If the first you’ve heard about the San Francisco 49ers’ hiring John Lynch as their general manager is from this column, I have other late-breaking news for you as well. Donald Trump is the President of the U.S., the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title, and the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Surprisingly, these are not alternative facts. Oh, did I mention John Lynch has no front office experience, and got a six year contract? Yep, that’s a real true honest and authentic fact as well.
Of course this isn’t the only deal the 49ers are doing. They will reportedly hire the Atalanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan as their head coach, also for a reported six year contract. Shanahan has been a very hot property in the coaching market; little things like a 540 point offense will look good on the resumé, after all. We’ll get back to John Lynch in a moment. As for Shanahan, it’s wise to balance his excellent performance with the Falcons with the fact he was fired by the Washington Redskins after Robert Griffin III couldn’t live up to his rookie season promise. On the plus side of the ledger, Shanahan was smart enough to insist that Johnny Manziel was in no way an NFL quarterback. For this seemingly obvious bit of truth (see, alternative facts again), the Cleveland Browns fired him. So, it’s not all positives for Shanahan.
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None of which means I think hiring Shanahan is a bad decision; just a risky one. The hiring of Lynch is a much greater risk. At least Shanahan has proven he can run a highly productive offense. To be sure, top-notch offensive coordinators don’t always turn out to be great head coaches – anyone out there remember Joe Philbin, the Green Bay offensive coordinator with the great reputation? Turns out it’s easier to look like an offensive genius when Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback. Or how about Marty Mornhinweg, who called plays for Steve Young and Jerry Rice, then guided the Detroit Lions to a stellar total of five wins over two seasons? Then again, former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is flashing the 2016 Super Bowl Champion ring. It certainly can work.
Lynch has proven that he was an exceptional player and a fine broadcaster. He has no front office experience. I’m not sure the guy even knows how to answer a phone. Okay, he’s a Stanford guy, so that’s a stretch. Lynch was known for two things on the field; his hitting and his brains. He’s been just as cerebral in the broadcast booth, so there’s no doubt that Lynch knows football. Will he be able to learn on the job, in one of the highest profile jobs in all of sports? Looking back to Marty Mornhinweg, the executive that hired him was Matt Millen – a former Super Bowl champ and highly respected broadcaster with no front office experience. Sound familiar? The 49ers better hope not.
So where do the Seahawks come in? Obviously, the Twelfth Man is hopeful that this rookie combo will be a travesty. Seattle has been a model of stability in this decade with Head Coach Pete Carroll and General Manager John Schneider in place since January of 2010. The 49ers have been anything but stable, as they will be hiring their fourth head coach in four years. I’ll give the 49ers credit; they are not jumping to the coaching carousel and getting another retread.
Even more important, those six year contracts show that at the least, they’re going to try to give the new braintrust time to put a winning team in place. When your franchise has fallen from the top echelon of the NFL as quickly as the 49ers have, thinking differently is a smart move. Whether these moves will pay off remains to be seen, but I like the risk.
They won’t beat the Seahawks anyway. Hopefully.