It probably took less than an hour for John Lynch to get asked the question inside 49ers headquarters. Maybe less than 10 minutes. News broke that assistant general manager Adam Peters was declining interview requests for two open general-manager positions and choosing to stay with the 49ers.
And then …
“I just had somebody come in and say, ‘Hey, man, is there something I should know?’” John Lynch said, chuckling during a phone interview on Wednesday. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I’m getting all these calls that, you know, people are inferring that you’re leaving.’ I was, like, ‘No, I’m good.’”
No, Lynch isn’t ready to go anywhere, just like Peters isn’t ready to go anywhere. First, the 49ers’ top two football executives are both focused on this playoff run, which starts Saturday against the Seahawks. And second, while Peters is the odds-on top choice to eventually move into the 49ers’ GM spot should Lynch opt to go to television or elsewhere, it’s not happening right now or likely this offseason.
Lynch said that Peters’ decision to opt out of interviews with the Titans and Cardinals — initially reported by the NFL Network — was his personal choice, which Lynch both appreciates and understands.
“I think Adam just came in and said, ‘Look, I respect both those places, but I’m very happy here,’” Lynch said. “I think that’s a great thing. You know, Adam’s from here (Cupertino) and is a big part of what we’ve done. He’s been big for me. At the same time, I’m a friend. I said, ‘Pete, maybe you should at least talk to these people.’ But he was convicted that he was good here. And his family’s happy. So I like that, and I think, yes, we have a place where people want to be.
“We’re focused on this week, but I think there’s a good feeling that we’re going to be a good team and organization for a long time to come and people want to be a part of that.”
Lynch, of course, was heavily pursued by Amazon Prime last offseason and will probably always get mega-money feelers from the networks. He admitted in November that he came close to taking the Amazon job, reportedly worth $15 million a year, but decided he couldn’t leave the 49ers with “unfinished business.” So if the 49ers win the Super Bowl this February, Lynch might be more likely to seriously listen to a great offer. But even then, he sounds more than prepared to stay.
There’s a lot of stability permeating this franchise, even after a fairly tumultuous season in which the 49ers had to play three quarterbacks and probably ended up with the best fit of them all — rookie Brock Purdy — heading into the playoffs and beyond. Lynch and Kyle Shanahan also made the big midseason trade for Christian McCaffrey, who has looked like he’s been here forever basically from the moment he showed up. They have the No. 1 defense in the league, filled with stars.
The 49ers might win the Super Bowl this season. They might not. But six seasons into the Shanahan/Lynch era, they’ve never seemed so perfectly set up to push this further and higher. And together. Why wouldn’t Peters want to hang around through this potential 49ers boom time?
That was as good a launching point as any for my scheduled check-in with Lynch on Wednesday, just after the 49ers practiced in the wind, rain and whatever else was dumping down outside Levi’s Stadium — just like is forecast for Saturday afternoon.
Here are some of the other highlights from our conversation …
How did the practice go in all that rain?
It was good ’cause it seems like we’re going to be playing in it on Saturday.
Do you think your team is well suited for this kind of weather in a do-or-die game?
I think we’re set up to be (a good rain team). We’re fairly complete. We do a lot of different things well. We stop the run, we run the ball well. Those are typically the things (that are important in weather). Brock, obviously (didn’t play in extreme weather) growing up in Arizona, but at Iowa State he handled a lot of bad weather. So I think he’s equipped to do it.
You’ve gone through three QBs and all that this season, but it feels like you and Kyle have stuck to pretty much the same roster-building principles. What do you think this season is telling us about your process?
The thing I think I’m probably most proud of, because we’ve spent some money since we’ve been here — part of why it was a good job to take (was) because they hadn’t (spent a lot of money) before we got here (in February 2017), so you want to hear those things, that they’re committed to doing it. We’ve been fairly aggressive. But at some point, you’ve got to come to balance. And I think last (offseason) was one of those years for us.
Having said that, we still went out, we probably knew we had one significant move, and for us, it was a couple things: re-signing Deebo (Samuel) and then Charvarius Ward in terms of free agency. Really happy. We were all aligned on finding a top-flight corner. And then zeroing in that Charvarius was the guy. He’s been incredible for us. Really just love everything from his mentality to his abilities.
But then after that, we had some things we wanted to do, but we had to be creative and find players at a good value. Some of these guys, Ray-Ray (McCloud), Oren Burks, George Odum, these guys have been really integral.
