York takes what-the-hell gamble on tandem of Lynch, Shanahan

York takes what-the-hell gamble on tandem of Lynch, Shanahan

Evidently Brent Musburger’s retirement caused the 49ers to get off the dime on their general manager hire and select former Stanford, Tampa Bay and Denver safety and now former Fox No. 2 analyst John Lynch.

And no, we didn’t skip over any steps. That’s the resume, kids. We’d throw in his front office or coaching experience as well, but he has none. He’s been a player and a broadcaster, and that’s it. Hell, except for the player part, Musburger’s seen more football than Lynch.

And while we’re at it, York jumped over Fox’s analyst hierarchy by not taking it’s No. 1 sidekick, Troy Aikman, instead, so even broadcasters think this is a breach of sanity. The only way he would have been further outside the norm is if he had hired Katie Nolan of Garbage Time, whose resume includes bartender, wit and on-air raconteur, though she might have gone to Jaguars camp one summer.

In short, York went so far out of the box that he didn’t even bother to send away for any boxes at all. Lynch and Kyle Shanahan with their zero games of experience in their present positions here to save the 49ers from their essential . . . uhh, is Yorkery a word?

This is the most bizarre example yet of York’s innate desire to break normal hiring protocols by finding people without typical experience patterns. He apparently distrusts traditional football trees, and likes planting his own untested shrubs instead. So, okay there.

There isn’t even any value in guessing how this will work because frankly, nobody has even the slightest idea. Not any York, not any Marathe, not any pundit, nobody. Not even Mike Shanahan, for whom Lynch once played. And if anyone says they do know, they are lying liars lying for the sake of lying.

What is interesting here, though, is the fact that York and Paraag Marathe thought that experience is so overrated that they decided to opt for none at all in their two most important football jobs. It’s not like they’re so thick in football education that they don’t need all the wisdom they can get in all the positions they have.

Maybe York and Marathe feel their ability to read men’s minds is unparalleled, and then that what they read is readily available to them. That takes a level of bravery that their resumes do not in any way support.

But they did it anyway, and in fairness they could be right where everyone else is wrong. Lynch and Shanahan could be the combination that solves all the evils of this dysfunk-chise. After all, Trent Baalke had only been a pro scout before he got hired, and Jim Harbaugh had only coached college football before he got hired – and that worked harmoniously for about six weeks or so.

So maybe Lynch and Shanahan are just agreeable conversationalists, able to find a comforting chemistry with York and Marathe that they value more than experience. And if that was the litmus test, then any success Lynch and Shanahan have will be very much against the run of logical play.

This, in short, is an amazing gamble that if it goes well is an act of stunning genius (or blind-dog-finds-Westminster Dog Show luck), and if it doesn’t pushes the 49ers another three years behind the relevance curve.


In other words, this is a what-the-hell tandem of hires that may not have any precedent in any sport, save perhaps for an expansion team. This is York the Gambler rearing his head again, the one who went for Chip Kelly after failing with the comforts of Tomsula, and the one who went for Harbaugh after the radical choice of Mike Singletary.

What is more, the 49ers haven’t hired a general manager with any prior NFL executive experience in 16 years, and only one (Bill Walsh) since John McVay retired in 1996. Evidently they don’t believe the job can’t be handled by whomever happens to be handy.

Well, okay then. If he’s right, he’s the smartest guy in football. If he isn’t, or if he is insufficiently patient, then the odd plane over his stadium will become an entire air force, and the Kelly and Tomsula eras will be known as “The Golden Years.”

And people will ask themselves for decades to come why he didn’t see the wisdom in Aikman. Or for that matter, Musburger.


Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season


Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season

Frank Gore is returning home to, in all likelihood, finish his professional football career.

Gore, 34, signed a one-year contract to enter his 14th NFL season with his hometown Miami Dolphins, the team announced Friday.

Gore grew up in Coconut Grove, Florida, and attended Coral Gables High School before playing collegiately at the University of Miami.

He played the first 10 NFL seasons with the 49ers and is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Gore ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,026 rushing yards – just 75 yards behind No. 4 Curtis Martin.

After rushing for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns with the 49ers, the club declined to offer him a multi-year contract following the 2014 season. Gore played the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Gore remains one of the most popular players in 49ers history. When asked recently if he would be willing to “retire” as a member of the 49ers after his final game, Gore reacted enthusiastically about the possibility.

1, Emmitt Smith 18,355
2, Walter Payton 16,726
3, Barry Sanders 15,269
4, Curtis Martin 14,101
5, Frank Gore 14,026

49ers increase competition for starting guard positions


49ers increase competition for starting guard positions

The 49ers are the fifth team to give Jonathan Cooper a chance after he arrived in the NFL as the No. 7 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 draft.

Cooper, 28, caught the attention of the 49ers with his career-high 13 starts last season with the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers signed him to a one-year, $4.95 million contract this week.

“We signed him to compete for one of the guard spots as a starter,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday at Stanford's pro day. “He played very well in our minds for Dallas last year and kind of resurrected his career. He’s battled injuries, but we really like the way he played, and we think he’s a very good fit for what we do. So we were pleased to add him.”

The 49ers plan to take it slowly this offseason with Cooper, who underwent surgery after tearing the medial-collateral ligament in his left knee during the final game of the season. The 49ers report for the offseason program in mid-April.

The 49ers are certain to have at least two new starters on the offensive line. Former New York Giants center Weston Richburg was signed to replace Daniel Kilgore, who was subsequently traded to the Miami Dolphins. Brandon Fusco, who started 16 games at right guard, signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent.

Laken Tomlinson has a chance to hold onto a starting job. Acquired shortly before the start of the regular season in a trade from the Detroit Lions, Tomlinson quickly moved into the starting lineup at left guard and started the final 15 games. Tomlinson was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 2015.

“Laken played very well the longer he was there,” Lynch said. “I think people forget with Laken, he came here in Week 1. He was kind of force-fed. We didn’t have many options. But we saw a guy get better throughout the season. He’ll get his opportunity.”

Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, spent last season on injured reserve due to an a knee injury sustained in training camp. The 49ers challenged Garnett to get in better physical condition. He has been cleared for football activity.

“Joshua Garnett has been working extremely hard, so he’ll be in that mix,” Lynch said. “He did a great job embracing the time he has last year to improve as a player. He remade his body and we're looking forward to see him get after it in the offseason.

“I think he’s excited about it. He’s feeling sexy, as he says.”

Erik Magnuson, 24, won a spot on the 49ers’ roster after signing as an undrafted rookie from Michigan. Magnuson could enter into the competition at guard. He displayed unique versatility in his first season, starting two games at right tackle before sustaining a season-ending foot injury. He can also serve as a backup center.

And, perhaps, the 49ers are not finished adding to the competition. The team owns the No. 9 overall selection, and Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson could be on the radar in the unlikely event he is not selected within the top eight picks.

When asked if the 49ers could also add another player to the mix with a draft pick, Lynch answered, “We’ll see. We’re always looking to get better there.”