The Brian Gutekunst withdrawal from the San Francisco 49ers general manager search hurts. It doesn’t help much when Eliot Wolf, Chris Ballard and others were bowing out or outright refusing interviews too.
A lot of it is leading to the 49ers being an unattractive job, especially when there’s speculation that they will be giving lone candidate Kyle Shanahan everything to come to Santa Clara.
Ian Rapoport was on KNBR to provide some perspective on where the search is headed and what he sees on the candidates dropping out. Whether you agree with him or not, it certainly helps put things into perspective. I grabbed the parts of his interview pertaining to the interview/search in general and transcribed them below.
On Brian Gutekunst and others withdrawing speaking to something weird:
It’s tough to make a strong generalization like that. To me this sort of reminds me of how everyone thinks there’s all these players who are retiring so much more than you never seen before. But in reality, a lot of players are just tweeting about it when they used to just stop playing and that was that. Now everyone tweets their own retirement statements and everyone says “Man, everyone’s retiring at 27” when four years ago, they might have just gone away. So what you’re seeing now is candidates—a lot more than ever—announcing they are withdrawing, and a lot of times that means, they probably weren’t going to get it. Tom Cable is a great example. I think he was a good candidate for the 49ers, I think they considered him very strongly in the fact that Denise York spent an hour on the phone and there’s a good sign in that, but he withdrew when he knew it was going to Kyle Shanahan. I would have trouble lumping that in with the other ones. Eliot Wolf is a very, very respected young executive. My understanding is that he was probably not in not as good a position to get this job as Brian Gutekunst was. Him withdrawing, signing a new deal, that made sense to me. Obviously all the other guys were told they would not be brought back for second interviews. The only one that differs from that is Gutekunst from Green Bay. Signing a new deal, staying where he’s comfortable, I get that, but obviously withdrawing from a chance to be GM when he seemed to be in a good position along with George Paton is something that surprised me.
On how he interpreted McDaniels withdrawing his name:
I’ll say this. I’ve been speaking to a lot of people involved in around this search for the course of the past several weeks. I do not know if Josh McDaniels was the top candidate or not. I have had some people who I trust very greatly say he was the No. 1 candidate, I have other people say he was neck and neck with Kyle all along and probably wasn’t going to get it. I really, honestly don’t know. I wish I had a more definite answer like, ‘Kyle was definitely going to get it’ or, ‘Niners lost their No. 1 guy’. I’m not even sure that the Niners knew. They were probably going to do second interviews anyway. They wanted to talk to everyone again and mesh them with a GM—whoever that is. So all I know is a top candidate withdrew and I totally understand why Josh withdrew. He’s got a young family, moving them cross country, it needs to be perfect anyways. He didn’t do this to be perfect, I get that. I wish I knew if he was actually No. 1 or just one of the really good ones as he was going in.
On Josh McDaniels wielding power in San Francisco:
Let me just add to that. I know Josh and I know people close to him and I feel like I’ve done some pretty decent work on this. I’m not convinced he wanted to wield power. I’m not sure that him being the be-all, end-all was a deciding factor. I know he’d want to be involved in everything right there. But I’m not sure he would have said, “Hey if I’m not getting all this power, I’m not coming.” Now we know Kyle Shanahan will be getting a pretty good amount of power, but I don’t necessarily think that was a deal breaker for Josh McDaniels.
On if George Paton or Terry McDonough sound like a name the 49ers are interested in:
Yes. This is what’s weird about this whole thing. I know the landscape of everyone withdrawing and obviously a lot of negative attention on the 49ers search. That is reality, right? So there is no way I am going to get past that. The other part of this is, if you told me at the beginning of this search however it happened. That the 49ers ended up with Kyle Shanahan and George Paton, I would say they’ve done incredibly well. George Paton has been a lieutenant in Minnesota, a really, really good, strong player developing team. He’s been a lieutenant for years, he’s turned down countless opportunities to interview. My sense was he would never leave Minnesota and now he’s going to come interview for a second time with the Niners. That’s one that’s surprising to me and would probably speak well to the search if I didn’t know anything else. Kyle Shanahan is a very good candidate and one of the brightest young minds in football. Again, if I didn’t know anything else you said they’d end up with him, that would be fine. It’s just all the other stuff that has clouded this.
On “The Trigger” will Kyle Shanahn have that and is that a hurdle for the GM candidates:
Some. It’s also something that a team—I’m not saying this is a case for the Packers—but a team can theoretically block a candidate from coming, or make it very difficult because the GM doesn’t have control of the 53. It’s a big deal, I don’t know what the right answer is. Seattle, Pete Carroll has the trigger, he picked the GM and that worked out fine. There’s been a lot of other places where the GM has final say and he and the coach hate each other or end up working well. There’s no perfect formula. The only thing I ever care about, ever is what makes a successful team, the only thing I’ll ever say: In the end, if it doesn’t matter who has the trigger, then you’re doing fine. You never want to be in a situation where the coach says “I’m cutting this guy and the GM says “No you’re not.” That’s a nightmare. I don’t care who has final say as long as you have two people who can talk about it like humans and come to a decision.