We placed on emphasis on special teams, but one thing that Kyle and I have always agreed on, we don’t want just a guy (who only plays special teams). (Bill) Belichick will do that, and it’s served him well, but we just don’t want guys that are only special-teams players. We want guys who can contribute on offense and defense. And I think we’ve seen that from Ray-Ray certainly; Oren’s filled in at linebacker in limited snaps, but he’s played really well when he has. Ray-Ray’s return ability … I feel like he’s just getting going. He’s about to pop one. And George Odum, I think, has been dominant. I think he should be an All-Pro special-teams player the way he’s been playing, especially of late. I’m really proud of our staff for those moves.
Of course, so much focus is on Purdy, a rookie QB playing at this level. But he was a seventh-round pick, last pick of the entire draft. How close did you come to not taking him?
We came in with kind of a stated goal that, hey, late somewhere in the draft, let’s take a quarterback that we really believe in. Like we do with the later parts of the draft, in the month before, I’ve told this story, Steve Slowik, who’s now a pro scout and brother of Bobby Slowik, our pass-game coordinator, was the area scout. So his reports were consistently more so about the person than the player. He’s talking to (Iowa State coach) Matt Campbell. And Matt Campbell was, “This guy changed the program. Just listen to me, you’re going to be getting a special player.”
We had some high grades on him. Probably higher his junior year than his senior. But the process we usually do, for the later half of the draft, we’ll hand over a bucket of guys (to position coaches). (QB coach Brian) Griese and (assistant QB coach) Klay Kubiak, we had a bucket of probably about eight guys, and they really, early on in the process, became fans of Brock. … And they really went in-depth, Zoom meetings and all that, became more and more convicted on Brock. Once we had kind of knocked off our checklist of everything we thought we needed, “OK, we need a couple more corners …” Once we had done that and Brock was still there, we wanted him as a free agent. We didn’t know whether he’d last. Once we got to that last pick and had checked off all the other boxes, it was, “Let’s just go ahead and take our quarterback. We like this kid. We’re convicted on him, let’s not leave it to chance.”
And I’ve never asked Brock, I kept telling myself I’m going to do it, but I don’t want to mess with his head right now: “Would you have come as a free agent?” I hope he would’ve. (Laughs.)
I think the thing that’s probably surprised us all, he’s a better athlete than any of us anticipated. You saw him run around a little at Iowa State, but you never know how that’s going to translate. But he’s got some athleticism to him. Last week, he escaped early in the game and gets the edge on a defensive lineman, ends up getting 12-13 yards. I mean, those are big deals when you’re moving the chains. He’s done it repeatedly.
Things can always change and have frequently this season at that position, but Purdy’s performance right now looks like Jimmy Garoppolo’s first big splash in 2017, and Garoppolo was immediately your starting QB into 2018. Is Purdy your starter next season?
I know it’s my job, but I’ve really been focused on, like, let’s not even go there. Let’s ride this thing out. I’m going to need Kyle’s participation. I’ve got my own thoughts. But I’ve really tried to be focused on, let’s just keep taking this as it comes. We’ll figure it out.
We’re left with a really good situation with a guy we moved a lot for to get in (2021 first-round pick) Trey (Lance). We still love his skills. And Brock’s been more than we ever could’ve asked for. We liked him a lot, but I’ve been telling people, “Yeah, we did wait ’til the last pick of the draft.” (Laughs.)
The one thing I will say, the athleticism, putting him in a game, that has surprised us. But from Day 1, he was functioning at a high level out here. OTAs, all that. Everybody’s looking at each other, “Wow, this guy’s got some courage.” He threw into small windows, he was efficient. He’s performed from the start, but you never know until you throw him in there. Same can be said now we’re going to playoff football. How’s he going to respond? But he’s checked every box thus far, so I wouldn’t anticipate seeing anything different.
Plus having a seventh-round contract, plus Lance’s rookie contract as your two QBs sure will help your salary cap next season.
And the way we’re set up, we’ve got a lot of high-paid guys (at other positions). What’s one way you do that? You’re not paying your quarterback what some people are paying their quarterback. There was some strategy certainly when we were thinking about shifting over to Trey and all that. That’s how we could keep this team together. That is one potential way. Who knows where we’ll go? I think we have a good situation, though.
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