When Kyle Shanahan took over as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers last year, his top priority was acquiring the type of quarterback he could try to help mould into the star this franchise of Joe Montana and Steve Young has lacked for so long.
Before the 49ers got Jimmy Garoppolo, Shanahan and general manager John Lynch had their eyes on Kirk Cousins.
Shanahan was the offensive co-ordinator for Cousins in the fourth-round draft pick’s first two years in the NFL with Washington, which used the franchise tag in consecutive off-seasons to delay free agency when the two sides failed to reach a long-term contract agreement. Eventually, Cousins was going to be available.
“I thought we’d have a very good chance,” Shanahan said, adding: “I think we fell into another alternative option that was pretty darn good.”
Last year, the 49ers swung a trade at the deadline with New England for Garoppolo. They won the last five games, all after Garoppolo took over as the starter, to create a groundswell of confidence they’re back on track as a contender.
Cousins took an US$84-million fully guaranteed contract from Minnesota , where the 49ers will open the season on Sunday and Shanahan will surely share a warm pregame greeting with his former pupil.
“Much of the way that I play the position to this day is a result of the way that he taught me as a young player,” Cousins said.
Stuck behind Robert Griffin III his first two years, Cousins developed so well with Washington that he ultimately moved ahead of the second overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father, was the head coach until his firing after the 2013 season. His successor Jay Gruden had no choice but to stick with Cousins.
“He’s the guy who gave them a chance to win for about four years,” Shanahan said. “So I was really happy for him doing that, and I’m even more happy that he’s out of there doing it for someone else. I just hope it’s not on Sunday.”