Matt Millen knows a thing or two about the challenges of morphing from former NFL player to front office manager. With that in mind, his take on the San Francisco 49ers hiring future Hall of Fame safety John Lynch to become their general manager is worth sharing.
“When I heard the news, good luck,” Millen said, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s a bright guy. I mean, the parallels are kind of funny, actually. He was a defensive guy, he was a really good player. All those things, all that crap. But none of those things are factors. The things that are factors are, can you manage people? Can you get everybody on the same page? Can you handle the politics? If you got that, fine. If you don’t have it, then it’ll turn out the way it turns out.”
Millen famously flamed out as the general manager of the Detroit Lions, where teams he engineered went 31-81 between 2001-07. He struggled with the talent evaluation side of things, and the Lions never won more than seven games during his tenure.
Needless to say, he understands the kind of “steep learning curve” Lynch faces now that he’s in charge of building a competitive roster for the 49ers.
“It’s not about understanding the game and knowing the game. It’s none of that. It’s not Xs and Os. It’s about managing people,” he said. “The biggest thing that helps in those jobs is experience and having been exposed to it. When you haven’t been and when you don’t have it, you’re forced to rely on other people. For little things. And so that’s why you have to know the people. That’s why you got to know them. You got to know their eyes, you got to know philosophically how they are, you got to know what they’re like politically, you got to know who’s trying to work you. There’s tons of stuff. And then you’ve got to know — when I say know the whole building, you’ve got to know all the people in the decision-making process, up to and including ownership.”
Thankfully for Lynch, it looks as though he’ll have some significant help in the form of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik (more on that here).
The 49ers are looking to blend Lynch’s leadership abilities, his people skills, defense-first mentality and instincts with Kyle Shanahan’s ability to evaluate offensive talent and bring the most out of it while establishing a personnel department that is headed by a skilled, proven veteran like Dominik. All three men have a history together during their shared tenure with the Bucs, and, on paper, they would seem to bring quite a potent combination of talents.
But we know games aren’t won and lost on paper.
It’s going to be fascinating to see if Lynch becomes the next Millen or if he follows the footsteps of guys like Ozzie Newsome and John Elway to bring the 49ers back to prominence.