"I'm very glad he's in the AFC," Shanahan said Sunday after the trade went down, via NBC Sports Bay Area. "Good day."
The 49ers were rumored to be one of the teams considering a trade for Jones. Division rivals Seattle and, at one point, Los Angeles were also reportedly in the mix. If the Niners couldn't land Julio, Shanahan is relieved that at least he doesn't have to face the star receiver twice a year.
"It would have been a hell of a deal," Shanahan said of San Francisco potentially making that deal. "But my second-favorite choice is him being in the AFC. ... Number one, him not being in our division is a huge deal. The AFC is my second-favorite. Julio's the man, everyone knows how good he is. Tennessee got a hell of a player."
Shanahan coached Jones for two seasons in Atlanta, during which the star receiver was named a first-team All-Pro -- the only two times in his career. The Niners won't have to deal with Jones twice a year playing for a rival but do face the Titans on Thursday night in Week 16.
Shanahan's sentiment seeing Julio leave the NFC underscores how hotly contested the AFC has become.
The Titans just vaulted their offense into another stratosphere, pairing Jones with A.J. Brown. Kansas City has been to back-to-back Super Bowls behind Patrick Mahomes. Buffalo could be the Chiefs' biggest threat with MVP candidate Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Baltimore still has Lamar Jackson. Cleveland is awash in young studs, ready to make a deep playoff run. Pittsburgh could remain a double-digit-win squad if Ben Roethlisberger can throw farther than eight yards. The Colts are a contender if Carson Wentz returns to form. The Chargers can make noise with Justin Herbert if it can figure out how to win a few close games. The Broncos are playoff-ready if the QB position finally gets solved. The Patriots restocked this offseason. The Dolphins have a ton of talent and can contend if Tua Tagovailoa improves in Year 2. The Raiders have offensive weapons if the D finally improves. And that's before we even consider Cincinnati, Jacksonville, or New York, each with young QBs who can be wild cards in any playoff race.
The AFC is loaded.
The Jones trade continued the tipping of balance to the American Football Conference. Prepare for what is sure to be a heck of a playoff race.