John Lynch shares story of what drew him to join 49ers with Kyle Shanahan

May 21, 2021 at 8:29 AM--

You've probably heard this story — or some variation of it — before. Still, it's always interesting to hear John Lynch share how he decided to step away from his role as a broadcaster and into the demanding role of the San Francisco 49ers general manager.

There aren't too many people who earn the right to be a general manager without working their ways up the executive ranks to get there. Lynch joined Michael Robinson and Bucky Brooks on the latest NFL Total Access: The Locker Room podcast and, once again, shared the interesting tale of landing with the Niners.

Lynch's love of the NFL Draft played a big role in the decision. He grew up loving to watch the annual event, sharing that it was the only time his father would pull him out of school.

"We never missed school," Lynch said. "That was an old thing. Even if we were sick, we're Lynch's. We go to school ... except on draft day."

Lynch even continued the tradition during his playing days. He loved the draft so much. His wife would ask, "Are you really going to sit here and watch the sixth round? We do this all year round, and you're going to sit here on a weekend?"

Once his playing days were over, he became close to former NFL quarterback John Elway, who jumped into the general manager role with the Denver Broncos. While Lynch was with Fox Sports, Elway invited the former safety to help with the team's draft preparations. After a couple of years of breaking down the defensive back prospects, much to the surprise of the other Broncos personnel, Elway invited Lynch into the team's draft room and proved himself to be a valuable resource in the preparation process.

Lynch was at FOX Sports, though, and enjoyed his job.

"And then one offseason ... at the end of the season, you kind of take inventory of your life," Lynch shared. "'Where am I at? Am I happy?' And I was. I was extremely happy. I got my football fix. We have four kids. I got to coach their teams. I got to drive my daughters to tennis and soccer. But there was always this 'but.'"

Lynch missed the competitiveness of being part of an NFL organization. He wanted to be part of the wins and losses again. He wanted his influence to matter.

Lynch was a part of the broadcast crew for the Divisional Playoff Game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks in 2017. The Falcons' offensive coordinator was Kyle Shanahan, who Lynch didn't really know that well yet. All he knew of the assistant coach was what he learned from speaking with Shanahan during production meetings. That alone left him impressed. However, watching the way he coached an offense was even more impressive.

"In that game, I was just fascinated with Kyle Shanahan and what he was doing on the offensive side of the ball," Lynch said. "... and I said some nice things about Kyle."

Shanahan wasn't going to remain an offensive coordinator for long. He was a hot commodity. Shanahan was about to make a leap of his own to become an NFL head coach. Lynch shared on air what he thought of Shanahan, his brilliance as a play-caller, and declared that any NFL team would be foolish not to hire him. The then-broadcaster felt very strongly about Shanahan's ability to succeed.

"I think people equated that I knew Kyle real well," Lynch added. "I didn't. When I was playing for the Broncos (for Kyle's father, Mike Shanahan), he was off at college. I knew his dad really well.

"Kyle called after (the playoff game) and said, 'Hey, that was nice. I appreciate it. My family told me what you said.' And I just said, 'Hey man, I meant that. That was genuine. I wouldn't have said it had I not (meant it).' And I said, 'It looks like you're going to get one of these jobs. I just wish you luck. I think you did a tremendous job this year.'"

Later, the rumors started breaking that Shanahan was the frontrunner for the 49ers' head-coaching vacancy. One day, something compelled Lynch to call Shanahan. The offensive coordinator shared that he was trying to find the right person to work with and serve as San Francisco's new general manager. Shanahan was having difficulty finding the right fit.

"Without hesitation, I said, 'Well, what about me?'" Lynch commented.

That shocked Shanahan, who did not see it coming. Lynch encouraged Shanahan just to consider it. Shanahan did, and the next day, he called Lynch back and asked if that were something he would really consider. Lynch was definitely interested but acknowledged that he had a pretty comfortable life already. He needed a little more encouragement.

Shanahan asked Lynch to meet with 49ers CEO Jed York, so Lynch flew to the Bay Area to do so. He told his family that it was unlikely anything would come of it. Then Lynch flew across the country to meet with Shanahan. The two spoke for about four hours, trying to determine if there was some chemistry between them and if they could make it work. After that, York offered him the job.

Everything got real very fast. Lynch was still a bit torn. The transition would greatly impact his family, but it was supportive.

"After the weekend, my wife said, 'You have to do this because I can't live with you if you don't because you're consumed with it now,'" Lynch said.

On January 29, 2017, ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news that Lynch had been hired as the 49ers' new general manager. A week later, after the Super Bowl, Shanahan officially joined him.

You can listen to the entire interview with Lynch below.


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