Kevin Burkhardt is happy for John Lynch and happy for the 49ers, who he believes made an excellent choice in hiring a new general manager.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to part ways with his Fox Sports partner of the past four seasons.
“[Sunday night] I talked to him and I was bummed, man,” Burkhardt, the play-by-play man in Fox’s No. 2 NFL booth, said Monday. “We’ve had a really good thing, and it’s not just on the air, but I really like the guy. We’re great friends. I respect the hell out of him and I like his company . . . I’m sure it will be great, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t [expletive] to lose a guy like that, because it does.”
Burkhardt said he was “pretty emotional” when he got the news, but he understood Lynch’s decision to leave television, even as a novice general manager, to work with his old friend Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers’ presumptive next coach and current offensive coordinator of the Falcons.
“I love the guy,” Burkhardt said. “I’m really happy for him. I think he’s going to be great. He is so smart. He is football-savvy, so well-connected . . . I knew he had this in his DNA. I knew it was something he would want to do if the right opportunity presented itself.”
Burkhardt said the notion of the former star safety making the transition to management was something the two discussed casually over the years.
“He can do anything he wants,” Burkhardt said. “Talking to him [Sunday], it was a great conversation. He was so sincere and told me how much it’s meant to be a part of our group.”
Burkhardt joined Lynch in 2013. The team moved up to No. 2 on Fox’s depth chart in 2014, joined by sideline reporter Pam Oliver. Burkhardt left SNY as its lead Mets reporter after the 2014 baseball season to join Fox full-time.
“I know for our football group, he really inspired,” Burkhardt said of Lynch. “I felt the need to be great every week for him. He made our whole group feel like a team and he was the leader. Now you put that personality into a franchise that hasn’t had it, when he told me he was going on the interview, I knew he would wow them.”
Burkhardt said he benefited from Lynch’s patience in their first season together and imagined Lynch initially “Googling me and seeing I’m doing the Mets. He doesn’t know what he’s getting into. I think our partnership was great for both of us. I’d like to think we elevated each other. I know he elevated me.”
It is too soon to say whom Fox will name as Lynch’s successor. This week, the network is busy covering Super Bowl LI, which will be called by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
Lynch is set to appear on FS1’s “Super Bowl Opening Night” show, which begins at 8 p.m. Monday, on which he is expected to discuss the 49ers’ job.