Terry McDonough

Steve Wilks Testifies That Cardinals Supplied Him With Burner Phone

Per ESPN’s Tisha Thompson, 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was recently deposed as part of the arbitration claim that former Cardinals executive Terry McDonough filed against the Cardinals and owner Michael Bidwill. Wilks testified that, when he was Arizona’s head coach in 2018, the team — pursuant to orders from Bidwill and then-GM Steve Keim — gave him a burner phone in order to communicate with Keim during Keim’s suspension for extreme DUI.

“It was a directive from Keim as well as Bidwill,” Wilks said. “They both knew.”

Wilks went on to say that several top members of the club’s power structure were furnished with phones and instructions on how to use them. He testified that Keim had multiple phones, and that Bidwill and other execs communicated with Keim during the club’s contract negotiations with running back David Johnson. For his part, Wilks says that he used his burner phone only once, when Keim texted him to ask how things were going at practice.

Wilks’ testimony supports McDonough’s complaint, which alleges (among other things) that Bidwill sabotaged his former exec’s career in retaliation for McDonough’s objection to the plan to illegally communicate with Keim. As we detailed in April, the NFL would be forced to suspend Bidwill if it becomes clear that he engaged in the burner phone scheme. And, if some of McDonough’s other allegations are substantiated — for instance, he accuses Bidwill of treating a Black employee and two pregnant women poorly and creating “an environment of fear for minority employees” — Bidwill could face more significant repercussions. Indeed, McDonough argues that Bidwill’s conduct is “significantly worse” than that of Robert Sarver, the former owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns who was suspended by the NBA for a year and fined $10MM before ultimately selling the team.

Some addditional context is necessary here. As we also wrote in April, statements made by Cardinals PR consultant Jim McCarthy in response to McDonough’s claim may have created additional causes of action for McDonough that would allow him to take his fight to the public forum of a courthouse as opposed to the more sheltered arbitration setting, but it does not appear as if he has attempted to do so (at least not with respect to his claims against Bidwill and the Cardinals). His complaint remains in arbitration, which is conducted by an NFL-appointed arbitrator and generally weighted in the team’s favor.

Additionally, Wilks’ attorney did not permit cross-examination during his deposition, which was therefore not admitted into the record (though arbitrator Jeffrey Mishkin elected to keep the video and transcript of the deposition rather than destroy it, as Cardinals attorneys requested).

“As much as we would like to share the truth of what transpired, the confidentiality order in place prohibits us from doing so,” the Cardinals said in a statement to ESPN.

It is also worth noting that Wilks is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit alleging racial discrimination originally filed by former Dolphins head coach and current Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores. In that action, Wilks makes an allegation that could be a reference to the burner phone caper and further avers that he was wrongfully terminated after his one season as the Cardinals’ HC.

Wilks’ deposition testimony is, of course, consistent with the assertions he makes in his lawsuit. He said he did not want to communicate with Keim during the GM’s suspension, but as a first-year Black coach, he did not feel comfortable voicing his concerns to Bidwill directly. Instead, he asked McDonough to speak to Bidwill on his behalf, and he witnessed a “heated conversation” between McDonough and Bidwill shortly thereafter. From that point forward, Wilks says, the owner’s demeanor towards him changed.

Wilks also testified that, during his tenure as HC, Bidwill berated him multiple times. One such incident, he says, took place over speakerphone while Wilks was driving home with his nine-year-old son after a game. He added that Bidwill berated a scout who is Black for parking in the owner’s parking space.

The entire ESPN piece is well-worth a read for all NFL fans, and is naturally of particular interest to Cardinals supporters.

NFL Staff Notes: McDonough, NFLPA, Chiefs, Packers, Gruden, Philbin

It’s been nearly two months since former Cardinals executive Terry McDonough first filed an arbitration claim against team owner Michael Bidwill accusing Bidwill of cheating and gross misconduct. The claim specifically levied accusations of breach of contract, retaliation after engaging in protected activity, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and civil conspiracy. The Cardinals’ public relations consultant, Jim McCarthy, released a statement in return containing several personal attacks on McDonough.

