John Lynch has plenty to learn as he continues his deep dive as the San Francisco 49ers general manager, and thankfully he has a lot of resources at his disposal. The new GM had a chance to join Adam Schefter’s podcast while the two were down in Phoenix for the owners’ meetings.
Schefter posted the podcast today, and it’s a fun one. They did not get into a ton of specifics, but rather talked about Lynch learning his new job, and some specifics on his relationship with Kyle Shanahan. It’s an interesting interview that provides some insight into Lynch’s philosophies. We can’t project specific draft pick additions or anything like that from this interview, but it is an interesting discussion.
How it’s been so far:
It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been very fun. It’s been rewarding, I would say because I took a big leap. And in taking a big leap, it’s not just me, it’s my wife, it’s four kids, it’s a lot of people whose lives are affected. And so, you wanna feel good about it, and I can tell you, I think when we came down here, it was my 49th day on the job when we came down to Phoenix for these owners meetings, and I can tell you that I feel stronger than ever that I did the right thing. When I was talking to FOX, and all my bosses were here, it was a little interesting last night, as they’re still looking for my successor. But I think they also understood it was a rare and unique opportunity that just kinda came out of nowhere. And I didn’t want to be that guy who was looking back years from now saying, I wish I would’ve. So, I’m happy.
Why it’s felt right:
I think, the process. First of all, the guy I’m working with, and the people I’m working with, I should say. That started with Jed York — and what I’ve learned about Jed is a lot of people have different opinions because they haven’t been successful, but what I’ve learned is all he wants to do is win. He’ll give you any resource to do that. Not once have I been told we can’t do that. Instead, it’s been, if you feel like it’s a good idea, let’s go.
Then you take it to Kyle Shanahan. There are different reports, and I think one of the great things my parents taught me is, make your own judgments on people. And a lot of reports, that he’s abrasive, he’s arrogant, he’s all these things. Well, I think most successful people I’ve been around have their quirks. But I’ve always had a good connection with Kyle, and I think he’s easy to work with because he’s not gonna beat around the bush. He’s gonna tell you what he thinks on most issues. But yet, he’s also receptive to opinions, particularly from people he respects. I think he has that for me, I have it for him, and we set off to do this, what we felt was the right way, and a true partnership. Complementing each other, and I think that’s exactly what we’ve been, and we have a lot of players that reflect the process we’ve been through.
On people overlooking that Shanahan is still young, great play-caller:
And that’s what I chose to look at. And I think that’s where people say, where does having played help you? I dealt with a lot of personalities. I played with the likes of Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice, and guys like that. But they were very good friends of mine. We not just were able to figure out, we thrived together. We were able to connected together, and help lead our team. I think when you’re dealing with big personalities, there’s a lot of things, and say, well that’s easy. And I think Kyle’s easy. And this isn’t to say that I can walk over him, it’s a power thing, because we both set out to not have that. It’s too hard to win this league to have barriers in the way. Let’s knock down all those, let’s state our opinion, and you know, one of the cool things about being here is players, I think one of the things that’s lost is there’s a great respect amongst players. I thought the Pro Bowl back in the day in Hawaii was always a great representation of that. Looking in the pool and seeing a guy you really didn’t wanna like, but he’s playing with his 2-year old daughter in that pool, and go, well he actually is a really good guy. But there’s also a great exchange of ideas. How do you train, how do you become better, even though you’re competing against them.
And I found the same thing here. Some of the best. I think there’s a correlation between the guys that are the best at what they do and the most comfortable in their own skin, they’ve been the ones that have reached out the most and said, hey, if you need anything, pick up the phone and call, and that’s been really cool.
On other executives reaching out to offer advice, support:
Oh yea. And most of all, it’s just, if you have any questions, there were people that helped me along the way, just like you did as a player. There were mentors that said, you got any questions, I know sometimes in the same division, but that’s how you pay back this game that’s given us so much. And I think it’s neat to see that the same thing applies.
