General Manager John Lynch Press Conference
General Manager John Lynch
Press Conference – April 24, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
“We as an organization are really excited about the draft. It’s been a really cool process as it is every year. I want to take the opportunity to thank a few people. Our scouts, we’ve got tremendous scouts. A lot of them were here before we got here and I’m blessed to work with them each and every day. Their professionalism, their work ethic. These guys are led by [assistant general manager] Adam Peters and our college scouting director Tariq Ahmad, they have just been fabulous in this process and ever since I’ve worked with them. Justin Chabot, our assistant college scouting director, these guys are really important to what we do and I want to really commend those guys for their leadership and they’re example for our staff. I’d put our college staff against anyone. Along the same lines, the R & D department, we lost a couple key guys a couple years ago with [Minnesota Vikings general manager] Kwesi [Adofo-Mensah] leaving and [Minnesota Vikings vice president of football operations] Demetrius Washington. We’re really fortunate that we haven’t skipped a beat. [Research and Development Manager] Matt Ploenzke leads our R & D department in a really cool way. Then of course, our coaches, [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and our coaches, they’re very integral to our process. And this year, it’s kind of cool because it’s a seamless process that’s a well-oiled machine now, so when guys like [defensive coordinator] Steve Wilks come in, they learn the way we do things really quick and it’s been awesome to have a new set of eyes in a couple different instances with Steve and [offensive passing game specialist] Klint Kubiak, some different perspectives in the meetings as well. [Former 49ers RB] Frank Gore sat in on a lot of meetings, didn’t say much, but sat back and took a lot of mental notes and that’s been cool to share the process with him. And I think we’re ready and I’m not going to have much to do on Thursday, but we’ll continue to work right up until we pick. I’ve said this many times, and I’m always an optimist with the way I look at things, but I think this isn’t just being optimistic, I think it’s a reality. If you ask what are the themes of this draft, I think one of them is the quality of depth in this draft. I think that sets up well for our first pick being at 99, then having 11 of them. The quality of depth is really a signature of this draft for me. There’s a lot of good football players and a lot that we like. That excites me and that excites everybody and we have to have a productive draft. You always have to be infusing youth into your team and quality youth. And we’re excited about the prospects of being able to do that and with that, I’ll open it up for questions.”
This is not necessarily a draft question, but I guess it is as far as timing. What’s been your level of transparency with QB Trey Lance as far as what’s transpired as far as teams reaching out to you? What have you told him and where does it stand?
“Generally, our policy, my policy, if we’re actively trying to trade a player, not trying to, if we’re having discussions. For instance, last year with [T] Mike [McGlinchey], it became apparent that a year away from that, it was going to be tough to resign him with [T] Trent Williams in the building and the reality of our roster. I brought Mike McGlinchey up and said, ‘Hey, Mike, from being a player myself I never want you to hear from anyone else that you’re being shopped, so I’m telling you, we are going to talk to some teams,’ if we’re fielding inbound calls, I think I’d be doing that every single day if I’m telling every single player. I do think with the sensitivity of Trey’s position, it may be a little different, so Trey and I have talked and we’re on the same page and Trey knows exactly where the situation is. His mindset is all about competing and I think that’s exactly where his mindset should be. We’re excited about the position he’s put himself in with the work he’s done this offseason to number one, get healthy, number two, improve upon some things that he really wanted to improve upon. And we don’t get to watch all of his workouts. I’ve got a good view. He’s definitely excited and I think he has reason to be, so yes, there has been good communication and we’re excited about Trey’s ability to go compete for a job.”
Can you characterize the calls that you get about him? Are there offers made or is it just kind of feeling you guys out?
“Yeah, I think there’s a lot of smoke really. It hasn’t been extremely active, and it’s not like we’ve put it out there that, ‘Hey, we’re taking offers for Trey, call 1-800 to,’ that’s not been the process. People’s job in this is to ask questions. Has that happened on a couple occasions? Sure. It hasn’t been that substantive and like I said, we’re focused as is Trey on his ability to compete and play an integral role on this team. Last year we needed five and so we value every single one of those guys. And we’re excited about our group. We really are.”
Have his agents reached out to you about potentially moving him if he doesn’t get an opportunity to play?
You mentioned Frank Gore, is that sort of laying the groundwork for him joining the front office or the scouting staff at some point? And then you also mentioned Tariq and Justin, have any of one of those guys sort of filled the role that Tennessee Titans general Manager Ran Carthon had been playing in previous drafts?
