SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Ever since watching John Elway step into an NFL front office in Denver and build a Super Bowl champion, former Bucs safety John Lynch was intrigued about leaving the broadcast booth for a management job.
That process sped up rapidly a few weeks ago when Lynch called Atlanta offensive coordinator and the presumptive next coach of the 49ers Kyle Shanahan after calling a Falcons playoff game.
Lynch told Shanahan he'd be interested in a front-office job and Shanahan quickly relayed that information to San Francisco CEO Jed York.
After several phone conversations with York and Niners chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe, the process sped up. Lynch met with York and Marathe for an in-person meeting last week and then flew to Atlanta to sit down with Shanahan as well.
It all led to the surprise Sunday night when San Francisco handed the general manager job to a person who has spent his entire career as a player and broadcaster.
"I know what I don't know," Lynch said in a conference call Monday. "I won't tell you I've had 20 years in front offices working my way up. What I do know, is I know football. I'd put my football acumen up with most in this league. I know people and I know how to lead."
Lynch has plenty of work to do after taking over a team that went just 2-14 this past season leading to the firing of general manager Trent Baalke and coach Chip Kelly and had a depleted roster that didn't include a player who got a single vote for the All-Pro team.
Lynch, who is spending this week at the Super Bowl in Houston finishing his work for Fox, said he has been on the phone almost constantly talking since getting the job talking to people about joining the organization.
Getting a new head coach will have to wait another week. Shanahan is the only remaining candidate, but can't sign a contract until after the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Lynch did not hold back on his praise for the son of his former coach in Denver, Mike Shanahan.
"I thought he was the catch of this head coaching cycle. I really did," Lynch said. "It's one of the best years I've seen a coordinator have."
The relationship between Lynch and his coach will be key to success for the Niners. Conflicts between former coach Jim Harbaugh and Baalke eventually led to Harbaugh's ouster following the 2014 season, speeding the descent for the franchise that went to three straight NFC title games and one Super Bowl from 2011-13.
After just seven wins the past two years under Jim Tomsula and Kelly, York set out to overhaul the operation with finding a coach and general manager who can work well together.
Lynch would not give specifics in how the control of the roster will be divided, but stressed that he wanted a "true partnership" with his coach.
"One common denominator in places where they have successful cultures and results, everyone is working in the same direction," Lynch said. "In places that are inconsistent or consistently poor franchises, you can see it."
Lynch said he knows it will take time to earn the trust of skeptics who doubt whether someone with no front-office experience is capable of being a general manager.
"John is a guy I've built a relationship with over the years," Shanahan said Monday. "He's a guy who lives and dies football. Very smart guy who really wanted to get back into it so he can compete on Sunday and there is actually a win or (loss) at the end of the game. We had some talks together. I'm excited about it."
Shanahan also met with two other candidates who are current NFL executives: Terry McDonough (Cardinals) and George Paton (Vikings).
"John is a guy I have a lot of respect for as man, as a person, and also from his football knowledge," Shanahan said.
The previous person to make the jump from the broadcast booth to the GM role without any experience was Matt Millen, who had a 31-84 record during his time in charge of Detroit from 2001-08.
But Lynch said he hasn't always taken the most traditional route in his career. He came to Stanford as a quarterback who also played minor-league baseball before coach Bill Walsh convinced him that safety was his best route to the NFL.
After struggling to get on the field early in his career, Lynch went on to have a stellar career that included three All-Pro selections and a Super Bowl title in Tampa Bay that has made him a Hall of Fame finalist this year.
"There are a lot of things in my life that haven't been conventional," he said. "I appreciate that Jed was willing to think outside the box."
York called Lynch a "world-class competitor" who has earned respect around the league for his work ethic and passion going back to his playing days.
"Having already helped lead a team to a Super Bowl title as a player, John is equipped with tremendous insight into what it takes to create a culture that breeds sustained success," York said in a statement.
"Having spent the last eight seasons as an analyst with Fox, he has honed his skills as a talented communicator while also developing valuable relationships around the league and a vast knowledge of the NFL that will be beneficial to our team."