My father always felt most comfortable in three places: at work, where he liked to operate cranes as a longshoreman; at a bowling alley, where his left-handed spinner produced several 300 spins; and at the dominoes table, where he was as loud as he was reckless.
He loved talking trash with people like me who didn’t enjoy the game as much as he did. He enjoyed calling me his “fish,” which is the term he uses for anyone who hooks him at the end of his line. When I looked at the table and hesitated to take big money, he said: “Fearful money does not make money.”
I used to ask myself if he was trying to get me to take points so he or one of my team mates could come after me for a bigger reward or was he playing with my brain hoping I would miss out on points?
Either way, those words came to mind on Friday in the wake of the San Francisco 49ers agreeing to trade quarterback Trey Lance to the Dallas Cowboys.
Some have called the decision to trade three first-round picks and a third rounder to move up nine spots and Lance’s third pick overall in 2021 the worst trade in NFL Draft history. The undercurrent is that the 49ers were obsessed with giving up a lot of capital to someone who played against lesser competition in North Dakota State and attempted just 318 passes in college.
I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now. Like I said when the deal took place two years ago: if a team strongly believes a player they can put over the top, especially at centre-back, then they should get him. Be aggressive. Be proactive. Fearless money does not make money.
One of the worst things in the world is regret. I remember asking former Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer in real time about his decision to continue with struggling quarterback Drew Brees in 2004 when Philip Rivers, the fourth pick of that year’s draft, was benched and seen as a better option. Was he worried it might cost him his job?
He said, “If I’m going to do it, I’ll do it my way.”
Fortunately for him, Brees went on to have a Pro Bowl season and led the Chargers to the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. The story bears repeating because Schottenheimer believed deeply in what he was doing and acted accordingly. He didn’t make a decision based on fear or what other people thought. He did this because his convictions told him it was the right thing to do.
That’s what the 49ers did in the trade for Lance. Did they miss it? wildly it. But did that set them back? Only if you thought two consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship Game was a setback.
The 49ers have one of the league’s best rosters because of the personal decisions of general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. They weren’t perfect – who is? – But their strikes in the draft (Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Debo Samuel, Eric Armistead, Fred Warner, Talanoa Hovanga, Brandon Ayuk, Dre Greenlaw, Brock Purdy) were significantly more impactful than their mistakes (Lance, Robin Foster, Solomon). Thomas, Javon Kinlaw).
They’ve also come out on the positive side in trades and free agency, with Trent Williams, Christian McCaffrey and Charvarius Ward central figures in what is expected to be another potential Super Bowl run this season.
If teams are more reluctant to make blockbuster trades after seeing how bad San Francisco missed out on Lance, which I’ve heard, that’s their prerogative. But I see that playing prevents defense. as a conservative. Like working with fearful money.
Trey Lance trade between 49ers and Cowboys
The truth is, there is no one way to build a winner. You can do that through the draft, as the Green Bay Packers did for years under former General Manager Ted Thompson; You can do this with a comprehensive approach, as the Los Angeles Rams did a few seasons ago; Or you can do your bit by combining philosophies, as the New England Patriots did so effectively during the Tom Brady era.
The 49ers overcame Lance’s failure by building a solid roster and beating out Purdy, the quarterback from Iowa who was selected as the final pick of last year’s draft. He was given a chance to play during the second half of the season after Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo were injured and helped lead the team to the Conference Final before suffering an injury.
Some like to say the 49ers had no idea Purdy would ever be as good as he was last season. They say blind luck. They say the team would have picked him earlier if they thought he would do as well as he did. Nor do Lynch and Shanahan deserve credit for the choice, they say.
I’d accept that if anyone could tell me the point at which employees stop getting credit for draft picks. Is it after the first round? Round two? the third? the fourth? Fifth? VI?
We all know that there are multiple factors that go into where and when a player is drafted. Some are strategic. If teams think they can get a player later because their information indicates that other clubs are not interested in the player, they tend to wait. I’m not saying that’s what happened with Purdy, but I’m saying San Francisco was the only team that used a draft pick on him instead of competing with others to get him as an unsigned starter.
A draft was—and always has been—a roll of the dice. When employees say the success rate for most choices is 50-50, it indicates the science involved. Which is why I give teams as much credit for late picks (maybe more credit) as I do for making successful selections at the top of the draft. Sure, there are processes that can boost or hurt your success rate, but I’d rather talk about outcomes than processes.
San Francisco has been one of the best teams in the league for the past four years, even after Lance’s deal, and should be the main contender to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this season. The 49ers have been proactive and unwilling to compromise – they’ve seen defensive free kicker Javon Hargrave sign a potential four-year, $84 million deal.
Last time I checked, this is not a fear of money.
Why Trey Lance needs a fresh start away from the 49ers
(Photo: Michael Reeves/Getty Images)