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There’s Already Reason to Be Optimistic About John Lynch in San Francisco

A left-field hire may be just what the 49ers need to reboot their franchise

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers handed the reins to John Lynch on Sunday, giving him an unprecedented six-year deal to become the team’s GM. The hire was a shocker. Lynch, a 15-year veteran who played for the Buccaneers and Broncos, has never had front-office experience and had been working as an NFL analyst for Fox. But the off-the-wall pick may be a positive sign for a franchise ready to think outside the box. Robert Mays and Kevin Clark discussed the move on the latest Ringer NFL Show.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcription has been edited and condensed.

Lynch’s Unconventional Status May Help

Kevin Clark: What’d you think of the John Lynch hire?

Robert Mays: I mean, it’s interesting, man. I don’t know. What are we supposed to think about it? How am I supposed to judge it?

Clark: I kind of like it. I think he’s really insightful. I think he thinks about the game in a different way.

About five or six years ago I did a brief stint on hockey. Just because we needed folks at my old employment place to cover the finals. I ended up talking to Steve Yzerman for a while. Yzerman built a very good team in Tampa Bay. What Lynch and Yzerman have in common is that you can ask them a question and they will answer it in a way that says (a) they’ve been thinking about whatever you’re asking for a long time. And both Yzerman and Lynch are thinking about it in a way that you never would have guessed.

That’s what I really, really like about Lynch. He definitely thinks outside of the box. He spends a ton of time thinking about football. I’ve talked to these ex-players. They get to a point, especially in media, where if you’re thinking about football, if you’re watching the film, if you’re meeting with these coaches on Friday and you realize that you’re not using it to compete. These guys are wired to compete, they want to compete. So, at some point, when you’re in your mid-40s as John Lynch is, you’re saying, “Why am I not putting this to better use? I don’t want to just play golf all day.” That’s what I really admire about Lynch.

Who knows if he’s going to be great? A lot of GMs, a lot of it just comes down to organizational skills and luck. Just sort of being able to manage scouts and then hitting on a few draft picks. But I think it’s as good a choice as any. I would rather have John Lynch than the fourth guy with the Packers who you don’t even know what he’s responsible for.

Mays: That’s what I’m saying. Why is he a worse choice than the director of player personnel in so and so? John Elway is doing OK [in Denver]. I mean, Steve Kerr is doing just fine in Golden State. It’s the people you surround yourself with. And in a way, it’s the people you’ve been around. John Lynch has been around some pretty decent football people in his life. He’s played for some successful franchises. I’m sure he’s learned a thing or two. So I don’t necessarily hate it, I just think it’s an outside-the-box thought and sometimes that’s a good thing.

He Knows His Limitations

Clark: I think Peter King made this point: Lynch knows his limitation. I think that’s really an important thing to understand. It’s not just, “Oh, he knows football, whatever.” He knows he’s not a scout. So many of these GMs started as college scouts and are all about hip placement and all that stuff. That’s extremely valuable. But also valuable is knowing you don’t understand that. Lynch is going to be coming from that perspective. That means trust your scouts. That means trust the data, trust the analytics, trust what your regional guy says on a certain prospect. I think that’s the key as much as anything, empowering other people to help you make decisions.

Mays: And I think at this point, it’s about trusting your coaching staff as well. Kyle Shanahan, [who’s rumored to go to S.F.], has had a hand in some of those choices that they’ve made in Atlanta. The Alex Macks, the Taylor Gabriels. He’s definitely been a part of those, just because the entire coaching staff in Atlanta has. And Chris Simms, who’s really good friends with Kyle Shanahan, told me, “Think about Kyle’s life. He’s thought about how to construct a football team since he was 7 years old. That’s just been who he is.” I think that that’s going to be a huge part. To hear that John Lynch respects him as much as he does, that’s good. Because I think that Kyle Shanahan, [should the 49ers hire him], should have a hand in who gets to pick the players in San Francisco, even if he isn’t the de facto GM.