President of Football Operations and General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

President of Football Operations and General Manager

John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – April 27, 2024

San Francisco 49ers

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You really went for experience, didn’t you? A lot of guys who played a lot of college football. Was that kind of a philosophy going into this?

John Lynch: “We just went with the players that we really liked and appreciated. One thing I used on some of the earlier players was consensus. It was a big Draft where if every avenue of our organization can get behind someone, we felt really good about these guys, really good football players. Starting with [S] Malik [Mustapha] today, just love the way he plays the game, plays our style. We talk a lot about running to the football and getting there with bad intentions and Malik kind of embodies that. One of our favorite interviews, one of my favorite interviews at the Combine. He really handles himself well, but on the field plays the right way. Right on down the line, [RB Isaac] Guerendo, [WR Jacob] Cowing onto [OL Jarrett] Kingston and [LB Tatum] Bethune at the end, players that we really had a great feel for and liked them and we made them Niners.”


Malik played one of these hybrid positions. You guys seem to Draft a lot of those guys. Does that kind of denote somebody who is sharp enough to know several positions and react?

JL: “Yeah. He called that position the panther position at Wake. And I mean, one thing with him, it was clear right away, all his testing indicated it, but when you talked with the young man, he understands football at a high level. He’s built like an Adonis and he just plays football the right way in my mind and in our mind. And really cool to make him part of our team. He was a team captain at Wake Forest and we liked everything he brought to the table.”


Defensive coach Brandon Staley’s obviously had players that he’s valued, like Los Angeles Chargers S Derwin James Jr. that have sort of a flexible role like that. How much was he a voice in terms of him specifically?

Kyle Shanahan: “All our coaches are voices, so they talk about everybody. But it’s more, not the way you’re insinuating. He liked him a lot. From him, [defensive backs coach] Daniel Bullocks, our DB coach, and [defensive coordinator] Nick [Sorensen] but when he talks about consensus from everybody, there wasn’t a guy who didn’t like him.”


What was the Draft like without Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters for the first time? Did someone take that role?

JL: “You know, to be honest, we’re extremely appreciative for Adam in everything he did to help us along the way. He was with us from the start. But Kyle’s had to do it on the coaching staff, we’ve done it before with [Washington Commanders senior personnel executive] Martin [Mayhew] and [Tennessee Titans general manager] Ran [Carthon], and so you just kind of move forward and people step in. You know [directors of player personnel] Tariq Ahmad and RJ Gillen did a tremendous job in that role that he served. And Adam had his own work to be doing over in Washington. So you move forward and we’ll always be appreciative for the contributions Adam made here, but you move forward.”


You guys moved up for RB Isaac Guerendo. What do you like about him?

KS: “Well we love his speed. We think he’s got a lot of speed. All our backs can run, but it’s nice to add one who possibly can run a little bit faster just for the change of pace and things like that. We like his running style. His running style I think is similar to [RB] Elijah’s [Mitchell] and the style that he runs with, he’s built that way and like the 40 that he has.


Did you want to add speed in general to your offense this offseason?

KS: “No, we didn’t make a blanket statement like that, but we wanted to add some speed to the running back room if we could. But you don’t just add that just to add it. It’s got to be the right type of runner with the speed. And there were a couple guys in the back end in the Draft who had that. And this is the one we really liked in that way.”


Running backs coach Robert Turner Jr. actually interrupted our Zoom call with Guerendo. What did Bobby have to say about him?

KS: “I mean, Bobby loved him from the beginning. He called him back at all the right times (laughter). He answered his texts. I’m just telling you, if you don’t do that, it’s hard to come back from that with Bobby. But, the same things I said, I mean we all really liked the speed part about him. But lots of guys can run. You have to be as good of a running back and the physicality he ran with how he was without the ball in his hand we felt he was a guy who played to our style and the skillset set could help us.”


JL: “These running backs that are interviewed by Bobby Turner, they’ve been through the ringer. They have gotten phone calls at all hours and if they are prompt with their calls, it’s a good thing (laughter) and Bobby doesn’t let it tarnish his view of the kids maybe a little bit, but we know how to weed through that. And Guerendo, he’s yeah, excited about him.”