“Not really, they’re more focused on the college side of things. Now Ran did play a part in our college staff, Ran’s a really solid evaluator. I think one of Ran’s most unique talents is he’s got a great feel for people. Ran was tremendous with the 30 visits, with the combine, just getting to know people and having a great feel for that. We collectively, those guys are skilled at that as well, but different roles. They’re both incredibly valuable to our organization. We’ve kind of made do without Ran, but you’re going to feel it when you lose a guy like that. And I just miss having around here. He is, one of the good people that I’ve worked with. And then Frank, a couple years ago we had [former 49ers OL Joe] Staley in here. Frank showed an interest in coming in here and like I said, somebody made that opportunity available to me years ago, and I was really grateful for it. If someone’s willing to put the time in and is given as much as he has to the organization, then absolutely we’re going to open our arms and Frank, I think he learned a lot through the process.”
You said at the owner’s meetings that you would know more about QB Brock Purdy after about 12 weeks. I know we’re not quite there yet, but just having him in the building the last week, what has his mindset been and what have you noticed so far?
“Just what we expected, he’s attacking each day. I think he’s focused on each day. Dr. Meister had said that an inflection point will be 12 weeks because that’s when he’s supposed to start throwing, but right now he’s just really focused on maxing each day. I think with rehab, having gone through it myself, there’s a physical component to it. There’s also a psychological and emotional and mental component and part of that is just waking up and really being where you’re at. And I think that what Brock has done a really good job of and I get a lot of people reaching out saying that the high fives at the Giants game were really encouraging, but I think what’s more encouraging is what I’m hearing every day from our people, from Brock. He’s making great progress. As I have it, we’re six weeks out, just finished that six weeks and really doing a good job with it.”
He was quoted as saying that he wasn’t really sure, honestly, if he’ll be able to play this year. Is that on the table or is it just the guy taking it one day at a time?
“I think it’s more so Brock being Brock and understanding that he has to be exactly where he is at and it doesn’t do him or anyone else a lot of good to be speculating about what’s to come and Brock is just jumping in each and every day and really doing well.”
Right now is he on schedule?
“Yeah, he’s doing really well. And as I understand it, he’s definitely on schedule hitting all the checkpoints and we’re very encouraged by his rehab.”
Apologies if you already covered this in your initial answer, but is it accurate to say your expectation is that Trey Lance will be on the roster throughout the 2023 season?
“Yeah, absolutely. I expect Trey to be here and we’re excited about Trey’s ability to compete and what he can do for our franchise just as we were when we drafted Trey. And I think the only thing that’s changed this offseason is that Trey’s gone and got himself healthy. He was injured last year. He’s done a really good job of doing that. He’s done some different things in terms of his training this offseason. He’s very encouraged by that. And we’ll see when we get an opportunity to get out there on the field with him, but we have every reason to be encouraged as well.”
Are you looking at that position in the draft still in terms of bringing in another maybe low-round draft pick to see what he can do?
“We’ll do our due diligence. I know a lot’s been made about who we’ve met with and the only thing I’d say to you, some of those things are true. Some of those are just doing our job. We’re always going to be thorough, we’re always going to study. Sometimes that’s for three, four years down the line. We want to get to know each and every position and quarterback is no different.”
If teams are calling on Trey, obviously something would’ve to be substantial. Is that fair to say for you to change your stance on that and how does it factor in kind of with the uncertainty of Brock that you have to take that into account when having those discussions?
“Yeah. Well, I think you definitely have to take that into account and we’ve approached it that way as good as we feel about Brock’s rehab. I think we have to prepare for every scenario, but more so we’re just excited about having three really quality quarterbacks in our room and letting those guys go out and compete and vie for a job. We’re excited about that.”
Have teams reached out to you about potentially trading for WR Brandon Aiyuk and is that something you would consider?
“I’m not going to get into specifics on people. We love Brandon Aiyuk and I’m excited about Brandon being a part of this team, so I’ll just leave it at that.”
Regarding Aiyuk, if you pick up his fifth-year option with what that number will be next year and WR Deebo Samuel’s number, we’ve talked about you can’t keep McGlinchey and Trent Williams. The Indianapolis Colts DL DeForest Buckner, DL Arik Armstead situation. I know we’re talking about 2024, but is that something you can creatively navigate, having both those guys remain on the roster next season?
“Yeah, it’s a good question. It’s a fair question because I understand the line of thinking. You can’t keep everyone, we’re trying to do something special this year and Brandon is going to be a big part of that and beyond as well. And so yes, you always have to think out a few years, but we’re really excited about Brandon. I feel like he made another big step last year, and I think the best is yet to come and so we want him being a part of it and at some point, yeah, you have to figure things out and I guess we’ll take that as it comes, but as of right now and into the future, we’re really excited about Brandon Aiyuk and where he is at as a pro. The work he’s done to develop as a pro and become one of our core players here.”
