49ers introduce new coach Kyle Shanahan, GM John Lynch

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SANTA CLARA — When John Lynch was a defensive back at Stanford in 1992, legendary coach Bill Walsh returned to lead the Cardinal football team. Suddenly, 49ers alumni like Keena Turner and Bill Ring were part of the Stanford coaching staff.

“It was quite often that we’d look over at the Chuck Taylor fields there, and there’d be Joe (Montana) and Ronnie (Lott) sitting on top of their Mercedes watching practice and laughing,” Lynch remembered.

That same year, middle schooler Kyle Shanahan moved to the Bay Area with his father, Mike, who had taken a job as 49ers offensive coordinator. Kyle would sleep on a roll-out bed at the Niners’ training camp in Rocklin. After serving as ball boy for the offensive line at practice, he’d play Ping-Pong with wide receiver John Taylor.

“It took me two years to beat him,” Shanahan recalled. “And then after I did, he told me he was gonna start using his right hand.”

Thursday was a stroll down memory lane for these two bright young men with 49ers connections. Now comes the hard part: Taking a team that just completed a 2-14 record in an atmosphere of disarray, and molding it into something that remotely resembles those squads fronted by Montana and Lott.

Lynch, a week into his stint as 49ers general manager, sat to Shanahan’s right, and team CEO Jed York was to the coach’s left at Shanahan’s introductory press conference.

Reviews were favorable.

“I think they aced it,” said 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith, among a pack of current and former players who attended the event. “Obviously, they’re both great at public speaking. As a strength, that’s always a good thing to have. I think they’re believable as well.”

As all three men on the podium acknowledged, they have their work cut out for them. The 49ers defense was historically bad in 2016, allowing 480 points and an NFL-worst 406.4 yards per game.

The offense was only marginally better, and if Colin Kaepernick exercises the opt-out on his contract on March 2, the team may not have a single quarterback on its roster.

None of that was forgotten Thursday, but a few rays of hope seeped into Levi’s Stadium in the presence of Lynch and Shanahan, who handled themselves with ease, confidence and humor.

A picture of their professional interaction started to emerge. Lynch said that he will be in charge of the draft, free-agent signings and the 90-man roster the 49ers will take into training camp; Shanahan will have final say over the 53-man active roster heading into the regular season. Shanahan later confirmed that both men will report directly to York.

Everyone took great pains to describe this relationship as a collaboration.

“When it comes down to the 53 and the 90, a lot of that’s just something you have to put down on paper,” Shanahan said. “… And to have an opportunity where an owner gives you a chance to come in with the GM, I’m gonna make sure we both meet together before (we) do it.”

The rest of the staff in Santa Clara is beginning to take shape, too. Lynch announced that Martin Mayhew, his former Buccaneers teammate who was general manager of the Detroit Lions from 2008 to 2015 and last year served as the New York Giants’ director of football operations, will be a senior personnel executive for the 49ers.

The team previously announced Adam Peters, recently the Denver Broncos’ director of college scouting, as the new vice president of player personnel here.

Shanahan said he was unable to divulge many of his assistant coaches because most had not signed contracts, though he noted that “you’re pretty accurate on the names.” The names cropping up in published reports have included Mike McDaniel (run game coordinator), Rich Scangarello (quarterbacks), Mike LaFleur (wide receivers), Jeff Zgonina (defensive line) and Bobby Turner (confirmed as running backs coach).

Shanahan added that he hoped to convince Tom Rathman, the 49ers’ longtime running backs coach, to remain in some capacity.

The new head coach will call his own plays, and will not hire an offensive coordinator.

Most of the talk Thursday was about Shanahan himself. The former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator was still reeling from his team’s collapse in a 34-28 overtime loss to New England in Super Bowl LI on Sunday.

“I remember every single play, and I will go over those for the rest of my life,” Shanahan said.

Despite the criticism he received for his risky play-calling in the fourth quarter of that game, Shanahan has a legion of admirers. The Associated Press named him NFL Assistant Coach of the Year after the Falcons set franchise marks for points scored (540), yards per game (415.8) and yards per play (6.7).

Here in Santa Clara, people noticed. In introducing Shanahan, Lynch called him “innovative” and “aggressive.”

“A lot of people in this league are just running plays,” Lynch said. “That’s one thing I saw this year, he’s always setting up someone with what he’s doing. His run game matches his play-action.”

Smith, whose two seasons with the 49ers have been unfulfilling, sounded thrilled to have Shanahan in charge. The speedy wide receiver said he played in similar offenses in college (under offensive coordinator James Franklin at Maryland) and with the Ravens (when Gary Kubiak was the coordinator). During his season with Kubiak in Baltimore, Smith caught 11 touchdown passes. Matt Ryan threw 38 scoring passes for Atlanta last year.

“They showed there are opportunities for people who play the way I play,” Smith said. “Big opportunities. They spread it out, they attack the entire field, it’s very balanced.”

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman has seen Shanahan’s system from the opposite vantage point. “Me standing on the sideline and watching the Falcons just move the ball up and down the field, with my intellect, he had me off my beat,” the linebacker said.

Bowman has seen the best and worst of 49ers football. He was part of the team that Jim Harbaugh coached to the NFC championship game three consecutive years (2011-13). But Bowman was here when Harbaugh was fired, and when Jim Tomsula was fired the year after that, and when Chip Kelly was fired the year after that. Four coaches in four years.

“We have one goal in mind,” Bowman said. “That’s to get back to winning ways and not have to hire a fifth one.”

You can reach staff writer Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

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