The original complaint stemmed from a situation in which McDonough claims Bidwill had devised a plan for McDonough and then-head coach Steve Wilks to communicate with then-suspended general manager Steve Keim through burner phones. McDonough asserts that after voicing his concerns about the plan, he was written up for insubordination and, eventually, demoted.

McDonough has reportedly added more accusations in an amended arbitration complaint this week, accusing Bidwill and the Cardinals of defamation and invasion of privacy in response to McCarthy’s statement, according to ESPN’s Tisha Thompson. He called the statement “untrue and reprehensible,” and his wife, Lynette, called the statement “the most bizarre and dishonest thing that I have ever heard.” The new complaint also states that McDonough will prepare to pursue a civil complaint against McCarthy and his group, CounterPoint Strategies, for “grossly defamatory statements.”

The NFL recently selected Jeffrey Mishkin to arbitrate the employment dispute, according to another report from Thompson. Mishkin is the former chief legal officer for the NBA, leading the Association’s in-house legal department for seven years. He will determine the schedule of events, which are expected to last for several months.

Here are a few other rumors concerning staff positions in the NFL:

  • Earlier this month, Mike Florio of NBC Sports reported that the league’s Players Association was moving closer to selecting a new executive director. The final candidates are not yet known, but we’re not completely in the dark. Previously this year, The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan identified candidates Matt Schaub, the former quarterback, Kellen Winslow Sr., the former tight end, Teri Patterson Smith, the NFLPA chief operating officer, Don Davis, the NFLPA senior director of player affairs, George Atallah, the NFLPA assistant director of external affairs, and Dominique Foxworth, the former NFLPA president. A couple weeks ago, Jim Trotter, also of The Athletic, reported that no internal candidates made the cut, eliminating Smith, Davis, and Atallah. Foxworth is also expected to no longer be in consideration. Former wide receiver and former member of Congress Anthony Gonzalez has been mentioned but not confirmed as a candidate. The NFLPA is proceeding with the process with the utmost confidentiality and plan to bring it to a close sooner rather than later.
  • After previously participating in the Chiefs‘ Norma Hunt Training Camp Fellowship Program last year, Madison Aponte was hired on as a player personnel assistant. According to Neil Stratton of SucceedinFootball.com, while Aponte’s title hasn’t changed, she will continue acting as the team’s college scouting coordinator, a role she’s held since the start of the 2022 season.
  • Stratton reports another addition, this time by the Packers. According to Stratton, Green Bay has hired Joey Laine in the role of salary cap analyst. Laine was a longtime presence in the Saints’ building after working with the team for more than ten years. He eventually left, following Ryan Pace to Chicago and working as the Bears’ director of football administration for eight seasons.
  • Finally, two former NFL head coaches have taken minor roles with new teams this season. According to Jeff Duncan of nola.com, the Saints have brought in former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to assist in the integration of new quarterback Derek Carr in the Saints’ offense. Carr played his best statistical seasons under Gruden during their time together and Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael welcomed Gruden’s assistance with open arms. The second former head coach is former Dolphins’ skipper Joe Philbin who, according to Pete Thamel of ESPN, has been hired as an offensive analyst at Ohio State.

Latest On Terry McDonough’s Claims Against Cardinals, Michael Bidwill

Earlier this month, former Cardinals executive Terry McDonough filed an arbitration claim against the team and owner Michael Bidwill. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk details, the specific causes of action are breach of contract, retaliation after engaging in protected activity, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and civil conspiracy. In response, Cardinals PR consultant Jim McCarthy released a statement that has attracted widespread criticism.

The statement, which can be found here, levies a number of personal attacks against McDonough, including allegations that he engaged in “extreme domestic violence,” abandoned responsibility to one of his daughters by cutting her off financially, and made a practice of undermining fellow employees. Assuming those allegations — some of which, like his purported abdication of his parental duties, are seemingly unrelated to his duties with the Cardinals — are true, it is fair to wonder why Arizona would have employed him for the past 10 years (according to NBC Sports’ Peter King, McDonough was just dismissed earlier this year).

