The 49ers begin training camp Friday, bringing the team together for the start of what will be a critical season for the franchise and the two people at the head of it.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are entering the third year of their six-year contracts, and after posting a combined record of 10-22 over the first two seasons, the pressure is mounting.
Some people thrive under pressure. Some wilt under it. While it remains to be seen which category the two men in charge of leading San Francisco back to its former lofty heights fall into, we know for certain that they'll face plenty of it this coming season.
And, according to Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne, that pressure already is being felt within the front office.
Dunne references an anonymous former team staffer who conveys there's an ongoing rift between the 49ers' scouting and coaching staffs, due to the fact that the former reportedly is frequently being overruled by the latter. While it isn't unusual for a head coach or a GM to have the final say in an NFL franchise, the former staffer suggests what's occurred in San Francisco has gone over that line.
Specifically, the staffer mentions the NFL draft process, and certain selections that have been made under the Shanahan-Lynch regime that have either gone against scouts' recommendations, or made those scouts feel increasingly marginalized.
"Where Lynch sees 'synergy,' " Dunne wrote, "others see an imbalance. With Shanahan wielding so much control, coaches are far, far more empowered on draft day. As the staffer puts it, it is literally the scouts' jobs to study prospects two years at a time, so 'to see your work not valued as highly is demoralizing.'
"Voices are being heard," the staffer added, "but they're not the right voices."
To illustrate this disconnect, Dunne points to three specific draft selections made by Shanahan and Lynch: Solomon Thomas, Joe Williams and 2019 No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa.
First, Thomas. The defensive lineman was the first draft pick of the new regime, selected No. 3 overall in 2017, ahead of future Pro Bowl quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson. However, Dunne suggests that selection went against the scouts' recommendations.
"A handful of 49ers scouts who watched Thomas in person several times never viewed him as a top-five pick," Dunne wrote, "and the former staffer cannot recall one serious conversation about taking a quarterback."
As for Williams, the 49ers selected the running back in the fourth round of that same 2017 draft, despite the fact that he wasn't even on their draft board. That Shanahan pushed for his selection nonetheless -- and ultimately got his way -- reportedly was not received well among the scouts.
"Elsewhere, running back Joe Williams wasn't even on the draft board that same year, and scouts ripped him to shreds for quitting on his team in college,” Dunne writes. “But Shanahan loved him, so the 49ers picked him in the fourth round."
When San Francisco went on the clock with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, some scouts reportedly wanted the team to consider Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (who ultimately went No. 3 overall), "but the choice was Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa all the way."
Now, to be fair, Dunne also points to some successful picks made by Lynch and Shanahan's regime, in which they or another coach made the ultimate determination. For instance, he mentions how Shanahan pinpointed tight end George Kittle early in the 2017 draft process, and how linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans identified Fred Warner’s robust promise at the scouting combine.
Still, though, the collective tendency of Lynch, Shanahan and the coaching staff to overrule the scouts reportedly has had a cumulative effect, large enough to cause them to sour on their current positions.
"Some scouts, feeling powerless," Dunne stated, "are considering leaving when their contracts expire."
If the 49ers have the kind of season that Lynch and Shanahan hope, the seats will cool and the pressure will subside. But if it goes the other way, and they fail to take a step or two forward, expect plenty of heads to roll, coaches and scouts alike.