49ers make surprise choice for GM opening

The 49ers concluded a four-week search for a new general manager with a shocking selection: John Lynch, a former player-turned-TV-analyst who had not been tied to the position until the team announced his hiring on Sunday.

Lynch is familiar with the South Bay, playing for Stanford during his college years, but he has never held a position in the NFL aside from player. He played for legendary Niners coach Bill Walsh while he was a member of the Cardinal.

“There’s only one Bill Walsh. I wish that there was a Bill Walsh. There’s not,” CEO Jed York said at a press conference after firing former GM Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly.

“We need to find the right person and re-establish the championship culture. Not Bill’s culture, not Jim Harbaugh’s culture and Trent Baalke’s culture. Not anybody else’s culture, but we need to make sure that we start fresh and start with a new culture between a general manager and a head coach and do everything we can to get us back to that winning way.”

The pick is a surprise because their interviewing process was kept a secret. The 49ers met with Minnesota executive George Paton on Friday and Terry McDonough, of the Arizona Cardinals, on Saturday. So, Sunday’s report came as a shock to almost everyone not directly involved in the process.

It can be assumed that presumptive head coach pick Kyle Shanahan, who team leadership also interviewed on Friday in Atlanta, is on board with Lynch as GM as York has maintained since clearing house that his next head coach and top executive would need to be able to work collaboratively. 

“We need to make sure we move forward and find the right head coach and general manager, two guys that can work together and re-establish the level we all expect and we want for the San Francisco 49ers,” he said earlier this month.

Lynch was regularly complimentary of Shanahan, currently the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, during broadcasts this season.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who was first to report the move, tweeted that Lynch signed a six-year deal and that the plan is for Shanahan to receive the same. Lynch played for Shanahan’s father, Mike, for the Denver Broncos during the safety’s Hall-of-Fame-worthy playing career.

The move comes with a significant amount of risk as the last person to make the leap from playing to being on TV to leading an NFL team’s front office was Matt Millen, who as the leader of the Detroit Lions had one of the worst tenures as a GM in the history of pro sports.

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By Al Saracevic