Could 49ers turn to TV analyst for vacant GM position? It might be the right hire

The San Francisco 49ers have a vacant general manager position they need to fill, and one of the men they’re interviewing has a unique résumé — and perhaps would be a great fit for the job when you consider all of his experience. ESPN’s Louis Riddick, who played and scouted in the NFL for two decades, will be interviewing for the 49ers’ GM spot next week in New York, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

(The 49ers also must hire a head coach, too, but that might not be a negative for the prospective GM they eventually hire.)

Riddick, 49, has a fascinating background as a player and personnel man, working with a vast array of coaches and scouts. Yes, he technically satisfies the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for either a head-coaching vacancy or the top personnel opening. But Riddick also has the chops and the experience to be a great fit, we believe.

ESPN's Louis Riddick has extensive personnel experience in the NFL. (AP)
ESPN’s Louis Riddick has extensive personnel experience in the NFL. (AP)

As a player he entered the league as a safety in 1991 as a ninth-round draft pick (yes, they had those then) and played briefly for a talented San Francisco 49ers staff that included George Siefert, Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes (his position coach) and others. After time with the World League of American Football (Jim Haslett was his coordinator) and Jerry Glanville’s Atlanta Falcons in 1992, Riddick moved to the Cleveland Browns for three years.

It was in Cleveland that Riddick worked with Bill Belichick, Nick Saban, Jim Schwartz (then a scout), Scott O’Brien and others in what had to shape some of his ideas for roster shaping after his playing days ended and he got into NFL personnel. That was one of the first progressive, post-salary cap franchises in terms of team building, and though things didn’t work out in Cleveland for myriad reasons it also served as an excellent experience for dealing with adversity and having a different perspective than nine-tenths of the NFL.

“He would be an awesome hire,” O’Brien told Shutdown Corner on Tuesday. “I also had him [in college] at Pitt. I loved coaching him. He was always asking the right questions, he always wanted to know more. He was smart, and a good leader and communicator.”

After one more season each with June Jones’ Atlanta Falcons in 1996 and Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders in 1998, Riddick went into scouting. He joined the Washington Redskins and quickly worked up from being a pro scout to being a pro personnel director in less than five years. There, he worked with Marty Schottenheimer, future Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider, Joe Mendes, Bobby Mitchell, Marvin Lewis, Steve Spurrier, Vinny Cerrato, Joe Gibbs and others.

Then it was onto the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008, where he worked with Andy Reid, Tom Heckert, Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly, Tom Gamble and others.

Who honestly can say they’ve worked with that array of coaching and scouting talents and personalities? Now that alone does not a GM candidate make by any means, and Riddick was, after all, fired by Roseman after the 2013 season and has been out of the league since. (And if you have not heard Riddick absolutely rip Roseman since then, and more than once, it’s fascinating stuff.)

But that’s the beauty of working with such a variety of people with all kinds of backgrounds: You get to take from each of them what you like and make note of the approaches that are less than successful in running a team. That’s what has made Riddick a fantastic analyst for ESPN, and it’s what could help make him a terrific hire as a general manager.

Louis Riddick, left, in his World League of Football days. (Getty Images)
Louis Riddick, left, in his World League of Football days. (Getty Images)

Stepping back from working with a team to being on TV actually can have its perks, too. Riddick was able to observe the macro view of the NFL and apply the same critical thinking toward successful and not-so successful team-building approaches. We’ve seen others go the TV-to-front-office route, including Scott Pioli and Mike Lombardi (and John Hart in baseball, among others), with success. So why couldn’t it work for Riddick, who understands talent and, we’d imagine, having been around so many different types of innovative football people, how to construct a staff and build working relationships.

“He always paid attention to his work when he was in personnel and I always thought he did a great job in evaluating talent,” O’Brien said. “Now, you can really see his multiple skills come across on ESPN.”

Taking over a job such as the 49ers would be a very tough one. It might require stripping the roster and the staff down to the studs (figuratively, of course, but there’s a double meaning there) and building it back up piece by piece, day by day. There is no quick fix there, but there are a few strong assets — including more than $80 million in salary-cap space and the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2017 — and a blank canvas to replenish the talent base.

We don’t yet know if 49ers CEO Jed York intends to hire a GM before he hires a head coach, but that could be another enticing element of the 49ers’ job. And if they want someone who has had experience with one of the more fascinating swaths of coaches over the past 20-plus years, Riddick would appear to be a very attractive option.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!