SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As the second-longest-tenured member of the San Francisco 49ers, center Daniel Kilgore has been around long enough to see the ups and downs that turned a once-proud franchise into a league laughingstock over the past seven years.
Upon signing his new three-year contract extension with the Niners last week, Kilgore sent a clear message that he believes the 49ers are well on their way back to the type of success that was once the hallmark of the organization (and the early part of his career).
In a conference call with local media, Kilgore pointed to a variety of reasons for wanting to return to the only NFL team he's ever known rather than testing free agency for the first time. Things like his rapport with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, his excitement to continue growing in coach Kyle Shanahan's offense and his close bond with teammates were among the things Kilgore mentioned.
But later in the conversation, Kilgore also referred to something else that appealed to him, something that has been missing around these parts in the past four years: a franchise that finally seems to have everyone pulling in the same direction.
"The whole season, the coaches and I have always had a good relationship," Kilgore said. "So just talking, having one-on-ones with various coaches, I had a positive outlook for the future.
"But that’s just one thing. The coaches, they have an opinion of you and then there’s also the front office and it’s two totally different things. I think for the first time in a long time, our coaches and the front office are on the same page. And so it was nice to get something done and it was good to finish the year that we did on the positive side of things and continuing the positive things going into the offseason."
Indeed, anyone who follows the NFL will tell you that the relationship between the general manager and the head coach is the most important in any building. While respectful disagreement is fine (and often times welcome), any sort of rift or ongoing tension is a quick way to send a franchise into a lingering spiral.
That's why when Niners CEO Jed York cleaned house after the 2016 season, he put a premium on finding a general manager and a coach who can get along and will be simpatico when it comes to making big decisions. It was a needed change after attempting to force partnerships between former general manager Trent Baalke and coaches Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.
Although Shanahan and general manager John Lynch had never worked together previously, they did have a solid working relationship and both believed they could successfully work with the other.
Right from the beginning of their partnership, Lynch and Shanahan seemed to be on the same page. More important, they never seemed to waver from their approach as things got difficult and the Niners stumbled to an 0-9 start. Together, they made tough decisions such as releasing linebacker NaVorro Bowman in the middle of the season, and easy choices such as trading for Garoppolo.
Now that they have a year working together and getting a feel for how one another operates, that process should only improve as they approach free agency and the draft. When outside players talk to current 49ers about what it's like in San Francisco, veterans like Kilgore, left tackle Joe Staley and others can pitch their team with a straight face and without having to be concerned that drastic change will follow the upcoming season.
It also means if and when the 49ers contact them about a potential move to the Bay, they know they have the full backing of all parts of the organization. When it comes to luring top free agents, that isn't at the top of most lists (money usually occupies the first few spots) but it is something to consider.
Now that the Niners seem to have it, stability is something they can finally make part of their pitch when the offseason really heats up in March.