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Kawakami: John Lynch on Adam Peters, the most surprising thing about Brock Purdy and the stability of the 49ers

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It probably took less than an hour for John Lynch to pop the question inside the 49ers’ headquarters. Maybe less than 10 minutes. News broke that Assistant General Manager Adam Peters was turning down interview requests for two open general manager positions and opting to stay with the 49ers.

And then …

“I just had someone say, ‘Hey man, is there something I should know?’” John Lynch said, laughing during a phone interview on Wednesday. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I’m getting all these calls that, you know, people are inferring that you’re leaving.’ I was, like, ‘NotI am fine.'”

No, Lynch is not ready to go anywhere, just as Peters is not ready to go anywhere. First, the 49ers’ top two football executives are focused on this playoff, which begins Saturday against the Seahawks. And second, while Peters is the top choice to eventually move into the 49ers GM spot should Lynch choose to move to television or elsewhere, that’s not happening right now or likely this offseason.

Lynch said Peters’ decision to opt out of the Titans and Cardinals interviews — initially reported by the NFL Network — was his personal choice, which Lynch appreciates and understands.

“I think Adam just walked in and said, ‘Look, I respect these two places, but I’m really happy here,’” Lynch said. “I think this is great. You know, Adam is from here (Cupertino) and he’s a big part of what we’ve done. He’s been great to me. At the same time, I am a friend. I said, ‘Pete, maybe you should at least talk to these people.’ But he was convinced that he was good here. And your family is happy. So I like that and I think yes, we have a place where people want to be.

“We’re focused on this week, but I think there’s a good feeling that we’re going to be a good team and organization for a long time to come and people want to be a part of that.”

Lynch, of course, was heavily hounded by Amazon Prime last offseason and will likely always get mega-money antennae from the networks. He admitted in November that he came close to taking the Amazon job, reportedly worth $15 million a year, but decided he couldn’t leave the 49ers with “unfinished business.” So if the 49ers win the Super Bowl in February, Lynch is more likely to seriously listen to a big offer. But even so, he looks more than ready to stay.

There’s a lot of stability permeating this franchise, even after a pretty tumultuous season where the 49ers had to play three quarterbacks and probably ended up with the best fit of them all – rookie Brock Purdy – going into the playoffs and beyond. Lynch and Kyle Shanahan also made a big mid-season trade for Christian McCaffrey, who seemed to have been here forever, basically from the moment he showed up. They have the #1 defense in the league, studded with stars.

The 49ers could win the Super Bowl this season. They may not. But six seasons into the Shanahan/Lynch era, they’ve never seemed so perfectly set up to take it further and higher. And together. Why wouldn’t Peters want to stick around during this period of potential 49ers growth?

That was as good a starting point as any for my scheduled check-in with Lynch on Wednesday, right after 49ers practice in the wind, rain and everything else that was pouring down outside Levi’s Stadium – just like that. as scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

Here are some of the other highlights from our conversation…

How was training with all that rain?

It was good because it looks like we’re going to play on Saturday.

Do you think your team is suited for this kind of climate in a game of life and death?

I think we are prepared to be (a good wet weather team). We are quite complete. We do many different things well. We stopped the race, we ran the ball well. Those are typically the things (that are important in the weather). Brock obviously (didn’t play in extreme weather) growing up in Arizona, but at Iowa State he dealt with really bad weather. So I think he’s equipped to do that.

You’ve gone through three QBs and all that this season, but it looks like you and Kyle have pretty much followed the same roster-building principles. What do you think this season is telling us about your process?

The thing I’m probably most proud of, because we’ve spent some money since we got here – part of why it was such a good job to accept (was) because they didn’t (spent a lot of money) before we got here (Feb 2017), so you want to hear these things, that they’re committed to doing this. We’ve been pretty aggressive. But at some point, you have to strike a balance. And I think the last one (off season) was one of those years for us.

That said, we still left, we probably knew we had a significant change, and for us it was a couple of things: re-signing Deebo (Samuel) and then Charvarius Ward in terms of free agency. Very happy. We were all lined up to find a top-tier corner. And then zeroing that Charvarius was the guy. He’s been amazing to us. I really love everything from his mindset to his skills.