It would seem, as Florio suggests in a separate piece, that the more prudent course of action for the team would have been to simply deny the allegations and allow the arbitration process to play out. Claims like McDonough’s are resolved via internal channels that are generally weighted in the team’s favor, and the Cardinals’ response may prove to be an unnecessary measure that has, at best, resulted in bad optics for the franchise.

Per Daniel Wallach, legal analyst for The Athletic (Twitter thread), the statement may have also created additional causes of action for McDonough that would allow him to take his fight to the public forum of a courthouse as opposed to the more sheltered arbitration setting. Wallach suggests that the “extreme domestic violence” claim in particular could give rise to two separate torts: “false light invasion of privacy” and “public disclosure of private facts.” If McDonough chooses to file suit, the homefield advantages that Bidwill and the Cardinals enjoy in the league’s arbitration procedures would no longer be present.

As King writes, if it becomes clear throughout this impending saga that Bidwill, as McDonough alleges, supplied McDonough and former head coach Steve Wilks with burner phones to secretly communicate with then-suspended GM Steve Keim, then the NFL would be forced to suspend Bidwill. Interestingly, Wilks’ existing lawsuit against the Cardinals alleging racial discrimination included an averment that, “there is evidence of Mr. Keim’s input and participation during his so-called suspension” (via Florio). It is possible that Wilks’ allegation is a reference to the burner phone scheme, which would seem to corroborate McDonough’s claims. Arizona, meanwhile, does not deny that the burner phones were used; the team simply asserts that Bidwill acted swiftly to end the practice when he learned about it.

From a long-term perspective, the portions of McDonough’s filing that do not include burner phones could be more damaging to Bidwill if they are substantiated. McDonough accuses Bidwill of treating a Black employee and two pregnant women poorly and creating “an environment of fear for minority employees.” He avers that Bidwill is abusive and engages in widespread workplace misconduct, and he is not the only former staffer to make such a claim.

As Florio details, former Cardinals executive V.P. and COO Ron Minegar wrote a resignation letter to Bidwill in December 2019, one page of which was included in McDonough’s arbitration claim. In that letter, Minegar, like McDonough, asserted that Bidwill put an end to a review of the team’s workplace culture in 2019 when the early responses were largely unfavorable and cast Bidwill himself in a negative light.

Minegar wrote, “sadly, we learned that a majority of our employees are working in fear. There are several factors, but much of this was directed at you based on the poor interaction they’ve had with you. … What was your reaction when you saw the preliminary responses? Instead of leaning into it and trying to change things for the better, you shut the study down.”

He added, “I am sad for you and worried about you. You deserve to be happy, but you are miserable. You know it. The people around you feel it daily and it impacts them more than you understand.”

In 2022, Minegar sent an email to Bidwill in which he congratulated his former employer on the halftime tribute the team conducted in honor of Bidwill’s father. He took that opportunity to apologize to Bidwill for his part in the deterioration of the relationship between the two men, and said, “I wrote this very private note to Michael to ‘Make Amends’ as part of my program of sobriety which I have undertaken for the past 1000+ days.”

Minegar says that, for the first time since his resignation three years prior, Bidwill recently reached out to him, asking if he could use Minegar’s email in his response to McDonough’s claims. Minegar agreed, but only if the entire email and the entire resignation letter were publicized. Much to Minegar’s dismay, Bidwill did not oblige.

“Unfortunately, [Bidwill and McCarthy] opted to pick and choose segments of the letter in an attempt to put their position in a favorable light,” Minegar said. “I stand by the statements I made in my December 2019 letter and am willing to discuss with the involved parties as part of the NFL’s Arbitration Process.”

McDonough argues that Bidwill’s conduct is “significantly worse” than that of Robert Sarver, the former owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns who was suspended by the NBA for a year and fined $10MM before ultimately selling the team. It is obviously far too soon to consider whether the Wilks and McDonough actions will lead to a similar outcome for Bidwill, but the reports stemming from those disputes and Bidwill’s responses thereto do paint an unflattering picture of the owner and his club. Time will tell whether the Cardinals can reverse their on- and off-field fortunes under Bidwill’s stewardship.

