Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Jan 2017

Colts Hire Chris Ballard as GM; 49ers Pick John Lynch

The last two GM spots in the league have been filled.

The Indianapolis Colts, who fired Ryan Grigson last week, have named Chris Ballard as their new GM.

Ballard joined the Kansas City Chiefs as director of player personnel in 2013 and was later promoted to director of football operations. He has been widely connected to a number of GM openings, and will now get the chance to rebuild the Colts around Andrew Luck.

The San Francisco 49ers, who fired Trent Baalke after the regular season, will reportedly name John Lynch as their new GM, according to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Lynch is currently working at FOX as an analyst, and the rumor has the 49ers offering the front office novice a nearly-unprecedented six year deal to rebuild the franchise around...a lot of cap space? A solid punter?

Lynch's hiring comes out of the blue, after the 49ers had reportedly narrowed the candidates down to George Paton and Terry McDonough. Reports came out Friday, however, that there was a mystery third man in the running, and Lynch was apparently that man.

EDIT: Adam Schefter is reporting that both Lynch and Kyle Shanahan will be on six-year deals in San Francisco; which is fairly unheard of for a rookie GM and a rookie head coach. San Francisco is all-in on these two.

EDIT: Another update: Jim Trotter of ESPN reports that Lynch will have full control of the 90-man roster in San Francisco, while Shanahan will have control of the 53-man roster. Again, Lynch has no front office experience whatsoever.

Posted by: Bryan Knowles on 29 Jan 2017

36 comments, Last at 02 Feb 2017, 2:28pm by Steve in WI


by Bryan Knowles :: Sun, 01/29/2017 - 9:58pm

For the record, the general response to Lynch's hiring has been "...zwuh?"

I'm not sure that a team with a dire need at quarterback should have hired a safety with no front office experience to run their rebuild. Perhaps Kyle Shanahan will have more personnel control than expected!

by jackiel :: Sun, 01/29/2017 - 10:22pm

Are we sure that Shanahan still wants the job after this move? This organization seems like a total tire fire. The odds on someone who's never been part of a personnel department, negotiated contracts, or even been an NFL coach at any level being a terrible GM are quite high. Why anyone would prefer this mess instead of just keeping Harbaugh I'll never know.

by Steve B :: Sun, 01/29/2017 - 10:50pm

On the contrary, I would guess that Kyle (and his dad) are largely responsible for this move.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 2:04am

The scuttlebutt is indeed that Lynch called K. Shanahan to start the process; and they wanted to keep it all secret. Which ... they did.

Bad for 49ers? I think one could argue that a wooden post would have been a better GM than Baalke, so there's that.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 3:05am

Lynch's lack of credentials would be worrisome for any franchise, but considering how the 49ers have run things over the past few seasons, they get negative benefit of the doubt.

A more successfully-run franchise would get a bit of "well, THAT'S an odd move -- let's see where this goes!". That sort of wait-and-see approach kind of has to be justified by a track record of good decisions, though!

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 4:32am

Reading the behind the scenes stuff makes this move seem even more bizarre. Jon Lynch apparently called Kyle and asked if he could be the GM now that Kyle was likely to be the head coach. The only way this makes any sense is under the following two conditions.

A) Kyle wants Jon to be the gm because he will be a puppet and it will be Kyle who is running the entire organization

B) the 49er brass was so desperate for a big name hire(one that would be a palatable after their last big name hire flop) - they were willing to agree to anything as long as they got their man.

The totality suggests a lot to be worried about. Kyle may be overestimating his skills since its a lot to ask to run both the guts of an organization and be the head coach.

I won't predict a crash and burn since I've had my opinions rocked before, but this really did feel like wishful thinking and desperation overcoming natural urges for second guessing.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 11:43am

Clearly A). What a terrible-looking move. I suppose no capable man wanted the job so they had to with plan c.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 11:53am

The 49ers brass stated that they wanted a GM and HC who were able to work together. So, that sort of plays into them allowing Shanahan into getting to pick his own GM.

But what on earth caused Lynch to one day think "I'm bored of commentating, think I'd like to become a GM". I mean if you decide to do that, don't you go learn the job somewhere as an assistant?

