General Manager John Lynch Press Conference

General Manager John Lynch

Press Conference – April 22, 2024

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“This to me, there’s nothing like watching our guys compete on Sundays or Thursdays or Mondays. We play a lot of different days now, but nothing like watching our guys compete. But to me, this is really my favorite time of year as an organization because I think it represents our organization coming together and working for a common goal as much as anything we do. When you look at the guys I call our unsung heroes, our scouts, our R&D department, our salary cap people, our medical, our player engagement, our video people, everyone is involved. Our coaches, our personnel, everyone is involved. Everyone is heard. Everyone comes together. I’m really proud of the process and proud. I do want to mention some of those scouts because like I said, they often go unnoticed behind the scenes. We’ve got a tremendous college scouting staff. So we’ll start with the guy who now is our Director of Player Personnel, Tariq Ahmad, for this Draft class has really been the Director of College Scouting. Tariq does a tremendous job. [Director of Player Personnel] RJ Gillen has really contributed in a big way to this. Our Assistant Director of College Scouting, Justin Chabot, has been with the Niners forever. Our National Scouts, Chip Flanagan, Josh Williams and Dom DeCicco. Area Scouts starting on the west coast, Crowley Hanlon, our southwest scout, Hayden Frey, midland, Ryan Kessenich, midwest, Warren Ball, southeast, Steve Rubio, our northeast scout, Eric Thatcher and our NFS scout, Mike Zyskoski. Scouting assistants, they’re too young to get a shoutout, but they do a tremendous job. Jessi Seumalo, our scouting coordinator. We really have a great group. Our docs, I do want to mention them, Tim McAdams,  Doc Nino they work tirelessly on this. The reason being when I used to work at FOX in broadcasting the holy grail was John Madden and everybody talks about like when you’re in broadcasting, all the things you want to get into a broadcast, producing. Madden used to say, ‘well, what happens if a game breaks out?’ And that’s the same thing as the Draft. You’ve got to be nimble. You’ve got to be flexible so that you can react to whatever comes your way. That’s why you have to be prepared. We’re extremely prepared and ready and looking forward to the opportunity. To me, what the Draft signifies, it’s an opportunity to improve your organization, to infuse youth, to infuse competition, to infuse speed, to infuse toughness, dependability, all the things that we really covet. This is an opportunity to do that. I can’t wait. With that I’ll open up questions. Before questions, I know a couple years ago there was a lot of talk about another receiver [WR] Deebo [Samuel], and I said the same thing. But with [WR Brandon Aiyuk] B.A., I’ve communicated on a couple occasions, on many occasions our wish. Our wish is that he’s here and a part of the Niners for the rest of his career. We’re working through that. As such, I was a player once and I never liked my business being out in the public. So I’m going to respect that. I’m not going to speak for their side. I can say we’re having good talks and I’m just going to leave it at that. We’ll focus on the Draft here today. I understand you guys have a job to do and respect that. But that’s kind of the tone I’m going to take there. So with that, I’ll open up for questions.”


When you guys communicated, did you use emojis or words?

“There you go. The first question. We communicate well and we love the guy. So thank you.”


Has he been here in the building?

“He’s not. He’s not here right now. No.”


Has he been here previously at all?



Have you received calls about him?

“Sure. We receive calls about a lot of players.”


Have you been given permission to his side to–?

“I’m not going to get in all those details. We’re really focused on B.A. being part of us. He’s under contract and we’re looking forward to that.”


Deebo and DL Nick Bosa said the years that their contract negotiations that went into the summer or even later that it negatively impacted the way they played that season. Knowing that, does that maybe affect in terms of the timeline of trying to get something done with B.A.?

“Yeah, I think that’s important.  I think there is human nature is that deadlines force these things, but I think you can always learn from situations and you’d be a fool not to. I’d like to have our business tidied up a little. Those things, they ran the course they needed to. I’m proud of our record of getting the guys we want to get done, done. But I’m right there with everyone else. I’d sure like it to happen sooner.”


