49ers hire Heneghan for front-office help

The 49ers took plenty of time and energy to determine exactly what they were looking for to supplement their football operation, and in Lal Heneghan believe they've found it. A veteran of the NFL's management council and seven seasons in football operations with the Cleveland Browns, Heneghan immediately becomes part of the brain trust that will decide all things 49ers. "Here at the 49ers, we make ‘we' decisions," coach Mike Nolan said. "The addition of Lal will only strengthen those decisions."

The much-discussed new position – which Nolan has been talking about since last season and team owner John York signed off on at the start of this year – has been titled as "executive vice president of football operations," a level within the organization that will apparently put Heneghan on equal footing with Nolan and other head honchos.

But York stated clearly that the position is "not the general manager," but that Heneghan would report to York himself and provide many supporting roles within the football side of the organizational structure while overseeing all aspects of the day-to-day football operations.

"We wanted a highly-qualified professional that had a strong football record and could add firepower to our organization," York said Monday afternoon. "It was clear that, with the youth we have in the organization with coaches and personnel, to have somebody with more experience and depth that would add a lot to the organization will help elevate all of our decisions and actions. We believe Lal will help solidify the football future of the 49ers."

York and Nolan had left some details of the position undefined as they conducted their search – a process that York said he and others would "massage" as it went along and they outlined the job. Since the 49ers already have a director of football operations in Paraag Marathe, York was asked why he doesn't define Heneghan's position as the new team president.

"We can call it whatever we wanted to," York responded. "What we were looking for is an experienced NFL executive that clearly fits the structure we already have in place, and that he brought a level of competency, skills and experience that added to that and gave us more firepower overall. What we were looking for was exactly what we found, and the title we put on it was executive vice president of football operations."

Heneghan, 42, most recently served in the NFL with the Browns as vice president of football operations and general counsel from 1998 to 2004. Despite developing a reputation as a respected cap specialist, Heneghan was run out of Cleveland in May of 2004 during Butch Davis' power play within the organization and ill-fated restructuring of the front office. Over the past two years, Heneghan has been a consultant to professional sports and non-profit organizations.

While with the Browns, Heneghan was responsible for departmental, salary cap and player contract coordination as well as general legal matters for the organization. He also oversaw the club's pro personnel department as well as the medical, equipment, video and player development departments.

Before joining the Browns, Heneghan spent seven years with the NFL's management council as director of labor relations. In that role, Heneghan developed experience in the supervision and daily operation and interpretation of the NFL salary cap and the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement with its players union. He also advised teams on all aspects of their daily labor operations.

While York didn't rule out anything Heneghan might be involved with inside the organization, saying that he's "not going to try to exclude him" from ongoing development of new stadium plans, Heneghan said his focus "will be on the football operations side."

"I think they will give a solid foundation here to work within and build upon," Heneghan said. "Their vision and ideas of building the 49ers franchise that I got during our initial meetings (earlier this year) were outstanding. During those meetings, I was most impressed with the chemistry and shared vision for the future of this organization. That's what was most important to me, the interaction that John, Scot (McCloughan) and Mike had established with the 49ers.

"I'm here to help everybody in the organization to get the team back to the Super Bowl and win it."

Nolan appears satisfied that the new position and having Heneghan in it will fit in fine with his vision for the franchise while also accentuating what the team is trying to do to build a winner again.

"This is a big step for the organization," Nolan said. "Lal has achieved success at many levels and brings a wealth of knowledge that I think is very important. There's a lot of very important decisions that have to be made within the organization, and this job's extremely important to us when we're trying to do the very best with the organization.

"Lal is highly experienced in football operations and has demonstrated an ability to communicate and motivate. In today's salary cap world, the wealth of knowledge that Lal will bring to the 49ers is extremely important. I certainly feel we're headed in the right direction, and I'm quite pleased to know the 49ers will be moving into the future with Lal as an addition to our team."

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