General Manager John Lynch & Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference
General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
Press Conference – April 30, 2021
San Francisco 49ers
Well, let’s start with the first guy, OL Aaron Banks. He’s bigger, 330 pounds, than what we normally think of when we think of a 49ers offensive lineman. What drew you to him and what about that size? Does he move that size well?
General Manager John Lynch: “I think obviously you always want the guy that’s big, that can move and is a scheme fit. And I think in this case, we believe that we found a candidate for that. We really grew to appreciate Aaron throughout the process. His film was very good at Notre Dame. The Senior Bowl was a positive look in person for us, continued to grow there. And then, [T] Mike McGlinchey’s incessant cheering for him. He is a bigger guy, but he moves exceptionally well. And so we think he’s a really nice fit.”
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan: “Yeah. People talk about us always wanting small guys, but that’s not the case. You’ve got to have certain guys to run a certain type of scheme that can move well. But, you don’t want them small. You just want guys who can move well. So, you’ve be able to move a certain way to kind of, as I say, be in the club for us to want you but once you can move that certain way, we want the biggest guy possible. Just usually it’s hard to get those guys because they go pretty early and we just haven’t been in a situation where we can take a guy like that. And to be there in the second round and for him to fall to us where we were picking, we felt he was the mover that we wanted. The size and everything was even, much more of a bonus and it’s not just the size, but it’s the way he plays. That’s what I liked the most, his physicality, his demeanor, kind of his mindset with how he carries himself. So, I felt very fortunate to get him and pumped he’s a Niner.”
You guys were able to maneuver a little bit, go down and then back up. From the outside, it would seem you don’t have a ton of space for drafted rookies to maybe win a spot. Was it a priority for you guys to maybe get more picks today or did it just kind of work out that way and how did those come about?
JL: “We really went in there, you do all the preparation, you go through as many possible scenarios that you can, but then as they say, a game breaks out and the draft breaks out and you try to move around. And I think what happened at 43, we had a lot of players that we still liked. Now, I don’t know if you guys will believe me or not, but had we stayed at 43, Aaron Banks was our choice. So to be able to move back five spots, pick up 121 that we later use to move up to get [RB] Trey Sermon was really an added bonus for us. And so that’s what makes this thing fun. I really feel like we got better today and I think we moved well. We worked as a unit well up there to encourage each other to be patient. And it was a really good day for the Niners.”
I know that both of you always want to have extremely physical players, but it seems like this group of guys is extremely physical to the point of like Trey Sermon is known as being a violent runner. Would you say that that is kind of higher on your priority list? Or was it just something that happened with this group of guys?
KS: “I think physicality is something we value a lot. We love guys who played physical. But, you got to have a certain skill set that we’re looking forward to. And all these guys did have that skill set. And when you can find guys who have a skill set that you appreciate and that you think fits well with what you’re trying to do, and then they have that mindset. That’s what we always want. I always say that ‘O-Lineman, they have no choice.’ So, that’s why you try to add a few physical receivers, physical back, physical tight end. That makes the mentality because O-Linemen, really, they’re always going to be physical. But, I think in the last couple of years, I mean the last year, and adding Aaron this year, I think brings a whole new dimension of a little more size with that physicality that I think will help us.”
Regarding Sherman, obviously the way you moved up would indicate you really, you really like him a lot. You obviously have some capable backs already. Do you see him adding maybe a different dimension or a specific role he can play at least as a rookie or not necessarily?
KS: “No. I look at it as you’re just trying to find NFL backs that you always feel you have guys who have the ability to be a starter. We’ve never looked for a one back, a two back, a three back, a four back. We always look for guys that we think can play as a starter, whether they are or not. If you look at our third back, the last two years, they’ve had about 38 or something percent of our carries. Sometimes because of injury, sometimes because of just rotations. Just how it worked out. And I think that’s been pretty, it’s been by far over anywhere else in the NFL. We have two guys who have played for us that have done really well. Bringing in another guy that’s we’re looking to help us to. We have some young guys who haven’t really done it yet, but we’ll see. And to be able to add Trey to this group, with this skill set, what we think he can do, you just add them in the mix and you see how it unfolds. But, we’ve got some good guys we believe in. But we’ve also, feel like we’ve gone through about four backs, four years in a row here. Really every year, except our first year. So that’s something, with losing two guys in free agency, adding one, that’s something that we felt we needed to address at some time in this draft.”
