San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday the Niners looked into trading for quarterback Matthew Stafford before the Los Angeles Rams landed him from the Detroit Lions this offseason.
On The Ringer's Flying Coach podcast with Rams head coach Sean McVay and NFL Network's Peter Schrager (h/t NFL.com's Kevin Patra), Shanahan recalled watching tape on Stafford in anticipation of a trade:
"You don't want to get me started, dude. That was frustrating. I was in Cabo. I was watching it all. ... I remember looking through it cuz everyone was telling me it was a possibility. Stafford's the man. I studied him hard coming out of college, and you always play against him, so you know how good he is. But to know he might be available and to spend two weeks really watching him, Sean, yeah, he's better than I had realized. He was the man. And he's actually underrated to me. So, I know how good of a guy you got. I know how good he is at play action. I know how smart he is. Not only does he just have a big arm, but he's got touch, and he knows where to go with the ball. So, I was trying to get involved in it."
Shanahan continued by revealing how he learned the trade was about to go down with the NFC West rival Rams swooping in to steal Stafford away from the 49ers:
"I remember Saturday, I was so stressed out, and finally we talked to someone, it was 7 at night, and they're like, 'No, nothing's happening at the earliest until tomorrow, so you can finish your night.' So, I'm like, 'All right, I'm done.' Put my phone down, talked to Mandy. I'm like, 'All right, let's go out to dinner, let's have some drinks.' Half an hour later, my buddy calls me and is like, 'I'm just telling ya, if you want Stafford, you need to get a hold of him right now.' I'm like, 'What do you mean? No, we just talked to people. I can sleep on this. We'll talk to them tomorrow.' 'I'm just telling you, you need to talk to him right now.' ... And then 10 minutes later it was all over."
L.A. went all in with the goal of bolstering its offense and Super Bowl chances by trading quarterback Jared Goff, first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a third-round pick in 2021 for Stafford.
McVay, who is close friends with Shanahan, said: "If it makes you feel any better, it came together faster than I thought, too, Kyle."
The 33-year-old Stafford is just 74-90-1 as a starter with three playoff appearances and zero playoff wins, but he has been among the most productive signal-callers since entering the league as the No. 1 draft pick in 2009.
In his career, Stafford has completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 45,109 yards and 282 touchdowns with 144 interceptions, making him the Lions' all-time leading passer by a significant margin.
Despite not having a ton of talent around him last season, the 2014 Pro Bowler performed well, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 4,084 yards and 26 touchdowns with 10 picks.
Goff, who was the No. 1 pick in 2016, looked like he was going to be the Rams' franchise quarterback when he took a big leap forward in his second season in 2017 following the arrival of McVay.
He took another significant step in 2018 as well, throwing for a career-high 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and leading the Rams all the way to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the New England Patriots.
Goff dropped off over the past two seasons, though, and finished 2020 with 3,952 yards and 20 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, spoiling a dominant performance by the defense.
With that, the Rams made a change at quarterback to try to get back to being Super Bowl contenders.
The Niners also looked at signal-callers after Jimmy Garoppolo missed all but six games because of right ankle injuries in 2020, but after striking out on Stafford, they turned to the draft.
San Francisco traded up for the No. 3 pick and selected North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.
The Rams likely received more of an immediate boost by acquiring Stafford, but if Lance lives up to his immense potential, the 49ers may be the winners in the long run.