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Transcripts: John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan Speak Before the 2021 NFL Draft

Opening comments:

General Manager John Lynch: "Hey everybody, how you doing? Exciting times here for us, I think for everybody throughout the league. I wanted to start out with something near and dear to our hearts and to our organization's hearts.18 years ago tomorrow is the anniversary of the death of Trevin Dilfer. His parents are [former 49ers QB] Trent and Cass Dilfer. Trevin succumb to a virus that attacked his heart. I will never forget being up there at Stanford hospital as he was fighting for his life and his family and the grace with which they handled that. I bring that up because it came to my attention that they're, 18 years later, starting the Trevin Dilfer Foundation. They're launching it and the fundraising involved with a really cool deal where you can go to a website, it's, and you can go and donate while making draft day predictions. I also wanted to announce that myself, [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] who both are fortunate to call Trent and Cass friends along with our organization, we're going to be donating $49,000 to kick off the efforts. I don't think we'll be doing the mock draft portion. I don't think that would be smart, but we are going to be donating that $49,000. The 49ers are about a family. Trent's been part of that family. They had a painful loss, but they've again, the grace with which they handled it has been so inspiring and so the foundation's mission is to unify young people with a ball. So, using the game of sport to bring people together and I think we all can attest that that's a good thing. Moving forward to our draft preparation could not be more proud of our group our college scouts, our coaches, our R and D department. Just some numbers, I know you guys always like some numbers that we throw out. Tough year, a different year, a unique year with the pandemic, but in the face of that we attended 176 games and practices despite COVID and travel restrictions this year. We saw essentially every player of note that didn't opt out play live this fall. We took part in nearly 400 Zoom calls with schools, made countless calls and texts to gather background information. Interviewed nearly 600 players in person by phone or by Zoom. That's a collective effort of myself and Kyle, to scouts, to coaches doing those. We covered 128 separate pro days. On our board, I think you guys always find it interesting, we have roughly 160 draft able players. Those are our grades. Everybody's got their own. Then finally, I'll leave you and then we can go to questions. Number of players we were permitted to officially give physicals was reduced from roughly 350 to 150. That's been a challenge, but again, outstanding effort by our trainers, our doctors. They've done extensive research on over 350 players. So, it's been a collective effort. We're prepared, we're ready. Looking forward to finish our preparation and looking very forward to a great opportunity to get better for the 49ers come Thursday night. With that, we'll open it up to any questions that you guys might have."

You guys are going to take a quarterback with the number three pick that may be a really popular choice with the fan base, may not be a popular choice. Do you guys pay attention to the pulse of the fans? And when you think about a rookie coming in with already a lot of pressure, does that play any part in this of added pressure that a young quarterback could face based on the popularity of the fan base?

JL: "We Love our fans. We think we have the greatest fans. The Faithful they're incredible whether we're here, whether on the road, and I think they're a very intelligent fan base as well. They understand football. They have great expectations, high expectations of championship teams and so do we, and so that inspires us. I think our job is to make the right decision. We've been charged with making the right decision for this football club and that's what Kyle and I always set out to do, is do our best. We include a lot of people. I think we have an incredible thorough, and I know this process has been as thorough as anyone I've ever been a part of. We've elicited so many different opinions of scouts, coaches, college coaches, quarterback coaches, parents, family members you name it. We've done various testing. That's been a challenge this year, but have been able to send iPads, so they can do testing on different things. So, it's been an incredibly thorough process, but ultimately someone's got to be charged with making a decision and in this case, it's the both of us. I will say that I think a lot of people are always curious, and it's something that Kyle and I set out to do, and I think it's why this thing, for us, has worked so well, is that everyone has in your contract, you do this. The draft is mine, but I told Kyle from the beginning that this is, he and I are doing this together. When it comes to quarterbacks, I'd be foolish, I believe, we have a head coach who's also our offensive play caller. I will always defer to him. What's cool about that is that Kyle, I think, respects my opinion enough. He always wants it, and ultimately, we arrive at decisions we will, and come Thursday, we'll have a pick that hopefully makes everyone proud, but that will be judged in years to come. We've done our best to make sure that it's a great decision for this franchise."

