49ers

49ers a study in Management 101

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49ers a study in Management 101

Andy Dolich
CSNBayArea.com

OK, time to settle down and gently lower yourself off the ceiling. The Giants are coming to town with their late-season star, Mo Mentum. Ill leave it up to my fellow CSNBayarea.com 49ers Insiders to weigh in on how team ho-hum became team transcendent on its way to a possible sixth Super Bowl.

The leading business turnaround experts are looking at the wondrous work done by Jim Harbaugh, the coaches, players and football operations staff to discover the secrets of their stunning success. These management mavens should come equipped with microscope, telescope and stethoscope to figure out how this revolutionary resurrection took place.

Even first-year MBAs learn there are a few bedrock principles that lead to business success. The 49ers coaching staff used them to perfection on their joyous journey this season:

Narrow your focus:
One of the glaring errors of failing businesses is that they try to be all things to all people. Im sure you were in the group of about five fans in the free world that thought Alex Smith would be discussed in the same sentence as Joe Montana and Steve Young at the end of the season. This reminds me of a scene from "The Patriot," starring Mel Gibson. He is with his two young sons trying to overcome a British platoon that had captured his oldest boy. The instructions to his gun-toting kids, Aim small, miss small. Of course they overcame a superior force and freed their brother by narrowing their focus -- as the coaches did with Alex at the beginning of the season.

Expect to win:
I want winners, sounds great but You are winners resonates at a higher level with players. From day one the staff assembled by general manager Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh laid out a logical, consistent, step-by-step plan on how this team was going to win. No five-year plans here, lets try five months instead.

Encourage riskPromote trust:
The 49ers had been a team more predictable than a Lindsay Lohan meltdown. The coaches gave the players a mentality that taking chances was OK. We are not going to be who they thought we were going to be. When was the last time that you saw the kicker fake a field goal and hit the lonesome Michael Crabtree for a surprise TD? If I told you that Joe Staley and Isaac Sopoaga were going to channel their inner Jerry Rice and turn into pass catchers you would have spit up. Great managers promote trust in their workforce by supporting risk even if it fails.

Define a winning culture:
Companies in need of a turnaround usually have a poorly defined culture. In failing enterprises employees will not be able to answer what their company's culture is with a unified response. Its imperative that players embrace a single culture, one that will define success. The core values taught by the 49ers' football management experts defined that the organization is about winning football games. Anything else will be minimized.
Manage people:
Entrepreneurs dont invest in companies; they invest in people. When you look at the long-term picture, it isnt so much who you fire as who you hire or keep. Harbaugh has been there and done that when it comes to knowing every part of football culture. The immediate and total support and buy-in to Alex Smith was an early sign that this wasnt going to be business as usual. This decision was met with significant derision by fans and the media but the coaching staff knew how to manage Smith and the offense coming out of the gate. There was no ready-fire-aim in their approach. Their plan gradually took shape and built system-wide confidence in the quarterback and his leadership qualities. It has paid off beyond any ones wildest expectations.

See what no one else sees:
Trent Baalke is a football lifer who has spent hours on the practice fields of colleges and universities all over the country. There were many questions about how he and Harbaugh were going to mesh. Baalke is a completely focused professional who correctly envisioned the huge upside of Aldon Smith and the fill-in puzzle pieces of Kendall Hunter, Bruce Miller and Chris Culliver. The free agent acquisitions of David Akers, Jonathan Goodwin, Carlos Rogers and Donte we speak with our shoulder pads Whitner proved that Baalke has second sight, which is critical in making successful player personnel decisions.

Get rid of status symbols:
The work shirts early in the season gave the team a new vision of its future. It helped define the mental toughness we saw against the Saints. Everyone was part of the assembly line. Alex Smith appeared at the conference championship postgame press conference with his name stitched on his mechanics shirt. Who would have blamed him if he had showed up with with a T-Shirt cannon and blitzed the media with tees that were emblazoned with How do you like me now?

Share the rewards:
Wednesday, before the Saints game, QB coach Geep Chryst drew up the Vernon Post. He had coached for the Carolina Panthers and saw New Orleans twice each season. He knew there was a soft Red Zone tendency that the Niners could take advantage of. The Vernon Post became an instant classic and Chryst was given the credit. Great leaders always take the negative hits and give the credit to their colleagues.