Your cornerbacks can play inside and outside. Do you have an idea when OTAs start up who will be at the nickel spot? I know DB Deommodore Lenoir is probably the top choice there, but who else has the ability to play nickel now?

JL: “Yeah, I mean we think [CB] Renardo [Green] is a guy who has that kind of versatility to play inside and outside, [CB] Chase Lucas, one of the free agents we brought in has played nickel, so we have some candidates in there. Demo gives us nice flexibility. He can do both. We think Renardo has that flexibility as well. We’ll see. A lot of that, it’s nice when you have that flexibility because you can kind of toy around. That’s on Kyle and them, they start out whatever way they want. But to be able to have that flexibility to do either or and then you just find the best matchups.”


Is your preference though to have a true nickel who just stays there and two guys playing on the outside who just stay there or does it matter?

KS: “It doesn’t matter. I mean, whatever makes the end result the best. If your best nickel player is also your best outside player, then we want to change based off of personnel. If it’s not that way then it makes it easy and a guy can just stay in one spot. But that’s what’s good about adding Renardo yesterday. He played in college all on the outside and we like him for that. But we also think he’s wired the way you can be at nickel from a mentality in the run game, also the quickness in coverage. But you haven’t seen him do it, so we know he is wired for both. So we’ll just play it out on the practice field.”


What do you like about WR Jacob Cowing?

KS: “Very similar to what we got with [WR] Ricky [Pearsall] in that there’s not a route that he can’t run. He starts outside the numbers and he’s got the speed to get on top of people and threaten with a go. He’s got the quickness. Inside he’d be a big problem with just how shifty he is. He can run screens and things like that. Very good punt returner. For his lack of size, he makes up with mentality. His mindset, when he does cut, he’s always accelerating out of a cut. He’s trying to violently go through people and when you’re smaller, you hope they’re faster and quicker, which he is, and anything that you wanna knock on a smaller guy he makes up for in his mindset.”


JL: “Just some of the conversations we had a corner in here on the 30 and sometimes those are the value of the 30. He had played against Jacob Cowing and Jacob is small in stature, but what Kyle was alluding to the toughness to overcome that, this corner said he’s the toughest guy he played against this year. So those things stick with you. It’s a corner we respected his word and that kind of just came up in a conversation as the coaches were going through it. So that kind of communication is vital. But Jacob, he’s a fun dude to watch play football and I think can help us in a variety of ways.”


You added a lot of guys had special teams experience today. Does the new kickoff rules change the trades you’re looking for guys when they’re returning or on the coverage stuff? Do you have to alter what you’re looking for in that?

JL: “Yeah, I think we’re all trying to figure it out. This is going to be a new deal for everyone. You do your best to try to ascertain like, ‘okay, what skillset is going to play on this new kickoff?’ You don’t change your whole entire mentality. We think we have some players that are well suited for it, but I think the whole league’s going to kind of be figuring this out on the run because we’ve never done it. It should be interesting.”


A couple days ago you mentioned, obviously you want to make the team as best as you can in ‘24, but you’re also looking at ‘25 and maybe even beyond. Given what we know about this team, some older players or players who are about to make a lot of money and we know the financial stuff. Was there even more emphasis, not on just this year, but into the future with this Draft or this offseason or just the way you’re thinking right now?

KS: “It’s hard to say there’s a lot more because it feels like it’s been almost this way three years in a row. I think it gets a little more each year because it gets harder each year. And the hardest thing is when you go through the Draft and especially when you feel you’re a contender and things like that, you want to do everything to just look at your board and how you fill those holes and everything. But that’s not really how the Draft works. It’s how it comes to you. You’ve got to look at it at different levels and through different layers and you’ve got to think right now, and you’ve got to think ahead. But being close like we were last year, feeling we got to have a chance to at least have an opportunity to try to do something like that again. You want to think always what helps us now, but then you get to that spot and there always isn’t that answer right then. And so do you go with what kind of helps us now or what helps us more in the future? And so you’re just constantly weighing that, whether it’s the Draft, whether that’s free agency and everything.”


Following up on that, when you’re evaluating prospects in that way, how are you kind of viewing a guy who maybe won’t be as helpful this year but could potentially have more long-term value versus this is kind of what he is right now?