Cardinals’ Terry McDonough Accuses Michael Bidwill Of Cheating, Gross Misconduct

Cardinals executive Terry McDonough filed an arbitration claim against Michael Bidwill, accusing the owner of cheating and gross misconduct. McDonough’s filing claims the owner sabotaged his career in retaliation for an objection to support a plan to illegally communicate with then-suspended GM Steve Keim, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports.

A former GM candidate, McDonough accuses Bidwill of hatching a scheme in which McDonough and then-head coach Steve Wilks would communicate with Keim using burner phones during the GM’s team-imposed suspension in 2018. The Cards suspended Keim after his extreme DUI arrest that year. McDonough’s claim indicates he and Wilks objected to Bidwill’s plan. Upon voicing concerns about the alleged plan, McDonough said Bidwill wrote him up for insubordination and later followed through with a demotion. The demotion occurred in 2019, according to Stewart Mandel, Kalyn Kahler and Mike Sando of The Athletic (subscription required).

A Cardinals exec for the past 10 years, McDonough was a finalist for the 49ers’ GM job that ended up going to John Lynch in 2017. He has hovered off the radar since but has been an NFL staffer for more than 30 years. The claim also accuses Bidwill of sabotaging Wilks’ first HC opportunity — which ended after one season, a 3-13 year in 2018 — and berating McDonough since he came forward with objections to the 2018 plan. Wilks, whom the Cardinals replaced with Kliff Kingsbury in 2019, joined Brian Floresclass-action discrimination lawsuit last year. Wilks alleged the Cardinals gave him little chance to succeed and “unfairly and discriminatorily” fired him at the end of the ’18 season.

The Cardinals, who have since replaced Keim after 10 seasons in the GM chair, have denied McDonough’s claims, calling them “outlandish.” McDonough is seeking damages for breach of contract and emotional distress.

Keim’s suspension, which ran from July to August of 2018, prevented him from communication with Cardinals personnel. The filing indicates McDonough and Wilks voiced objections to the plan July 23, 2018. McDonough and Wilks followed through with Bidwill’s alleged scheme and used the burner phones to talk with Keim. McDonough is still in possession of the burner phone, according to his claim, which includes a picture of the device.

Once the Cardinals’ VP of player personnel, McDonough is listed on the Cardinals’ website as a senior personnel executive. McDonough informed Bidwill in 2019 he recorded phone conversations between he and Keim during the GM’s suspension, according to The Athletic. The demotion to senior personnel executive, per the claim, occurred shortly after McDonough’s text to Bidwill regarding the Keim recordings. The demotion cut McDonough’s salary from $550K to $330K. In 2022, McDonough said he was demoted again — from seventh to ninth in command. The Cards had extended him back in 2017, but this relationship has gone south since.

When Keim took a leave of absence last year — a hiatus that led to his permanent departure from the team — Bidwill installed execs Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson as front office bosses in the interim. McDonough has alleged his refusal to go along with Bidwill’s plan led to career advancement opportunities disappearing. McDonough has not interviewed for a GM position since 2017; the claim also indicates Bidwill “bullied, belittled and criticized” McDonough in front of coaches and scouts during two meetings.

Regarding the phone scheme, the Cardinals denied Bidwill orchestrated it. The team said, via Schefter, another Cards exec “interfered with the protocol of that suspension” and credits the owner of directing the phones be retrieved and all communication with Keim stopped. McDonough’s filing also accuses Bidwill of treating a Black employee and two pregnant women poorly and creating “an environment of fear for minority employees.” Denying this claim as well, the Cardinals labeled it “a transparent smear that is truly beneath contempt.”

Under league rules, the Cardinals have 20 days to respond to McDonough’s filing. The NFL will handle the matter through its arbitration policy, per The Athletic. McDonough has been in the NFL since interning with the 49ers in 1989. He is the son of famed reporter Will McDonough, brother of ESPN play-by-play man Sean McDonough and former Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough.

