Trying to make sense of John Lynch and the 49ers

Al Sacco
Jan 30, 2017 at 8:22 AM14

San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York sent shock waves through the football world when he hired former player and current Fox Sports broadcaster John Lynch as the next general manager of his franchise. The move came completely out of left field and left most people in shock as Lynch hadn't been reported as being a candidate at any point during the process.

On the surface, the decision to put Lynch in charge is a strange move, especially considering he has zero front office experience. Lynch, a Stanford grad, is smart, engaging and well thought of in football circles, but that doesn't mean he can run a football team. Still, this hire might just be the kind of outside the box thinking the 49ers desperately needed. The problem is, it's York making the decision so everyone is, naturally, a little skeptical.

Think about it this way, though: what if a team like the Green Bay Packers or Pittsburgh Steelers made a hire like this? While some would question how it would work out, many would have faith in the move because those organizations tend to make good decisions more often than not. The current version of the 49ers don't fall into that category, however, so York making what could amount to a forward thinking, visionary hire will be met with nothing but skepticism. Obviously, York has no one but himself to blame for that.

But let's try and get into the head of York, and attempt to figure out what would have led to Lynch getting the nod. First and foremost, any decision that's made these days with the Niners will be greatly influenced (and maybe even decided by) incoming head coach Kyle Shanahan. Make no mistake, Shanahan has been the big fish for some time now, and he will have significant say throughout the organization as long as he's the coach. San Francisco isn't exactly the most alluring franchise to work for these days, so the promise of power and roster control (to at least some extent) had to be part of the package.

RELATED 49ers hire John Lynch as general manager

So, in turn, working well with Shanahan was essential, and everyone involved must have felt Lynch was a great fit in that regard. But just because someone's easy to work with, doesn't mean they can build a football team. The way I see that issue playing itself out is that Lynch, completely aware of his shortcomings, will build a solid staff around him to help make personnel decisions. Names of former general managers like Mark Dominik and Dennis Hickey have been floated around, and Lynch will also reportedly keep Tom Gamble in place to help as well. Oh, and Shanahan will certainly have his say in matters.

When you connect the dots, it almost looks like Lynch was brought on board to be sort of a figurehead within the franchise, and is seen as someone who will promote and bring stability. The organization has been so dysfunctional for so long, the idea of someone as a caretaker is actually quite appealing.

Trying to predict how Lynch will ultimately perform in his new role is almost impossible to do, as the only real way to judge him will be to see how he does over time. The NFL has seen former players with limited experience step in and do well before, most notably John Elway with the Denver Broncos. It's also had former players crash and burn, however, as Matt Millen's stint with the Detroit Lions was a disaster. All indications are that Lynch would be more of an Elway than a Millen, but again, who knows at this point?

If there's anything positive to take away from this right now, it's that York's head seems to be in the right place, as evinced from his statements to Sports Illustrated's Peter King.

"We understand we'll have to live with growing pains," York told King. "but I'm willing to do that because I believe the upside with both of them (Lynch and Shanahan) is so great."

This statement shows York understands this is a massive rebuild, and it's going to take a while to come to fruition. By reportedly giving both Lynch and Shanahan six-year deals, he's committing to the process, which is a very "non-York" thing to do. Fans of the 49ers should be encouraged by this, as York seems to be finally (at least on the surface) committed to doing what is necessary to turn his franchise around. Will it work? Only time will tell, but the current vision could be an exciting one to watch unfold.