Everyone is a leader:
The 49ers trail 24-23 with 2:18 left and have the ball on the Saints 28, 3rd-and-8. Harbaugh is talking to offensive coordinator Greg Roman in the coaches box. Roman suggests a play in which Alex Smith takes a shotgun snap and heads to the end zone. Twenty-eight legendary yards later Smith crosses the goal line. This wasnt a case of the smartest-guy-in-the-room syndrome but leaders working together to get the job done. The coaching staff assembled by Harbaugh and Baalke were all leaders. Without the following coaches this season would not have come together the way it did:
Brad Seely
Vic Fangio
Greg Roman
Michael Christianson
Geep Chryst
Reggie Davis
Ed Doantell
Tim Drevno
Bobby Engram
Peter Hansen
Greg Jackson
Jim Leavitt
John Morton
Tom Rathman
Mike Solari
Jim Tomsula
Mark Uyeyama

Dont worry be happy:
There isnt a 49ers team in nine years that wouldnt have folded being down 20-3 at the half in Philly or anywhere else. The coaches kept it cool, calm and collected in the locker room. The team knew through its coaches' confidence that it was possible to get back in the game. In the middle of adversity calmness is the ultimate cool. This was a happy team in the manner of Bobby McFerrin.

TEAM, TEAM, TEAM:
How did Harbaugh create this time warp to greatness from a decade of mediocrity?

Planning a turnaround takes an intimate understanding of a business or a team including its players, coaches, management, ownership, fans, training programs and processes. Powerful leaders define the culture and vision and communicate these directly to gain employee support. To have accomplished this turnaround in a nano-second is something that management consultants and the sports media will be deconstructing for a long time. The Management on the 101 is worthy of a Stanford Business School case study.

Over his 40-year career, sports executive Andy Dolich has held positions at the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland A's, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers. He is the Sports Business Insider for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

49ers GM Lynch: Colbert shows characteristics of 'big-time starter'

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AP

49ers GM Lynch: Colbert shows characteristics of 'big-time starter'

SANTA CLARA -- Just hours before John Lynch was announced as a Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalist for the sixth time, he spoke glowingly about a young, promising safety.

Lynch was a nine-time Pro Bowl performer during his 15-year career. In his role as 49ers general manager, he saw a lot that he liked from seventh-round draft pick Adrian Colbert two weeks ago against the New York Giants.

Colbert, making his first career start, sustained a broken thumb early in the game. He still played every snap on defense, recorded four tackles and showed his range in the deep middle to break up two passes.

“That was a really, really good football game and he displayed some things in that game that are characteristics of a starter and a big-time starter,” Lynch said during a 45-minute session with reporters on Tuesday at Levi's Stadium.

The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on free safety Jimmie Ward, whom they appear to view as their starter for next season. But Colbert has a chance to figure prominently in their future, too.

“If he plays like he did last week, you consider a lot of things,” Lynch said.

Here are other things you need to know from what Lynch said on Tuesday:

SOLOMON THOMAS ON TRACK
The 49ers invested the No. 3 overall pick on Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. He appeared in eight games, with six starts, before missing the past two games with an MCL sprain.

Thomas has not been spectacular, recording 26 tackles and two sacks. But Lynch said he is pleased with Thomas’ development.

“I think some people are saying, 'The No. 3 pick, maybe perhaps should be a little more dynamic.' But his play has been solid," Lynch said. "We knew it would be a process. He's a young kid that I think, physically, he's going to grow in stature."

BODY MAKEOVER FOR JOSHUA GARNETT
Guard Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, did not distinguish himself during the offseason program or early in training camp. Then, he sustained a knee injury with a lengthy timetable for recovery.

His timetable would have enabled him to play this season. But the 49ers opted to take “the long-term view” and place him on season-ending injured reserve to put him in a better position to realize his potential upon his return.

But, first, that means Garnett had to change his body composition. Lynch said he challenged Garnett and the team’s strength and conditioning staff to put in the work to make Garnett stronger, more agile and in better condition to succeed in the 49ers’ zone-blocking scheme.

“We certainly hope he responds,” Lynch said.

CONTRACT TALKS ONGOING
Whether it’s Jimmy Garoppolo, Carlos Hyde, Dontae Johnson, Eric Reid, Daniel Kilgore, Aaron Lynch or others, the 49ers have been active in discussing the possibilities of contract extensions.

John Lynch declined to speak about which specific players the organization is trying to extend beyond this season – only to say there are ongoing talks.

“I will tell you there are players we’re talking to their representatives, but I’m going to get into who, when, why,” Lynch said.

BOOKEND TACKLES PART OF THE PLAN
The 49ers are allowed to enter into extension talks with Trent Brown after this season. Whether they are able to work out a long-term contract remains to be seen, but Lynch made no secret he hopes he can keep the tackles together into the future.

Left tackle Joe Staley, 33, appears to have at least a couple more season in him. He scored some big points with the organization with his willingness to return to action just two weeks after sustaining a broken eye socket.

“We love Joe Staley -- love the way he plays, think he’s a really good scheme fit for the offense we play,” Lynch said.

Lynch said he likes the idea of keeping Staley and Brown together for the foreseeable future.

