It certainly looks to me as if Jed York – the guy who runs the Niners’ football operation for his family that owns the team – has thrown the management version of a Hail Mary. The team is a mess and the organization is a mess. Since the time when Jim Harbaugh was forced out based on a personality incompatibility out there, the roster has suffered; the team has lost; they have hired and fired two coaches and fired the GM who survived the “Harbaugh-pogrom”. Other than that, it has been smooth sailing for the Niners up and down San Francisco Bay.
Jed York just hired a new GM. John Lynch went to Stanford; he was an outstanding safety in the NFL for 15 years making the Pro Bowl 9 times and being named first team All-Pro 2 times. He retired from the NFL in 2008 and joined FOX Broadcasting as part of their NFL coverage. He and Kevin Burkhardt served as the #2 FOX television announcing team for the past several years. On the air, John Lynch is very good.
So, why is this a Hail Mary? As good a player as John Lynch was – oh, by the way, do not be surprised to see him in the Hall of Fame as a defensive back; he was that good – and as good an analyst as he is on TV, John Lynch has never been an assistant coach, a coach or held any position in a football front office. Everyone has to start somewhere, and he is starting his football management career at the top of an organization that might fairly be described as one that puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional”.
The Niners gave Lynch a 6-year contract as the GM. That is also a bit unusual because of its length and it may demonstrate one of two things:
- Perhaps Jed York has had an epiphany and realizes the depth of the mess that has accumulated in SF. Having seen the mess, he has come to understand that it will take a while for anyone to clean it out and put things in order. [Aside: One of the labors of Hercules was to clean out the Augean stables in a single day and he accomplished that by diverting a river bed through the stables. That is mythology; the Niners’ mess may be similarly sized, but it is real and cannot be cleaned up in a day.]
- Perhaps Jed York could not get anyone with “significant GM credentials” to take the job and when he reached out to John Lynch, Lynch realized that he held all of the leverage and put the arm on York. [Aside: If this is correct, then maybe John Lynch has a real aptitude for the negotiation part of the GM’s job.]
The word is that Lynch will hire Kyle Shanahan to be the Niners’ coach as soon as Shanahan gets through with being the Falcons’ offensive coordinator this Sunday in Houston. Kyle Shanahan has grown up in and around football and has been an offensive coordinator for three NFL teams. He has not, however, been a head coach anywhere meaning that he and John Lynch will be learning the full measure of their new responsibilities together.
Hey, this might work out – just like Hail Marys sometimes work out, particularly if Aaron Rodgers is the one launching them. On the other hand, this might turn out to be the West Coast version of a decision made by William Clay Ford in Detroit when he hired Matt Millen – an outstanding NFL linebacker – out of the broadcast booth to be the Lions’ GM. I’ll just say that the Matt Millen experience in Detroit was less than positive. If you want all of those gory details, Google is your friend…
As I said above, the Niners’ roster is substandard on the “talent spectrum” and the Lynch/Shanahan project will be to upgrade the talent level significantly and quickly. However, over and above that generic situation, they need to figure out quickly if they have an NFL-caliber QB on the roster. Here is the depth chart:
- Colin Kaepernick: He took the Niners to a Super Bowl in February 2013 and his career arc since then has been steadily downward.
- Blaine Gabbert: He had 3 undistinguished years in Jax and has been in SF for 3 seasons. He has started 40 games in his career and the team record in those 40 games is 9-31.
- Christian Ponder: He had 4 mediocre-at-best years with the Vikes from 2011-2014 and has not seen the field in an NFL game since then.
- Thad Lewis: He has appeared in 7 games in his career and started 6 of those games. The last time he was in a real NFL game was in late December 2013.
Meanwhile, the other Bay Area NFL team is also in the news. As the Raiders have applied to the NFL for permission to relocate to Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports yesterday that the Adelson family has withdrawn as investors in the stadium project. Originally, Sheldon Adelson had “pledged” to put $650M into the pot to build the stadium; earlier this month, the Raiders said that Goldman Sachs could provide financing for that $650M in the event that things could not be worked out with the Adelson family.
There are lots of moving parts to this story to include the NFL, the Raiders, Sheldon Adelson, the Governor of Nevada, the Clark County Commission Chairman, and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority. For all I know, Francis the Talking Mule may become an actor in this saga. Here is the report from the Review-Journal yesterday to give you an idea of the landscape at the moment.
I will try to follow this story in the Review-Journal for a several reasons:
- The paper has been steadfastly in favor of building a new stadium and getting the Raiders to move to Las Vegas.
- The Las Vegas Review-Journal is owned by Sheldon Adelson.
- With the Adelson family now “out of the deal”, I wonder if the paper’s unwavering favorable view of this venture will continue to obtain.
Finally, here is a comment form Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times about another happening in Las Vegas:
“A driverless shuttle is being tested in downtown Las Vegas.
“Apparently, they got the idea from watching the Houston Texans’ offense this season.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………