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Kyle Shanahan: “I was serious” about trying to get Tom Brady for 2023

In Sports
February 05, 2024

Three weeks ago tomorrow, ESPN.com buried in a Brock Purdy #longread a potential bombshell. Per Purdy, coach Kyle Shanahan said early in the offseason that they would try to sign Tom Brady to be the starter for 2023.

It created no buzz. It made it onto the rundown of none of the various ESPN studio shows. It was barely even noticed until a week later, when MDS spotted it and realized its significance — and the potential implications if Purdy had played poorly in either of the two NFC playoff games the 49ers came from behind to win.

Even after we put a spotlight on the previously ignored nugget, no one asked Shanahan or Purdy about it, despite multiple press conferences before and after playoff games. Last week, G.M. John Lynch addressed it; Shanahan and Purdy did not.

Shanahan finally has. In a ride-to-work interview with Peter King for his Football Morning in America column, King dared to utter the words that so many others had refused to say: Hey, were you serious about trying to sign Tom Brady to be the starter in 2023?

If some declined to go there in press conferences for fear of annoying the head coach of the team they cover, the inquiry had the opposite effect.

I’m glad you asked me that question,” Shanahan told King.

Maybe Shanahan was being sarcastic. Or maybe he’s glad he wasn’t asked about it in the days preceding the playoff games against the Packers or the Lions, when it would have been harder to claim in a loud, clear voice that there won’t be a wandering eye in 2024. (Then again, if Purdy throws three or four interceptions in the Super Bowl, those questions will come.) Regardless, Shanahan was asked — and he answered.

“Yes, I was serious about it,” Shanahan said. “As we talked, I’m looking at Brock, and he’s got his arm in a sling, and I really am not sure I’ve got a quarterback who’s going to be ready for the start of the 2023 season. That started all of this.”

Shanahan did not say why the 49ers ended up not signing Brady, who wanted to play for the 49ers in 2020 but the team passed. Brady, when asked the question last week, gave a non-answer.

Shanahan also tried to find a way to spin the decision to press pause on Purdy’s career for a season as a positive.

“I actually thought it was giving Brock the biggest compliment,” Shanahan said. “I let him know he’s our guy long-term. No question. And if Tom Brady wanted to come here and start for one year, that’s the only way you’re not starting when you’re healthy this year. That’s pretty cool. I wanted to assure him, ‘Don’t worry. You’re our guy. But how cool would it be if Tom Brady would be the quarterback here for one season? How cool would it be for you to learn from him?’

“I mean, if Brock never got hurt, this wouldn’t have been a consideration at all. I’d never have brought it up. But I’ve got to think about the team. What if he’s not ready in September?”

That answer would seem to indicate that Shanahan won’t be trying to finally reunite with Kirk Cousins, who is weeks away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. It would seem to make it crystal clear that Purdy is the guy, for 2024 and beyond.

And it will be a lot easier for Shanahan to not be tempted by other options if Purdy plays well in the Super Bowl. The issue will be settled forever if the 49ers win.

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