Some of those guys said that it kind of affected them going in season, not having a normal routine and that stuff lingering. Is that a concern for you guys? If it does linger?

“Both those guys had fantastic seasons and they’re fantastic players. But of course, I just alluded to it. You always want to learn and if we can get it done sooner, I’m always for that. We all are.”


For the guys that are back in the building and you guys being back, you’re not that far removed from the Super Bowl. Do you feel a sense of excitement? Is there any lingering bad taste from how it all ended?

“No and that’s important. We always have great participation and we have that right now. The guys are out there working and that’s kind of symbolic of turning that page, and that’s so important. Our organization was heartbroken. But I think of our coaches, I failed to mention them in our scouting process. After a long, hard season, they had to turn around really quick. Our coaches are very involved in our scouting process. So while they’re taking some off time, they’re watching players for this Draft. The players, they went through the same thing. So while for some teams it’s been three months since they’ve been on the field, we’ve been on the field a lot sooner. But that comes with the territory and it’s a lot better than the alternative. But yeah, now you start forging, every season’s a new one. Every group’s a new one. You’ve got to forge your identity. We’ve got a bunch of new players that we’ve put onto our team with free agency. Those guys are all coming together and it’s about the work now, and it’s about becoming a team, this year’s team. Those guys are working really hard. Right now, phase one is with our strength coaches, and they’re doing a really nice job. But the guys are working and we’re happy for that.”


At that spot at 31 where sometimes teams try to trade back into the first round, maybe to get a quarterback. Have you had any sort of laying the groundwork-type discussions with other teams about, ‘hey, if this comes up, maybe we’re interested in being at 31?’

“My experience is that happens some at owners meetings, but really this week is kind of the week those calls start to say, ‘hey, just so you know we have some interest in potentially coming up’ and you kind of take note of that. So I anticipate that some of that will come. It’s going to be an interesting year. I think it’s an interesting Draft class. I was just looking at my notes and like one interesting thing to me, dynamic in the way of the world right now, we put a grade on players in the fall if we think there’s a more than 50-percent chance that they’re going to be in this Draft. So 83 players from this year’s class that we put grades on. So thinking there’s more than a 50-percent chance, thinking they’re entering the Draft are back in college because of NIL and things like that. There’s now a different route these kids can take and 35 of those are with starter grades. So that’s a significant amount. And how that affects this Draft, it’s gonna be interesting. I think the later rounds probably are going to be lacking. So it’s a new dynamic that one I imagine we’re going to be faced with each year. You can go back and make a million dollars. I don’t know if that’s the going rate, but it is providing competition and that’s a significant amount of players.”


How many?

“83 that we put grades on.”


How many total did you have grades on?

“Oh gosh, 170 draftable grades, so 83 in addition to that. So, yeah. It’s a different dynamic. It’s something the whole league’s going to deal with.”


What’s your philosophy on trading down in the Draft, particularly early?

“Yeah, so I think we’ve shown in our time here, the very first move we made in the Draft was trading back a spot. So, we’ve traded back. We’ve traded up. I just think you have to be flexible. I think having said what I just said, sometimes trading back gets you later round picks or midround picks. I think maybe your thought process, if that pick you gain allows you to move back up someplace else, then maybe that’s a good thought. But those are the things you’ve got to prepare for all these scenarios. And we’ll see where that goes. I think 31 is an interesting spot, kind of where [The Athletic SF reporter] Matt [Barrows] was coming. I think at the end of day one, teams are eager to go get someone. So I would imagine there’ll be some calls and we’ll be open and flexible. We’ve done it, both ways in a variety of ways and been successful doing some. The big thing is just be prepared for every scenario. I think you have to be flexible. Human nature is to underestimate the uncertainty of a Draft. I think we try to account for that and the only way you do that is being prepared for everything.”


You guys always say you don’t have 32 guys with first-round grades. How many guys do you have with first-round grades this year? Is there a sweet spot, I guess is what I’m asking?

