John Lynch knows he's stepping into a shaky situation. As the 49ers’ new general manager, he’s well aware of the team’s recent spiral from NFC champion to NFC cellar.
Yet in an interview this week with Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback, Lynch says he’s confident that if he takes a step-by-step approach to his job, he and those around him can turn the franchise around. And, he told Breer he saw it done up close when he was a young safety for the Tampa Bay Bucs when GM Rich McKay and head coach Tony Dungy took command. They came up with a course of action and stuck to it.
When Dungy took over in 1996, the Buccaneers hadn’t had a winning season since 1981. They promptly went to the playoffs in four of the next six seasons under Dungy, then won the Super Bowl in 2002 for Jon Gruden the year after Dungy was let go. McKay and Dungy provided a foundation for winning, said Lynch. He believes he and new head coach Kyle Shanahan can provide the same type of base for a 49ers turnaround.
“Rich McKay came in and brought some stability – we’re going to draft good winning players that have certain traits and football character,” Lynch told Breer. “Then Tony came in and gave it more stability – 'These are the schemes we’re going to play. We’re not deviating in Week 1 or Week 2 if it’s not working. We’re sticking to them.' ”
Lynch says that even though he’s never worked in an NFL front office, he’s not overwhelmed by his new job. As he prepares for a busy offseason of scouting college players, NFL free agents and working with Shanahan to bolster a weak roster, Lynch says it’s important to simply focus on taking positive steps every day.
“A priest once said to me, ‘Think about eating a huge steak. You can’t eat it all in one bite. You’ve got to take one bite at a time,’ ” Lynch recalled. “And that’s the way we’re going through it. You can get overwhelmed in this job, particularly coming in late. I got all this to do, how do I do it? Instead, we’re just going about our business each day and taking things as they come. It does feel very natural.”
It’s part of a team approach that prompted CEO Jed York to invest in Lynch and Shanahan at the same time.
“I believe in these guys,” York said recently. “We aren’t where we want to be. We are a two-win team right now and we need to make sure that these guys have everything that they can to get this thing up and running.”