But after that, we had a few things we wanted to do, but we had to get creative and find good value players. Some of those guys, Ray-Ray (McCloud), Oren Burks, George Odum, those guys were really integral.

We put an emphasis on special teams, but one thing Kyle and I have always agreed on is that we don’t just want one guy (who only plays on special teams). (Bill) Belichick will do it, and it was good for him, but we just don’t want guys who are just special teams players. We want guys who can contribute on offense and defense. And I think we’ve seen that from Ray-Ray certainly; Oren filled in at linebacker in limited moments, but played very well when he did. Ray-Ray’s comeback ability… I feel like he’s just getting started. He’s about to pop one. And George Odum, I think, has been dominant. I think he should be an All-Pro special teams player the way he’s been playing, especially lately. I am very proud of our team for these changes.

Of course, a lot of focus is on Purdy, a rookie QB playing at this level. But he was a seventh-round pick, the last pick in the entire draft. How close did you come to not taking it?

We came in with a stated goal that, hey, at the end of the draft, we’re going to get a quarterback that we really believe in. As we do with the later parts of the draft, the month before I told this story, Steve Slowik, who is now a professional scout and the brother of Bobby Slowik, our play coordinator, was the area scout. Therefore, reports from him were consistently more about the person than the player. He is talking to Matt Campbell (Iowa State Coach). And Matt Campbell said, “This guy changed the show. Just listen to me, you will get a special player.

We got some high marks on him. Probably higher in your freshman year than your senior year. But the process we usually do, for the second half of the draft, we’re going to deliver a bucket of guys (to position coaches). (QB coach Brian) Griese and (QB assistant coach) Klay Kubiak, we had a bucket of probably about eight guys, and they really, early in the process, became fans of Brock. … And they really dug in, the Zoom meetings and everything, they became more and more convinced of Brock. Once we got rid of our checklist of everything we thought we needed, “OK, we need a few more corners…” Once we did that and Brock was still there, we wanted him as a free agent. We didn’t know if it would last. Once we got to the last pick and checked all the other boxes, it was, “Let’s go ahead and get our quarterback. We like this kid. We are condemned by him, let’s not leave this to chance.

And I never asked Brock, I kept telling myself I’m going to do it, but I don’t want to mess with his head right now, “Would you have come as a free agent?” I hope he would have. (Laughs.)

I think what probably surprised all of us is that he’s a better athlete than any of us expected. You’ve seen him run a little at Iowa State, but you never know how that’s going to translate. But he has some athleticism to him. Last week, he broke early in the game and took advantage of a defensive lineman for 12-13 yards. I mean, those are big deals when you’re moving currents. He has done this over and over again.

Things can always change, and often do this season at that position, but Purdy’s performance now feels like Jimmy Garoppolo’s first big splash of 2017, and Garoppolo was immediately his starting QB in 2018. Is Purdy your starter next season?

I know it’s my job, but I’ve really been focusing on it, like, let’s not even go there. Let’s settle this. I’m going to need Kyle’s participation. I have my own thoughts. But I really tried to focus, let’s just keep taking this however it comes. We’ll figure it out.

We got a really good situation with a guy that we moved a lot to get into (2021 first round pick) Trey (Lance). We still love his abilities. And Brock has been more than we could have asked for. We like it a lot, but I’ve been telling people, “Yeah, we waited until the last draft pick.” (Laughs.)

The only thing I will say, the athleticism, putting it in a game, that blew us away. But from day one, he was functioning at a high level here. OTAs, all of it. Everyone is looking at each other: “Wow, this guy has some nerve.” He played in small windows, he was efficient. He performed early on, but you never know until you put him in there. The same can be said now that we’re heading into the football playoff. How will he respond? But it’s checked all the boxes so far, so I wouldn’t expect to see anything different.

In addition to having a seventh-round contract, plus Lance’s rookie contract as his two QBs is sure to help his salary cap next season.

And as it is, we have a lot of high paid guys (in other positions). What is the way to do this? You are not paying your quarterback what some people are paying their quarterback. There was certainly some strategy when we were thinking about switching to Trey and all that. That’s how we can keep this team together. That’s a potential way. Who knows where we’ll go? I think we have a good situation though.

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(Photo: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

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