NFC West: Rick Mueller

Thoughts as 49ers name Baalke GM

January, 4, 2011
Thoughts after the San Francisco 49ers promoted Trent Baalke to general manager:
  • Team president Jed York said he wanted to consider as many candidates as possible. He wound up interviewing four guys out of the NFL -- Tony Softli, Mike Lombardi, Ted Sundquist and Rick Mueller -- and one in his own building. Baalke might be the right guy. The 49ers would know best; they've watched him work in a GM-type role for nine months. But York is not setting any trends here. This was not, by all appearances, an exhaustive search. That reflects well on Baalke, but not on the 49ers' ability to attract hot candidates.
  • Fans clamoring for a seasoned NFL power broker to take control of the team will be disappointed. Baalke appears to be a strong scout, just like his predecessor, Scot McCloughan. Is he suited to oversee a football operation? Again, the 49ers would know better than outsiders, but it's looking like top personnel people around the league were not lining up outside 49ers headquarters for a chance to speak with York. They could have known Baalke was going to get the job all along, or they could have had no interest, or a combination of these and other factors.
  • Quite a few reporters I respect have suggested hiring Baalke could clear the way for the 49ers to land Stanford's Jim Harbaugh as their head coach. I do not know why this would be true, unless hiring a lower-profile GM clears the way to offer more power for Harbaugh. Still, if I'm a hot coaching candidate -- and Harbaugh seems to be one -- why rush into the 49ers' arms?
  • The 49ers have not yet done anything to seriously disrupt their power structure. That could change if they arm a coach with control over football operations. For now, though, it's looking like York and Paraag Marathe, the team's executive vice president of football and business operations, carry on as before. That means the 49ers are basically blaming former coach Mike Singletary for their troubles, confident that replacing him will fix what ails them.
  • The 49ers might be right on that last point, provided they also find a decent quarterback. We'll have a much fuller picture once the team hires a head coach and enunciates its plan.
  • York could have rushed Baalke into the role when McCloughan resigned unexpectedly before the 2010 draft. Waiting until after the season was the right thing to do. The 49ers bought time to consider what structure they wanted.

What are your thoughts?

Around the NFC West: 49ers' changes

December, 27, 2010
Matt Maiocco of offers details on Mike Singletary's firing as 49ers head coach. He says the team could interview Ted Sundquist, Randy Mueller, Rick Muellier and Tom Donahoe as it searches for a general manager. York: "One source said that Singletary had vowed early in the season that he would stepped down if the team didn't show improvement this season. However, he declined to resign Sunday night, forcing the 49ers to fire him." Resigning would have made no sense from a financial standpoint. Getting fired instead should net Singletary about $5 million in compensation remaining from his contract, which runs two more seasons. Getting a GM in place sooner rather than later would put the 49ers in better position to strike quickly on a head coach after the season.

Also from Maiocco: Team president Jed York says the 49ers need a quarterback, too. There's no time quite like Week 16 for a team to discuss such things. York: "We can't get a quarterback until the draft. Is that a need? Yeah, absolutely."

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says York waited too long before deciding to hire a strong GM. The timing of former GM Scot McCloughan's departure made it tougher for the organization to hire a strong leader without undercutting Singletary.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee quotes York as criticizing the 49ers' coaching during a 25-17 road defeat to St. Louis in Week 16. York: "I mean, we come into a game like this and we look inept on offense in the first half. We didn't get anything done except for two plays that, really, players made. We aren't where we need to be."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sums up Singletary's season this way: "During the Niners' 0-5 start, he had a testy interview with KPIX host Dennis O'Donnell, fired his handpicked offensive coordinator, Jimmy Raye, didn't shake hands with Falcons coach Mike Smith after a loss in Atlanta and shouted at quarterback Alex Smith on the sidelines during a loss to the Eagles."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Singletary deserved to be fired. Cohn: "Most of us live small, dedicated lives. We guide ourselves by values of humility and modesty, and Singletary burst upon the scene with a voice too loud and unsupportable bragging. He had no humility, not for a moment. He was going to be an all-time great coach. He wanted winners. He shouted down people who disagreed with him. As a coach he was not a winner. He was a loser if you go by the record, and he got the treatment loser coaches get. He got fired."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says York needs to hire a strong GM. Kawakami: "If York does this right, he will invest the next general manager with more power than any 49ers executive has had in the York ownership tenure. Not coincidentally, if York does this right, he will hire someone who will tell the York family that almost everything they have done has been all wrong. Can York go on a search to find someone to tell him exactly how foolish his family has been? A poor owner -- such as Jed's predecessor, his father, John -- would never do that. An immature heir -- like Jed was in his first few years as an executive -- would avoid that at all costs. A mature executive would know he has to do it this way."

The San Jose Mercury News offers a Singletary slide show.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News gives the 49ers an "F" for coaching on his postgame report card.