It came with something of mixed feelings when the Minnesota Vikings found out that Assistant General Manager George Paton lost out on two potential job openings in less than three hours.
Early Sunday evening, the Indianapolis Colts announced that Chiefs Director of Football Operations Chris Ballard was going to be their new general manager, replacing Ryan Grigson, who was fired Jan. 21. A couple of hours later, the San Francisco 49ers announced that Hall of Fame finalist John Lynch had been named their new G.M.
Paton had interviewed for the Colts job, but wasn’t viewed as a frontrunner for the job. Jimmy Raye III, the Colts vice president of football operations, and Ballard were viewed as the top two candidates for the position.
Ballard has been with the Chiefs and Bears organizations over the last 16 seasons and was asked by the 49ers to interview for their general manager opening, but declined to come in for an interview.
Under Ballard’s watch, the Chiefs organization has been praised for developing young talent, building an impressive defense and adding weapons on offense. In Indianapolis, his first job will be finding a way to better protect quarterback Andrew Luck and achieving a similar level of consistent success that he enjoyed with the Chiefs.
The 49ers? That was a different story completely.
San Francisco has been one of the more confounding organizations in the NFL. The 49ers have gone through three head coaches in the last three years and with the firing of Chip Kelly earlier this month they will be on the fourth head coach – which is expected to be Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl-bound Atlanta Falcons. But, when Kelly was fired, the team also fired general manager Trent Baalke, which left the top two spots open to configure a game plan for free agency and the draft to rebuild the 49ers roster.
49ers owner Jed York made headlines when he held a press conference that turned contentious, with reporters asking if he had the football intelligence to make such big decisions given the abject failure of the organization since 2014, when Jim Harbaugh was let go and followed up by Jim Tomsula and Kelly, both as one-and-done head coaches.
For the last couple weeks, Paton and Arizona Vice President of Player Personnel Terry McDonough were viewed as finalists for the job – both of them had second interviews over the past week. But, there was a third mystery candidate, which turned out to be Lynch.
Lynch had insisted that his name not surface publicly because he was attempting to get out of his FOX analyst contract. Lynch, 45, has never held a front office position prior to being named to his new G.M. position in San Francisco. Such moves have had mixed results in the past. Matt Millen made the jump from the broadcast booth to the front office in Detroit and failed miserably. John Elway had never held a front office position prior to being named the general manager in Denver, but he responded with leading the Broncos to a Super Bowl championship.
For Paton, the disappointment of not being put in charge of an NFL organization is something that will be viewed a personal and professional setback, but Paton will continue serving as Rick Spielman’s right hand man in building the depth of the franchise and keeping him can be viewed as good news for the Vikings – despite being bad news for Paton.