Kyle Shanahan reveals Kirk Cousins draft story with Washington

Oct 20, 2023, 8:00 PM | Updated: 11:21 pm

Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan talks with his QB's Robert Griffin III (10)...

Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

In case you weren’t aware: Kyle Shanahan has been a big fan of Kirk Cousins over the years.

The San Francisco 49ers head coach spent a few years with the Minnesota Vikings quarterback when they were both members of the Washington franchise. In fact, Shanahan was instrumental in drafting the gunslinger in 2012.

Before taking the head gig in The Bay, Kyle spent time under his father, Mike Shanahan, as the offensive coordinator in Washington D.C. The pair spend countless nights debating personnel decisions leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, one of them being who take at quarterback.

Originally equipped with the sixth overall pick at the time, the elder Shanahan had the an idea of taking two QBs that year. And Kyle knew just the guy for the job.

But after trading up to second in the draft, plans changed.

But sometimes fate has a way of revealing itself, with Cousins still on the board at the start of Day 3.

“I mean, he just came in such a weird situation,” Kyle Shanahan began Thursday. “We traded up, we got another quarterback with the second pick in the draft. It was a good story that, I remember we had the sixth pick and I knew if we were going at six, my dad wanted to take [Tennessee Titans QB Ryan] Tannehill. I was hoping to get Kirk in the second round and go a different direction and we traded up to two and went with [former NFL QB] Robert [Griffin III] and I remember him telling me that, my dad really liked [Denver Broncos QB] Russell Wilson and he said, ‘We’re going to take Russell Wilson in the fourth and get two quarterbacks in there that year.’ And then we got to the fourth and Russell was gone, and I remember him coming to my room.

“He was like, ‘Hey, do you still want your guy Kirk?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know about that dad, we’ve gone another direction.’ He was like, ‘No, the plan was we’re going to take two, we’re still taking two.’ Then we ended up taking Kirk, which I was pumped about because that’s who I wanted originally. Then to be able to get both of them. I know it was a weird situation for Kirk to go into a place where you’re not going to have that opportunity, but he just kind of sat there and soaked everything in and learned a lot. It was a fun two years just working with him every day. Didn’t get to coach him much in games, I think we had three games with him. But he was awesome in the office.”

That appreciation for one another grew as they went their separate ways, Kyle moving on to Cleveland and Atlanta before San Francisco, while Kirk held the fort down in The Capitol, winning the starting job over Griffin in 2015. Eventually, Cousins cashed in as well, signing a lucrative three-year deal to join the Vikings.

Prior to that however, Shanahan remained hopeful the two could work together on the 49ers. But once the team traded for former starter Jimmy Garoppolo in the middle of the 2017 season, that dream sailed out the window in San Francisco.

“Not really. I mean, you think that all the way up to the moment. When we got the opportunity [to trade] for Jimmy, we were still thinking about it. But after those six games he played we moved on, and we’ve moved on since then and really haven’t looked back.”

And while the coach still admires his former pupil, that doesn’t mean he’ll be be taking it easy on him this week, getting his defense prepared for the gunslinger.

“Kyle has a ton of respect for him,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said about Cousins. “He spent a lot of time in the team meetings, just talking to the defense about how he operates and what his process is like out there. And so, I feel like we’ll be really prepared when Monday comes around.

Kirk Cousins has had success against Shanahan and the Red & Gold, going 2-1 in his career. The QB has struggled in primetime matchups though, going 11-18 all time.

Upcoming San Francisco 49ers Schedule

  • Monday, October 23rd @ Minnesota Vikings – 5:15 PM PST
  • Sunday, October 29th vs. Cincinnati Bengals – 1:25 PM PST
  • Sunday, November 12th @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 10:00 AM PST
  • Sunday, November 19th vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- 1:05 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 23rd @ Seattle Seahawks – 5:20 PM PST

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