ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Before John Lynch became the 49ers’ general manager in 2017, the Broncos’ Ring of Fame safety worked as a color commentator on FOX’s NFL coverage.
As part of his role, Lynch met with various head coaches, players and coordinators in production meetings ahead of each week’s matchup.
And early in Head Coach Vic Fangio’s tenure as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, Lynch sat down with the veteran coach during one of those meetings.
Even in that short interaction, Fangio’s coaching style became clear.
“I think it’s probably long overdue that he got his shot,” said Lynch on Saturday ahead of the Broncos’ second joint practice with the 49ers. “I think I’ve long respected his style. I remember being in a production meeting with him when he was with the Niners, and one of the things I love about him [is] there’s some old school. I remember saying, ‘Hey, you just came from Stanford. I know you’ve been in the league, but you’ve got Pat Willis and you’ve got NaVorro Bowman.’ And he said, ‘Ah, they’re all right.’ But his point was — and I talked to him later — there’s a few great players, and if we use great all the time [it dilutes the meaning]. And I think that’s the way he looks at things.
“He doesn’t get too blown away. He believes in sound football and his teams play that way and they have over the years. They’ve also made a ton of plays. I think he deserves this opportunity. I’m thrilled to see him have it.”
The two didn’t overlap in San Francisco, but the respect Lynch has for Fangio is obvious. And Lynch, who was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2016, thinks Broncos fans have “reason to be excited” about the 2019 season.
“I think Vic’s doing a tremendous job of running a tough camp,” Lynch said. “They’ve got some players on that roster and I think it’s going to be a good football team, I really do.”
ELWAY PROVIDES A PATH
Before Lynch became a GM, John Elway welcomed him into the Broncos’ facility and gave him a sneak peek at the role. Years later, Lynch credits his fellow Stanford alum as a “tremendous resource” for him as he aimed to break into the business.
“He’s a good friend,” Lynch said. “We’ve got a lot of parallels from where we went to school and [being] two-sport players and I used to try to walk pigeon-toed so I’d be more like him and all those things. … I think the little bit of time in an offseason when he had me come in here was very integral in my motivation to do this and say, ‘Hey, this might be something that someday I’d like to do.’ He’s been a tremendous resource and I have a great amount of respect and admiration for him and everything he’s done.”
MAKING AN IMPRESSION
Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello, who previously served as the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach, left a strong impression on Lynch during their time together in the Bay Area.
“I think the time where I saw ‘Scangs’ kind of show us what he had was when we traded for Jimmy [Garoppolo],” Lynch said. “He had other quarterbacks that he was preparing to play and building a game plan each week, but he also had this job of getting a quarterback that we had invested a lot in up to speed in a completely different offense. [There was] a lot of verbiage, where they didn’t have that in New England. So just to watch his work ethic and the effectiveness with which he did that and got Jimmy to a point where we could stick him in and play him. I think he impressed the heck out of me there. I think his story, everything from basically volunteering in Atlanta, sleeping on couches and all those things to going off to Wagner College because he wanted to call plays. All those things impressed me, and I think he’s deserving of the opportunity. I think he’ll do really well.”
A DESERVING TEAMMATE
Both Champ Bailey and John Lynch joined the Broncos in 2004, and the duo in the secondary helped key the Broncos to an AFC Championship Game appearance during the 2005 season.
Lynch and Bailey are both Broncos Ring of Famers — Bailey will be officially inducted in October — and Bailey was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
Lynch said he’s spoken with Bailey since the enshrinement, and that he’s “extremely proud” of his former teammate.
“We’ve talked a lot, and I was extremely proud of Champ, the way he handled himself,” Lynch said. “That was a no-brainer in my mind. He’s first-ballot. I played with a lot of great players, but there’s a few — the Warren Sapps, the Champ Baileys, the Derrick Brookses, the Ronde Barbers — that kind of were up there and just different. He was one of those and had so much respect once I was around him — because you knew how athletic he was, but the way he prepared himself each week [was impressive]. But he did so quietly. … I learned a lot from him and hopefully he earned some from me.”