Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports



When the 49ers announced John Lynch as general manager in February, it offered more questions for fans than answers.

This isn't a surprise since the same can be said of any new general manager, but Lynch was different. He had no background as a talent evaluator and no real front office experience on his resume. Yet the keys to the kingdom were his, leaving us to wonder if he would be up to the task of breathing new life into the 49ers.

Speaking to the media from the draft room where he'll make the first draft selection of his 49er tenure, Lynch shared his feelings about the upcoming milestone, "I can tell you that just last night I finally got to the point, I always knew as a player like, 'OK. I'm ready.' That moment was yesterday for me where I said, 'OK. I'm ready. I'm ready to go on this thing.' That's a good feeling."

We're all still wondering, but there's his answer.

Before free agency, the media was justifiably brutal about what Lynch was up against. No free agents would want to come to a toxic organization like San Francisco. Yet Lynch got them in the building and sold them on the future. Kyle Shanahan was a huge part of that, but the facilitator was Lynch. It not only improved the roster, it also validated fans who wanted someone willing to rebuild rather than reload, and every time a player put pen to paper on a contract Lynch took to Twitter to remind us that he's building something for all of us, #BrickByBrick.

The sort of success Lynch has had in his life naturally breeds self-assurance, and his brief time in Santa Clara has been free of any missteps that might discourage us. This is a man who has redefined all notions of what to expect from the 49ers front office in just a few months – he's open with fans and media without revealing his hand, he's built a talented team of scouts around him, even his press conference Monday was a break from what we've come to expect.

Yet with all this, it wasn't until Sunday that he felt prepared for the NFL Draft. Lynch has reassured fans with his confidence and it's been a welcome change, but he's also humble enough to know the truth of his new front office position. No one truly needs charisma from any general manager. Mostly, they need their general manager to deliver results for seven rounds every spring. It's the yardstick all general managers are measured by, especially those digging a franchise out of the gutter.

The entire offseason has been a prelude to Thursday night. It's the biggest stage the novice general manager has walked since coming to Santa Clara. The draft is more important than any hashtag, more critical for the future than any free agent, and – most of all – more damning if the picks don't lead to success on the field.

The Faithful know that last point by heart thanks to recent seasons – as does former general manager Trent Baalke.

Baalke wasn't charming, he wasn't open, and I doubt anyone cared about it until the 49ers were already fielding a terrible squad. No one lost sleep because Trent didn't care about hashtags and no one thinks that led to his failure. What continues to haunt the minds of fans isn't the gruff exterior of the former talent evaluator, it's the years of missed opportunities taking the field every Sunday in another team's uniform.

Perhaps that's what makes the draft so difficult: we all know who was on the board when Baalke picked a bust, and the clarity of hindsight offers little empathy. We watched entire draft classes go to waste as other teams found the players who led them to Lombardi trophies. Baalke's method of subtraction-by-addition took its toll, and while his feud with Harbaugh stings the most for fans, his drafting is what cost him his job.

That's the weight Lynch carries on his shoulders this week. It's his second draft day as a rookie, but the first where the power is in his hands. Free agency let Lynch dip his toes in the uncertain waters of fan expectations, but the draft will force him to dive in and swim.

It will be years before we really know whether Lynch is ready for his moment this Thursday. The picks will be made and met with enthusiasm or frustration. Trades may happen, adding to the alternate draft possibilities that we'll commit to memory as we wait to pass final judgement on the first selections made by the new general manager. While time waits to tell us the ends to these stories, right now John Lynch says he's ready.

And I'm ready to take him at his word.