“We’re not at 32 this year. We’re slightly more than the last couple years. So that’s a good thing. But I think that just speaks more to we have a high standard that we don’t change, blow with the wind to try to put first-round grades. When we like players, we draft them and I think we don’t get beholding to ‘well the League sees them here.’ So 22 is kind of where we’re at, 22 first round grades. We do have a high standard there that is up from the last couple years. So I think that’s a good thing.”


There’s a bunch of really good tackles in this Draft. Part of the question, you probably won’t want to answer is, given what you have, would you say in a Draft that has a lot of good tackles, you’re going to want to get one?

“I think it’s good tackles. It’s good linemen. The interesting thing with those linemen in this Draft, we think a lot of them have flexibility to be tackles and or guards. So that’s nice that you take somebody with some versatility. I think there are some options and part of the Draft is not always for this, you’re not always drafting for the immediate. Sometimes it’s drafting for future needs. So we have to be cognizant of that. We’ve got to be smart with that in terms of how we allocate our resources. We have 10 picks. You start asking yourself how many of those can make our team and how do we want to approach that? That’s part of what makes this whole thing so fun and enjoyable. I do think a strength of this Draft, to me, a lot of premium positions are strong. So that’s exciting.”


Every Draft’s different. What would you say is the deepest position in this year’s Draft? Also you guys all have a few gold helmet designations. How many do you have this year?

“Yeah, I believe this weekend we kind of went through those again. I believe we were about 16 gold helmets. We like keeping that standard high. You always want to give more because our hit rate with those guys. Then you start, let’s stick to our standards because of the reason our hit rate is high is because it is such a high standard. So we’re at about 16 gold helmets. We do well with those guys because it takes into account everything we believe in. That’s talent, that’s spirit and playing like a 49er. That’s always a fun part of the process, guys lobbying for a guy to be a gold helmet and saying, no, he’s not making the standard. And we’ve got to hold true to that.”


You drafted Brandon Aiyuk in 2020. It was the pandemic Draft. Can you compare that war room, those memories to just a normal war room?

“Oh gosh, that was so strange, like it was for everybody. First of all, thinking no way we we’re going to be able to pull this off as a League, doing this remotely. And what happens if I have terrible internet where I live, here we are in the heart of Silicon Valley and I drop phone calls left and right. So I’m sure a lot of people have experienced that. How are we going to put on a Draft? But the League pulled it off. We were able to pull it off. Our video guys, our tech, our IT people did a tremendous job. It was strange, but it was fun. It was something different. And I remember trading for [T] Trent Williams in my backyard and getting the word that it had come through because it wasn’t looking good two days prior. So a lot of memories from that time. I prefer and enjoy it, I’m sure like everybody much more doing it up here in our Draft room, a lot more comfortable. I think a much better situation. Those were strange times though. I give the credit to the League, a lot of credit for forging on and pulling off something as monumental as that the way they did there was one up there.”


How has your approach changed or evolved since you started doing this a few years back?

“I think with continuity. The way we look at things. [Former NFL Head Coach] Jon Gruden used to talk all the time, ‘You never stay the same. You are either getting better or you’re getting worse.’ So, we evaluate really hard when it’s fresh each year and then over time when you can see how things pan out. But we look at our process in every way. I think you’re always trying to make improvements there. You’re also looking at what, what’s worked and not just from a gut feeling, from data and we’re probably much more data driven. We have a tremendous R&D department led by [director, football R&D] Matt Ploenzke, he does a great job. Here’s what we think, but here’s the reality. Here’s what the numbers show as to what translates to success. So, we take a hard look at that, and I think every year we attempt to tweak our process to make it even better. But the great thing that I’m very proud of is the way we work together. Our coaches, our scouting, our R&D, our medical, we all are working together, our player engagement. [Senior Director of Player Engagement] Austin Moss is very involved with getting to know the players because he deals with our players once they’re here and he’s got great experience. So, I think with experience, knowing what you’re looking for, I think we’re really good there in terms of knowing what we like in players. And it may be different from how the League sees things, and we’re okay with that. Because we’ve studied that and we’ve gone to great lengths to define who we want on this football team, and that’s served us well.”