You don’t have to make those official until next week, but have you made the fifth-year decisions on Brandon and DT Javon Kinlaw?
“You always like to get through a draft. Before I publicly disclose that, which will happen, we have to by Monday, right after the draft. I want to talk with each one of those guys individually before I do that, so that that will be forthcoming.”
How is Kinlaw doing in his rehab, coming back this season?
“JK is doing great. He is really in a good spot. He looks tremendous. He’s preparing, he’s excited about his preparation. I think it’s a good feeling when you’ve battled injuries year after year and you’re in a healthy spot and you can see it in the way he’s walking around here. He’s just very encouraged and in a really good place. And I think he’s earned that right. He’s worked really hard to be here I think we’re all really encouraged by it and excited to see what can come.”
We didn’t get to ask you about the interior offensive line at the owner’s meetings. OL Jon Feliciano, is he going to be competing for a starting spot? Maybe that right guard spot?
“I think that’s open to him. We rotated [OL] Spencer [Burford] and [OL Daniel] Brunskill last year. Jon is a guy who has started a lot of games here in the last few years. I think he gives us tremendous versatility at guard and center. Around the league, it’s kind of known he’s one of those glue guys, one of those guys you want in your room. He became a priority for us in free agency. I felt very fortunate that we were able to come out of free agency with Jon a part of our team, especially once we lost Danny. Those guys are incredibly valuable. Now, having said that, I thought Spencer acquitted himself really well. He’s a really talented young man, and I think it’s only going to get better. And it’s always great to have competition and know you have someone there that if something were to happen at either spot, all three really, you’ve got a guy who’s tested, who’s battle-tested, who has done it. Jon was really a nice addition for us and it is really cool to have added him to our group.”
How is QB Sam Darnold fitting into the team?
“He’s doing well. In this phase they can meet and I think they’re having great meetings. He’s out there throwing with our guys and doing really well.”
In the last few years, you’ve been able to kind of plan for the future, with OL Aaron Banks, S Talanoa Hufanga, guys that maybe they don’t have to play right away and then the next year can step in. Does that change at all how you evaluate guys in terms of maybe this guy’s learning curve is a little longer, but we have that leash to do that or how does that evolve?
“I think in both those instances, I don’t believe, looking back that we said, hey, this is a guy who we see starting two years from now, but we’re not going to put guys out there until we feel like they’re ready and they’ve earned that job. And so those are two occasions with those guys who’ve turned into really good players. Aaron had to do some things kind of reworking his body. He took on that challenge and did a tremendous job of it and really had a solid year. Huf, we’ve known this guy was a playmaker. He had a couple of people in front of him, this year he earned it and had an All-Pro year. We’re excited to know that there are some times, especially with this roster, a lot of spots are filled. We’re always going to add to that and add competition. And sometimes it is, yeah, we could see this guy being a starter in year two, but we like drafting players we believe can go play right now. And is that more difficult when your first pick is at 99? Sure. Is that more difficult with a roster that’s constructed like ours where a lot of the spots are somewhat spoken for? Sure, but we want to continue to add players who add to the competition and make us a better football team.”
You have so many picks from 99 to the end of the draft that it’s open to you to take four or five of them and go get someone you really want. How do you balance that with also wanting a lot of picks just so you can hit some more?
“Yeah, that’s something you have to take. We’ve had drafts where we’re incredibly active and last year we didn’t make one move that wasn’t for lack of trying, we tried to move around, nothing came to fruition. I think a lot of that’s just sitting there and it’s kind of painful to do when you’re sitting there just as it was last year, we picked at 61. It’s a lot of sitting and waiting and seeing names go off that you really like. I think what you start doing is saying, hey, if all the players we like are starting to go, okay, now, is this an opportunity for us to move up and go get one of the last few that we really have a high grade on? Those things can factor in, but I mentioned the quality of depth in this draft. I really believe at 99 at 101, 102, and 155, there’s going to be players we really like and want to add to our team and that has me encouraged.”
Is OL Nick Zakelj someone who could compete at right tackle or do you see him more as an interior offensive lineman?
“Probably more as an interior, but he is a guy, when we speak of him, we talk about five-position flex. I think Nick has that in him. Nick, just talking to our strength coaches, he’s a guy really having a great offseason. He’s just been here the entire time, making a lot of progress in terms of his strength, his explosion. He’s the right type of mindset and he’s a really good talent. I’m excited about his future.”
