback over the next eight games. Garoppolo, who turns 26 on Thursday, is more than three years younger than Cousins, and therefore comes with more wiggle room. And the 49ers now have spent a second-round pick on him.
The bet here: Garoppolo could throw 20 interceptions and zero touchdowns, and the Niners try to work out a long-term deal with him, or they place the franchise tag on him to punt the decision down the road — a situation with which Cousins is all too familiar.
So say the trade takes San Francisco out of the Cousins picture. He would, naturally, look next to the Rams, coached by his former offensive coordinator Sean McVay — under whom Cousins produced back-to-back franchise records for passing yards.
When McVay departed Ashburn for Los Angeles, Cousins signed one of his jerseys for his outgoing coach. The inscription: "I owe you my career."
But are the Rams really looking for an expensive free-agent quarterback? Just a year-and-a-half ago, the Rams — not on McVay's watch — selected Jared Goff with the first overall pick in the draft. Now, Goff's current stats, seven games into his second season, don't compare to those of Cousins, who ranks third in the NFL — behind Kansas City's Alex Smith and New England's Brady — in passer rating.
But listen to McVay, whose Rams are 5-2 with Goff as the starter, during an appearance on Fox last week.
"We want to make him an extension of our coaching staff," McVay said of Goff, "and he's continuing to become that."
If McVay is still saying that in December or, for goodness sake, January — and the Rams are in the playoffs while Washington sits home — what would lead you to believe Los Angeles would want to spend nine figures on a new quarterback when the incumbent is doing just fine?
This isn't to say there won't be a market for Cousins. There will be. He still plays the sport's most important position at a (reasonably) high level. There will be plenty of franchises looking for a quarterback: The Jets, Browns, Jaguars, Broncos and Cardinals come to mind.
Oh, and Washington. You can't draw a line between Monday night's trade between New England and San Francisco and a conclusion that Cousins will end up right back where it started. But it has to make Cousins's camp think. The coach who believed in Cousins before he produced has moved on to someone else. His options are out there. They just might not be those we expected.
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