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan: "Yeah, that's just part of life, your question about fans' perception and what they want with your choice and everything, and that's what we sign up for. That's the NFL, and I'm glad you have that. That's why we have the most popular sport, to me, in the world or definitely in our country. I think it helps us all out a lot. It does put pressure on people, but there's no more pressure, to me, on any position in sports than an NFL quarterback. So, whether you get it right away or you get it later, it doesn't matter. It's coming. I would love to make everyone happy. Everyone wants to do that. I've been in this league long enough though, that you do have to block that stuff out. You can't make decisions based off of that. I think it used to be a lot easier, because you didn't have to carry phones with you or anything. So, you've got to get very good at not checking that stuff, but I do go to restaurants. I do go to my kid's soccer games. Every single person, whether it's a ref, an umpire, another parent, everyone has a strong opinion and most people let me know. Every one of my friends, trust me, most of them are just texting my wife now because they know they don't get a response back. But, that's a part of life. What I'm proud of what we've done is we could have sat there at 12 and waited to see which one came to us and I think whichever one did, if one did, like I said, when we started, we think there's five guys. If one came to us at 12, I think that could have looked really good and you don't have to worry about that stuff. Everyone thinks you did it right, 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. When we sit there at 12 way back in the day and we wanted to dictate it. And, we also were worried, maybe the one we ended up wanting doesn't fall to 12. Why don't we move up there to a spot where we can take the best look at everyone? We know we'll get one and we'll get the one that, after putting in a lot of work and do everything, we feel we're going to get the one that's best for us. Now, you put yourself out there and you give everyone months to decide and talk about it, but it is what it is. I'm glad we're going to get one. Yeah, you might add a little pressure to that person. You add a little pressure to the organization and everything, but whether it comes now, whether it comes later, there's pressure for everyone in this sport and it doesn't matter. So, I'm happy we're going to get one that we like, that we've done it right and I hope the fans are happy with it, but the key is, ultimately, they're going to be happy based off how we do in the future, not how they feel that night, whether they won the arguments with their friends or things like that."

If the draft begins like everybody thinks it will, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, number one, and BYU QB Zach Wilson, two, do you guys know who you're going to pick at number three, A, and B, has that changed over the last month? Has this last month, all your research, kind of altered what you were thinking when you made this trade a month ago?

KS: "Yeah. I mean, I'll say when we made this decision, we knew that there were five guys that we thought, we felt that we'd be okay with taking. We knew that there was three at the time exactly. That's why we thought three was a good spot to go to. After going through this whole process, I feel good about five guys at three. Yeah, we had a guy probably at first back then, 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 could go off that was if we got closer to where we could do a little 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 of the other candidates. So, do we know exactly who we want? Maybe, probably, but maybe not. I don't feel like we need to say that, and that's not just for our case, but lots of stuff happens between now and the draft and we don't want the whole league knowing exactly what you're set on four days before the draft. We also care about a lot of people that have been involved in this and we got to know a lot of people and stuff and those are the types of questions, like narrowing it down or who's been eliminated or things like that, that one, I don't know if I want the league to know. I don't think it necessarily helps and that's why no one's really going to know whether we know or not until we pick. That's kind of what we're comfortable keeping it at." 

JL: "Like he said."

Circling back a little bit to the fan stuff, and judging from social media and as foolish as that can be or helpful as that can be, specifically name-wise, Alabama QB Mac Jones is a wildly unpopular pick that a lot of fans have anxiety about. So, can you explain why that should not be the case?

KS: "Yeah, I think, like I said, there's five quarterbacks. Everyone's excited to draft a quarterback. If you would have been excited about one of these guys at 12, then you should be excited 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. You should have seen people who were involved in football call me when I was in college and going through the process. Oh my God, was I more stressed out than anyone and I was more mad than anyone when it didn't go the way that I thought it should go. So, I fully understand everyone about that, but guys, if you would have been excited at 12, be excited about three. We're going to add a quarterback to our team this year. I think the way our years have gone in the past few years, especially when [QB] Jimmy's [Garoppolo] gotten hurt, I think our fan base agrees with that and be happy that we're going to solve that problem this year. I hope it's the one you want, but we'll see. Basically, whoever you want that day, make that judgment later. Let's see how they help our team out."

