San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch was a guest on Peter King’s podcast, where the two discussed how the Niners general manager and head coach Kyle Shanahan became a pair. Lynch started the conversation by talking about their initial phone call and how Shanahan was a little reluctant at first. Lynch also discussed Shanahan’s evolution as a human being because now, he believes there isn’t a more transparent coach in the league. “Kyle shares a lot with people. We call it strategic transparency.” Lynch also talked about his first draft from everything they did well, to some of the things they didn’t do as well. He used that draft as a teaching point, and now he can look back on it and “chuckle.”
Lynch made a phone call to Shanahan congratulating the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator after he won in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The rumors were flying everywhere that Shanahan was going to be the 49ers, next head coach, once the Falcons were no longer in the playoffs. Shanahan told Lynch during the call that he wanted to find a general manager he could pair up within San Francisco. Sleepless nights would follow the next few days while then Fox Sports broadcaster Lynch was on vacation. Lynch figured that his way into the front office of an NFL team would be through a close friend, John Elway, who is the general manager of the Denver Broncos. Lynch mentioned how he had helped the Broncos in a couple of their draft preparations. As a native of San Diego, Lynch also thought he would help the Chargers. He mentioned that’s where he wanted to live. You and everyone else, John.
It didn’t take long for Lynch to give Shanahan a ring and lobby for the 49ers GM role, to which Shanahan said, why would you do that? You have a great job. Shanahan brought that up last Friday during a press conference.
“That’s why I was so excited to come here with John because I mean John had a, to me, a dream job where you’ve got to work, I’m guessing, I don’t want to offend anyone because I don’t totally know it, but I’m assuming you’ve got to work about three days a week and you get paid about the same amount of money. He had a great deal there living in San Diego, and he called me out of nowhere and said how interested he would be in an opportunity like this. And for someone to want to leave that to come into this line of work, I was so impressed because I knew the reasons he wanted to do it. You don’t know always why someone wants to do that and things like that, but John, it was clear. He loved football. He loved being around it.”
Anyway, within the hour, Shanahan called 49ers CEO Jed York on the phone, and in no time, Lynch was in the Bay Area to discuss the possibility of becoming the general manager for the Niners. It was a no brainer for Shanahan to join San Francisco. One of his favorite teams growing up and his dad, Mike, had helped the franchise win a Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator while Kyle was a kid and around. Lynch explained that “there’s so many ties for me.” Dennis Green was the 49ers wide receivers coach under Bill Walsh. Green also recruited Lynch to Stanford when he was the head coach. Green left Stanford to become the Vikings head coach, where Walsh replaced him. In 1993, Walsh recommended Lynch to the Buccaneers head coach Sam Wyche, who took Lynch in the third round.
King recalls how there was a lot of gray area surrounding the organization once Shanahan and Lynch were hired. “If you ask the average 49er fan around that time, hey, let’s get rid of Jed York, let’s get rid of Paraag Marathe, let’s get rid of the vestiges of all the post-Harbaugh era.” The two discuss how comfortable everyone was working together, and, not knowing how it would translate to the field, you could see how the organization was bound for success due to having “one goal and one voice.” That doesn’t mean each decision was going to be a home run. The Reuben Foster draft pick came up. Lynch followed up with how that working bond was something the two set out to do:
Kyle had the sense of that’s how he wanted to do it. Our conversation started as a very organic one, which led to he and I working together. One of the greatest advantages I have, people say, ‘Hey you came from a different background,’ one of the great things about being a game announcer, I worked for the NFL on Fox for nine years doing that, you got to go into each facility and see the commonalities with the successful organizations. And then with the real poor organizations, at the end of the day, just as someone who was curious about organizations and entities and why they’re successful or not, it became really clear. At the end of the day, the ones that work together, and everyone is toeing the same line, and not to say there’s debate or healthy debate, at the end of the day we’re in this together and have each other’s backs. Some of these poor organizations, the GM would come up to you and say, “Hey, we’re picking the right players, the coaches, they’re not developing ‘em, they’re not playing the right guys. Then the coach would tell you during the production meeting, “Hey, if I had any players, we’d be successful.
We shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. Lynch continued to speak highly of Shanahan and how he sees him now:
“I think first and foremost, he’s gifted,” Lynch said. “He’s incredibly smart. Kyle will tell you; he’s not a guy who golfs. Family and football are kind of what he does. That’s been that way for a long, long time. So, when he took this job, I believe he was 30 years old, but he was very well seasoned in football, in particular, in that offense. He learned it from his dad. He took it and grew it.”
It’s a great listen if you want to hear more about the story. Start around 4:40: