Elway the Anomaly

The 49ers rocked the pro football world by naming John Lynch their GM. Some people let loose with jokes about their seeming addiction to dysfunctional decisions. Others compared this move to Matt Millen. A few brought up the point of John Elway and the success he’s had running the Broncos.

Elway is nothng like Millen. Or Lynch. Elway is the anomaly.

John Elway played his whole career in Denver and was worshiped out there, during and after his career. Elway uses that popularity to become successful in the business world. He owned five car dealerships and sold them for more than $80M. He has owned successful steakhouses.

Elway owned Denver’s arena league team from 2002-2008. He obviously had some experience as a football executive before ever getting to the NFL. The fact the football was a much lower level wasn’t important. He learned how to hire and fire. He learned how to make business decisions with players. He learned the business of football.

Too many people think being a good GM means knowing the game of football. That’s not the case at all. You have to be able to manage people. You have a lot of people working under you and their success is critical to the team’s success. Obviously knowing football is critical, but the world’s greatest personnel guru will fail if he can’t run a team. Pro football is a business.

Lynch is smart. He is hard working. He knows football. What he doesn’t know is how to run a business, or a football organization. He might be one of those guys who picks things up incredibly quickly, but that is a big risk.

The other factor in this is pressure.

Lynch is not qualified for this job. He might be able to make it work, but his resume pales in comparison to that of just about any other realistic candidate. That means any and every move will be heavily scrutinized.

Can Lynch work under that kind of spotlight? Will it affect him?

I have nothing against Lynch and hope he does well because he seems like a genuinely good guy, but he is nothing like John Elway.

I do think he can be compared to Matt Millen.

  • Outstanding players
  • Multiple teams
  • Super Bowl winners
  • Team leaders
  • Grinders
  • Highly respected
  • Successful NFL analysts

Millen tried to run the Lions like a gritty LB. He wasn’t able to shake the player’s mentality. A GM has to see things very differently. I’m sure Lynch can do that and will learn from Millen’s mistakes. I don’t think there is much question that Lynch is the smarter of the two.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The Niners need a lot of talent. Lynch has a major challenge in front of him.

Good luck, John.

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