Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports



It's been two days, and fans are still wrapping their heads around the notion that John Lynch is the new general manager of the 49ers.

He seemed like nothing more than a name York pulled from a hat on Sunday night. He wasn't one of the finalists, and he has absolutely no experience in an NFL front office. Still, here he is – a dark horse candidate winning a race few knew he was running.

I'll say this much for York: he's full of surprises.

This is the offseason York wanted – after giving fans two abysmal seasons in the wake of firing Harbaugh, it's boom-or-bust for Jed. The first gamble was zeroing in on a head coach before finding a general manager. The second was waiting until February to hire said coach; a dangerous move on York's part that will pay dividends when Shanahan takes the job. The last gamble? Rolling the dice yet again on an untested commodity in Lynch.

The risk is continued failure and greater embarrassment for players and fans. The reward is a general manager who bears little resemblance to Lynch's predecessor.

During his tenure, Trent Baalke isolated himself with the power of his position. His unilateral approach to decision-making led to the hiring of Jim Tomsula, and an unwillingness to accept input from coaches in the draft led to an unsatisfactory on-field product. His was a leadership style disinclined to hear dissenting voices and learn from mistakes; it alienated fans and coaches before alienating Baalke from employment. At best, Baalke was a hindrance to progress. At worst, he actively reversed the progress others made. York was an accomplice to it by empowering him, but as we've been told – you can't fire owners, you can only hope they figure things out.

This is where Lynch's inexperience can work to his advantage if we buy into everything we've been told. On Monday, Peter King noted that Lynch is a man who "knows his limitations." It's lost on no one that analysts jumping from the broadcast booth to the front office have failed in the past. Matt Millen's ineptitude in Detroit serves as a warning to all who would look to the media for organizational leadership. However, Lynch has no interest in repeating Detroit's history.

Surrounding Lynch with qualified scouts and advisers will be key to preventing further disaster for the 49ers, and Lynch is already at work gathering talent in Santa Clara. Previous staff will be retained during the offseason, but Lynch has already used the connections at his disposal to hire Adam Peters from Denver, and rumors continue to surround Mark Dominik's link to Lynch. It points back to what Peter King said – Lynch, fortunately, knows what he doesn't know and recognizes his deficiencies. When inexperience is matched with self-awareness and the right amount of humility, the result can be greater than the sum of its non-existent parts.

It's a small sample size – less than 48 hours – but it hints at the vast differences between Baalke and Lynch. York has inundated fans with his newfound belief in communication between head coach and general manager, but Lynch's ability to maintain relationships within the franchises he played for is a testament to his skill with people.

Why is this important? The general manager is the point where ownership, personnel, and coaching meet. Negotiation is constant, and balancing between these disparate groups is key. Lynch has navigated the egos and competitive personalities that populate the NFL and he's done it well. Baalke was always hamstrung by his own personality in this area. Managing internal conflict is essential to establishing and maintaining success, and Baalke did neither well. After all, it's difficult to resolve conflict when you're the source of it.

Much has been made and will be made of Lynch's connection to Bill Walsh when he played at Stanford, and much will be made of his rapport with Shanahan. Those attempts to connect the 49ers' future with San Francisco's storied history are the smallest fraction of what Lynch can offer if he lives up to his potential as a facilitator and mediator in the front office. More important than any faint connection to the Walsh-era 49ers is a hasty retreat from Baalke's approach.

It's another wait-and-see situation for fans who have been waiting and seen little to celebrate in recent seasons. This time, however, there's the faint glimmer of promise to help pass the time.