The 49ers’ selection of John Lynch as their new general manager seemed to come out of nowhere Sunday night. For Lynch, it developed nearly as quickly.
“Two weeks ago, I never thought I’d be doing this,” Lynch said on a conference call with reporters. “Things change sometimes.”
After a clandestine candidacy that Lynch said was done out of respect for his family and broadcasting duties with FOX Sports, the 49ers named the 45-year-old former safety their successor to Trent Baalke on Monday, a move that also fortified the favorite for their open head-coaching job.
Lynch, who has no front-office experience, said the move began to take shape during conversations he had with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after calling Atlanta’s win over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional round.
Shanahan, who’s expected to be the 49ers’ next head coach, relayed Lynch’s interest to 49ers CEO Jed York, Lynch said. Though the process quickly gained steam, Lynch said he insisted on being “vetted like any other general manager candidate was.”
“I didn’t want – just because someone liked me – that I all of a sudden went to the front of the line,” he said.
The 49ers already have met with Shanahan and are prohibited from doing so again until after the Falcons play the Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday. But Lynch made clear his opinion of Shanahan.
“I thought he was the catch of this head-coaching cycle,” Lynch said. “I really did. I think it’s one of the best years I’ve seen a coordinator have. When I talked to Matt Ryan and the players on this (Falcons) team, they spoke of the leadership and the presence that Kyle had in front of that room.”
Lynch, who is in Houston this week honoring commitments to FOX, offered few hints as to the breakdown of personnel and draft decisions under the new structure. He did say he’ll report directly to York and that he expects a collaborative relationship with whomever the 49ers hire as their next coach.
“I can tell you that from the outset what has been communicated to me is we really want this to be a true partnership,” Lynch said. “Jed’s communicated that; (executive) Paraag (Marathe) has communicated that. That’s my wish.”
Multiple outlets reported Lynch had signed a six-year contract. He did not confirm that detail but said, “The commitment that Jed and the 49ers organization have shown me to make this thing come to fruition has been incredible.”
York released a statement Monday saying Lynch is “equipped with tremendous insight into what it takes to create a culture that breeds sustained success,” and that “it became apparent that he was not only one of the best to ever play this game but also a Hall of Fame-caliber man, one who people are compelled to follow.”
Lynch takes over a franchise coming off a 2-14 season just three years removed from its third consecutive appearance in the conference championship game. Along with Baalke, Chip Kelly was fired after just one season as head coach.
Lynch said he has begun to assemble a front office that will include people who are already “in the building.” He mentioned current assistant GM Tom Gamble as someone who has “a ton of experience in this business, and I’d be a fool not to sit down and soak that up.”
After attending Stanford, where he played for former 49ers coach Bill Walsh, Lynch had a 15-year NFL playing career that included one Super Bowl title with Tampa Bay and made him a current finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He retired in 2008 and has worked since then as an analyst for FOX.
Lynch’s final four playing seasons came in Denver under Kyle Shanahan’s father, Mike. More recently, Lynch said his friend John Elway, the Broncos’ general manager, brought him in during one offseason and showed him some aspects of management.
Because of his lack of front-office experience, Lynch said he understands the skepticism that has accompanied his hiring.
“One thing I told Jed over and over – I know what I don’t know,” Lynch said.
“I can’t tell you that I’ve had 20 years in a front office, working my way up. But what I do know, I know football. I’ll put my football acumen up with most in this league. I know people, and I know how to lead. As I’ve watched John, those are things I think he’s done extremely well, and what I strive to do in this role.”