JL: “And I think, Trey, you look at our backs in the past and I think one common element is the speed. And you may look at his 40 time and say he doesn’t really fit, but sometimes 40 times can be deceiving. I think what speaks to us is like his 10 time was very good. And so you see that burst. You see that ability to stick his foot in the ground, break tackles and hit it in a hurry. And then he’s very adept at making the free safety, the second-level defender miss and he’s really good out of the backfield in the past game as well. I think he’s a good fit for what we do. It was exciting. Kyle and I started this morning kind of watching the backs and it was fun to be able, and I think the move was prompted by just a growing feeling that Trey was a really good fit for us. And I think we stayed patient, but when we felt like, all right, our luck’s about to run out, we made the move and we’re happy to be able to do so.”
I want to ask about three guys, three veteran guys, two quarterbacks and CB Richard Sherman that I just want to get updates on. Did you guys get a chance to talk to QB Jimmy Garoppolo after the trade or after the selection yesterday about expectations or how he’s going to interact with QB Trey Lance? Is that anything that you’ve ever had to address with him? The other thing is with QB Nick Mullens. A couple of days ago, he kind of expressed that his time with the 49ers was over. Is that something that you’ve articulated to him? Then finally with Richard Sherman, what’s his situation? Is there still a possibility he can be back?
KS: “You snuck in three questions. We usually get two, but we’ve never gotten three before. No, first of all with Nick, I haven’t talked to Nick recently. He actually sent me a text earlier today. I’m going to get back to him soon, but Nick’s a stud. I love Nick. He helped us out a ton here and Nick had a real tough injury that he’s working through to come back from. I think it’ll healed up around camp, and that’s why he’s out there as a free agent. We’ll see what happens to him. But, I know Nick was in a tough situation for us last year that didn’t play his best, but we didn’t help around him either. Kind of like a lot of our team last year. But, I have the utmost respect for Nick and once he gets healthy I believe he’ll get a shot somewhere. As far as Jimmy, I mean, you don’t call him after the draft. Jimmy knew what the deal was. I talked to him. We have Zoom meetings every day. I got to see him on Zoom earlier that day and we had meetings and stuff. Jimmy’s been great, reached out to [senior manager of football communications Mike Chasanoff] ‘Cheese’ right away, got Trey’s number. I think they connected. Jimmy has taken a business approach, but I think he’s excited for right now just talking to him and he’s ready to come here and get back to being healthy and playing with our team. If we have them compete, I know he’s ready to compete.”
JL: “Yeah. I would just add with Jimmy, I think what Kyle and I always try to do is not wait until something happens, I think communicate beforehand. So that’s what we’ve done with Jimmy and it’s been really good communication. I think one thing that was really heartwarming to me you know, I heard last night from Cheese that Jimmy reached out. Trey was here today and Trey told us that the first text he got was from Jimmy Garoppolo. That’s pretty special. I think it speaks to his class. I think, like Kyle said about Nick Mullens, it’s probably one of our favorite players. I’ll never forget him coming in here in his suit as a free agent for his 30, 30, 30 visit, and then turning into that player. I really admire that kid. He gets the most out of his ability and we wish him well, whether it’s here or elsewhere. Then finally with Sherm, you never count Sherm out. Sherm was a big part of this culture here, a tremendous leader. I think Kyle and I both would consider him a friend. Like I said, you never count him out. We haven’t really been in communication. We do text from time to time, nothing about football. But like I said, as long as he wants to play, I think Sherm’s being patient and kind of waiting it out for the right situation. We’ll see where that goes.”