Obviously, every draft is important. Does this feel any different? It’s QB Brock Purdy’s last year on the rookie deal, big contracts, veteran players. Does this feel any more loaded to you because of that scenario?

“No. I think you’re always thinking about that position and to know we have an answer there and a really good one, that’s comforting. It allows us just to go and build around him and make our team stronger. And I think very highly of our roster, what we have. I think it’s going to be hard for these young kids to come in and make a mark. But there’s good players and that’s our job to find that because you have to have that. As many of our players as we’ve paid, you have to rely on rookie contracts. And so, we need to infuse all those things that I said earlier and we need some players to come out of this Draft because they’re going to be playing next year and into the future. And that opportunity’s there.”


This will be your first, first-round pick since 2021. When you made that trade, what do you reflect on? I remember the talk then was you guys are pushing all your chips to the center and if Dallas Cowboys QB Trey Lance doesn’t work out, you’re going to be looking for a new job. Can you reflect on how that decision was made and a few years removed from it, how do you view it?

“I think first of all, we have an ownership that’s very supportive and they support us greatly. Jed, John, Denise, Jenna, Mara [York] they believe in [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and I and our leadership. And they believe when we think something’s going to make us better, they say, go for it. And they don’t give us a lot of restrictions there and that’s comforting to know we can go be bold and do things like that. And yeah, we gave up a lot. We did it for reasons that we had and motivations and it didn’t work out. But thank God for Mr. Irrelevant [laughter]. He helped us. And I always am careful of this because Trey Lance’s story hasn’t been written yet. He’s in Dallas right now and I still think Trey’s got good football in him. We’ll see. That will play out. But I think also the freedom when you’ve done something and you feel like maybe it can improve us to move on, we aren’t beholden to, well we drafted the guy, we’ve just got to stick it out. We can do the things we want to do. And I think that’s served us well and people can comment on the thought process that went into it. We certainly study it, say what went right, what went wrong, and we do that with all our picks. But I think we’re in a real good place as a football team, as an organization, and we’ve got to find a way to get a little bit better. And that’s the focus of this whole off season. And this draft is an awesome opportunity to do just that.”


Given all the work you did on your defense during free agency, do you feel your biggest needs heading into the draft are on offense or where do you feel your biggest needs are?

“We’ve identified where we think we want to add some people in this Draft. But needs is an interesting, there’s not a lot of needs on this team, but there’s things a couple years out, there’s things a year out and then there’s opportunities where guys can come in. And so, I think while the glaring spot that a guy can come in and be the starter right away may not be there, there’s a number of spots that we see, probably more than people might think, where there is opportunity. And we’re very thoughtful of that. But then you also have to be flexible and nimble to see how the draft breaks. And then, who do you have and not being beholden like we are drafting this position at 31 now, we’ll draft, okay, we got three or four needs that we see, which way are we going to go with it? And that is when we’ve done our best work. And I think when most teams do.”


Run game coordinator/offensive line coach Chris Foerster has said that when he brought in OL Jon Feliciano that with the way they deploy the linemen here, he wasn’t even sure whether Jon could do it until he got here. If that’s the case with a guy that was scouted in the League, how hard is it to project an offensive lineman for what you ask them to do?

“That’s a good question. And Jon, I think, it was just stylistically a little different and not a lot of people play like we do. Now, I will say there’s more of that throughout the League right now because a lot of people, coaches that have left here, our offensive system’s in a lot of places now. So basically, we get out and run and we ask our guys, we don’t want any hesitation. We want you going and being the initiators. And that’s not a lot of what you’re seeing in college football. So, you’re absolutely right. There is a lot of projection when it comes to O-Line play and so you identify the traits that we want, you identify the spirit of the players that are the guys that we want. But offensive line, I think League-wide, not just with us, it’s becoming tougher. I think the tempo with which teams play, it’s not a lot about finishing the play they’re on. It’s about let’s get back to the line of scrimmage so we can look over and read this card they’re holding up to see what play we’re running next. It’s not a lot of beautiful football being played there. And so, that is tough. And Jon Feliciano, what we did know is that, every place he went, he seemed to make that organization a little bit better. Offensive line is a group where it takes a special breed, a human being, and Jon is that guy and he connects people at that spot. And he’s got a lot of versatility. He’s been a real good player for us.”