What’s your confidence level in signing DL Nick Bosa in the next three months? And is it a non-starter if teams call to ask about his trade availability?
“Yeah, that hotline’s closed, that never opened. As for the other thing, we’re going to focus on this draft and then, I’ve stated many times that’s a priority for this offseason. History says that we have a really good track record of doing that and making that come to fruition. I’m excited about working on that when the time comes.”
Is he in Florida as usual until training camp?
“Yes. Yeah. Doing what the Bosas do.”
Your track record of finding talent in the middle rounds, third through seventh. Can you shed light on what it is that has made you guys so successful in finding guys who are starters and even stars?
“Yeah, I really believe it’s collaboration. I believe it’s when your personnel and your coaching staff are in lockstep and there’s constant communication, there’s constant challenging of each other’s views. Hey, we really like this guy, okay, we didn’t see it like that, let’s see if we can get there. I think we really take pride in doing that. And we do it from the top down. Kyle and myself spend a ton of time watching players together. I think when you do that and you do that throughout the draft, that gives you an opportunity to really hit throughout the draft at any pick. And I think that’s something we’ve done. I think one of the things too, that we forced ourselves to do early on is really not just be vague about what we wanted at each and every position, but really talk about the traits we want at each position, both physically and mentally and in the spirit, we call it, of each position. I think we’ve done a nice job of defining that so that when you’re in those meetings, everyone knows who’s a Niner and when you have that as a starting point, I think you can start finding those guys. We aren’t perfect. We’ve had our share of misses, but I’m proud of our track record and hopefully, that continues because we got a lot right there this year.”
Piggybacking on that, what’s a Niner? In 2017 you guys took former NFL RB Joe Williams and you said he wasn’t initially on your draft board, you took Pittsburgh Steelers CB Ahkello Witherspoon and you personally were like I don’t know about his aggressiveness as far as tackling. Just speaking for you, have you identified more as far as football character and what you believe in, whether in 2017 you did it and you’ve established it since then?
“No, I do think it’s an evolving deal as to exactly what we are and who we want, but I can tell you the bedrock of those things. We want tough, dependable, fast. We don’t need rocket scientists, but we need smart football players. We want people that are contagiously competitive, do you make people around you better because you’re so darn intent upon getting better and competing each and every day? Those are the kind of guys that play well and then we like physical players and I think such that we play with such a physical mentality, I think our mentality is a lot about attacking on both sides of the ball and on special teams, such that when you have someone who’s not a fit, it stands out. I do think that when we’ve missed it’s been more that spirit part than it has been the talent. The talent we’re pretty good at identifying, I think it’s probably the spirit. We spend a lot of our focus on trying to learn as much as possible and that’s where the scouts come in, you really have to rely on the scouts to get to know these players over a course of time. And then sometimes you have the opportunity to meet them yourself and you put as much time as you can there.”
If you look at 99, 101, 102, how do you weigh the best player you’ve got on the board in also relation to where you guys need immediate help? Where do you need help a year from now? What’s the organizational philosophy, not just on those picks, but throughout the draft?
“Yeah, we’ve certainly identified a starting point. You have to be incredibly thorough because you just don’t know who might fall for whatever reason. You can’t just discount all the people you think are going to be gone by 99. And we haven’t, we’ve been very thorough. What I talked about, the things that we covet from multiple different perspectives, and then a lot of it is who’s going to be there. Last year I can tell you we never thought [DL] Drake Jackson would be there when we picked, there was another guy who we liked along with Drake and both of them were there and we never would’ve thought that both of them would’ve been there at 61, so that’s another great lesson that you just have to prepare for everything. Some of it’s about position needs as we see it. Yeah, we have priorities on what we’ve identified, but ultimately you want to take football players that are going to make your team, going to be around here for years to come and make you a better team. Kind of a combination of all those things is how we take as it comes and it’s going to be a long wait. Watching a lot of players that you really appreciate go, but I keep saying it because I am truly confident that we’ll come up with some players that we really like there and that are going to help us right away and into the future.”
Did you look into Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and is that a possibility at all still?
“You look into everything, and we seem to be linked to everything. I can tell you, I think it’s how convicted we are on Brock, on this current group of guys. You’re not doing your job if you don’t look into things. A lot of those things I think you’re limited by the way our roster is set up and the other thing is, what’s your motivation? And there’s more than just Lamar, there’s tremendous players, MVP type players. We really like our guys and we like where we’re at. We like our complete roster and how they fit for multiple reasons and we’re excited about that group. So, I’ll just leave it at that.”