49ers news: That time Philip Rivers nearly joined San Francisco

Kyle Shanahan was prepared to make a phone call to retired quarterback Philip Rivers last January.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

The 49ers were prepared to call up Philip Rivers out of retirement to quarterback the team if they won the NFC Championship game.

The San Francisco 49ers cycled through both of their quarterbacks during the NFC Championship loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last January, losing Brock Purdy to a torn UCL in his throwing elbow before Josh Johnson suffered a concussion, which led to Purdy's return to the game but only to hand the ball off.

Needless to say, Philly had little trouble pulling off a victory from that point on.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from that game is the NFL's new rule entering 2023 that allows teams to carry a third quarterback without impacting a roster spot, provided that the signal-caller only enters the game if the first two are removed because of injuries.

Whether or not that would have saved the Niners against Philadelphia is up for debate, but head coach Kyle Shanahan had a contingency plan in place if things played out that way.

It involved former Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers.

Kyle Shanahan says Philip Rivers was 49ers' emergency quarterback option

Last March, Rich Eisen reported that Rivers was considering coming out of retirement, and one of the teams he was thinking about was San Francisco.

Last month, Shanahan told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami that "We're going to have to go get Philip Rivers, someone like that, for the Super Bowl," when reacting to Purdy's injury and if the 49ers were somehow able to beat the Eagles despite Purdy's injury.

On Thursday, speaking after joint practices with the Las Vegas Raiders ahead of both teams' 2023 preseason debut on Sunday, Shanahan confirmed that Rivers was an emergency option and they had discussed it throughout the year.

"He was prepared to," Shanahan said when asked if Rivers would be willing to join the 49ers for the Super Bowl only. "Now that's stuff we talked about throughout the whole year. We would've had to see how that was for the Super Bowl, but that was the plan most of the year."

Of course, that situation never panned out. The Eagles beat the Niners 31-7 to advance to the Super Bowl where they'd ultimately lose to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Still, the thought of Rivers versus Mahomes in the final game of the season is kind of enticing.

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