Erst­while star Lynch sees dif­fer­ent kind of NFL game

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Rick Stroud Tampa Bay Times By Sam Farmer Los An­ge­les Times

TAMPA — John Lynch was driv­ing into work Tues­day morn­ing, lis­ten­ing to the fall­out on the ra­dio from the Rams’ 54-51 win over the Chiefs. The nine-time Pro Bowl safety re­mains a de­fen­sive player at heart, which ached to think this what the league has be­come.

“Peo­ple are ask­ing if this the great­est reg­u­lar-sea­son game in the his­tory of the NFL?” said Lynch, a star on the Bucs’ Su­per Bowl cham­pion team.

“Some­one like me thinks ‘ab­so­lutely not.’ ”

Lynch, 47, ac­tu­ally is chang­ing with the game. A mem­ber of the No. 2 NFL broad­cast team at FOX, a year ago he stunned the league es­tab­lish­ment by be­com­ing the 49ers gen­eral man­ager de­spite no frontof­fice ex­pe­ri­ence.

Well, none that

Lynch said he was a se­cret draft geek as a player.

”It used to drive [my wife] Linda crazy. It was like, ‘You’re kid­ding me. Are you go­ing to stay home for three days and watch a is doc­u­mented. draft?’ ” Lynch re­called. “I would try all the old mock stuff and I would sit there and try to pre­dict the fourth round.

“And then when I was liv­ing in Den­ver, I be­came close with [John] El­way and he came from a back­ground sim­i­lar and took over the Bron­cos. He and I were good buddies then, so right from the very be­gin­ning, he said, ‘Hey, help me out. Give me an­other set of eyes.’ ”

When Kyle Shana­han, then the Fal­cons of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, was the fron­trun­ner for the 49ers head coach­ing job, Lynch called to con­grat­u­late him on At­lanta’s play­off win over Seat­tle.

”He was fo­cused on what he was do­ing with At­lanta but said, ‘Yeah, that’s an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity. I just want to find a GM I can work with that I’m like­minded with.’ I kind of threw out, “Hey, you know, what about me?’”

Shana­han hung up, called back the next day and asked “Hey, would you ever re­ally con­sider that?”

A few days later, af­ter meet­ing with the 49ers and then fly­ing to At­lanta to hud­dle with Shana­han, Lynch was the GM.

In his first sea­son, mired in a 0-8 start, he pulled off a trade of the year by send­ing a sec­ond-round pick to the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots for quar­ter­back Jimmy Garop­polo, who won the fi­nal five games of 2017.

The 49ers were 1-1 when Garop­polo tore his ACL in a loss to the Chiefs in Week 3.

It doesn’t help that the 49ers are in the same divi­sion as the 10-1 Rams, who share the NFC’s best record with New Orleans.

Lynch says the mi­gra­tion of spread con­cepts from high school and col­lege, cou­pled with rules changes have led to the of­fen­sive ex­plo­sion.

He re­called some ad­vice Hall of Fame safety Ron­nie Lott gave him at Stan­ford: Peo­ple can’t come in your zone and not pay a price.

”When you do that, half the bat­tle is won be­fore the game ever starts,“Lynch said, adding with re­gret ”any fear or in­tim­i­da­tion has been elim­i­nated from the game be­cause of these rules and so you put all that to­gether and it’s very tough on de­fenses.“

The Nin­ers are tied with the Bucs for 19th in the league with 25 sacks this sea­son. But they have one fewer take­away (5) than Tampa Bay (6).

It’s Lynch’s job to help change that. Ear­lier this week, he had just got­ten out of a half-year bud­get meet­ing and ad­mits he wasn’t ready for ev­ery­thing to even­tu­ally cross his desk. But the hard­est part is watch­ing on Sun­day.

”I can’t do a dang thing,” Lynch said. “That’s a help­less feel­ing for me be­cause I’m al­ways used to be­ing able to have a hand in the out­come. . How do you deal with that?”

A flood of mem­o­ries will fol­low Lynch into Ray­mond James Sta­dium. Some re­grets, too.

”Although we have one cham­pi­onship, we left some out there,“said Lynch, who was in­ducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor last year. ”But we’ll al­ways cel­e­brate that one.

“I re­mem­ber all the good things, but I also re­mem­ber the strug­gles of what it took to get there. That al­lows me to know that hey, we’re go­ing through some tough times, but if you do things the right way you will turn this around as well.” 8-5 (7-6 vs. spread) 105-54-2 (75-79-7 vs. spread)

The Browns are play­ing bet­ter on both sides of the ball and have had an open date to get healthy and draw up a game plan. The Ben­gals are wounded and vul­ner­a­ble.

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