“We feel there are a lot of places where we need to improve,” Lynch said. “And you’re always trying to improve, but those two guys are cornerstones for the next couple, few years.”

ARMSTEAD HAS 'BRIGHT FUTURE'
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead has not produced like a first-round draft pick. And the next time he takes the field for the 49ers, he will be entering his contract year.

Questioning Armstead’s fit for the 49ers’ defensive scheme is reasonable. But Lynch said he believes Armstead has a place with the organization.

“We’re real pleased,” Lynch said. “We think he’s a fit with what we are and who we are, going forward. We think he has a bright future with us.”

Armstead had his best game this season against Washington, a game in which he sustained a broken hand and required season-ending surgery.

“He put it all together,” Lynch said. “It was very encouraging and, at the same time, disappointing.”

ORGANIZATION STUDIES RASH OF INJURIES
The 49ers have 18 players on injured reserve with a variety of physical conditions that knocked them out of action from broken bones to torn ligaments and tendons.

“Some of those things are freak, but, yes, there has been an alarming amount,” Lynch said. “We’re going to study everything. That was part of what I was charged to do, evaluate every facet of the football part of this organization.”

There do not appear to be any obvious answers. Many teams around the league are also experiencing a rash of injuries to star players. On defense, the 49ers lost Armstread (broken hand), linebacker Malcolm Smith (torn pectoral tendon), and safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt (broken forearms) for the season.

“Some of it, broken forearms from two safeties and a broken thumb from a safety, I don’t know what the answer is there,” Lynch said.

“We’re going to take a deep dive – we already are – into why and if there are any common threads. We’re studying it hard.”

Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists

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AP

Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Former 49ers running back Roger Craig, in his final year on the modern-era ballot, is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the 10th consecutive year.

Craig is among 27 semifinalists announced for the Class of 2018. The list includes six first-year eligible candidates and four other players who have been eligible previously but are semifinalists for the first time.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens and safety John Lynch, currently 49ers general manager, are among the return semifinalists. Lynch was among the final 10 players last year, while Owens made it to the top 15.

The list of first-year eligible semifinalists includes wide receiver Randy Moss, defensive back Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

The four previously-eligible players who are semifinalists for the first time are safety LeRoy Butler, defensive ends Leslie O’Neal and Simeon Rice, and cornerback Everson Walls.

In January, the list of modern-era candidates will be trimmed to 15 individuals. There will be a total of 18 finalists, including contributor finalist Bobby Beathard and seniors finalists Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer. Hall of Fame rules stipulate from four to eight new members will be selected every year.

Beathard, Brazile and Kramer will be voted on separately and, like all other finalists, must receive 80-percent approval from the full selection committee at the annual selection meeting on Feb. 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, the day before Super Bowl LII.

Craig's teams made it to the playoffs in each of his 11 NFL seasons, including his first eight years with the 49ers. In 1985, he became the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

Owens, who played his first eight seasons with the 49ers, was a first-team All-Pro performer six times. He ranks second all-time in receiving yards (15,934) and third with 153 receiving touchdowns.

Lynch, a hard-hitting safety with Tampa Bay and Denver, was selected to nine Pro Bowls in his 15-year career. He recorded 26 interceptions, forced 16 fumbles and recovered nine in his career.

2018 MODERN-ERA SEMIFINALISTS
Steve Atwater, S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Ronde Barber, CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Tony Boselli, T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Isaac Bruce, WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
LeRoy Butler, S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Don Coryell, Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2005, 2010-18)
Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2009-18)
Brian Dawkins, S – 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)
Alan Faneca, G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Torry Holt, WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Steve Hutchinson, G – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Joe Jacoby, T – 1981-1993 Washington Redskins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2005, 2008, 2013-18)
Edgerrin James, RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Jimmy Johnson, Coach – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2014-18)
Ty Law, CB – 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Ray Lewis, LB – 1996-2012 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2013-18)
Kevin Mawae, C/G – 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Karl Mecklenburg, LB – 1983-1994 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Randy Moss, WR – 1998-2004, 2010 Minnesota Vikings, 2005-06 Oakland Raiders, 2007-2010 New England Patriots, 2010 Tennessee Titans, 2012 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Leslie O'Neal, DE – 1986, 1988-1995 San Diego Chargers, 1996-1997 St. Louis Rams, 1998-1999 Kansas City Chiefs | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Terrell Owens, WR – 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Simeon Rice, DE – 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-06 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Richard Seymour, DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Brian Urlacher, LB – 2000-2012 Chicago Bears | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Everson Walls, CB – 1981-89 Dallas Cowboys, 1990-92 New York Giants, 1992-93 Cleveland Browns | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Hines Ward, WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is one of 48 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.