Back in 2011 when the 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh from Stanford to be head coach, the power structure was set up to limit his control.
General manager Trent Baalke was given control of the 53-man roster, the draft and free agency, and Harbaugh – at the time – was fine with that, and even addressed the issue at his introductory news conference, saying it was something he was comfortable with.
At the time, too, Baalke said it wouldn’t be an issue.
“In order to be successful, it’s going to both of us, and all of us, working together to make decisions,” Baalke said. “So regardless who has the final decision, it’s going to be a cooperative effort including all of us, especially between Jim and I.”
Yet over the course of the next four years, it became a source of irritation between Harbaugh and Baalke. Harbaugh wanted more control over the roster, and pushed back. Eventually, Harbaugh was shown the door. Then after this past season Baalke followed him.
Now, the 49ers have introduced a new head coach in Kyle Shanahan, who will work with new general manager John Lynch, and the team has set up a new structure that will give Shanahan control of the 53-man roster. Perhaps it’s a sign CEO Jed York and Co. have learned from past mistakes.
Lynch will have oversight over the full 90-man roster heading into training camp and have authority over free agency and the draft, but Lynch – just as Baalke did – says he will work with Shanahan on those decisions.
“Free agency and draft, I think I have (control), but in all of those it’s also written that subject to approval of the other guy,” Lynch said in Thursday’s news conference. “That’s the way we wanted it, that’s the way we wanted it reflected, but that’s the reality of it.”
As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted, the Lynch-Shanahan arrangement is apparently similar to the one in Seattle, where head coach Pete Carroll has authority over the 53-man roster and GM John Schneider controls who is on the 90-man pre-training camp roster.
Shanahan said Thursday he foresees a good working relationship with Lynch on roster decisions and player acquisitions.
“When it comes down to the 53 and the 90, a lot of that is just something you have to put down on paper, and it’s stuff that helps you out if stuff goes really bad,” Shanahan told the media. “If stuff doesn’t go really bad and you’re working with the right people, it usually isn’t something that comes up. To have an opportunity where an owner gives you a chance to come in with a GM and to make sure that we both meet together before they do it, that’s what made this so special.”