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49ers GM John Lynch speaks at the NFL Scouting Combine

Feb 27, 2024 at 1:32 PM--


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The San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch spoke to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

With the Draft going on, obviously Draft picks and roster construction is fluid. Would you consider that your draft strategy is more best player available or drafting for need in certain spots?

"I think it's unique to each year, each round. You know, you obviously have an overall philosophy, but we just like drafting good players and it doesn't matter when. Sometimes guys don't get drafted, they become free agents. And I think if anything we've shown that it doesn't quite matter where in that process you become part of our team, you're going to have an opportunity and if you can help us, you'll be a part of us. So that's what we look for. We've got a lot of characteristics that we've defined over time that we value and we try to focus in on those both in the talent of the player and their makeup. So that's what we've found to be successful."

You've evaluated a lot of players in your career, more than a handful from former head coach Nick Saban in Alabama. What about his system has guys coming out an extra step quicker or maybe more understanding?

"They've been challenged. They've been put in tough scenarios that test kind of who they are as competitors, can they keep up with the information? He gives them a lot of information. He puts them in a lot of scenarios schematically, mentally, in terms of the mental toughness that it takes to play in our league. It's hard. Nick puts them in that environment, has for years. I guess I have to start talking in the past tense with him. But has put them in those positions. And so, you know you're going to get a player who's tested. And then the thing I always appreciated with him, if you took the time to talk with him, he'd always let you know who they are and who they might be as players and as human beings. And so, a lot of gratitude for Nick and his contribution to football and college football and to all the players that he produced that are shining in our league."

Obviously, a lot of teams would like to get a premium quarterback, but those picks don't always work out. Why is it so hard to pinpoint or project college talent to the NFL talent and hit on those high quarterback picks?

"Yeah. You know, there's a lot of reasons, but schematically, the college game continues to change. So much of it's based on tempo rather than some of the schematic things that you do at the next level. The hashes are different. There's a bunch of different things, but you know, that's something that will be around. What you do know is that if you draft a good one or find a good one in some form, you've got a lot better chance to be successful. So, that can happen early, it can happen with the last pick in the draft. And when you have one, your team's a lot better and your opportunity to win goes up substantially."

With the cap coming in higher than expected, does that increase your confidence in extending a player like WR Brandon Aiyuk?

"Well, I think that was a welcome sight that the cap was going up. I think the thing you have to understand, it went up for everyone. So, it's not like unique to our team, but we have some challenges. We have a lot of good players, a lot of good players who we've rewarded. Brandon's one that we think incredibly highly of, one of my favorite just guys around our building, the way he approaches the game. He's a competitor. He's a warrior. He plays with such a physicality, also with a grace, the way some of the positions his body can get into. And then he's got a flare for making plays when it matters most. And he served us very well as a franchise. And I think we've got a nice track record of extending the players that are important to us and Brandon's a guy we want to keep around for a long time."

As an evaluator, when you're in the pre-draft process, how much do you factor in maybe someone's body language in interviews or when you're watching them on tape, or just in those intangible moments?

"You've got you be careful. Now, I will say some of the time you could make excuses for these guys and say, 'hey, they're being put through the ringer,' so this is the end of a long day. So, you've got to be careful on that. That's also part of what of our league is comprised. It's a marathon each year and nothing about it is easy. So, you need guys who can fight through, but I think you can make way too much out of a 15-minute interview at times. I think you get better at identifying a way to ask questions to know is this guy, and sometimes it's never about if this guy's not a good person, this guy's not a good guy. Does he fit with our organization? Are the things that are important to us, does he represent those? Are they important to him? Those are the type of things that probably you gain the most value. And sometimes it's just a feeling. Man, that was a cool meeting, you know? But the meetings are one part of that. So, body language, yeah, it could tell you something. I remember I had a habit as a player, after a play, I'd put my head down. People early in my career thought I had bad body language because I was down on myself. That's just how I thought. I put my head down and focus. People make me aware of it, 'hey, to be a leader, you might want to change that.' And I'm grateful that those people pointed that out. But thank God they didn't cut me because of it."

How would you evaluate the University of Michigan's draft class this year?