JL: "Yeah, and I would just add, going through this process, it really has been fun. I think it is a special class of quarterbacks. I really do. I think they're excellent players all in their own right and I think they're excellent people and it's been really cool, albeit most of the time via Zoom, getting to know these people a little better. They're really some exceptional people that I think are going to do really well in our league. Again, our charge is to go and not worry about the anxiety of our fans, and hopefully, that there's some trust there. What I can tell you is that it has been an extremely thorough process. We've thought of every angle and we're going to do our best to find- I think it's a unique situation. We have the third pick and typically, number three picks at quarterback, they're going to teams that aren't that good. I think our roster is pretty good. We've got to stay healthy. There's a lot of things that have to happen, but I think our roster is pretty healthy in terms of the talent and so I think it can be a really exciting environment for who we decide on to come in and play when they're ready to play."

KS: "I think people should be glad that, I mean, the reason I think everyone asks that question is because I've seen the look of people's face when they do read social media. I know how I've felt when I've done it after a bad loss or something or after a good win. Whatever it is is completely inflated past reality and I hope that any human nature, if you get involved in that, I don't care who you are, whether you're a football coach, a GM, a high school kid, anybody. If you get involved in that, it will affect how you are, how you think and what you do. I hope people, and that will affect me if I got really involved in that. What I can promise people that you have two people who make sure we don't get involved in that, because that is so irresponsible to let something like that affect your decision. We do this for a living and I think people should be proud of us that we won't let that affect our decision. Then it's up to us to live with the consequences."

If I could squeeze in two. One is just, can you say with certainty that Jimmy Garoppolo will be on the roster on Sunday? Also, I'm sure you guys have thought about this for decades, but particularly now, just why is it, as you know, even quarterbacks selected with the top three pick, it's kind of a 50-50 proposition. I would assume all those guys, top three quarterbacks, have the talent. What do you think are the one or two things that prevents that other 50 percent from making it in the NFL, intangible wise or otherwise?

KS: "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. So, that goes for all of us. Second of all, now I've already forgotten your second one. What was it? Oh yeah, why is it 50-50? Because this is a very hard position to play. Why are pass rushers 50-50? Why are a lot of people in the top 10, man, almost everybody 50-50? Because the NFL is a very tough league and then you add in a quarterback that has so much more to do with being, you've got to be so elite in so many different areas to make it at this level and I promise you, there aren't 32 that come out every year. If you look back in drafts, there's anywhere from one to five and sometimes zero. It's not easy to come into this league. Look at it the same with pass rushers, look at it at every position. So, it's all like this. This is why the draft is tough, but it's the quarterback, pass rushers, those are usually the hardest positions to get. That's why you do, I think, see people take those chances the most early in the draft, because if you do want to get one of those types of players, they're are a lot harder to find later."

JL: "Just to expand on that, I think what I mentioned earlier, typically if the team's picking a quarterback high, they're not a very good team. We were picking 12th, our record wasn't very good, reasons for that, but that's the reality. I do think we're somewhat uniquely set up to provide a positive environment for a rookie quarterback to come in and like I said, when they're ready, have a good opportunity with a team that we think is going to be pretty good to go play and be put in an environment where they can be successful. I think oftentimes that's just not the case and maybe they're rushed to play early and that can have consequences moving forward. So, we've got to do our best. We're pleased with what we've done this offseason to this point and we've got to continue that with the draft and it starts with the number three pick."

You mentioned soliciting opinions from all over. I would assume with three quarterbacks or five quarterbacks, I guess in this case, that opinions kind of are wide ranging. How much disagreement has there been internally on this decision and how do you guys kind of go through working through that?

JL: "I don't think there's been a lot of disagreement. There's opinions, there's conviction. That's what we want. If you're going to ask for people's opinion, I think you better listen to it and we ask our people to be convicted. We don't group think. We don't say, 'Hey, let's all go in there and make sure we talk good about this guy.' I think it's indicative of the quality of players at that position that there's going to be splits, but I think one thing we've always arrived at is don't run from a situation, because you don't have complete, everybody just unanimously, 'I'm with that guy.' Let's all try to come to a consensus and that's everyone's job. Okay? Make another tape, show me why this guy, why do you have that opinion, challenge, thoughts, and opinions, and that's what we try to do. As we mentioned, ultimately, I think it's worked fairly well for us. We get together and then we take all of that and we put it into, 'Okay, what are we going to do now?' And that's what we're charged to do and as we said, by Thursday, we'll have that decision, and I think we're going to be very happy with it."

