San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan are both likely to meet with the media next week at the 2017 NFL Combine. In the meantime, Lynch wrapped up what is likely his last Bay Area media obligation on Tuesday. He joined the Joe, Lo, and Dibs show, which includes former NFL fullback Lorenzo Neal. He played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for one year, and it sounds like he and Lynch formed a solid friendship out of it.
You can listen to the full interview here, but I put together a transcript you can read below. He talked about Colin Kaepernick, the plan for Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, the Tom Rathman decision, how he handles naysayers, how the team might handle free agency, and his developing relationship with Kyle Shanahan.
On how he answers naysayers and if he calls Dungy, Elway for advice:
I think when this thing heated up in a hurry, when the initial conversations started, and I think I’ve been pretty transparent that John Elway was a guy I bounced things off. He’s been there. He’s a good friend. I watched him kind of go through this in his own way. And yes, he is someone I have consulted with. You learn thought at a certain point that stops, because all of a sudden we’re competing with each other.
Yes, Tony Dungy, I’ve talked with a bunch of people. The list goes on. Matt Millen and I had a great conversation the other day. You know, Matt, I found it was very interesting to talk to him. He kind of shared with me some of the things that he would’ve done differently. I think you can learn a little bit from everything and everyone, but ultimately you go to put your head down and go to work. And we’ve put together a really, really quality team that I’m excited about. We’re in full stride, and working every day to knock down things on our list. It’s a big list, and we’re ambitious on how aggressively we want to attack that. But it’s going very well.
On free agency market and how aggressive 49ers will be:
You know, I think that’s one instance in having been a player, and having been a free agent where I think it gives you a little advantage. I know how important system fit is. I think that old adage, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, I think that sometimes when players — and there are certain players that can play in any scheme, in any era, at any time — I think that there’s a lot of players that say, you know what? I’m going to the highest bidder. I’m going to wherever they pay me the most, and oftentimes it’s not a fit, and they’re asking you to do things that you’ve never done throughout your career. And I often believe it’s tougher for that guy than it is for a rookie who comes in not knowing anything, and says, teach me. So I think system fit’s very important, and I think it’s very important when we’re trying to change a culture, that we’re bringing in the right kind of guy. Of course they have to be able to play. Of course they have to fit our schemes. But the right kind of guy to lead the charge on getting this thing back to where we think it belongs, it needs to be.
On how to vet players who will fit into the culture they’re trying to build:
Well, that’s the challenge. We can attack that a number of ways, and I think that one of the ways, those things that you emphasize tend to get done. From the very start that’s one thing I made very clear. That we’re gonna emphasize those things, the football character, whatever you want to call it. We’ve done a really effective job, I think, of Kyle and I getting together, identifying those things that we believe it takes to win in this league, and communicating those to our scouts, to our personnel team. And I think that’s important — that everyone’s speaking the same language, and that it’s authentic. Kyle and I have to believe a lot of the same things, and that’s what drew us together. And now it’s about articulating it so everyone knows what our vision is. And I think I’m real proud of job we’ve done, and in particular Kyle, he did just a tremendous job with his coaching staff of coming up with, the last two and a half weeks, our college scouts — they left last Friday, actually last Saturday — but they were in town. But having Kyle and his staff come up, in short order, I mean they just put this staff together — they were up here saying this is what we’re looking for at this position, these are the type of guys we’re looking for. I think was very effective. One thing we’ve learned, there’s a lot of talented people in this building. Were some things broke? I think so. And the record last couple years indicate that. But there’s a lot of talent that you, it’d be easy to come in here and just blow everything up and say, we’re getting rid of everything. Instead, we took a look at everything, and what I’ve found is a lot of people I think can contribute to turning this thing around.
How much tape is he watching, how much say is he having vs. scouts:
I think a lot. Kyle and I came into this thing and from the start it was a partnership. And so I think all those things (his past experience) can be a huge asset, but if you come in blindly and say, I played and so I know this thing, I know it inside out, and anybody who didn’t play, I’m not listening to. That would be a mistake. Because what I’ve found over the years, there’s a lot of people who never played this game who understand what it takes to win extremely well. And so I think there’s a mix. I think you take everything that you can. But I do think there are certain things where being a former player — you know, I watched John Elway, and one of the things I thought he did incredibly well, when he brought guys in the building for free agent visits, he landed them. And I think that’s because they trusted him. They knew he had been in those positions. Peyton Manning came in, and he knew that John Elway — how many people in this world can identify with Peyton Manning? Well John Elway could, and that helped him to land some people. I’m not saying I’m John Elway, I would never say that, but I think there is some credibility lended to it. And then I think you also just have an understanding for things, and you just have to be open to the fact that just because you played doesn’t mean you know everything, and embrace other ideas. So that’s what we’re trying to do, and like I keep saying, that process has just started, and we really like the way it’s going.
On having No. 2 pick and flexibility it creates, and if any trade inquiries for the No. 2 pick:
No, that hasn’t happened. I like the way you phrased that question though because I think so often people operate in fear and trepidation in this league, and the way you just positioned that, I think it’s a great asset to have that No. 2 pick. A lot of people say, ah I feel sorry for you, you have that No. 2 pick like it’s a burden. That’s a great thing. That’s not a great thing because we were 2-14, but it’s sure nice when you’re starting anew to have that at your disposal, because like you said, there’s so much flexibility that we have with it. We can stand pat. We’re gonna get a really good football player, that’s the plan. And that’s on us to make that happen — an impactful football, a guy who’s going to be a difference-maker. But there’s a lot of options at our disposal. I’m sure those will come to fruition, and those calls will start to happen as we progress here. But I love the fact that we have it. Because I think we’re in the driver’s seat in many ways. I never wanna have it again, but right now I’m glad that we have that No. 2 pick.
On Colin Kaepernick and “football character”:
Well listen, every time we talk about Kap, I think of the guy that was in the Super Bowl not too long ago. And so, I remember that team, and I remember broadcasting and coming in here and being very impressed with the young man. Things happen in guys’ careers. Injuries happen, different things happen. We’re just, like we said we would and like we told Kap we would, we’re assessing everything. And both Kyle and I believe wholeheartedly that that position is the most important position in football. And we believe that in our heart of hearts. So from every side of this thing, we’re evaluating. And we’re continuing to watch the film. We’ll continue to work towards that until we have made a decision. And the one thing that we will do very well with Kap is we will communicate. And I think that is important on both sides. Like everything else I’m talking about, that process is well in the works, and like I said, we’ll continue to do that. And we’ll be up front with him in terms of what we’re thinking, and we wanna know what he’s thinking as well.
On avoiding getting caught up in the hype of great teams in evaluating draft prospects (e.g. Alabama):
I heard the stats as I was coming on, and I think they’ll say something. There’s a lot of good football players that have come out of, a lot of great football players that have come out of Alabama. And I think, you get a kid who’s a very talented kid, and you get a kid who you know who’s been coached and coached hard, so there’s a lot of pluses. But I think Lorenzo, to that question, I think one thing that we’ve done well, and Kyle has done a great job leading his staff, is specific to what we’re doing, saying this is what we’re looking for at each position. And so that allows you to kinda take where they played, who they played for, and we’re looking at that player. Of course they have to fit into a team, and there’s different aspects of that, but I think one thing we’ve been able to do, and identify what we’re looking for at a particular position. And when you do that, it doesn’t matter whether they played at Alabama or South Alabama, we’re looking at the player. And I think that’s important to do, but you can’t deny, for instance, you were there Lorenzo when we turned the corner in Tampa, one of the things that Rick McKay and Tony Dungy did, there was a lot of success going down in Florida — Florida State was humming, Florida was humming, Miami was humming — we stayed there in Florida and we did pretty well with it, with a lot of really good football players. Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, and Warrick Dunn come to mind. We turned the corner with that so I don’t think you want to shy away from those great programs because they’re great for a reason. But you can’t only because guys are playing at Alabama say, we want everybody on our team from there.
On 4-3 defense and how DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead fit in:
I think they fit very well. And that’s one thing I think I want to make sure, and I really believe it, I think Trent Baalke did a great job of getting guys that really, yes they were picked for one system, but I think they transition very well to our system. And, one thing we’ve talked about, Kyle and I, from the start, and it’s often a buzzword, but we really mean it, we wanna play with great urgency, with great aggressiveness, and so one of the things that I’m excited to see those guys, they were very much in a read-and-react posture. I’m excited to cut ‘em loose, and when we say aggressive, that doesn’t mean we’re blitzing every play. It means we’re getting off the ball. On the snap, we’re taking the fight to them, and I think these are guys that fit what we’re gonna do very well. And we’re quite excited about it. They’re going to be coached hard. They’re going to be asked to sprint to the football, wherever it is. And so, that doesn’t just come natural. Those are habits that you have to pick up. I’m really excited about our defensive line coach, Jeff Zgonina. He’s a guy who played that way, he lasted a long time in this league, and I think that was an important hire for us. And I’m thrilled with what he’s going to bring, and the way that those guys are gonna play. But, I couldn’t be more excited, and as you mentioned before, people talk 3-4, 4-3; 70 to 75 percent of this game now is played in sub or nickel. And at that point that’s kinda out the door. It’s, can you stop the run, and can you go get the guy throwing the football and bring him down. And we think both those guys have great potential to do that.
On losing Tom Rathman and importance of bringing more veterans back into the fold:
It’s really important. That one hurt from the standpoint of, we never thought that would come to fruition, because Kyle was very upfront from the start. And he said, if I can get Bobby Turner, we’re gonna get Bobby Turner. But he never thought he could get Bobby Turner. Somehow the Falcons let him go. And I think if you know the history, Bobby Turner’s been with Mike Shanahan, coached Terrell Davis, coached all those guys, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, all those guys who had thousand yard seasons in Denver. And he went with Kyle to Washington, and he’s been with Kyle all over this league, and in Atlanta. So when we had this opportunity, Kyle and I approached Tom about creating a role. We wanted him around, we wanted his presence. He’s a 49er and he belonged here. But he’s a running back coach, and that’s important to him. I think he appreciated the way he felt welcomed, but he made very clear that he’s a running back coach. And we hated to see him go because he represents what we’re trying to be. We left on great terms, and that one hurt, the fact that he’s not here. But he had a decision to make, and we respected that as well.