JL: “Yeah, I think this class is representative of it. I don’t know a player. I think all these guys can contribute this year. So, you try to do both. You try to say, ‘hey, okay, does this guy have starter in him in some time? Is there some development that he can someday be a starter? But right away can he help? Special teams is often the avenue. I think back to my career, I didn’t start until year three, but I think I was a good member of the team because I contributed in special teams for the first couple years and played some defense. So that’s really integral. And so, it’s that thought process. I like this class because of just that. I think all these guys, it’s tough, it’s a really good roster so it’s going to be tough to crack for these guys. We do believe that they have the skill sets, the mentalities, the makeup that they can come in and find a way. It’s on them now. But they can come in and compete right away. And then we do believe that with the development, which is part of what we do as well, consistently developing guys so we get the most out of them and into the future as well.”


KS: “I’d always say I wish it was the other way around, but like last year you’re done with free agency and stuff and you go in the Draft and it’s like, where do you need a starter? And yeah, you always want the best starter possible, but where do you have to get a starter? And you go into last year’s Draft and to me, it was one position, it was kicker. So yeah, there’s some starter positions, you can’t find a better guy and some there’s a lot better. But they’re all still guys you feel you can win with as starters. And you go into a Draft and you’re like, ‘alright, well we don’t have a kicker so we’ve got to find a starting kicker somewhere. What else do we want to do? Well, we’d like to get better in this area, this area and that area, but where is that guy when that Draft comes? And if that’s not available, then do you get a guy to beat someone else out? Do you get a guy because ‘hey, this guy might be up on a contract next year and this guy could be a backup in case of injury and we can plan for the future? Or is this just the best player available? And that’s why there’s so many different layers to all of this. I wish the Draft came first. You can always just sit there and take the best player that came and then you could go into free agency and try to figure out like, ‘alright, where can we go fill these holes?’ But it goes the other way. And that’s why it’s a bigger window than just right now.”


How do you guys feel just about the roster overall? You haven’t had to make any drastic moves the last two months, whether bringing in a huge free agent, making a bigger first-round Draft pick or whatever like that. Where’s this roster right now?

JL: “I feel like we’re always making really important decisions and that’s part of this job. It’s  not easy. When a guy like [Jacksonville Jaguars DL] Arik Armstead moves on, that’s a big move for our organization. When you trade for [DL] Malik Collins, that’s a big move. Every one of these Draft picks we take really seriously. And sometimes they go right down to the wire and there’s great talk, debate, passion for candidates and that’s what makes this whole thing fun. I do know this, that when you have a spirit of everyone doing it together, I think everyone’s on the same page. And so we’re all in. And it’s the way Kyle and I try to work. Sometimes I’m passionate about a player and most of the time Kyle and I see it the same way. Sometimes, ‘alright, what do you see in him?’ I try to sell it to him. Oftentimes Kyle will like a player and I’m not quite there, but here’s what I like. And the good thing is we always get there and I think the rest of the organization follows suit. And so you challenge each other on people you’re passionate about. And in the end, all these situations and scenarios are big for your organization. Every decision’s a big one. And yeah, I like where our team’s at.”


Kyle, you had the Armstead thing, which John mentioned. We know the Deebo situation may be up in a year. There’s other players who are getting to that point. Do you have these conversations with your players? Do you think there is some kind of added pressure about this year? You’ve got the Purdy contract maybe coming up in a year. Is there a little extra on this group of players this coming year?