For the last few years, there was a trend in football where the defensive line, the athleticism there was outpacing what was happening along the offensive line. But do you see kind of a reversion now with offensive linemen?

“I hope so because it’s a real issue. It did feel for a long time, the guys on the defensive side of the ball, and I think a lot of it was just the way we train our O-Linemen now because I think developing offensive linemen helps with a lot of grassroots fundamentals, physicality and the youth as we’re probably getting smarter and taking a lot of contact and a lot of the old school drills that build offensive line play and the running game and playing, not the spread out game that you see so much and everything being about how many plays you can run instead of how well you can run those plays. I think offensive line play did take its lumps. I do feel like there’s a little bit of a comeback happening and it’s probably survival. We’re paying these guys that much. We understand the quarterback, this isn’t sustainable. And I think you always follow the money too. And offensive linemen are getting paid pretty well and kids kind of gravitate towards the position where that happens. And maybe we’re getting some basketball players starting to do that and a bunch of different vehicles. But I hope that’s the case because it did feel for a while like we’re not going to be able to do this.”


Outside of all of us feeling very old with all the legacy guys coming out, what is your thought on guys like former NFL WR Jerry Rice’s son and former NFL WR Ed McCaffrey’s son coming out?

“Well, I believe in bloodlines. I really do. I mean, I think there’s evidence that you should. Then you have to step away from that and you have to evaluate it. And that’s sometimes difficult to do and that’s why a lot of different eyes, a lot of different perspectives. And that’s what we try to do when we have our R&D look at it, we have our coaches look at it, we have our scouting look at it, we try to hit it from a variety of measuring points and inflection points as to how you grade these guys because you don’t want to do it just off that. That wouldn’t be smart. But, these guys, there’s some inherent pressure on who their dad is, but there’s also some good genes and I think that matters. And so, it’s exciting that you have all these great, I mean, we’re talking Hall of Fame players and great players and brothers of players and it’s really fun. T.O. [former NFL WR Terrell Owens] was out here at the local pro day and his son Terique performed really well and that was pretty cool. I saw him running at me and I played against T.O. a lot and there was something in that stride that was very familiar. It was something about the gait. And it’s crazy how those things translate. Is that just gene pool? Is that modeling the way they watch their dad run? It’s interesting to me but it’s a fun element to this year’s Draft that I think is going to be interesting to watch to see how it unfolds.”


Is there any chance Brandon Aiyuk is not on this roster Friday?

“I wouldn’t anticipate that.”


You were a big hitter as a player. When you’re watching film on safeties, are you looking for the guy that detonates and blows people up like you were or has the game now changed where you’re looking for coverage guys?

“I might be in jail with today’s rules. So, you have to change, but people say oftentimes you couldn’t play in today’s League. Well that goes for a lot of players and I think players that are good players, they adjust to the rules. That’s how we played then. So, is physicality still part of that? Absolutely. And who we are as a team, we’re a physical team and so you stand out like a sore thumb when you’re not physical and you don’t play physical. Now there’s a proper way and a proper technique that guys have gotten a lot better now you’re seeing this hip drop. I don’’t know if that’s physical. I think it’s actually because they’ve taken so many different elements. If you can’t hit them from the front, people are going to come up with different ways. They started selling and teaching rugby-style technique. Well, a lot of that rugby-style technique that the League was trumpeting has led to this technique called the hip drop. It’s a real thing. It’s happening. And so, I understand it. There are some players that play extremely physically and are big players and it’s been a challenge for them in today’s football. So, you have to factor that in. But I think the best players find ways to play within the rules and still make their presence known on that field and that’s part of being a good player.”