On the topic of Jimmy Garoppolo, how do you look at his situation at this point? How's he handling this and what do you expect Thursday night's impact to be on his future with the team?

JL: "Jimmy's been a pro. He really has. I just spoke to him over the weekend and he's here. He's taking part in our virtual meetings, plans on being at the workouts. And, Jimmy has been completely professional as he always has been with us. I think the thought is, and I'm sure some might say, 'Well, okay, if all those things are the case and he's extremely talented, why are you doing this? Why did you make such a bold move?' So much goes into that, but Jimmy knows. I think one thing we've always tried to do with all our players, and Jimmy as well, is just be very upfront and honest with what we're doing and why we're doing it and my experience as a player, when people do that, you can live with that."

KS: "I mean, the biggest thing with Jimmy is his injuries that's been very tough for us when he's been hurt. It's happened two out of these three years, and that's where it starts and Jimmy knows that. I've been very upfront with him with everything. We've been Zooming these last two weeks. I'm excited to get him in here, coming up, especially when this draft's over, but I feel very fortunate taking a rookie quarterback that we do have a guy like Jimmy. That we didn't sign a guy who's capable or has the history of being a starter right away, but we have a guy who, every time he's been a starter, he's played at a high level. So, to have that with Jimmy while adding a rookie quarterback, gives us a lot of leeway into this. We're not going to set anything in stone, but I know that's a situation that it would be hard to get rid of. I mean, when you take a rookie quarterback and you have a veteran like Jimmy, who we know we can win with, just to move on from that is something that—it's not easy to do. That is a good situation for us, and I think that's something that will be important to us this year."

Not trying to be too specific, but I guess I will be. What do you like about Mac Jones?

KS: "I like that him, along with four other guys, I think is capable of being our starting NFL quarterback and capable of winning with. I think there's five guys there. That's been the biggest thing with all of this. Once you make an organizational decision that we need to get a starting quarterback, you look into all the options of how to get them and you watch the ones you felt you had an option with, and then you look into the college and where you think you can to get them. I wanted to get it into a spot where I knew we'd for sure get one and hopefully knowing the first two that are going, we could end up getting our favorite one. I don't believe that would have been at 12. So, we made a move way back in the day to make a decision. We're getting to a spot to get a starting NFL quarterback. I feel somewhat bad for whoever we ended up taking that all this, you trade whatever, three ones, which I don't get how people think that, but, you traded three ones and you did all this stuff to make the biggest move in the history of the organization. That's a little dramatic to me. I've watched two teams the last couple of years make awesome moves and trade two ones for a starting Pro Bowl strong safety. I've seen a team trade two ones for a starting Pro Bowl corner. I think those decisions were awesome for their teams and I hate playing against them because of it. We decided we needed a starting quarterback, so we traded two ones to get a starting quarterback. Hopefully, we end up picking the best one, but I know we're going to get a starting quarterback with that. And that's a smart move to me, not necessarily a smart move, but it's the move that you have to do. That's how much it costs to do these types of things. Or you just sit there and wait and keep your fingers crossed and hope things work out. That's something that we didn't want to do this year. We don't want to risk waiting on injuries and waiting on waiting on luck. We thought two first round picks for our future, guaranteeing us we had a starting quarterback, we were very excited about that and felt very fortunate that Miami was excited too."

Just a quick question about Thursday. I know John, you've made reference to a lot of the players that you've done the evaluations on. What sort of surprised you in this process about those top five guys?