I really don't see how this turns out well for the 49ers. But I guess those six year contracts give them a lot of time to learn on the job.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 12:28pm

Yes,it's astoundingly arrogant for Lynch to believe he could step into a GM job and succeed with no prior front office experience. (I'm not suggesting Lynch is a bad person; just that he may have a distorted sense of his own capabilities after a lifetime of being told how great he is at playing football). It's also worrying (if true) that Shanahan wants to work without an experienced GM behind him. Not a healthy situation from my viewpoint.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 3:39pm

Well given that both Kelly and Tomsula had 3 year contracts; the question is whether Kyle and Lynch have "4" year contracts (N-2) or "2" year contracts (N/3).

by jackiel :: Tue, 01/31/2017 - 2:14pm

Perhaps. Having total control of the roster didn't work out for his dad in Denver - I still have negative flashbacks to Ian Gold dropping a pick 6 nearly every game during the early 2000s. Another reason this move stinks is that the Niners' personnel department doesn't have much of a positive track record since McCloughan left and there's nothing to suggest that Lynch would know how to improve that.

by PirateFreedom :: Sun, 01/29/2017 - 10:18pm

The Matt Millen career path: TV talking head to NFL GM.
This might work out even better for SF that it did for Detroit.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 11:13am

As a Lions fan that was my first reaction as well.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 01/31/2017 - 3:31pm

The difference being that Millen usually made sense when he was an analyst.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 01/31/2017 - 9:23pm

Considering how many illegal hits Lynch made in his career, it's a wonder he can still speak.

by theslothook :: Sun, 01/29/2017 - 10:20pm

This makes absolutely 0 sense. I don't get it at all. And I'm not taking about the colts for once

by Athelas :: Sun, 01/29/2017 - 11:29pm

Love Mike Tanier's Twitter response:

by Cythammer :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 12:04am

I don't distinguish various TV analysts from each other very well, but I'm pretty sure I remember Lynch being annoying, so I am therefore a fan of this move.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 12:26am

Lynch certainly wasn't bad -- a little green, but I never groaned when he got on the air. Very good at breaking down the strategy; just not super-great at the whole "commentating" part yet.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 7:03am

I recall Lynch being a bland analyst, not providing any deep insight, but not saying anything offensive or disgracefully dumb either.

Who knows what he will bring as a GM, but I wouldn't expect anything original or innovative.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 11:58am

I seem to recall that his bland, inoffensiveness with the media is said to be part of why he's getting attention for the HoF.

He was a good safety but not good enough to make an All-Decade team. Ronnie Lott is the only safety from the 80s/90s/00s who's been inducted. (There are some late career converts like Rod Woodson in there too).

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 11:45am

The only ones I can tell apart are Phil Sims and Cris Collinsworth. Everyone else sounds exactly the same to me.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 1:00pm

I thought Lynch was pretty awful when he started, but I've noticed him improving in recent years. Some actual, real analysis, not just parroting standard lines about "Player X is so great at action Y", and significantly less boring. All of which make him incredibly qualified to be a GM, of course.

by wiesengrund :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 3:19am

I'm pretty sure this is entirely Shanahan's doing. It would be stunning if he had to give up 53 with the leverage. A true, proven GM would have to be a perfect match, which probably was not out there anymore. So the plan B was logically to get a "yes"-man.

I'm not saying it will work, but Shanahan is definitly infected by Quinns power over Dimitroff. He has seen that, and he knew he had all the leverage. He might fall flat with that approach, especially considering how Dimitroff while ceding power to Quinn has retained a pretty good standard of expertise when it comes to scouting and contracts, and Shanahan simply decided that that part was not important. Risky.

by Purds :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 3:28am

In terms of the Colts and Ballard. Is he any good?

by Lebo :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 7:31am

He's been working under Andy Reid, so that's positive. I mean, the last time the Colts hired an Andy Reid disciple it worked out pretty well.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 4:05am

Someone sold York a good story.

Probably said look over the bay to Oakland. Reggie McKenzie said it would take 5 years to tear down and rebuild the Raiders. And it's taken that. But at least he had experience and a plan.

So six year contracts it is ... but there were many moments where Mark Davis had to hold his nerve through what looked like a terrible mess. Will York have that nerve?

by Lebo :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 7:27am

I wouldn't be surprised if that's exactly what happened. But Oakland isn't an ideal comparison, though. If my memory serves, Oakland were in cap hell when McKenzie took over. And it appears that the 49ers are in cap heaven with 80m available from 200m. (H*ly cr*p, the cap is now $200m?!) So this re-build should take less than five years.

by serutan :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 12:27pm

Not only were they in cap hell (crippling dead money for 2 years), but
they didn't have very many draft picks those first two years.

