Former Stanford and NFL star safety John Lynch is the 49ers’ stunning choice as general manager, ending a four-week search that never publicly connected him to the opening, sources confirmed Sunday.
Lynch, 45, won over the 49ers brass with his leadership and communication skills, as well as his link to former 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who coached Lynch at Stanford 25 years ago, CEO Jed York told this newspaper. York also is convinced Lynch can surround himself with a “great staff” in his first foray into a NFL front office.
Lynch, a finalist this year for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, landed an unprecedented six-year deal despite having no previous front-office experience, ESPN first reported.
Lynch is expected to pair with presumptive coach Kyle Shanahan as the 49ers rebuild after a 2-14 season that cost the jobs of general manager Trent Baalke and coach Chip Kelly. Shanahan, the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, can not be officially hired until after next Sunday’s Super Bowl, and he is also expected to net a six-year contract from the 49ers despite never being a previous head coach, ESPN reported.
York, who’s spearheaded the 49ers’ GM and coach search, met with Lynch on Thursday and Friday, with Lynch staying Thursday night at York’s Los Altos estate, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who also reported that Lynch approached Shanahan last week about assuming the GM role.
Lynch and Shanahan are bridged together through the Denver Broncos a decade ago, when Lynch was finishing his All-Pro career and Shanahan’s father, Mike, was coaching the Broncos.
Kyle Shanahan “is good” with Lynch’s hiring, a source close to Shanahan told Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole.
The 49ers’ GM search included interviews with eight known candidates, including follow-up sessions Saturday with the Minnesota Vikings’ George Paton and the Arizona Caridnals’ Terry McDonough.
Lynch was a 1993 third-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Stanford. He played for the Buccaneers through 2003, including winning a Super Bowl against the Raiders, before playing out his career with the Broncos from 2004-07. He made nine Pro Bowls and earned All-Pro status from 1999-2001.
Lynch was inducted this season into the Buccaneers’ and Broncos’ respective Rings of Honor, doing so in a 10-day span. He played in 224 regular-season games, totaling 26 interceptions and 13 sacks, according to his Pro Football Hall of Fame bio as a 2017 finalist.
He actually finished his hard-hitting career with the New England Patriots in the 2008 exhibition season, providing his last memories on a field.
“If you look at the stat sheet, I had like 14 tackles,” Lynch told the Tampa Bay Times in October. “I was like Junior Seau. They’d tell me it was zone coverage — and I would blitz. (Bill) Belichick was screaming, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I came off one time and I gave him a hug. He finally just cracked a huge smile. I was out there just balling.”
Since retiring, Lynch has been a Fox Sports broadcaster. His hiring is sure to draw comparisons to the Detroit Lions’ appointment of Matt Millen as their CEO and personnel czar from 2001-07, as he left the broadcast booth a decade after his playing career.
Lynch has kept abreast of the 49ers’ decline in recent years, telling 95.7 The Game two years ago: “With all due respect to Jim Tomsula, they let go of Jim Harbaugh, a tremendous coach. I think it’s a failure of the organization.”
Baalke had presided over the 49ers personnel department since 2010, highlighted by three consecutive berths in the NFC championship game and a Super Bowl appearance, all with Harbaugh as coach. Tomsula was ousted after going 5-11 in 2015, and Kelly coached the 49ers to a franchise-record 13 consecutive losses en route to this season’s 2-14 record.
Lynch was a two-sport star at Stanford, and he played two seasons of minor-league baseball with the Florida Marlins organization as a 1992 second-round draft pick. He threw the first pitch in their history with their first farm team, the Erie Sailors.
Before going to Stanford, he attended high school in San Diego (Torrey Pines), and he lives in that area with his wife, Linda, and their four children.
As for his health after 15 years of hard-hitting NFL action, Lynch told the Tampa Bay Times in October: “My head was always good. For a guy who played 15 years, I’d put myself up against anyone in terms of fewest concussions. I’m very healthy today. I still run. My head feels great.”
Lynch is a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for a third straight year, and this year’s class will be revealed on Saturday in Houston, site of Super Bowl LI.