49ers hiring John Lynch while risky isn’t unprecedented

Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire


The “out of left field” Sunday night bombshell that the San Francisco 49ers were hiring former Bucs safety and Super Bowl champion now tuined FOX NFL game analyst John Lynch, as their new general manager is clearly as risky, as it is bold. But, it’s also not unprecedented to put someone in charge without NFL front office experience.

This exact same move from “booth to NFL GM without experience” was done infamously, by the Detroit Lions, when they hired Fox broadcaster Matt Millen in 2001. You probably know by now that by the time the former Super Bowl Champion player Millen was done drafting wide receivers three consecutive years in the top 10 (yes, he did that) and had the worst eight year winning percentage (27%) of any NFL executive in charge in modern pro football winning just 31 games. The culmination of those 8 years saw Detroit in such a mess, they finished with an ultimate 0-16 humiliation in 2008.

You would have thought that the Millen debacle would be enough to scare anyone, and San Fran specifically, from ever trying that, again. Alas, owner Jed York’s franchise is floundering…and that may be being kind.

York promised a “change in culture” at his early January news conference to announce he was getting rid of his third head coach (Chip Kelly) in three straight seasons. This would definitely qualify, as changing the culture.

Reports Sunday night were that Lynch sought out Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan recently, who the 49ers have been planning on hiring him as head coach for three weeks. Lynch apparently lobbied him to convince York to bring Lynch on when they can finally hire the younger Shanahan. This has been predicated on when the Falcons lose and well, Atlanta kept winning all the way to Houston and the Super Bowl.

So, Lynch has been given the front office reigns officially first.

The Niners decision isn’t even as strange as what the Browns did with their GM hire a year ago. When Cleveland hired baseball executive Paul DePodesta to take over their disaster, that was not only “out of the box,” it was “out of the warehouse.” (Okay, we made that metaphor up for emphasis)

DePodesta is a former baseball GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his specialty is analytics, advanced stats. That is to say: numbers and how to improve a team though understanding numerical value on their play. Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam wanted a different perspective and someone with a track record of succeeding, even without a football background. Well, as you likely know, the Browns promptly went out and lost the first 14 games this year. How’s that for numbers? We’ll see how long that marriage lasts.

So, there are two recent examples of trying something unforseeen in bold move, just like what San Francisco did on Sunday night with hiring the untested Lynch. The 49ers obviously believe their bold move will get people to stop laughing at them.

For their part, the San Francisco Bay Area media, haven’t stopped laughing and award winning columnist Ray Ratto humorously ripped the move Sunday night here:

Welcome to the Niners, Johnny!

And, ultimately, it will only be Lynch’s decisions and Shanahan’s coaching that will stop the laughing in the short term.

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