The San Francisco 49ers’ 2017 offseason couldn’t feel any different than those of recent years. And this is thanks, in large measure, to the differences between general manager John Lynch and his predecessor, Trent Baalke.
One’s a saint and the other is a villain. At least that’s what most San Francisco 49ers fans would say.
And it feels good for Niners fans to be excited about the future instead of clamoring for the past.
This is, of course, in direct reference to current general manager John Lynch as well as his predecessor, Trent Baalke.
Whereas Baalke won the power struggle between former head coach Jim Harbaugh — forcing fans to hearken back to days with Harbaugh’s khakis on the sidelines — Lynch has installed something new and different.
OK, so this isn’t a new argument. Back in March, Niner Noise put together a breakdown on how Lynch was everything Baalke wasn’t.
These were more in words though. Well, free agency as well. Baalke shied away from both the camera and free-agent targets. Lynch couldn’t have been any more different.
But a number of events have transpired since then. A big one, the NFL Draft, saw Lynch execute a number of trades — not unlike Baalke. And yet the current GM’s moves almost feel more like steals that any sort of maneuvering for better draft position down the line.
Just ask the Chicago Bears.
And there’s more. Plenty more.
Differences in Handling 49ers Players
Shortly after accepting the 49ers’ GM job, Lynch said something of note (h/t Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News):
"And then I can tell you, I don’t want to make too many promises, the one promise I can make is of any team I’m going to be associated with, you’re going to have competitive players that want to compete, that live and breathe football, that are going to play hard. If they don’t play hard, we’re going to find players that will play hard."
Lynch wasn’t kidding.
Take former Niners cornerback Tramaine Brock. Immediately after his arrest for an alleged domestic violence incident, Lynch wasted little time getting rid of San Francisco’s assumed No. 1 corner.
Just like that. A player gone who wasn’t dedicated to keeping himself inline to team expectations.
The same wouldn’t have happened with Baalke. No, the 49ers would have let the “process play itself out” before making any decisions. Conservative and indecisive.
Here’s another example, albeit a completely different context.
San Francisco waived former 2009 draft pick, running back Glen Coffee, immediately after he was reinstated by the league following his 2010 retirement to pursue a career in the U.S. Army.
Meanwhile, fans can think back to former right tackle Anthony Davis, his ins and outs of retirement and how Baalke handled that entire situation. Lynch would have never tolerated the “backs and forths” from that ongoing drama.
Here’s another example… very un-Baalke-ish.
San Francisco cut wide receiver K.D. Cannon, a talented former-Baylor undrafted free agent, right in the middle of a minicamp. The buzz is Cannon wasn’t finishing his routes or, to be plain, wasn’t giving 100 percent.
That’s a Lynch move. Not one we would have expected from Baalke.
Promise for the Future
Without sounding like a homer, it’s hard to state the 49ers aren’t in good hands right now.
Sure, Baalke had some notable work under his belt. The 2011 Niners draft class was about as solid as it gets. And while we can feel good about San Francisco’s 2017 draft haul, the real judgment won’t come about for another two or three seasons.
Still, it’s worth pointing out my own discussions with relatives of mine at a recent wedding — one a Denver Broncos fan and another an Oakland Raiders fan.
The groom, the Broncos fan, couldn’t stop talking about how Lynch remains one of his favorites from his time in Denver. With Lynch at the helm of the Niners, the groom has turned into a quasi-49ers fan, believe it or not.
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And the Raiders fan? He told me Lynch’s efforts in last April’s draft were on par, if not better, than Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie’s haul of quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Not bad praise at all.
For comparison, when was the last time anything positive was said about Baalke?
It’s been a while, proving just how vast the differences are between San Francisco’s current general manager and his predecessor.