NFC East Notes: Giants, Redskins, Jones

Now that the Giants front office and coaching staff is set to go through a number of changes after the firing of Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo, there’s a ton of speculation of who could be the person put in charge to bring the franchise back to perennial success.

While many people think the hire will come outside the organization, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network thinks interim GM Kevin Abrams should not be overlooked as the Giants begin their search.

Garafolo notes that Abrams is a “cap guy by trade”, but has worked on his scouting ability in recent years and has “attended multiple NFL seminars” to prepare to lead a football operations department. A number of names are likely to be floated for the job given that the team will likely have a high pick and has a track record of winning, but Abrams seems like he might get a realistic shot at turning his interim tag into a full-time position.

Here’s more from around the NFC East:

  • Apart from Abrams, Mike Sando of ESPN.com speculated a few candidates from outside the organization who could be contenders for the Giants general manager and head coaching gigs. Sando names front office guys like Nick Caserio from the Patriots, former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman and former Colts President Bill Polian. He also highlights many well known up-and-comers such as Eric DeCosta (Ravens), George Paton (Vikings), Eliot Wolf (Packers) and Terry McDonough (Cardinals) among many others. Sando added that former GM’s Scott Pioli (Falcons) and John Dorsey (free agent) could be intriguing hires as well. In terms of potential head coaching candidates, Sando names guys who were on the teams original list back before they hired McAdoo prior the 2016-17 season. This would include current coordinators like Teryl Austin (Lions) and Mike Smith (Buccaneers). An under-the-radar name to watch is Texans defensive coordinator, Mike Vrabel, who is best known for his time leading the Patriots defense to Super Bowl titles.
  • While the Redskins are out of the NFC playoff race after losing to the Cowboys last Thursday, that doesn’t mean that team will start resting their players, states John Keim of ESPN.com. He passes along that Head coach Jay Gruden said that he wouldn’t rest some of their injured starters just because the games don’t have postseason implications for the team. “They’re all trying to get back in the lineup,” Gruden said. “They’re going to play hard because they want to win and want to do well. That’s the reason they’re all here. We try to target guys that love football, are passionate about the game and are going to play hard no matter what. For the most part, we’ve got that here. So whether you are on one year left or five years left, doesn’t really matter.” Starters like left tackle Trent Williams, right tackle Morgan Moses and tight end Jordan Reed have all dealt with nagging injuries this season, but it appears that the Redskins won’t just solely be resting key players hoping that could lead to a better draft pick.
  • Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones has not played in a game this season as he’s continued to rehab the achilles that he had torn back in March. However, the rookie has yet to participate in practice, reports Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Jones has been eligible to start practicing since the beginning of Week 7, but has just a 21 day time period to be activated to the roster once he does begin to take part in practice. It’s important to note that Berman explains in a follow-up tweet, Jones could just use the last three weeks of the regular season to get extra reps and get a head start on his offseason training. The Eagles currently have corners Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Ronald Darby and Rasul Douglas patrolling the defensive backfield.

Cardinals Extended VP Terry McDonough

The Cardinals and vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough recently agreed to a four-year extension, as McDonough tells Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link). McDonough presumably inked a new deal with Arizona following his dalliance with the 49ers this offseason.Terry McDonough (vertical)

McDonough was one of 11 candidates known to have interviewed for the vacant 49ers general manager position in January, and was thought to be one of the final contenders for the position, along with Vikings executive George Paton. Both McDonough and Murphy completed two interviews with San Francisco, but the open GM job instead went to John Lynch, who had no experience in personnel.

Though McDonough is now locked up in the desert for the long term, his extension shouldn’t prevent him from pursuing general manager posts in the future. McDonough doesn’t have final say on personnel matters with the Cardinals — that belongs to GM Steve Keim — so Arizona can’t block him from interviewing for promotions. And given the Cards’ effusive praise of McDonough during the last hiring cycle, they likely wouldn’t have any interest in stopping him from advancing, anyway.

