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49ers settle on 3-4 GM finalist candidates

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Here is what the next round of the 49ers process likely looks like.

The San Francisco 49ers head into Thursday with at least three, and maybe four finalists for the general manager position. The team’s PR department announced that the list was pared down on Tuesday, and finalists will be announced as their interviews happen, similar to what happened in the first round of interviews.

Multiple reports agreed that Green Bay Packers executives Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf, and Minnesota Vikings assistant GM George Paton are being invited for a second interview. There has not been firm confirmation that Terry McDonough has gotten an invite, but Matt Maiocco is reporting he is believed to be part of the narrowed search.

The 49ers have submitted interview requests, according to the beat writers. For Paton and McDonough it would be a pretty simple request since they are both out of the playoffs. However, for Wolf and Gutekunst, it gets a little more complicated. Playoff teams can deny interviews of executives until their playoff run is complete. If the Packers beat the Falcons, they can deny the interviews, but if they lose, Wolf and Gutekunst are free and clear. However, considering the Packers granted the first interview to each, it would seem odd to not grant a second one.

The plan appears to be to have these interviews next week and have Kyle Shanahan involved. There have been reports he will have some semblance of say, but nobody seems to know how much of the final say he will have. Considering he holds a tremendous amount of leverage at this point, I would think he will have a sizable amount of say.

If Shanahan and the Falcons win on Sunday, the team can interview him again, but cannot hire him. In that case, I imagine they would get a basic idea of salary and personnel control structure in place on a contract. From there, the final announcement would be the day after the Super Bowl. Additionally, a Falcons win means a Packers loss, and so all potentially four remaining GM candidates could be hired at any point. Would the team announce the GM hire next week, and then the Shanahan hire after the Super Bowl? Or wait to announce both together.

If Shanahan and the Falcons lose on Sunday, the team can hire him as soon as they want. Where it gets interesting then is what happens with the GM. The 49ers could not hire Wolf or Gutekunst without permission from the Packers until Green Bay is through the Super Bowl. But they could hire Paton or McDonough as soon as they want. Would they announce Shanahan and wait on the GM if it is one of the Packers? I guess we’ll just have to wait for the NFC title game to wrap up and then see what happens from there.