Nearly 17 years from the day John Lynch hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as a Super Bowl champion with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the now 49ers general manager is in position to reach that pinnacle again, this time as a member of San Francisco’s front office.
Following one of the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Alabama this past week, Pewter Report’s Taylor Jenkins was able to speak to Lynch about his experience going to the NFL’s grandest stage as a player and now as a member of the front office.
“They’re very similar, actually,” Lynch said. “I didn’t know how that would be but I think, as a front office, it’s just a sense of pride for your players. You try to put together a group of guys, for that purpose, to win championships, because when you’ve done that you realize that it’s the greatest thing in this profession that you can do.
“When you see guys come together and make each other better and have each other’s backs, and then obviously you’ve got to be talented, it’s something special and this group is that. It’s just a tremendous amount of pride.”
Lynch then was asked to reflect on his memories from that evening in California where, as a captain, he recorded six solo tackles and a defended pass in the Bucs’ 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders.
“I was in my home town of San Diego,” Lynch said. “I remember, for instance, that morning. When you play football enough then you have a lot of police escorts but on the Super Bowl everybody going, ‘Wow, they’re shutting down the entire freeway. There is no one else on this freeway,’ and realizing, this is a pretty big deal.”
“I remember going out as a captain, looking at Derrick Brooks and saying, ‘I can’t feel my legs,’ and he said neither can I. Those kind of things are what you remember and I think that’s some of the wisdom that you can impart upon your younger players who have never experienced that.”
It’s the pinnacle of the sport, and Lynch has made the turnaround appear easy after taking over a two-win team following the 2016 season, alongside head coach Kyle Shanahan, and reaching the Super Bowl just one year removed from a 4-12 record and top-5 pick in the NFL Draft.
Lynch delved into the arduous process of building a winning roster through a mix of elite prospects like defensive end Nick Bosa and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, key free agent additions like linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Richard Sherman and hidden gems like Raheem Mostert and George Kittle.
“I think I tell people often, when you’re sitting at number two and Nick Bosa’s available, you’ve got a problem if you’re not taking him,” Lynch explains. “But the George Kittle’s and all of that, the Mosterts, the guys that you find like that, the Matt Breidas, the Ben Garlands, the free agents… I think we take a lot of pride in the synergy between our coaching staff and the front office and working together and seeing things the same way and being very explicit in exactly what we’re looking for.”
It’s a process that the Bucs have tried to use when building their current roster, with a large, experienced and familiar coaching staff working in tandem with general manager Jason Licht, who had previously worked as the director and vice president of player personnel with Bruce Arians in Arizona.
While Lynch was tight-lipped about his feelings on what Tampa Bay should do as they move forward with (or without) quarterback Jameis Winston, he knows what the Bucs’ fan base has gone through as well as anyone and praised the potential behind the tandem of Licht and Arians.
“We’ve got enough issues in San Fran, I’m not going to try and figure out other problems,” Lynch said. “But I know it’s been a long drought since they were competing for championships but I love the people that are there. Jason Licht and Bruce Arians, those are very competent people and I wish them the best.”