KS: “I think when you get close to a Super Bowl and you don’t win it, I think there’s always more pressure. Especially from outside in because you’re going to hear about it more. So I think everyone has a certain expectation for the season and things like that because you always want to do better the next year and there’s not a lot of room to do better. There’s only one more game. And so like everyone wants to get their mind to that spot. But every team’s different each year too. And so you go into a year and the main thing is you don’t want to get worse. You always try to get better, but you don’t want to get worse. And when you do have players that have played a lot of good football over these last three to five years, it becomes a problem because you’ve got to pay guys and it’s harder to keep carrying that. And that’s why we went in a free agency like you have to make a lot of hard decisions, but we’re not ready to take two steps back so eventually we can take three steps forward or however that is, but you don’t know if that’s possible. So you try to make your free agent decisions that way. You try to do the Draft that way. And I feel we’re in a position that hopefully I don’t think we did get worse. I think we’ve tried to keep it to where we’re there. And now what happens is when we start working on Monday? What happens in OTAs? What happens in training camp and that’s what allows some younger guys to hopefully that we’ve added, to develop them and add them for depth or maybe to take over somebody’s spot or maybe to make the guy in front of them better because they’ve got some better competition behind them. And that’s the way you get your team better. And that’s really where we’re at. We did it through free agency as good as we could. We did it through the Draft as good as we can. And now I’m excited to focus on real football and going to work.”


Assuming you guys may have looked at offensive tackles and tight ends, was it the fact that you didn’t address those positions, was that a situation kind of the way the Draft fell?

JL: “Yeah, we looked at numerous guys throughout the process. I think when you’re drafting 31st, it’s oftentimes hard to find a tackle that you really love. And we like our tackles as they stand right now. We like our depth with [OL] Jaylon Moore being a really talented guy who can play the swing role. Drafted [OL Jarrett] Kingston, who has some flex at tackle. We’ll continue to always try to improve ourself and improve the depth of our team. But we’re excited about our O-Line group. I know a lot of people talk about that, but we feel pretty good about our group.”


KS: “Yeah, we’re glad to add two O-Linemen in the Draft. Would’ve loved to add a tight end, just didn’t work out that way.”


Is TE Cameron Latu looking at your, I guess, first backup option?

KS: “No, we’re looking at all the tight ends. He hasn’t been out here yet. So, you know, we like guys to practice first.”


Kingston was saying his last year at USC kind of expanded the way he blocked, he was doing more outside zone and such. I was curious whether, so many guys have transferred now for a year. Does that age your scouting because you get to see him on one system and then another system?

JL: “That’s such an interesting dynamic. When I first took this job, I mean, we used to stop our Draft reports when a guy transferred. Like, what’s wrong with him? Why did he transfer? Now it’s the exception to the rule when they’ve been, I think we were seven of eight this year, in guys that have transferred. So, that’s really interesting. But you know, with a guy like Kingston, played really good football, you get enticed to transfer. So, I don’t blame those guys. SC probably paid him some good money to come down there and that used to be illegal so it sounds foreign now. It’s all good. SC used to be really good at it, even when it was illegal. But you know, now it’s all good and so, good for those kids and there is some value to them. You see them in different schemes different positions oftentimes. Jacob Cowing started at UTEP, then came to U of A and had two really productive seasons and so it’s just all these guys have their stories.”


KS: “As long as they understand they can’t transfer here if the first practice doesn’t go right.”


For guys, were there any fun calls? I mean, I’m sure they’re all fun. Are there any surprises today? I know sometimes you have good stories about the calls you make.

KS: “It wasn’t a great story because they’re just, I mean, they’re emotional and you hear how, you take guys, especially here in the sixth, seventh round and you guys have been waiting for these to end. Think of how long it is if you’re waiting to see what’s going to, the rest of your life’s going to be like. So, you can just imagine how intense that is and the anxiety and you can just, they barely can talk when you first talk to them. And then if they haven’t broke by John, they eventually break halfway through me or then they do it to [Chief Executive Officer] Jed [York]. So, that doesn’t get old. You’re real happy for people when you can relieve them of that. It’s something they’ve worked their whole life. But you also try to remind guys, congratulations, I know that’s your goal your whole life, but now it starts. So yeah, go to work.”


JL: “Each of them. I mean, these calls are so cool. It really is. And Kingston, I’m thinking he’s from Redding, California. I don’t, I know Redding’s up north somewhere, Anderson, Redding. But I said, how about that? We’re going to make a kid from Redding a 49er and you could hear him start to melt, you know, and I think it was [LB Tatum] Bethune who really cracked up. I could hear it starting to happen. I handed him to Kyle and Kyle said after man, he just lost it. It’s a lot of waiting. It’s brutal. But it’s really cool to share this experience with them, to hear their families all around them. And a great, great day for these guys and really, really cool to be a part of that.”