KS: “Yeah. I couldn’t agree more with Sherm. We love Sherm. He’s a friend. I’ve got as much respect for him as anyone I’ve ever coached. I think the last time I talked to him was Easter. I’m sure I will sooner than later. But Sherm’s in a good situation to where, Sherm’s a businessman. He’s going to find out the best opportunity for him. I know teams are going to want him. But when you’re in a situation like him at his age, which these guys do, and you have the credentials like he does, you sit back and you watch and you find the best opportunity for yourself. I know Sherm’s probably going to want to go to a contender just knowing him and how competitive he is. He’ll sit back and be smart and make the right decision for himself. But, when you’ve got a guy that you trust and care about and you also know how competitive he is, we will never rule him out.”
Well, speaking of the cornerback situation, can you just go over what the appeal was with CB Ambry Thomas and how you envision him in the defense?
JL: “Ambry was a guy who really gained steam, I think, through the process with us. I give a lot of credit to [vice president of player personnel] Adam Peters. He kind of championed him. You look at outside corner and there were the guys up top. Then, it was like, ‘Okay, you know [New Orleans Saints CB Paulson] Adebo was another one of them.’ But after that went, then earlier on we were saying, ‘Okay, where would it be next?’ Then Ambry Thomas was a guy we really grew fond of throughout the process. He opted out this year, so you didn’t get a chance to see him play. Again, one thing we really tried to do was give a fair look to these guys. I think sometimes it was really easy to say, ‘Hey, he opted out.’ Some people even went as far as well to say, ‘He doesn’t love football if he opted out.’ No, I’m a father of a kid who played on a college football team this year. The plans were so up in the air. I don’t blame any of these kids for having opted out with going through what we did. Ambry is a kid that we were able to talk as the process went deep and we started to really have a liking for him. We talked to [Michigan defensive backs coach] Michael Zordich who is a guy contemporary of mine in the league and played safety at a really high level. I respect his opinion. He thought the world of him. He’s a guy who ran in the high 4.3’s. I think his greatest asset is poise at the moment of truth. When that ball’s in the air, he has an ability to locate it. Which is not as easy to find as you might think for DBs. As they say, there’s a reason they’re playing defense. Ambry has a good skill for being very poised when the ball’s in the air. We think he can be a good fit with us. We were really fired up to be able to get him. He’s a Michigan kid from Detroit. We were worried Detroit had the pick in front of us, and we started getting worried right there that they may take him, but they took another corner and we were very happy to have him.”
I understand through the process, you guys didn’t get to spend much time with QB Trey Lance in person. What was it like having him and his family in the building today and what were your impressions of actually having that time with him face-to-face?
KS: “It was cool to see them in person. We got to meet them in person at his Pro Day, and no different. The same vibes as other times we’ve been with them. It’s different. They all come in, they’re getting to see everything. I got to meet his parents for the second time and we were hanging out for about 15 minutes and they’re going to look for houses and things like that. I told him, ‘Don’t be too depressed. Everyone is very upset after the first couple of days and you realize you’ve got to change what you were looking for.’ And they’re like, ‘No, everyone’s told us.’ I’m like, ‘No, everyone told me, you’ll see, it’s real.’ So that was mainly our conversation. Then we had to come here and do a couple of things for something.Then it’s back to the draft. I mean, we would have loved to stay and hang out, but like we said, ‘Hey, we we don’t need to recruit anymore, man. We drafted you.’ So we’ve got to get back to the draft and we had some people showing them around and I think they got out of here pretty early today. And tomorrow might come in and meet with our quarterback coach and do some things, just give him a head start. But I think they’re going to get out of here on Sunday and they’ll come back the Wednesday before rookie mini camp. Then it’ll be full go then.”
JL: “All I could think about was that I wanted to draft his brother. His brother’s a senior in high school following in his footsteps at North Dakota State. I think he’s taller than Trey. He stands there next to him. I do think every time you see Trey in person, that’s the one thing, the size of him. He’s a big man. It fires you up to see him. His parents, we’ve only met them on two occasions, very quickly at the Pro Day at North Dakota State, but then today to meet them, you start to really understand how Trey turned out so good as a young man because his parents are really exceptional people. So to get to share some time with them, albeit quickly, was a cool moment today.”