"The University of Michigan? Well, I think they have the most players in the combine this year. So, I think their class this year is kind of representative of this draft to me where yeah, there's some blue-chip players, but this is a really deep draft at a lot of different positions. I think Michigan really, that was a team this year. And there was talent throughout at all levels on offense and defense. Are there going to be a ton of high, top 15 picks? I'm not sure out of Michigan, but there's a lot of good football players that have been taught well and man, they played well as a unit."

Given that complexion with the draft, are you happy with where your picks are at? You have 11 picks and you just mentioned that it's deeper maybe more than top heavy.

"Yeah. And you know, we've got a first-round pick for the first time in a long while. That's nice. But we really try to focus on making them all count. They're all an opportunity to improve your organization. And we look at each one of those as such. And you know, we pride ourselves on putting as much into the late rounds as we do into the early. And so, we'll take them where they come and we'll try to make the most of them."

Going back to Michigan, will you talk to their coach last season to get a little information about those guys?

"Yeah, I don't know how much he'll talk to me, but I always have fun talking to [Los Angeles Chargers head coach] Jim [Harbaugh]. I think it's great he's back in our league. He's just, he's fun. I learn from the things he says and I get great entertainment out of watching the way, I mean, I told him, I saw him at the Super Bowl, at the Commissioner's party, I believe, and his Rockford Files dealing his camper. I mean, that speaks to me. That's what I grew up watching that show and stuff like that, I kind of relate to. And so, I think he's a character. I think he's awesome for football, and I'm glad he's back in our league. Until we're playing him."

There are a few Green Bay guys here. The Packers just hired former assistant strength and conditioning coach Aaron Hill. What can you tell us about Aaron and the role that he played in keeping you guys healthy?

"Aaron Hill. I thought you were going to go to [Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator] Jeff Hafley, but I can talk about Aaron Hill too. Aaron's tremendous, I'm real happy for Aaron. [Head strength and condition coach] Dustin Perry is a big part of the foundation of who we are as a team. He's very integral in everything we do, the way we plan our practices, the way we try to organize our week so we can be most efficient and have our players ready. So, Dustin Perry's our lead guy. Aaron's been a guy working under Dustin for years. We knew we were going to lose him at some point. [Green Bay Packers head coach] Matt [LaFleur] did a great job of doing it the right way, calling [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan], asking for permission, and Aaron got a great opportunity for a great organization. I'm happy for Aaron, for his family. He'll be a tremendous asset to that organization."

What did S Ji'Ayir Brown show you in his rookie season?

"I was real proud of Ji'Ayir. You talk about interviews, we were just talking about them earlier. He made a tremendous impression, not only on the tape but his interview was one that grabbed us. And I think when it's unanimous and everyone's got that feeling, Ji'Ayir's a special human being, a special young man. But then he went and showed that, and nothing's just given in our league. And Ji'Ayir didn't pout early on when he wasn't playing. He went and excelled at special teams. We had two guys in [S Talanoa Hufanga] Huf and [S Tashaun Gipson Sr.] Gip that were pretty good players. And what he did is sit back and never wasted a day lamenting the fact that he wasn't starting. He picked their brain, he learned from them such that when he got his opportunity, he could shine. And that's exactly what he did. We're really encouraged about Ji'Ayir moving forward. He had a pick in the Super Bowl, but it's a lot more than just the picks. The guy's a stud. And we're fortunate to have him."

What does defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley bring to the Green Bay Packers?

"Oh, I love Haf. We had an opportunity, I forget how many years was I around him. Was it just one? But Haf's a special dude. He's got a lot of knowledge about football. I've known about Haf for a long time. He coached my good buddy and former teammate, [former Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB] Ronde Barber. Ronde, first started telling me about Haf. He's hit all the steps being a secondary coach, being a coordinator at Ohio State, going and being a head coach at Boston College. For him to come back, I think part of that is what's going on in college football. Part of that is the guy loves coaching defense and I think it brings him back to his roots. I know he's excited. I'm really happy for him. We've communicated via text. Nice move for the Packers."

During your time as general manager you guys haven't drafted an interior offensive lineman in the first round, but the talent in this year's class at that spot, do you think this year it is a possible position that you guys target early?

"Yeah, tune in and watch."

What do you have to say about the Saints getting Klint Kubiak on their coaching staff?

