John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have set out to change the culture within the San Francisco 49ers organization. Sentiment remains high amid a productive offseason, but an outside opinion is often the best barometer for whether or not progress is truly being made.
Greg Cosell of NFL Films provided that external look at what the 49ers have been able to establish since implementing their new regime a short four months ago. The senior producer has been with NFL Films for 37 years, which only adds to the credibility of his trained eye. He spoke to 49ers.com last week after observing two days of the team's OTAs.
"What's really stood out is that there's an excitement, an energy, a vibe in this building and out on the practice field," Cosell said. "The spirit and the competition – you can palpably feel it."
View the top images from Friday as the 49ers took the field for the sixth day of organized team activities.
The 49ers shocked the football world when they hired Lynch as GM seemingly out of the blue. That initial surprise turned to intrigue when Lynch laid out his plan for the 49ers. It's a blueprint that mirrors his personal characteristics and persona as an All-Pro safety.
Cosell is the latest person to co-sign Jed York's decision to hire Lynch as San Francisco's lead architect.
"He's a really smart guy, and he's really intellectually curious, which is really important in any position where you're in charge," Cosell said. "The kind of player he was speaks to the kind of person he is: A guy who does everything right all the time, who does it with an intensity and with a passion.
"He does things the right way. That is so critical because it leads to accountability and responsibility. He has such a good feel for the subtleties for what's required on a daily basis."
Shanahan is the maestro, tasked with trimming a list of 90 players into a 53-man roster capable of winning on Sundays. Shanahan's NFL bloodline evolved into a mastery of offensive ingenuity over his 15-year coaching career.
Eight seasons as an offensive coordinator reached a crescendo in 2016 as he orchestrated the Atlanta Falcons offense into one of the most prolific units in league history. Those credentials earned him a chance to be an NFL head coach.
"As an offensive mind and play-caller, you could easily make the argument that he's the best in the NFL," Cosell said. "Obviously because of his dad, he has a great sense for what being a head coach is all about. When you combine those two things, you're probably looking at one of the young rising stars in the coaching profession."
The first order of business for San Francisco's new regime was free agency. Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garçon are three of the most notable additions to the roster, but Cosell chose another name as the most impactful.
"You can argue that Kyle Juszczyk is as important a signing as anybody," Cosell said. "You look back at what Shanahan did with the fullback position in Atlanta. Patrick DiMarco played 30 percent of the snaps. That's almost unheard of in today's NFL.
"You look at Kyle Juszczyk, who's the best fullback in the NFL, he's going to play 30-35 percent of the snaps. He's a terrific receiver. That's a signing that's so, so important."
Next up was the 2017 NFL Draft and a first round that saw the 49ers land both Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster.
"I can only tell you how I evaluated the players," Cosell said. "To me, Reuben Foster was the second best prospect in the entire draft. If you put on the tape, Foster is as good a linebacker prospect as we've seen in recent years.
"Thomas is a high, high-level prospect, and I think you're dealing with a John Lynch kind of player in terms of the person, the commitment and the passion."
This isn't to suggest that Cosell is talking Super Bowl for the 49ers this season, but things are changing in San Francisco, and people are taking notice.
"I don't think anyone expects 2-14 to turn into 14-2, but you want to see the process start to play out," Cosell said. "I think you will definitely see it turn."