In 2011, 49ers CEO Jed York hired Jim Harbaugh, who promptly led the previously wayward franchise to records of 13-3, 11-4-1, 12-4 and 8-8 in his four seasons. That included three NFC Championship Game appearances and one fourth-down conversion away from winning a Super Bowl.
But York and Harbaugh parted ways after the 2014 season and the 49ers resumed being not very good at football. They went 5-11 in Jim Tomsula's one year on the job, and followed that up with a two-win performance with Chip Kelly, who also lasted just one season.
York dumped longtime general manager Trent Baalke, too, and on Sunday he replaced him not with a scout or front-office type who had worked their way up the organizational chart, but with FOX color commentator and former NFL player John Lynch. It was a curious decision, even by York's standards.
Here's how he explained it to TheMMQB.com's Peter King:
"Nothing is guaranteed," York said of the Lynch hire. "But so many opportunities are missed in the NFL because people don't want to do something different. We're OK with that, because I am confident in Kyle [Shanahan] and John. John has watched John Elway, and how he's built a team in Denver. As easy as it is to say he hasn't built a team yet -- I get that -- I talk to Kyle, and he says John is the most prepared of all the TV [people] he meets in the production meetings before games.
"We understand we'll have to live with growing pains, but I'm willing to do that because I believe the upside with both of them is so great."
To recap: York is confident in John, which makes sense, because he just hired him. But he's also confident in Kyle. That's Kyle Shanahan, Falcons offensive coordinator who, apparently, will be the next 49ers' coach. An announcement could come as early as Monday, Feb. 6, the day after the Falcons and Patriots face off in Super Bowl LI.
And perhaps Lynch's lack of experience is more feature than bug; if the 49ers promised Shanahan control of personnel decisions, it makes sense to pair him with a less experienced general manager who has plenty of upside.
So, for now, it looks like the 49ers will land the league hottest coaching candidate in a week's time. Then the question becomes: How do Lynch and Shanahan fix this mess? First order of business: Finding a franchise quarterback. Because without one, none of these front-office or coaching hires will much matter.