On anything said that’s left a mark:
Yea, I think there’s a lot of things. John Harbaugh, last night, we were having a great conversation and he said I got a great deal of respect for the guy you’re working with, for you, and I think you guys are gonna be a great team. And I told him, the conversations come up, that he and Ozzie, that relationship they have is something we’re trying to emulate. He had a great piece of advice, he said that a lot of people say, on certain players, if you can’t come to a consensus, you agree to disagree, and you move on. And he said, basically, bunk that, we’re gonna stay in the room long enough until we agree. That’s what we’ve been able to do, and they’ve been very successful. Kyle and I talked about that last night. And so, there’s little nuggets like that where that’s what our instinct has done anyway, but you hear it from someone who’s been successful, and it makes you even more affirmed and convicted that that’s the right way to go about it.
On Shanahan almost taking Ravens OC job:
That’s how our conversation started. That was a big mistake for their franchise … I’m glad he went to Atlanta. There’s so many things that have to happen to make these things happen. And we were talking last night as I was with all my bosses from FOX, if they had not assigned our crew to that Atlanta divisional game, does this ever happen? The answer was probably no because it was after that game, after the following week that I felt compelled to pick up the phone and call Kyle. And that conversation led into, next thing you know I’m on the phone with Jed York. Crazy bit of circumstances that led to this whole deal.
On developing personnel style with no experience in personnel decision:
Well, I think you hire good people, first of all. And there were two that I made that I felt were critical for that. The first being Adam Peters, who was coming up the ranks in the Denver Broncos organization. John Elway had invited me in years ago to do draft preparation, just as a friend, another set of eyes for him. I saw early on that Adam Peters saw the game in a very similar light to how I saw it. I happened to sit next to him at draft meetings, never knowing that I was going to do this. And then, he’s just very well thought of in this league. I was very thankful to John Elway. And John didn’t do it because of our friendship, he did it because he felt like there was nowhere up for Adam to go in their organization. He has Matt Russell and he wanted to give him an opportunity, Adam happens to be from Los Gatos, he was a Niners fan growing up, so it was kind of his dream job, and so John saw that, and I think it speaks to the kind of guy John is that he let him out.
Then I felt it was important, and Jed and I agreed, to have a guy who had sat in my seat. And we arrived, I arrived with Martin Mayhew. Brought him to Jed and Kyle, eventually they got comfortable. And Martin, look, in 1993 when I was drafted in Tampa, he was a mentor of mine. It was his first year as a free agent, he was probably five years in the league, and I learned a lot from Martin. And he’s been invaluable as well, just kinda run things through.
But other than that, I kinda just trust my instincts, and procedural things, I didn’t know. Once we get in a meeting and we’re talking ball, it felt completely comfortable. And what I’ve found, the college scouting staff at the San Francisco 49ers is incredibly talented. I don’t have much to measure it against because I’ve never seen another college scouting staff, but I know that when I talk ball with these guys, I like their work. So, found that there’s a lot of talented people within the building, so the process has been really, really good.
On the importance of managing in the GM role:
It is. And a lot of people say, what’s the biggest difference, what’s the biggest change, what’s the most drastic thing that has been a challenge. I think it’s just, I used to make about five decisions a day, where we eating dinner tonight, those kind of things for our family. You make decisions, but as a general manager, you make a lot of decisions per day. But again, I go back to playing, and I think it prepares you for things like that because what do you hear as a player, and what do you learn, and what do the best players do? They control what they can control, they take in information, they do their homework, and they make a decision. You can’t be scared to make decisions. I think you make the ones you think are best for the organization, and you move forward and don’t let it consume you and eat you up. So that’s just what we’ve been doing. It’s been working fairly well. We haven’t played a game yet, but I think it’s been working pretty well.
What to do with the No. 2 overall pick:
I hear a lot from the Adam Schefters of the world what Cleveland will do. [Schefter: Myles Garrett is expected to be the pick]. But we don’t know that, and that’s the fun and the beauty of this deal. I can tell you, I think you know me to be an honest guy, we don’t know yet if in all the scenarios we’ve run through, who we’re going to pick yet. We still got a lot of preparation to do, we’ve got draft meetings coming, and so we’ve got some ideas, but we are not set in stone by any extent of what we’re going to do. And I think that’s the case for a lot of teams. This process is fluid. There’s still a lot of information to be gathered, a lot of film to be watched, and we’re still very much in that process.
