San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan vividly remembers the day leading up to the Matthew Stafford trade in March 2021, and how his time researching the QB during his vacation in Cabo was interrupted by a deal struck between Rams GM Les Snead and Lions GM Brad Holmes.
With incredible depth on both offense and defense, the Los Angeles Rams felt like a true playoff team all of 2020 and that they were just an above-average quarterback away from becoming Super Bowl contenders instead of hopefuls.
They tended to that weakness by replacing former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff with Detroit’s stat-hungry Matthew Stafford, and now the Rams look ready to represent the NFC and return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2018 … spelling out bad news for fellow NFC West rival teams.
When asked about the biggest trade of the offseason, Shanahan recounted his disbelief over the improvement that the Rams received once they acquired Stafford from Detroit. It was enough to ruin perfect weather and the spirits sipped out of coconuts.
“You don’t want to get me started, dude,” said Shanahan, in a podcast interview hosted by Peter Schrager and Rams head coach Sean McVay. “That was frustrating. I was in Cabo. I was studying it all. … I remember looking through it because everybody 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 realized. He was the man. He’s actually underrated, to me. 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, he knows where to go with the ball. So I was trying to get involved in it.”
Shanahan continued, “I remember Saturday I was so stressed out and finally we talked to someone, it was seven at night, and they’re like, ‘No, nothing’s happening (with a trade) at the earliest until tomorrow, so you can finish your night.’ So I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m done.’ I put my phone down, talk to Mandy. I’m like, ‘Alright, 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? 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 it was all over.”
Hoping that an upgrade in QB will also boost his team’s status from pretender to contender, Shanahan’s path to the Super Bowl may run through Los Angeles — a worthy challenge for rookie Trey Lance, Nick Bosa and the equally dynamic roster of talent in San Francisco.