SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - For the third straight offseason, San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York hired a new head coach and introduced him with a news conference full of platitudes.
After running off Jim Harbaugh following the 2014 season and Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly after one-year tenures the past two seasons, York believes he has found the right man in Kyle Shanahan to lead the Niners back to respectability first and then into championship contention.
York has bet heavily on it, giving Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch six-year contracts and a promise of patience after the recent revolving door.
“(It) shows that he’s willing to give you some time,” Shanahan said Thursday. “What I didn’t want to do was come here and make a bunch of decisions just trying to win to save ourselves right away. I want to win the first day to the last day. I’m going to do everything possible to do that. But, I also want to make the right decision for the organization. John wants to make the right decision for the organization.”
With Lynch having a job as a successful television analyst at Fox and Shanahan regarded as one of the league’s brightest young assistants with many head coaching opportunities in the future, the two spent much of the interview time questioning York about a franchise that has fallen into disrepair in recent years rather than selling themselves.
Lynch has said he asked the 49ers to keep his candidacy secret, in part to test their ability to keep news from leaking. Shanahan wanted to make sure he understood what it took to win.
“I wasn’t going in there just trying to get offered the job,” Shanahan said. “I was going in there just being brutally honest. To watch how Jed responded to everything, it made me believe in him.”
The franchise has done little in recent years to earn that belief. After three straight trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl appearance under Harbaugh in 2011-13, the Niners have won just 15 games the past three years and hit rock bottom in 2016 with a 2-14 mark that matched the worst in franchise history.
San Francisco was the only team without a player who received a single vote for the AP All-Pro team and has holes throughout the roster, starting at quarterback where last year’s starters Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert both could be free agents this offseason.
“There’s some work to be done, but I don’t think it’s a 2-14 roster,” Lynch said. “There’s more talent than that.”
Shanahan and Lynch are playing catch up, as the last general manager and coach to get hired this offseason. The first task for Shanahan is to hire a staff and Lynch already is working double-days, holding draft meetings with his scouts during the day and then watching film of the existing roster at night.
Shanahan couldn’t get the job until after Atlanta played in the Super Bowl and then needed a day or two off to recover after the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to lose 34-28 to New England in overtime.
Shanahan came under criticism for his play-calling in the fourth quarter, especially for calling passes instead of using the run to bleed the clock.
“I was definitely grieving it and I probably will for a while,” Shanahan said. “But to be able to go up to the building in Atlanta the next day and get to talk to all the players, all of us spent some time together and go through it again, really gave us some closure on it.”
While the hiring of Shanahan and Lynch weren’t new, there was some clarity that came out of the introductory news conference.
The two were clear on the structure of control in the franchise with both men answering directly to York and Lynch having control of the 90-man roster, the draft and free agency, while Shanahan has final say on the 53-man roster. But they both downplayed those responsibilities, saying it will be a partnership with input going both directions.
Lynch also said he had hired former Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew as a senior personnel executive. Mayhew drafted players like Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh during his tenure with the Lions after a playing career that included a Super Bowl title in Washington and four seasons as a teammate of Lynch’s in Tampa Bay.
“One thing I keep hearing from people is get people you trust and get people you know have your back,” Lynch said. “Surround yourself with people who have been there before. I felt like he fit that bill perfectly.”
Shanahan said he is racing to put his staff together and only confirmed one hire in running backs coach Bobby Turner, who worked with Shanahan in Washington and Atlanta. Shanahan said he had promised Turner he’d hire him whenever he got a head coaching job, but said he’d like to also find a role for former 49ers star Tom Rathman, who has been running backs coach since 2009.
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