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Are GMs avoiding the Niners?

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It looks bad, but may not be as terrible as some are saying.

NFL: Green Bay Packers-Practice Green Bay Press Gazette-USA TODAY Sports

The Niners have a lot of problems. No question about that.

Now Brian Gutekunst has joined his Packers front office mate Eliot Wolf in withdrawing from consideration as GM, after Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels did the same.

It’s easy to conclude that no one wants to work with the 49ers, or that something in the interview process is creeping out the candidates. There’s an additional factor: reports that the Niners have offered presumptive coach Kyle Shanahan control over the roster.

How much control, we’re not sure, but the GM candidates undoubtedly find out in their interviews. As I was finishing this article, Fooch reported (via Matt Maiocco) that Shanahan is not seeking full personnel control, which is good. But he isn’t swearing off all roster power either.

Not only is coach-as-personnel-director tough to pull off, as Chip Kelly’s disastrous experience in Philadelphia shows, but it takes away a big chunk of the GM’s power (and ability to control the success of his team). It would be especially troublesome for a first time coach to demand it.

All of this is feeding a narrative that no one wants the Niners’ GM job.

I’m not so sure. First and most obviously, Wolf, Gutekunst, Paton, and McDonough all agreed to be interviewed for the jobs. If they didn’t want them, or didn’t want to be associated with the Niners, they would have just said no.

There’s some value to keeping their names in the mix for future jobs by publicly being wooed, but the pool of potential candidates is tiny, and Wolf and McDonough are arguably the top candidates for GM and head coach remaining. It’s not like NFL teams are going to forget who they are.

But the main reason not to panic is this fact, also reported by Fooch in his article here.

The Packers would not have given either Gutekunst or Eliot Wolf a raise to stay if they weren’t worried about the execs leaving for Santa Clara. If the Niners really were so toxic that aspiring GMs didn’t want to get that stink on them, Green Bay would have laughed and said “Yeah, right you’re gonna go work for Jed York. Shut up and get that report on my desk by 3:00pm.”

There is also some tentative if vague reporting that casts doubt on the “avoiding the Niners” narrative.

I’m not saying that the Niners are the most desirable landing spot in the league, or that their choices aren’t limited at this point. Would Wolf have turned down the Patriots? Maybe not, but successful teams don’t generally have job openings either.

But there’s a narrative building that the 49ers are so damaged that no one wants to work for them, and the facts that we know may not entirely support that.