"They're getting a first-class individual. I think a guy with a lot of experience. I know Klint not only was contributing all year to our game plans each and every week, and a trusted advisor to Kyle and to our team, but he also was a sponge on what he could learn because he hadn't been around. There's a connection with the dads and all that and [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] had worked for his dad. But I watched Klint really take it all in. I know not to just come in and be like 'hey, I'm going to be here for a year and then I'm going to take it all.' I think his feet were where they were and he made the most of it. Klint's going to be a really good coach for the Saints. I'm excited for his opportunity."

When you look at certain college teams, how important is it to be able to sync up with a player from their team and everything they do philosophically and schematically?

"They're a team that's done, to me, a nice job of blending both the clapping cadence and stuff, but then you're seeing power, the quarterback's under center, or if they're under gun still principles that you see in our league. So they play a physical brand of football. They get in multiple personnel groups. So I think they're a group where you get a lot of value out of watching their film because of how they play."

We've heard from a lot of head coaches and GMs today, and when you look at where they came from, a lot of those come from your organization. How much pride do you take in being able to turn out future head coaches and future GMs? Obviously the goal is to win, but how does it feel to be able to see that?

"Well yeah, it is a source of pride. It gets annoying at times, like, leave us alone. But you know what, there is a source of pride. That's part of it. I think that's paying it back to the league. I care greatly about this game. So identifying good people, having systems in place that train them to get better throughout the process, being demanding on them, but also having fun in doing so. Knowing who you are as a football team. All those things, I think contribute. We give people opportunities to express their opinions in things like Draft meetings. So I think people come out ready and people have identified that. Like I did say, it is a challenge to try to survive the constant brain drain really. But fortunately, a lot of people want to be with us. So we've been able to identify good people to bring in their stead. So it's something that you just have to deal with and we have."

On the tight end position, you drafted two last year but with TE George Kittle, is there something about that position where maybe it's overlooked at times or depending on what scheme you run and some teams don't favor as much? How do you view it?

"I think that goes in and out. I remember when I was playing, that position tight end and safety were probably always undervalued in terms of compensation. I always thought it was really integral to the success of teams because they're asked to do a little bit of everything and asked to do a lot. They're very involved in everything that you do. You can't hide them. Those type things you can't get away from them if you're trying to. So I think there's great value in football when I played and I think we're a team that shows that there's tremendous value. A lot of teams. Green Bay did a great job last year of identifying young guys and playing with them and it added a lot to who they were as a team, as an offense. So I think it can really make your team better when you find, and it's not just one anymore, you need a couple. It's a real critical position. Guy I played against for a long time, someone asked me today, were there any omissions in the Hall of Fame? A real personal one for me was [former Los Angeles Chargers TE] Antonio Gates. That guy was a tremendous player. When I played against him, I said, that's a Hall of Fame football player. So he's got to wait like a lot of us did and have to. But man, I knew when I played against that guy, that guy was special, was different and contributed to his team winning at a great rate."

Leading up to the Draft, how important is it as an organization to know what other teams are thinking? Which guys they have valued? Have you gotten better through the years of kind of being able to differentiate fact from fiction?

"I think you can drive yourself crazy trying to do that. Now having said that, you want to always be aware of things that are said in the media, at podiums like this, things that are said locally in their media, reports on who's coming in for 30 visits and things like that. People have gotten pretty good at identifying those things. They can give you some clues or they could be pulling your leg. So you can't totally focus. We try to focus on us. But it is important to know what's your competition? I would say probably when we've picked real early, that's probably when it's most important to try to gauge. Once the Draft starts, it's on and it's kind of moving."

With you still looking to hire your defensive coordinator, does that change the way you evaluate defensive players in this upcoming class?

"No, because I think we have a great idea who we're going to be and continue to be and the things we believe in. So is it important? Sure. We're working towards that. Kyle's working towards that. That will come in due time here, but we want to be true to the process, learn a lot from it, identify some of the changes and tweaks we want to make, while still staying kind of to our core."

With your quarterback situation settled this season. What effect does that have, if any, during the offseason process?

"It's a nice feeling, I know that. Having stability at that position. People forget last year was [QB] Brock's [Purdy] first full year as a starter. So I think that leaves you feeling pretty good about his opportunity with what we've already seen in his couple of years. In particular, last year, the first full year as a starter coming off the injury, we're past that. It just gives you a lot of confidence going in. Now it's like kind of building around him. It gives you a foundation to build off of and that is a really good feeling, a settling feeling."



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