Why the 49ers traded for Christian McCaffrey: 'Do you want him to go to L.A.?'

Christian McCaffrey will play for the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday — partly because the 49ers did not want the star running back to play for the Rams.

Jed York, the 49ers chief operating officer, last week told Bay Area reporters that although the cost of acquiring McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers in a 2022 trade was steep, the 49ers had to make the move.

The 49ers gave up second-, third- and fourth-round draft picks in the 2023 draft and a fifth-round pick this year. Coach Kyle Shanahan apparently needed convincing from York and general manager John Lynch that although McCaffrey was not a quarterback or pass rusher, the cost was worth it.

“And collectively,” York said, “it was, ‘Do you want him to go to L.A.? This is where we are.’”

The Rams, coming off a Super Bowl victory, were 3-3 at the time.

Did McCaffrey think about playing for the Rams?

“I was trying to be just completely blank in the head because I didn’t want to have [to] predict, ‘This is where I’m going or this is where I’m getting traded,’” McCaffrey said this week as he prepared to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.

“It was such a hectic week. I mean, I was still on the Panthers, just listening to these trade rumors. And that’s kind of a weird head-space to be in.”

But did he envision playing in a Sean McVay offense with Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford?

“I didn’t envision anything,” McCaffrey said. “I’m telling you, I was just mindless and I was like whenever I get the call, I get the call. And my agent called and said, ‘You’re going to San Fran.’

“I was like, ‘All right, let’s go.’ Got on a plane Friday morning, landed, did my physical and I practiced Friday for the San Francisco 49ers and played Sunday, ironically, against the Kansas City Chiefs.”

McCaffrey gained 38 yards in eight carries and caught two passes in that 44-23 defeat.

But the next week against the Rams, he showed his full value.

McCaffrey rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown, caught eight passes for 55 yards and a touchdown and threw a 34-yard touchdown pass in a 31-14 rout at SoFi Stadium.

The loss sent the defending Super Bowl-champion Rams on their way to a 5-12 finish.

This season McCaffrey amassed 2,023 scrimmage yards, scored 21 touchdowns, was voted All-Pro and offensive player of the year and was a finalist for most valuable player. He has scored four touchdowns in two playoff victories.

“Everybody sees how dynamic he is skill-wise, and fast and quick,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagunolo said. “I think he’s really strong and violent as a runner. I’ve put a number of clips on where he’s actually wrapped up by one, two, even three defenders and he’s still going. … He can out-strength you and out-violent you.”

Despite not getting McCaffrey, it has worked out pretty well for the Rams.

This season, second-year running back Kyren Williams was voted to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,144 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns for a team that defied expectations by winning 10 games and advancing to the playoffs.

Williams, 23, is scheduled to carry a salary-cap number of $1.1 million next season, according to overthecap.com. He has two years left on his rookie contract.

McCaffrey, 27, will carry a cap number of $14.1 million in 2024 and $14.3 million in 2025, according to the website.

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