I think that C Alex Mack turns 36 during the season. I’m just wondering whether the Banks pick up allows you to shift OL Daniel Brunskill over so that he’s working more at center and just what your plan is post-Mack at that important center position?
KS: “Usually our plan is to worry about that when it happens. You love to have backup options, and that’s why you got to have some depth and add in someone like Aaron, who’s been a hell of a guard for his whole college career. I know he’ll do the same here. We’ve got Brunskill, who’s played tackle for us. He’s played guard for us and he’s played center for us and he’s played tight end for other people. So we’ve got some versatility there. I’m really excited with how Brunskill played for us at guard, and I know we can win with him. It was nice to add another guard to where now you have some depth. Brunskill can go in and play center. If we didn’t sign Mack, he would have started at center for us. So it gives us some depth there allows us a little bit of versatility and that’s what we were excited about with the three positions we added today. We had a lot of need there. Free agency went well where we were able to sign some guys back on these one-year deals. We were able to add Mack in here. We were able to re-sign [T] Trent [Williams]. But the depth at all these positions we had to really add to, and whether we got a starter or whether we got a backup who could eventually be a starter, we felt that way at all three of these spots we added today. That’s why I thought it was so important that we got an O-Lineman, that we got a corner and that we got a running back.”
Just to go back to 2017, it just feels like you guys have demonstrated a lot of growth and your processes changed. You drafted your franchise quarterback after deciding not to in 2017. You traded up for running back again for the first time since then. Same with the corner. So just going back to then, what have you guys sort of learned about the process and what have you changed about how you evaluate players and decide whether to move up for them?
JL: “Yeah, I think back to anything I’ve ever done, I think the one thing my folks always imparted upon me is you can always get better. As soon as you stop having that attitude you, you better be doing something else. So I think back to my playing career in year 15, I felt like I was still learning. Certainly in this role four years in, yeah, we should be better. I think just our processes, they tighten up a little bit each year. You better learn from your experiences, and I think we have. It’s a fun time of year. I think we have a cool process because of the way we incorporate the whole building. I think as we continue to do that, we should get better every year. I feel like we have right now. We’ll see. Like we said after Trey’s pick, I think that’s all to be judged down the line. But I do know we have a good process that I’m really proud of.”
At the end of last season, you talked a lot about the mental toll the season took on everybody. Of course it starts with the tape, but in your process this year, how much did that factor in when you were talking to players and evaluating them, just having that mental fortitude?
KS: “I think John touched on it, that’s why we have a little empathy for people who had to deal with this year, the 2020 season. Some guys tape wasn’t as good, which you’ve got to look into it. I do think everyone has the excuse of the COVID and the 2020 year and all the circumstances everyone had to deal with. It is an excuse, but it’s also real. You’ve got to look into each one. Sometimes you find out people who might’ve just used it as an excuse, but sometimes it’s, ‘Hey, man, you can’t blame the kid. They didn’t think they were even playing until October.’ I didn’t know we were coaching until July, but it didn’t take me long to get in shape to coach. You don’t need to be in shape to coach. You understand all that with people. I always look at it, and I think we both do, we just want people who love football. There’s lots of people who are looking for reasons, maybe not lots, but maybe not to play. Or maybe, ‘This is hard, but I’ll do it because it provides me a lot of good things.’ But those are the guys that, they can do well, but they usually aren’t built to last. This league is tough. I mean, it provides you a lot of really good things and a good living and everything, but you’re going to be questioned. You’re going to be doubted. Everyone’s always trying to replace you, whether you’re a player, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re general manager. I mean, it’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ If you don’t truly love what you’re doing and really do it, not just for a lifestyle or something like that, then you aren’t built to last and you’re usually on your way out. It’s just a matter of time. I think that’s why we like people who, we like to say, live for this. Yeah, you got to make a living and everything, so it starts with that. But you want people who do it for a lot more than that reason.”