• William Cuberos

Rushing From the Ledge: Why John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan Need to Learn From the Foster Situation

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

Following Reuben Foster’s second domestic violence arrest in the last 10 months John Lynch and the 49ers released the second-year linebacker Sunday morning prior to kickoff of the Buccaneers game. Over the next few days and weeks we’ll see tweets from “experts” that will point out that player X was drafted after player Y and the 49ers would be in such a better place in the rebuild if they had just taken player X. This is a fruitless exercise that only serves to make the current front office look inept. You can do this to every draft in every sport that’s ever happened.

Heard of Sam Bowie? He was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan in 1984.

There were 1,389 players selected before eventual Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza.

It’s fair to look at the 2017 draft and acknowledge that the front office missed on players. Joe Williams didn’t make it through his second training camp, C.J. Beathard was replaced by the undrafted Nick Mullens, and now Foster is out of a job. Conventional wisdom in the NFL says to not grade a draft class until they complete their third year, so while players like Solomon Thomas, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Adrian Colbert have regressed this season, it’s too early to decide if these players are busts or simply suffering through a sophomore slump.

The only thing you can ask for from a front office is that they learn from year to year, and Lynch and Kyle Shanahan seem to be doing that. Foster had red flags heading into the draft dating back to the NFL Combine and the team took a chance on him. It backfired quickly and spectacularly. Lynch was asked Sunday if he regretted selecting Foster and his answer was exactly what you would want to hear: “I don’t. I think we all learned from it. You have to learn from every situation. Ultimately, these guys are human beings and they’re young men. And they’re fallible.” Lynch went on to accept blame for drafting Foster and making a poor evaluation. “Ultimately we have to own it. And I own it.” These lessons were already apparent in the 2018 draft, none of the nine players selected had any off-field issues or red flags that would be concerns.

It’s easy to forget that Lynch and Shanahan have been at their jobs for less than two years. Every 49er fan wants the team to win, and to win now, but we have to accept that they’re going to have a learning curve. We as fans have to look at the big picture: Lynch acquired a franchise quarterback midseason, they’ve already rebuilt the offensive line and established a successful running game, and while there have been some misses they do possess some young building-block players.

If Lynch and Shanahan were going to have a poor draft, I personally would have preferred it in 2017. Let them learn by trial and error, find out what works for them and who to listen to now. Obviously, the hope is to never miss on a draft pick but we have to be realistic and know this will happen and hope the front office is able to limit the mistakes and learn from them. Judging from Lynch’s comments and the 2018 class this is already happening. Did the misses of the 2017 class set the rebuild back? Maybe? But will the lessons learned help push the team to success in the future? Hopefully. So, take a deep breath, step back from the edge, and trust the process.

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