Looking back on the history of the Detroit Lions, William Clay Ford’s decision to hire Matt Millen as the team’s general manager and acting president will go down as one of the worst decisions in franchise history. The Lions went 31-81, culminating in the worst season in NFL history in 2008, when the team went winless in 16 games.
The move was initially considered extremely bold. Millen had neither executive nor coaching experience. In fact, this was the first time in over 30 years that an NFL team had hired someone with “no coaching, scouting or front-office experience” for their day-to-day operations. Millen’s job immediately prior to landing the Lions gig was a FOX Sports announcer for NFL football. There he was part of the No. 2 broadcasting team, behind the legendary John Madden and Pat Summerall. He gave up the opportunity to eventually take over Madden to take on a job that, as it turns out, he was completely unqualified for.
The San Francisco 49ers president Jed York does not appear to be fazed by this cautionary tale. On Sunday night, York and the team announced that they have hired FOX analyst and former NFL safety John Lynch as the team’s new general manager. Unlike the Millen hire, this decision came out of nowhere. The 49ers had interviewed several more qualified candidates in the past few weeks and no one had even mentioned Lynch as a possibility until it was announced that he had won the job.
Not only have the 49ers handed the keys over to Lynch, they’ve given him a much longer deal than expected for a rookie GM:
49ers are giving John Lynch an almost unprecedented six-year deal to become their GM, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 30, 2017
The puzzling move is just one of many coming from 49ers president Jed York. He fired Jim Harbaugh after going 44-19-1 in four seasons. He hired Chip Kelly and fired him after just one season. This offseason, especially, has been tumultuous. The hiring process for both a general manager and a head coach has been long and arduous. Countless candidates came and went. At first, it seemed like the 49ers were simply taking their time, but this hire of Lynch came swiftly and without warning.
The 49ers are expected to hire current Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as their new head coach, a move that will certainly draw more optimism than the Lynch signing. Perhaps not coincidentally, Shanahan’s father, Mike Shanahan signed Lynch as the Broncos’ starting safety back in 2004.
Maybe the pairing of Lynch and Kyle Shanahan can bring up some of that old success and bury some of the ghosts from Millen’s failed transition.