IMO Lynch is just going to be Kyle's ventriloquist dummy. Be interesting to
see if it's Kyle or Daddy operating him, though.

Was wr

by billprudden :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 8:58am

Does it matter who they hire if York doesn't let them spend? Everybody talks about this job, and Jax as well, like "$40m in cap space is a good thing". How do you think they got all that roll-over? By handicapping the old coach and getting him fired...

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 1:06pm

When I saw the news, my first thought was, "Hmm, there must be another John Lynch in a personnel office somewhere who's been flying under the radar, there's no way it could be #47."

Uh, or I guess it could?

Reasons I could imagine this seems like a good idea to the 49ers:
-It's nothing like Matt Millen; Millen was a linebacker. Lynch was a safety. Therefore, no issue.
-Lynch spent some time in Denver, where an ex-NFL player has turned into a very solid GM. If you drink a lot and maybe have low-grade CTE and squint pretty hard, John Lynch could kind of look like John Elway.
-The 49ers have been trying to run their front office with people who have actual front office experience, and they've wound up with maybe the worst roster in the entire league. Hiring someone who has zero front office experience will do the opposite, so therefore Superbowl. Lynch will be able to hit that bullseye, and the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. CHECKMATE.
-Jed York is a big Dokken fan and thought Kyle Shanahan said "George Lynch".

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 1:34pm

Yes - the great thing about hiring Lynch is that he's not going to be constrained by how GMs traditionally work.

He won't be weighed down by any outdated best practice and he'll be able to innovate with lots of new ideas.

When it comes to trades and negotiations with agents, he'll be able to bring a clean slate to those and set the market for the 49ers, not just base it on what everybody else does.

And then hopefully in six years after a lot of failed prototypes - he'll have managed to reinvent the wheel ...

by zenbitz :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 3:42pm

I don't think either new hire will be handling contract details, that's Parag.

by peepshowmopguy :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 1:24pm

So John Lynch returned the Everlasting Gobstopper at the end of the facility tour. Good for him.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 1:48pm

There's buzz that Lynch is considering bringing in former Bucs GM Mark Dominik as his personnel guy. Dominik was the Bucs GM for five years, and they were not good years. He was basically the GM during the "jettison the veterans, let's do a youth movement" phase, and his draft picks were, frankly, pretty damn awful.

First round wasn't that bad:
Year Rnd Pick Pos
2012 1 7 Mark Barron DB
2012 1 31 Doug Martin RB
2011 1 20 Adrian Clayborn DE
2010 1 3 Gerald McCoy DT
2009 1 17 Josh Freeman QB

Freeman had an epic flameout, but showed a lot of promise. McCoy is clearly a phenomenal player, and, while neither Clayborn or Barron have been notably good, they're not awful (Doug Martin . . .ugh). 2013? That's when the Bucs traded their first-round pick to rent Darrelle Revis for a year. With a young team, not ready for playoff contention. That pick, incidentally, turned into Sheldon Richardson.

Let's look at rounds 2 and 3:
Year Rnd Pick Pos
2013 2 43 Johnthan Banks DB
2013 3 73 Mike Glennon QB
2012 2 58 Lavonte David LB
2011 2 51 Da'Quan Bowers DE
2011 3 84 Mason Foster LB
2010 2 35 Brian Price DT
2010 2 39 Arrelious Benn WR
2010 3 67 Myron Lewis DB
2009 3 81 Roy Miller DT

That is a bad list. A very bad list. Lavonte David is obviously a truly great player, but Mason Foster is probably the second-best player on the list, which is a compliment to no one. Then, what, Roy Miller or Giraffe Glennon? Banks went to Detroit and was so bad they wouldn't let him play in the secondary. Roy Miller is actually still in the league (if Jacksonville counts as "in the league"). Arrelious Benn has about as many ACL surgeries as catches.

I'm not including the list for rounds 4-7, because it's too depressing. Suffice to say, the best player out of those rounds for a five-year span is probably either Luke Stocker (a blocking TE), William Gholston (a solid run-stopping DE), or Dekoda Watson (good special teams guy). Or the corpse of WR Mike Williams, wherever his probably insanity has wandered off to.

Mark Dominik is very, very, very bad at drafting. Oh, and he also hired a wheezing bag of d*cks named "Schiano" as head coach and no, really, I meant "ducks" there.

by Steve in WI :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 2:28pm

I think the era of being worried about someone having relevant experience or qualifications for a job ended back in November.