- San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan developed a relationship with Bill Belichick after the 2016 Super Bowl.
- Shanahan and Belichick spoke for “hours” at the 2017 NFL combine about the Super Bowl and head coaching, something Belichick respected, according to ESPN’s Seth Wickersham.
- Some in the NFL world think that that relationship helped the 49ers land Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade months later, as Belichick sent Garoppolo somewhere he could thrive, rather than shopping him for the best offer.
- Read more of Business Insider’s Super Bowl 2020 coverage here.
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Perhaps the toughest loss of Kyle Shanahan’s career may have allowed the San Francisco 49ers to get their franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo.
Shanahan, now the head coach for the 49ers, was an offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, he helped design the offense the Falcons rode to the Super Bowl, where they met the New England Patriots. The Falcons, of course, raced out to a 28-3 lead, before the Patriots made one of the biggest comebacks in sports history, winning the Super Bowl in overtime.
Speaking on Monday from Miami, ahead of Super Bowl LIV, Shanahan said that Belichick reached out to him after that game.
“It was really cool that he reached out to me after the Super Bowl just to talk,” Shanahan said (via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area).
He added: “Any time that guy talks, everyone in the world listens. That was especially true for someone like me who aspired to be a head coach.”
Shanahan accepted the head coaching job of the 49ers the day after that Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the 49ers had interviewed Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the job, but McDaniels pulled his name out of consideration.
Weeks later, after the Super Bowl loss, McDaniels and Belichick ran into each other at the combine and talked further. ESPN’s Seth Wickersham said on the podcast “ESPN Daily” that Belichick and Shanahan met for “hours” and spoke about the Super Bowl loss, specifically, but also about head-coaching in the NFL.
“I was able to spend some time with him at the  NFL combine, which I was very appreciative of,” McDaniels said on Monday.
“It was something that Belichick really respected — that Kyle had gone and done that,” Wickersham said. As Wickersham noted, Belichick was close with Kyle’s father, legendary NFL coach Mike Shanahan.
“I actually think it paved the way for the Jimmy Garoppolo trade,” Wickersham said.
During the 2017 season, the Patriots were approaching a crossroads. Tom Brady was playing as well as ever, and Garoppolo, Belichick’s hand-picked, promising backup, was approaching free agency, set to hit the open market that offseason, with no desire to continue to backing up Brady.
Though Belichick told everyone from Patriots staffers to opposing teams that Garoppolo was not available, according to Wickersham, in October, he called the 49ers, offering Garoppolo for a second-round draft pick. According to Wickersham, some within the 49ers thought Belichick was “posturing” and prepared a bigger counteroffer. Belichick, however, was not, and the teams agreed to the deal.
“[Belichick] definitely wanted Jimmy to be successful and saw that Kyle was someone who would help get the best out of him,” Wickersham said.
After making the deal in 2017, Belichick praised both Garoppolo and Shanahan.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jimmy. I couldn’t ask for him to give us any more than what he’s given us,” Belichick said. “The 49ers are getting a good player. They’re getting a good person, and they’re getting a great teammate, and they’re getting a good quarterback. And Jimmy’s getting a good coach. His career is moving forward. He’s a talented individual. He was a great person to coach.”
Wickersham said that Garoppolo “fell in [the 49ers] laps.” Bair wrote that it’s “understood” that Belichick did not shop Garoppolo around for the best offer, instead sending him somewhere he thought Garoppolo would thrive.
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As Wickersham reported in 2018 about turmoil within the Patriots, Belichick was bitter about having to trade Garoppolo, as the team’s quarterback situation came to a head.
Garoppolo thrived in his first games with the 49ers. He tore his ACL in Week 3 of the 2018 season, allowing the 49ers to re-load with a draft class that included star defensive end Nick Bosa and wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Two years later, they’re in the Super Bowl.
“[Belichick] has been great,” Shanahan said on Monday. “It’s not like we talk a ton or anything, but he’s a humble guy who likes to help people.”
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