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Murph: Healthy skepticism the smart play with Lynch hire




It’s been nearly 48 hours since the 49ers announced John Lynch as their new general manager, and despite all the plaudits for the man’s personality, smarts, playing career, Stanford pedigree, people skills, football acumen, Bill Walsh-coached sheen and overall Citizen-of-the-Year-ness, there remain two questions still worth asking:

John Lynch? Huh?

I still can’t escape the overall randomness of this move.

It doesn’t mean Lynch won’t be successful. He might well be. It doesn’t mean that he won’t use his youthful energy and NFL contacts and his penchant for being a winner to soar. He might well use all of those in turning the 49ers culture — yes, that word — around.

What it does mean, however, is that Jed York and Paraag Marathe seem to have almost fallen bass-ackward, as they say, into the hire.

In other words, I said from the get-go that with Jed’s sketchy track record — see Nolan, Mike; Singletary, Mike; Harbaugh, Jim, firing of; Tomsula, Jim; Kelly, Chip; Baalke, Trent — our best bet was that either Jed suddenly sipped from the potion of football competence, or that Jed, for lack of a better phrase, got lucky.

The smart money was always on the latter.

And John Lynch may be their stroke of luck.

Anyone praising the move is generally making stuff up as he or she goes along.

Anyone ripping the move is generally making stuff up as he or she goes along.

John Lynch was on absolutely nobody’s mind — nobody’s! — until the move was made on Jan. 29. And quite honestly, he may not have been on the 49ers’ mind until he made that fateful phone call to Kyle Shanahan after FOX covered the Falcons’ NFC divisional win over Seattle.

As Brent Jones joked with us on the air: If all it took was a phone call to Kyle, maybe guys like Jones should’ve picked up the phone a couple of weeks ago.

(Brent was kidding. He didn’t want the job.)

The 49ers appeared to be on the path to making a safe, experienced hire. Longtime Vikings personnel man George Paton had a resume, pelts on his wall and NFL contacts galore. Longtime Cardinals personnel man Terry McDonough had the same. Either hire would have made sense, on paper.

But then Jed threw his Hail Mary and named John Lynch, who apparently had electric chemistry with presumptive new head coach Shanahan. Lynch’s credentials? A potential Hall of Fame career, a kinship with Shanahan and experience as a FOX analyst.

Let’s put it this way: If the 49ers named Troy Aikman as the new GM, would you be happy? If the 49ers named Darryl Johnston as the new GM, would you be happy? Michael Strahan?

All are FOX analysts and Hall of Famers.

How about Ronde Barber? Charles Davis? Matt Millen?

Ouch. That last one hurt. But he’s a FOX analyst, too, like Barber and Davis.

Point is, there is a certain randomness to the Lynch hire that allows room for healthy skepticism. It’s almost as if Jed and Paraag were fumbling in a dark room, and accidentally found a light switch.

Question is: Is there a short-circuit in the switch, and soon, it will be dark again?

More questions: Is Lynch in love with the idea of front office work? At this point in his life, does he want to put in the NFL-level hours of commitment? Will power change him? How will he and Shanahan handle inevitable losses as they rebuild?

Maybe most pertinent: How will he get along with Paraag?

That’s what we’re left with. Mostly guesswork. You can praise Jed for what Lynch called “out-of-the-box” thinking, but it was “out-of-the-box” to fire Harbaugh and replace him with Tomsula, too. Sometimes the box exists for a reason.

Lynch will be on our show Wednesday morning at 8:05, and we look forward to having him. I look forward to interacting with him. I think he’ll be an effective communicator, and a fresh coat of paint for the team’s messaging.

He’s already saying the right things, and doing the right things, too. He already hired personnel man Adam Peters from Denver as his VP of player personnel. Those close to the team say more experienced personnel guys are in the works, too.

It all sounds new and exciting, but there are reasons why healthy skepticism is a safe route. There are plenty of risks with this kind of unorthodox hire. There are potential upsides, too.

But to say anything else is just guessing. The Jed York Era has created as much in all of us.