McDonough has worked in Arizona since the 2013 campaign. Prior to that, McDonough spent a decade with the Jaguars, and also worked for the Browns/Ravens franchise before and after its transition to Baltimore.

Lynch, McDonough On 49ers’ GM Job

The 49ers’ Sunday decision to pluck all-time great NFL safety John Lynch from the broadcasting booth and hire him as their general manager elicited stunned responses from those who follow football. It turns out not even Lynch expected to land the job.

John Lynch (featured)

“Two weeks ago I never thought I’d be doing this,” he told reporters, including Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, on Monday (Twitter link).

Lynch didn’t even conduct an interview with the 49ers, who reached out to 11 other candidates after firing ex-GM Trent Baalke at the outset of January. But Lynch managed to secure a six-year contract to end up in San Francisco, and he revealed that he negotiated his own deal, tweets Cam Inman of the Mercury News. Lynch added that will report solely to CEO Jed York. That means he won’t have to answer to executive vice president of football operations/chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe, whose status as York’s right-hand man caused some issues during the 49ers’ GM search.

In his new position, Lynch’s goal is to emulate the success close friend and fellow Stanford alumnus John Elway has enjoyed as the Broncos’ GM since they hired him in 2011.

“I strive to attack this job in same way he has,” said Lynch, who will interview Broncos director of college scouting Adam Peters to become the 49ers’ player personnel director (Twitter link via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle).

Of course, the main figure Lynch will work with in the Bay Area is soon-to-be head coach and current Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The 37-year-old recommended Lynch to York, per Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area Newspaper Group (Twitter link), and there’s clearly a mutual respect between the pending GM-head coach tandem.

“I thought he was the catch of this head-coaching cycle,” opined Lynch (via Branch, on Twitter).

Cardinals VP of player personnel Terry McDonough, who was a finalist to become San Francisco’s GM before Lynch swooped in, offered even loftier praise for Shanahan on Monday.

“Sitting there talking to him, Kyle reminded me a lot of coach Belichick when I interviewed with him back in ’92,” McDonough, who then worked as a scout with the Browns, told Maiocco. “Same type of look in their eye. The same type of passion. You just know whatever Kyle Shanahan does, he’s going to be successful in life. If he’s given the time there and they bring in the right players, there’s no doubt in my mind, he’s going to have success.”

McDonough noted that the Lynch- and Shanahan-led 49ers will have their work cut out to improve a two-win roster. However, he believes the organization has the right people in place – including the “very engaging and really intelligent” Marathe.

“That roster right now is very thin,” he said. “I really believe in John Lynch’s intelligence and drive. Their drive matches each other, Kyle and John.”

Continued McDonough: “John Lynch is a guy I actually scouted coming out of college (Stanford). If you’re going to lose a competition to someone, you’d want to lose it to someone like John Lynch. He’s a phenomenal human being. He’s highly, highly intelligent and 100-percent class.”

49ers’ GM Search Includes Three Candidates?

The 49ers are expected to hire a new general manager early this week, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports. But there appears to be a third finalist who didn’t go through the formal interview process.

San Francisco is said to be deciding between finalists George Paton and Terry McDonough, who completed second interviews with the team on Saturday in Atlanta. Maiocco adds a third candidate with whom presumptive head coach Kyle Shanahan is comfortable is being considered. The 49ers have discussed ESPN analyst — and former Buccaneers GM — Mark Dominik, per Maiocco, but he didn’t interview with the team. It’s uncertain at this point whether Dominik is the third candidate.

Shanahan doesn’t have experience working with Paton or McDonough but does have a history with Dominik. During Shanahan’s days as Bucs offensive quality control coach in 2004-05, Dominik worked as the team’s director of pro scouting — a post he held for 12 years before ascending to Tampa Bay’s GM job.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn recommended Paton, with whom he worked in Miami, to the 49ers. And Maiocco notes the Vikings assistant GM may be the favorite based on the amount of time he spent with 49ers brass this weekend. Paton had dinner with Shanahan and Jed York on Friday before the Saturday interview. Shanahan also spoke directly with Paton and McDonough about how much control the GM position would have in terms of personnel, contractually and functionally, per Maiocco. Shanahan, however, continues to not insist on full roster control.