JL: "Well, I think we probably learned this last year. I think we're getting better with technology at being able to do really cool things. Yes, there's some unique challenges with not being able to get in person with not being able to have a Pro Day where you get your hands on people, but you can get stuff done. I started with some numbers from our college staff. I mean, it's just extraordinary what they did. We made sure that they felt safe. But they went out and they got it done in the face of some adversity. I think the fact that you can do it very thoroughly while having some of the restrictions that COVID provided. I sat in there with Kyle on a bunch of Zooms where we're watching football with these guys and, just like if you're with them in person, you get to see their recall, you get to see what makes them tick. You get to see their competitiveness. You get to see their innate leadership in terms of how they rally their teams. The process can still be pretty good. Are there challenges? Sure. I think a lot of it is the medical. Typically, we have a very centralized way of getting consistent medical opinions. This year, it was just a little tougher. Not to say it can't be done. So maybe a little more incomplete and, on that, probably the toughest thing. But I think what has been most surprising—and I hope I'm answering your question. I don't know if you wanted it more specific, but just that the process could be done, and it's just exciting times. The draft is always very exciting. I love learning the stories of these young men. Oftentimes you get to get to know about their families and the amount of adversity that some of these guys have overcome, what their aspirations are, what inspires them. It's inspiring to me. It takes me back to '93 when I was looking at this process. It's fun. A lot of people's dreams are going to be made, and that's an exciting process to be a part of."

John, are you going to pick up T Mike McGlinchey's fifth-year option? I believe that deadline's next week.

JL: "Yeah, we are. We've talked with Mike's representative and we are going to pick up that fifth-year option. I don't know exactly, I've been focused on the draft, but I have let them know that that our intention is to pick that fifth-year option up."

This is for Kyle. Obviously, there's a trend throughout the league of the big, mobile, strong arms, play-making quarterbacks, and there's been sort of a dearth of the quote unquote traditional pocket passers, particularly guys that have been taken early. Do the trends happening throughout the league impact your decision? I know you've said winning from the pocket is the most important thing, but do you look around the league with what's been successful and does that factor into your decision on Thursday?

KS: "I look at everything. I think the whole thing of the success of people like [Kansas City Chiefs QB] Patrick Mahomes and [Buffalo Bills QB] Josh Allen, [Houston Texans QB] Deshaun [Watson], [Baltimore Ravens QB] Lamar [Jackson], those guys are unbelievable. They can play the position and are obviously very, very talented and running around and doing stuff. But those are those guys. You've got to look into a lot of people. There's lots of different ways you can do it. I don't look at it as in trends of the league. I look at it as there's some special players or special people. I don't care when [former New Orleans Saints QB] Drew Brees comes out, whether it's 30 years from now, 30 years ago, or today. Drew's going to be pretty good. So was [former Indianapolis Colts QB] Philip Rivers. So is Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes. They would have been good 40 years ago also. Really good. They're going to be good for years in the future. You've got to take guys you believe are good enough to do it, whatever way that is. Like, there's lots of ways to do it. And people are proving that more and more. Especially the more high schools, the more Pop Warner, my kids' school, my kids' flag football team goes no huddle and just shows pictures. They go fast as could be. And man, a lot of people are getting trained in offenses in different ways. A lot of much better athletes are also learning how to play the quarterback position. So, man, you want to find Drew Brees who can move like Lamar Jackson. Mahomes, he's maybe in the middle. I'm just not being exact, but like there's no, 'This is where it's going. This is where it's been.' It will always evolve. That's why sometimes the wildcat would be good. Sometimes it won't. Sometimes no huddle will be good. Sometimes it won't. Sometimes zone defense will be good. Sometimes it won't. Sometimes the three-four will. Sometimes a four-three. It matters on how you group people together, what your choices are and how you plan on using that person. I believe there's five quarterbacks who can be successful in this draft. What do you want to do? How do you want to do it? You're not going to use them all the same way. And that's okay. You can use them all in different ways and people, I bet, would be surprised with a lot of those opinions, stuff you can't totally give. To make this so black and white is not right. It's, who's the best quarterback and why? And there's lots of different ways and whatever those whys are, how does that pertain to your offense, what you have, the building you have, and do you think that gives you the best chance to win? That's what was so exciting about this year. I do see five guys. No one's ever a slam dunk. Look at the history of this league. But, do you see five guys capable to be a starting quarterback? And I do. I see them all a little bit differently, and you've got to decide which way you want to employ that. It goes off of studying what they've shown on tape, which is all you have to go off of and if you don't do it there, then you've got to go off really the person and talking to them and what you think you could bring to the table. I know it's a long answer, but there will never be an exact answer to that. Quarterbacks can come whatever way you want them to, just like receivers, but there aren't 32 people in this world who can play quarterback at an acceptable level for a fan base, for a coaching staff, for a GM. There's not. So, when you find a guy who can play at that level of, however it is, then you compare them to the next guy and see which one you get one more, and you roll with it."