John Lynch is more than a Hall-of-Fame finalist for the fifth consecutive year. He’s a smash sensation as San Francisco’s rookie general manager, with his acquisition (steal?) of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo so significant that some persons already have the 49ers — a team that went 6-10 this season and finished last in its division — a Super Bowl contender in 2018.
But that’s how good Garoppolo was once he stepped into the huddle for the 49ers, winning his last five starts to improve his NFL record to 7-0 — including defeats of playoff participants Jacksonville, Tennessee and the L.A. Rams along the way.
“We’re very pleased with Jimmy,” Lynch said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “We think he has an opportunity to be a special player. What we’ve seen we really like. What I saw here was a guy who makes everybody around him better, and I think that’s what the great players do.
“Jimmy has shown … albeit in a small sample size … that he can kind of lift the team. And I think that also coincided with a bunch of our young players really improving. So I don’t think you can put it all on him.
“But you can’t argue with his record … which has been pretty good at the end of this season. It leaves us very encouraged going into the offseason, and we’re going to go to work on keeping him as a 49er for a long, long time.”
That can mean only one thing: Even though Garoppolo’s resume is, as Lynch said, “a small sample size,” the 49ers must believe they have something they’ve been missing for years — a legitimate franchise quarterback. So do they?
“Yeah, we really believe that. We do,” said Lynch. “I don’t want to hurt my negotiating position, but I’ve always been fairly forthright. And we really do.
“We think he’s got an opportunity to be special, and what he showed us … it wasn’t perfect by any means, and there are things he wants to improve on … but he made us better. And once you get it at that position you know how he can lift an organization. He had that effect on our organization. So I think it would be foolish not to want him to be around for a long time.”
The 49ers have a choice: They can either sign Garoppolo to a long-term deal or, if that doesn’t happen, they can tag him as their franchise player. Either way, he’s not going anywhere, and for good reason: His impact on the 49ers … albeit in five starts … was extraordinary.
“I knew that he was a special talent,” said Lynch. “You could see that on film. The quick release. But I also knew that it would be a challenge when you acquire someone at that position in the middle of the season, particularly with Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
“There’s a lot to it. There’s a lot of verbiage in it. And I thought that might be tough to overcome. You need an offseason for it. So what that’s done is just leave me even more encouraged.”