49ers GM Candidates: Trent Baalke The Early Leader?

The 49ers search for a new general manager got off to a fast and furious start yesterday as Tony Softli was brought in for an interview and it was announced that Ted Sundquist would be interviewing at some point soon. The big news though came later in the day as news reports began surfacing that current VP of Player Personnel Trent Baalke had emerged as a the serious leader early on.

The reports have come primarily from national media, with our local 49ers media citing primarily to those reports. The two primary sources are a tweet from SI's Jim Trotter and a tweet from NFL.com's Jason LaCanfora:

Trotter: some knowledgeable people in the league believe that the 49ers will ultimately wind up with baalke as gm and harbaugh as coach.

LaCanfora: The 49ers are still early in the GM hiring process but I'd be surprised if Trent Baalke doesn't end up getting that position.

These were followed up Mike Florio suggesting that Baalke was a virtual lock for the GM position. Take what Florio has to say with a grain of salt, but at this point these two comments would seem to fall into the "where there's smoke there's fire" category. Florio's comment aside, LaCanfora does have a track record when it comes to reporting 49ers-related news. We've had several local media latch on to these reports and run with them.

Maiocco
Branch
Barrows
Kawakami

Naturally Kawakami is quick to attack this development even though it really hasn't developed yet. LaCanfora has broken some 49ers news in the past and Kawakami indicated that LaCanfora was sort of Jed York's go-to guy when it came to getting out information.

It's entirely possible Trent Baalke will be the 49ers general manager by the end of this coming weekend. If that happens I'm fairly certain a chunk of Niners Nation will go ballistic. I can already see the little storm cloud over certain users, or maybe it'll be little explosion gifs.

Whatever the case, I do see reasons for and against promoting Baalke into a general manager role. Some folks have argued against his experience and ability to make connections around the league. It's hard to tell what his relationship is like with the rest of the league without going into pure speculation. Here is Baalke's resume as compiled from 49ers.com

May 2010-present: VP Player Personnel, San Francisco 49ers
2008-2009: Director of Player Personnel, San Francisco 49ers
2005-2007: Scout, Western Region, San Francisco 49ers
2004: College Scouting Coordinator, Washington Redskins
2001-2003: National Scout, Washington Redskins
1998-2000: Scout, New York Jets
1996-1997: Athletic Director, Shanley High School (Fargo, ND)
1990-1995: Defensive line/strength and conditioning coach, South Dakota State
1998: Graduate Assistant/defensive line coach, North Dakota State

On the one hand he does have some level of experience around the league having worked with three teams at this point. On the other hand, he does not have significant experience in any director level roles. He's been director and now VP of player personnel for three years. Let's compare that to a guy like Floyd Reese who is a senior advisor for the Patriots football operations staff. He represents the far end of the spectrum with 18 seasons of player personnel experience that includes 13 seasons as general manager of the Oilers/Texans.

One issue with assessing Baalke is trying to figure what exactly he has accomplished with the 49ers. His time with the team overlapped with the Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan era. Nolan had the power and then he was stripped of some of that power and it was handed over to McCloughan. McCloughan resigned in the month leading up to this past NFL draft and Baalke has since been acting in a quasi-GM role.

The 49ers have made their share of moves since then, but it's hard to really point to Baalke's specific contributions to the 49ers. I like what the 49ers did in this past draft but how do we know how much of that was Baalke, how much was a draft board established in part by Scot McCloughan, and how much was Singletary input? I don't mean to say he's made no contributions, or they've only been negative. I'm saying I honestly don't know.

What does this all mean in my mind? I've said it in the comments and I'll reiterate it here: I'd be a bit skeptical of the decision but not ready to blast it as a poor choice. I'd be suspicious of the process but open to the idea that he could work in the role. Some folks consider Baalke just part of the same old mess. But can we really say he's part of it when we don't really know how specific his role has been over the past few years? 

If Baalke is eventually named GM, one also has to consider Kawakami's belief that Baalke would seem think he could deliver Jim Harbaugh to the 49ers. If that's the case then Kawakami's comments are fairly on the money. Of course, if Baalke doesn't end up with the position, Kawakami comes across a bit foolish, has been known to happen on occasion.

I've attached the usual poll but would like some more insight on this in the comments. If Baalke were to be named general manager, would you be comfortable, would it take something more to be comfortable, or is there no way you could be comfortable with Trent Baalke in the GM role?

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