HOUSTON – John Lynch has been in this same position on three previous occasions, but this year it feels a lot different.
He has not been consumed this week with thinking about his chances of making it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
No, something else has occupied his mind for several days.
But all it took was the sight of 71 men wearing the gold jackets they earned through their distinguished NFL careers to make him realize how his life could change on Saturday afternoon. Lynch is among the 15 modern-day finalists that will be discussed by the 48-member selection committe on Saturday. A maximum of five former players from the modern era will be selected for induction into the Hall of Fame.
Lynch, who was hired as 49ers general manager on Sunday, is back in Houston to take part in a reception Thursday night and a luncheon on Friday. He said he had to excuse himself on several occasions to take work-related calls.
“This is my fourth year of being a finalist,” Lynch told CSNBayArea.com on Friday amid the Super Bowl activities in downtown Houston. “In past years, as this draws near, it’s very different because it’s absolutely out of your control. There’s nothing you can do. That’s unusual. So there is some angst, particularly when the weekend comes.
“But until I went to the reception last night and was around all the guys, I hadn’t thought of it once.”
Lynch made it into the top-10 last year before the final cut was made to the five individuals who were selected into the Hall of Fame.
Lynch, who earned nine trips to the Pro Bowl in 15 NFL seasons as a hard-hitting safety with Tampa Bay and Denver, has been trying to touch base with candidates for presumptive coach Kyle Shanahan’s staff.
CEO Jed York is not allowed to officially hire Shanahan, the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator, until after the season concludes with Super Bowl 51 against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
“Because our head coach, we’re not able to name him yet, I’ve been handling a lot of that -- interviewing coaches, just getting our list, here’s what we’re going to do first,” Lynch said. “It’s been non-stop.
“Next week could be a fun week, in terms of a lot of movement.”
Lynch has already strengthened the organization, he believes, with the addition of Adam Peters to serve as 49ers vice president of player personnel. Peters previous worked in the scouting departments of Denver and New England.
“Getting Adam Peters was a huge hire for me, because he’s someone I know and trust and value, as do many people in this league,” Lynch said. “So that was a great head start.”
Lynch developed a strong rapport with Peters when Lynch took part in Broncos meetings and prospect evaluations, which included a trip to the NFL scouting combine, prior to the 2013 draft.
“That month, month-and-a-half, I actually sat next to Adam every day,” Lynch said. “Those are long meetings. I’d listen to him and we’d talk in between about players. I just saw way back then, he’s a guy who’s highly respected in the league. I firmly believe in two, three years, he would’ve been a GM. He was on that track, at least.”
Broncos general manager John Elway has also assigned Lynch special projects in recent offseasons, such as evaluating the draft-eligible safeties. Still, Lynch is fully aware he will face a stiff learning curve.
“Watching John (Elway) and John talking to me, he’s told me, ‘You can do this; you know football,’” Lynch said. “That’s what I told Jed from the beginning. ‘Look, there will be a lot of things I’m learning.’ But what I do know football, I know people and I know how to lead. And the rest I’ll learn.”
Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco is a first-year member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors.