49ers GM John Lynch shows he still has soft spot for Broncos

49ers GM John Lynch shows he still has soft spot for Broncos

DENVER — Sporting an orange tie and a blue shirt, John Lynch made it clear he hasn't severed his ties to the Denver community after joining the San Francisco 49ers' front office.

"We want to keep this going, that's the plan," Lynch said Friday following the 19th annual John Lynch Salute The Stars awards luncheon at Sports Authority Field.

Lynch said there was never any thought of shuttering his foundation's connection to the greater Denver area after he left the broadcast booth to join the 49ers in a surprise move over the winter.

Nor did he have a problem hosting his event, with Denver coach Vance Joseph as the featured speaker, at the Broncos' stadium, where he played from 2004-07 and where he joined the teams' Ring of Fame last October.

"Not from my side. I think it was raised at some point through someone at the Broncos but, as usual, John Elway stepped in and Joe Ellis and said, 'Listen, this is silly. This is about the kids in this community.' And anything that was awkward, hopefully we've gotten rid of that," Lynch said. "Because I think you see what it is: it's about these kids and much more than where I'm working.

"Like I said there (on stage), I'm wearing orange because ... the Broncos will always hold a special place in my heart and in my family's heart. So, I think in life you can do more than one thing at once and we plan to do that."

Lynch counts Elway, a fellow Stanford alum, as one of his best friends and following his hiring in San Francisco, he sought Elway's permission to hire Adam Peters, who was the Broncos' director of college scouting, as his vice president of player personnel.

In 2013, Lynch served a sort of apprenticeship under Elway, attending the NFL combine with him and sitting in with the Broncos' GM during the draft.

"Yeah, he's been awesome. He's a great friend and he exposed me to the business," Lynch said. "I think the biggest thing, when I had this opportunity presented to me really quickly and had a short, finite time to give them an answer, he kind of gave me the confidence: 'You know what, you can do this, just like anything else. You can be great at it.' And hearing that from him kind of emboldened me to feel that way.

"He helped me out in the beginning but now it's like anything else, we're competing. Fortunately, we're not in the same division and all, but he's been great. He's one of my best friends in life and we understand that we both have to serve our organizations well but we can also continue to be great friends and that's what we are."

The Broncos and 49ers face each other in the preseason on Aug. 19 and the teams will hold joint practices for the second straight summer leading up to that game.

"That's where relationships come in handy and we're looking forward to the work," Lynch said.

The John Lynch Foundation, which honors student-athletes and students with special needs, awarded more than $118,000 in scholarships at the luncheon, bringing to $1.1 million what Lynch and his wife, Linda, have awarded in Colorado and Tampa Bay, where he spent the first 11 seasons of his 15-year playing career.

DRAFT GRADE: Lynch got high grades for his first draft , which included a half dozen trades, none bigger than when he swapped the second- and third-overall picks with the Chicago Bears, then got the player he wanted in Solomon Thomas along with three extra picks.

"When the Bears kept expressing interest and the deal kept getting better, I thought it either was for Myles Garrett or Solomon Thomas," Lynch said. "And people in the building who have been around for a while said you don't make that big a move unless it's a quarterback. And so we started thinking particularly draft day when the deal really got better that this was for a quarterback. We thought (Mitch) Trubisky would be the guy.

"And so ultimately a lot of people have given Ryan Pace and the Bears a hard time about that. My perspective is they got what they wanted; we got what we wanted. And if Mitchell Trubisky becomes that franchise quarterback, I think it's worth a 3 and a 4 and another 3."

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”