Mike Shanahan would certainly be a coach Kyle is familiar working with, but Maiocco does not include the former HC (and 49ers OC) as a candidate despite the elder Shanahan being mentioned as a possible front-office solution in San Francisco.

Today marks four weeks since the 49ers jettisoned Trent Baalke, and we heard this weekend the team wasn’t fully committed to hiring one of the two finalists. Additionally, Paton wasn’t considered a lock to take this job if offered. Paton remains in the hunt for the Colts’ GM job, but Chiefs player personnel director Chris Ballard has emerged as the favorite after securing a second interview.

Latest On 49ers’ GM Finalist Stage

Today represents a pivotal spot on the calendar regarding the 49ers’ near-month-long search to replace Trent Baalke. Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough will conduct second interviews in Atlanta, but one of the candidates is not considered a lock to accept the job.

While news emerged Friday the 49ers may not be ready to commit to Paton or McDonough, and thus reopen their search, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports Paton is not a lock to accept the job if offered. Rick Spielman‘s second-in-command staffer remained an integral component of this process throughout, staying in the finalist picture even before Packers execs Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf withdrew. But Paton turned down opportunities in the past to interview with the Jets and Dolphins, and the longtime Vikings exec interviewed on Wednesday to become the Colts’ GM. Jed York met with Kyle Shanahan and Paton over dinner on Friday night before the expected meetings with both candidates today.

Maiocco confirms Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports’ report about the 49ers not being ready to commit even at this juncture and adds Shanahan wants to ensure during this search the team finds a GM with whom he can share responsibilities. Maiocco reiterates Shanahan will not demand complete roster control. Only a handful of coaches in the league have that responsibility, and the 37-year-old OC looks amenable to working alongside the 49ers’ GM hire.

Paton is believed to have more experience on the financial side of matters, whereas McDonough has dealt mostly with scouting, per Maiocco. The Cardinals high-ranking personnel man played a key role in Arizona landing David Johnson, John Brown and Rodney Gunter during a successful run for the Cardinals in the middle of recent drafts. One source told Maiocco McDonough’s draft acumen is “his No. 1 asset.” Paton isn’t a common fixture on the scouting circuit, working mostly out of the office on the pro personnel side of the spectrum, Maiocco notes.

Former execs Mark Domenik and Mike Shanahan have also been linked with potential front-office responsibilities with the 49ers, who will have gone without a GM for four weeks on Sunday if no one is hired today.

Latest On 49ers’ GM Search

Led by CEO Jed York and executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe, the 49ers have reached out to 11 candidates this offseason in their quest to find a general manager. While the Niners are seemingly down to two finalists for the position – Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough and Vikings assistant GM George Paton – the saga isn’t necessarily nearing a conclusion. On the contrary, it’s “by no means” certain the 49ers will hire McDonough or Paton, and passing on each would cause them to reopen their search, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter).

Kyle Shanahan

La Canfora’s report jibes with what a source told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com earlier this week – that “it’s not a lock” either McDonough or Paton will land the GM role in San Francisco. If the 49ers don’t tab one of those two, it’ll likely be the result of neither being able to sync with soon-to-be head coach Kyle Shanahan. The current Falcons offensive coordinator will take a break from Super Bowl LI preparation this weekend to meet with McDonough and Paton, who’s reportedly willing to take the Colts’ GM job.

Should one of McDonough or Paton hit it off with Shanahan in the coming days, the 49ers could have their next GM in place as early as Saturday, writes Cam Inman of the Mercury News. Otherwise, they’ll be back at square one and set to drag their GM search into a second month.

Both longtime head coach Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father, and ex-Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik have come up as possibilities to take front office jobs with the 49ers. They might be worth keeping an eye on, then, and the same goes for Falcons director of football operations Nick Polk, Jaguars director of player personnel Chris Polian, former Browns executive Morocco Brown and Redskins exec Alex Santos.