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?