Al Sacco has been covering the 49ers since 2013 and has had his work used by national outlets such as ESPN and USA TODAY. If you'd like to reach Al with a media request, please contact him via Twitter @AlSacco49
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Dallas Niner Fan
    The reason why York continues to hire people with no experience is because he lacks the confidence to hire someone strong. He wants to hire someone he can control who will not question his idiotic decisions. Maybe he will luck out and this will work out. Unfortunately, York's track record says otherwise.
    Jan 31, 2017 at 12:23 PM
  • RishikeshA
    Thanks Al, the hopelessness and anger of last season is subsiding. In the business world you don't hire someone with zero experience. The Yorks have hired coaches and GMs with no experience in the past and continue in the present. Giving someone a 6 year contract makes no sense. I believe Shanahan is the key, he has the brains, breeding and experience. I'm tired of being negative, it's a new day, let's go Niners.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 9:14 PM
  • Frank M
    If you're still trying to make sense of Lynch becoming our GM, you'll get left at the station. He's been working toward a job like this for years. John Elway has encouraged & challenged him to learn how to evaluate players. He's now showing him a ton of respect by not blocking his Chief of Scouting, Adam Peters from interviewing for the Niners Dir of Player Personnel position. Respect is something John Lynch has earned throughout his football career. He's a leader, collaborator, & uniter. Those are foreign concepts in previous relationships between the FO and HC. No mas.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 7:48 PM
  • mbniner
    As far as personnel evaluation. Kyle has a vision of what his offense should evolve into and I believe that he has an eye for what players he needs to achieve that vision. When people, including media, ask what Lynch knows about QBs, they miss the point. Shanahan, with the personnel staff's help, will evaluate QBs. Where Lynch comes in is putting together his vision of what the defense should look like. Does any one question that Lynch can evaluate defensive talent, again with help of the personnel staff? There have been comments from NFL people already saying that he has a great eye for talent. Shanahan will have minimal say in defensive acquisitions. The chance for conflicts comes during the draft when each man has his own favorite for that pick. That's where mutual respect and teamwork enters. It's got to be better than Baalke's "I'm doing it my way" approach.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 2:15 PM
  • Gene Twomey
    I have been a 49er fan since 1961, ever since Eddie DeBartolo left the team has gone down hill, it's time to sell the team and give new owners a chance to recover the high standards that the 49ers once had.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 1:02 PM
  • JPFord
    John Lynch is not a figured head, but a facilitative leader. He will bring everyone together, establish a unified vision, empower everyone to contribute, and disband the organizations internal conflicts. Trent Baalke had great experience, but he was not a strong leader or communicator. He was more interested in establishing his own internalized vision than working on an agreeable and unified vision that empowered the organization.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 12:50 PM
  • Tank
    I like the hire. I think John will prove to be a lynchpin for this organization.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 12:29 PM
  • Eddd
    This is not surprising. This is the same Jed York that hired Tomsula as a HC. No experience? No qualifications? Sure, hire John Lynch as the 49ers GM. What an incompetent organization!
    Jan 30, 2017 at 11:21 AM
  • Nick
    Given the recent history of this franchise I am skeptical because it is a risky move hiring a guy with no GM experience rather than a proven guy with instant credibility. York can't afford to take big risks based on what we the fans have suffered through. I hope it works out but very questionable move.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 10:39 AM
  • Mike Cortese
    I am not sure what to think at this point. I do hope that they don't by-pass Myles Garrett in the Draft. If the Browns don't pick him, then I hope the Niners pull the trigger. Forget, about this weak quarterback class. Rework the Kap contract and add incentives for him to get back to his old self. More importantly pick up some free agent wide receivers. Aquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree have had great success with their new team. Smith is not a deep threat anymore.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 10:37 AM
  • mbniner
    Well let's see: Looking for a great coaching prospect-check: looking for a coach-Gm combination who can work together as a team-check: looking for long term stability-check (6 year contracts): looking to build a strong management team- in progress but it looks like it can happen with the combination of Dominick and Gamble (both ex-GMs) handling personnel and guiding Lynch through the administrative duties. Will there be growing pains? Damn well! But here are two young, smart people who have a chance to build something from scratch in their own image. Also lost in this is that no "leaks" occurred during the process so maybe the ownership has learned a lesson. This was obviously a Shanahan hire. A parallel was when Walsh brought in McVay, although McVay had coaching experience which Lynch doesn't have. Also interesting, Lynch came out of the broadcasting as did Steve Kerr. Remember York's reference to Kerr last year? Maybe just a coincidence.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 10:06 AM
  • Don Hogue
    Well written article, job.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 9:42 AM
  • the austrich
    Precisely. As I see it, enriched perspective, patience, flexibility to unorthodox opportunities, and wisdom have been some of the primary ingredients needed by the 49ers organization for a long time now. Just as you say, Al, there is no guarantee these moves will bear the fruit for which we all hope, but I argue these moves nearly guarantee Jed York and co. have grown and are clearly willing to do what it takes to wisely, genuinely *attempt* to move our beloved 9ers in an ascending direction. I'm board with these moves thus far. And I hope we all as committed 49ers fans, we can muster positivity for our future despite our scars.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 9:22 AM
  • Marco
    We know Lucky Sperm Jed is a bloated moron. We now know that Shanahan is obviously a moron! After years as a mediocre OC and one great year as an OC, at age 37 he is handed the keys to the most dysfunctional franchise in professional sports. Instead of insisting on a strong, experienced personnel man(ie with years of scouting experience), he opts for "trigger" control. I plead with season ticket holders to not renew, and give Lucky Sperm Jed an empty stadium.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 9:14 AM

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