According to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, the "majority of people around the league believe" the San Francisco 49ers will select Alabama's Mac Jones with the recently acquired No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Those people are probably wrong.
General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan talked openly Monday about taking a quarterback with that selection, and prominent members of the national and local media are convinced that pick will be used on Jones, typically regarded as the fifth-best quarterback in the draft.
NBC Sports' Chris Simms believes the 49ers want a quarterback "who is NFL-ready right now, not a project," and to him, "that says Mac Jones." ESPN's Chris Mortenson concurred with Simms, noting, "Kyle Shanahan had success with Matt Ryan and he and Mike Shanahan had a love for Kirk Cousins," while NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco believes Shanahan "wants a quarterback who executes the plan," and "Shanahan’s plan never calls for the quarterback to bust out of the pocket and run with the ball."
It's naive to believe Shanahan is that dogmatic when it comes to searching for a quarterback. While it's true he's had success with pocket passers who have high intelligence but limited mobility, those are rarely the best quarterbacks in the modern NFL, and Shanahan seems to know it.
After his team was shredded in December by Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen — an athletic phenom who was hardly a refined pocket passer coming into the league — a wistful Shanahan gave some insight into how he's come to view the quarterback position. The clip has been brought back to light by Niners Nation's Akash Anavarathan.
I knew Kyle Shanahan wanted a divorce after watching this clip of him react to Josh Allen’s game:pic.twitter.com/UPTkfJitZQ— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) March 26, 2021
"How I evaluate everything is always changing," Shanahan said of how evaluates quarterbacks. "Things change, people change, you start to see you can win football games with any type of quarterback as long as they are good enough, and you can be good enough in hundreds of different ways. So I evaluate quarterbacks in terms of trying to find people who can have a chance to be one of those elite-type guys, and there's lots of different ways to do it.
"You can see now there's plenty of different ways. I don't think that will ever change, I don't think you have one certain thing or type you're looking for, you're just trying to find a guy who is better than about 98% of the people on this planet, or in this country, and when you find that, you get him and you adjust to him."
Cousins and Ryan have never been truly "elite-type guys," let alone "better than 98% of the people on this planet." Sure, Shanahan could win with them, but it's fair to hypothesize he's come to desire more from the quarterback position since then.
The original sin of the Shanahan-Lynch era was passing on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson at the top of the 2017 NFL Draft because the two did not fit the "Shanahan offense," whereas 2018 free-agent-to-be Kirk Cousins was a known fit. The team's original plan was to sign Cousins at the start of the 2018 offseason, but that plan was cast aside when the New England Patriots offered them Jimmy Garoppolo.
In the time since then, Lynch has admitted that the decision to bypass Mahomes and Watson will likely "haunt" him "for a while," and Shanahan has lost to teams with quarterbacks outside of his original mold such as Allen, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray.
Which brings us to that clip of the defeated Shanahan, slugging through a 2020 season marred by bad quarterback play, longing to find a quarterback who has the traits to be "better than about 98% of the people on this planet."
While Jones has the traits a younger Shanahan — infatuated with Cousins and pocket passing dogmas — may have coveted, the Alabama product does not have the tools to be "one of those elite-type guys." And if another quarterback in this draft class — whether it be BYU's Zach Wilson, Ohio State's Justin Fields or North Dakota State's Trey Lance — has those tools but isn't necessarily a "fit" in your team's offense?
"You get him and you adjust to him," Shanahan explained.|0|https://www.sfgate.com/49ers/article/Mac-Jones-49ers-draft-Justin-Fields-Lance-Wilson-16064463.php|1|https://s.hdnux.com/photos/01/17/27/56/20806566/8/rawImage.jpg|2|www.sfgate.com|E|