49ers Bet on Shannahan and Lynch Super Bowl Week

January 31, 2017

HOUSTON - As fans bet on Super Bowl LI this weekend, it will be the San Francisco 49’ers who wager on Kyle Shannahan and John Lynch.


As Shanahan made sure to point out Monday at the Super Bowl Media Night session, the contract hasn’t been signed yet but it’s going to happen after the Super Bowl wraps. And he’s already shedding light on what the next 49ers regime is going to look like with himself and general manager John Lynch. And if it wasn’t clear before, Shanahan is sounding like a head coach who is going to be controlling every aspect of the franchise.


Among the revelations?


Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, spoke about his philosophy in running a team.


Shanahan’s father, former two-time Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan, doesn’t appear to be on the hiring agenda. Kyle previously worked as his father’s offensive coordinator from 2010 to 2013 with the Washington Redskins, but he called his father “retired.” While he said he will likely field advice from the elder Shanahan, Kyle added, “We did our deal in Washington and I wouldn’t take that back for the world. But that was pretty much the end of it.”


It sounds like finding a franchise quarterback is going to be cemented as the 49ers’ No. 1 priority. Said Shanahan: “Look at the history of the NFL. Teams who don’t have one of those guys usually struggle to be there at the end of the year unless they have one of the top defenses in Super Bowl history or NFL history. Everyone knows that. You need a quarterback to consistently be competitive. That’s what everyone is looking for. Coaches and personnel people. That’s usually where it starts.”


Shanahan danced around the topic of personnel control, calling full decision-making control “semantics.” But he also sounded like he understood it was going to be a focal point of his final contract signing, adding: “Those are things that definitely I’ll have to discuss with [the 49ers] and that we’ll definitely get into. Nothing is final until next week and is not allowed to be. Those are things I’ll definitely take care of as soon as the season ends. … It’s something that will be important to figure out.”


And in the matter of the new general manager, Shanahan said he has leaned on Lynch from time to time on certain football questions. Shanahan expressed admiration for Lynch and said he spent his own second interview with Lynch and other GM candidates. There appears to be little doubt that Shanahan picked Lynch himself, which in a way answers who will have full decision-making power.

Shanahan punctuated his faith in Lynch, despite critics pointing to his total lack of traditional personnel experience.


“Just reading and seeing everything [that has been said about Lynch], I get it’s new to him, but if I’m going to bet on someone, I’m going to bet on John Lynch,” Shanahan said. “He’s going to have to learn some stuff as he goes, just like we all do, but you’re going for the person. John Lynch has succeeded at everything. That excites me about him.”


He didn’t stop there, either. When the highest possible bar was thrown out as a comparison to Lynch, Denver Broncos GM John Elway, Shanahan said he saw similarities between the two men.The San Francisco 49ers better hope their big bet on John Lynch as general manager pays off.


If it doesn't, good luck getting any respected personnel man to take on the next overhaul, as long as the same folks are calling the shots.


People in the league talk, and a lot of them are going to have a bad taste from the 49ers' nearly month-long, coast-hopping search to replace Trent Baalke (and Chip Kelly).


That's what happens when you conduct close to a dozen interviews with GM candidates, flying Minnesota's George Paton and Arizona's Terry McDonough to Atlanta for second interviews with expected head coach pick Kyle Shanahan over the weekend before the 49ers hired Lynch on Sunday only to settle on a guy you could've found by turning on the TV.


Basically, Jed York, Paraag Marathe and whoever else is influencing the team's decision-making process took up a lot of people's time test-driving SUVs for a month and then bought a sports car.


Nothing against Lynch, 45, who is praised as a man and a football mind by seemingly everybody who knows him. It's impossible to judge what he will be as a GM when he has literally no track record, other than having been an all-pro safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a standout for the Denver Broncos under coach Mike Shanahan as well as an analyst for the NFL on Fox.


The game changed a couple weeks ago when the 49ers zeroed in on Shanahan's talented son, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, as their next head coach. (That happened after New England's Josh McDaniels dropped out, and while 49ers brass was still in Seattle interviewing potential GMs to pair with another coaching candidate, Tom Cable).


It's expected Lynch will hire an experienced personnel man, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik is a logical target to run the scouting side underneath him, which should help the transition. The roster is a teardown, and Lynch has a rare six-year contract to get it done. (Shanahan is likely to get the same.)


The 49ers said all along they were looking for a tandem that wanted to work together and knew how to build a championship culture. Lynch won one title with the Buccaneers in 2002. Shanahan would win one Sunday if the Falcons upset the New England Patriots. Presumably, Lynch doesn't get hired without Shanahan's blessing.


Still, there were signs this would go another direction all the way until Sunday. There were whispers last week about a mystery candidate with no scouting experience landing the job, but it was hard to believe after all the work they'd done on traditional GM options.


Maybe it shouldn't have been.


In a search process quite like this, in which a series of coach and GM candidates made a point of withdrawing publicly and leaks of "favorites" for both jobs seemed to shift as the field narrowed. York's mother, Denise DeBartolo York, was calling coaching candidates (which is her right as an owner), adding to suspicions about who really had final say.


The smartest man in all of this might be Chris Ballard, who declined the 49ers' interview request through the Kansas City Chiefs, then was hired swiftly on Sunday as GM of the Indianapolis Colts — a superior job — eight days after fired Ryan Grigson was fired.


For all the recent upheaval, the 49ers job had enough going for it for York and company to get an audience with many other candidates who had been on short lists around the league.


Fail with this gambit, and it could be tough next time just to get somebody on the plane.