On chance to win a Super Bowl as an executive having won one as a player:
It’d be awesome … To take on something like this, a lot of people, including my wife asked why. We’ve got a pretty good life. This broadcast thing was pretty good. You got your fill of football, but you also had an offseason where you could dedicate all your time to your family. You know, I think it’s also important to see your family, see your kids take on challenges when they present themselves. Half the time, when this thing was being presented, am I being selfish, am I doing something to rock the boat — kids in high school, do we wanna make them move. But I saw their excitement, because they could sense their dad’s excitement. And I think it’s important to show them that, hey, when something’s speaking to your heart, you take advantage of it.
People that know me, I played 15 years, I won one. It’s hard to do. I feel like there’s a lot that got away. But I didn’t enter this without the idea of winning a championship. It’s the only reason I did. I think it’s what drew Kyle to me, because those are the conversations that we both understand, we have a long way to go. It’s not about talking winning championships, it’s about the process. And we’ve started that, but full well, that’s why I got into this thing, to try to do what few have done.
On what he liked about their free agency process:
I think we got the type of guys that we want to reset a culture — a very proud franchise that has fallen on some hard times, just in recent history. We started talking about, yea, the tapes gotta speak to you. We gotta get good, talented players, but we also have to get guys with football character who can help to reset a culture, and embody kind of what Kyle and I feel leads to success in this league. And so, from our very first guy, Earl Mitchell, he was a guy we identified, we just started watching tape and saying, this guy’s a culture changer because look at how hard he plays. This is a guy, that kind of effort, I’ve been around it, it’s contagious. It’s difficult for a coach to say, we’re gonna run to the football, but when you got a guy like Earl Mitchell rushing the quarterback, turning and sprinting 20 yards down the field, and other guys aren’t, they stand out like a sore thumb. And so that’s the most effective way. I’ve played it, Kyle’s coached it, and we just said, we need this guy.
That was kind of our first guy we aggressively went after, and we beat a lot of contenders. Denver, Atlanta, Seattle, they were all in that mix. He came, and we had the luxury with him because he was released, we could visit with him. And we got him out for a visit, and I think he felt the vibe that we had going. So that was a big victory for us, and led to some momentum in free agency. You know, we had a ton of money. It’s not fun going 2-14, but it’s not bad coming into a situation because you’ve got a lot of resources, likely, but you also have a lot of moves. We felt like we needed quantity. We had a lot of holes on our roster, but we didn’t want to reach for anyone, in our mind, and so there were some guys, some of it was taken away from us because some guys were franchised. But there were guys that were out there, and people ask, well why didn’t you go after, and we think they’re good players, but we just didn’t feel like it was a fit for us.
So we never felt like — and I know we took some heat for paying a fullback so much money — but to us it was worth it. And we didn’t want to listen to the rest of the world. And I would tell you, he’s priced that way for a reason because there were a lot of people interested. We thought with Kyle Juszczyk … we kinda arrived at, we’ve said this before, we’re gonna call him an offensive weapon, not a fullback, because that’s the way we’ve looked at it.
But I think in every case, the guy had a story on how he was going to help us get where we wanted to get, and we’re proud of the guys we brought in.
On bringing in guys familiar with Kyle’s system:
You know, we did, but I would also tell you this, you rely on certain people who you really trust, and Tony Dungy has been one of those people — Tony and I had a great meeting down at the Combine, and one of the things he told me, because he said, every coach is gonna want familiar guys. It feels good for a coach, they know what they’re getting, and that’s important. But he said one of the great things Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian did is, every time Tony would bring someone familiar, he’d say that’s great if we end up there, but here’s two other options that I think — and so, one of the things we talked about, I was taking notes, was fighting familiarity. In every one of those instances, I said to Kyle, hey, that’s awesome, but also, let’s look at these guys.
So I think when you look at our free agent class, there’s guys that kind of, Kyle’s been familiar with from Brian Hoyer to Pierre Garçon to Aldrick Robinson. But then there’s guys like Earl Mitchell, there’s guys like Marquise Goodwin, who is a fit because Kyle loves speed and knows how to utilize it. But we had never seen him before. We’d seen him on film, but we had no previous experiences with him. And so, things like that, we’re gonna embrace familiarity, because it’s great to have knowledge on someone, but in every instance we’re going to challenge it as well.