The 49ers GM search picked up a lot of steam early in the week when it appeared as though Trent Baalke had gained permanent front-runner status. Even as the 49ers were interviewing Mike Lombardi and others, the reports indicated Baalke was the guy who would get the job. He has yet to be promoted into the position, and now there might be a new twist on this story. Thanks to NinerEd for finding this FoxSports link. The article discusses the 49ers GM search and had this to say about the potential Baalke promotion:
[T]here are some people in the league who insisted to The Sports Xchange that the 49ers are floating Baalke's name in an effort to gauge public opinion, and that an ultimate decision on the position could hinge on how fans react to the prospect of elevating someone already employed by the franchise.
In our previous post, drummer and LondonNiner had a pair of good comments that are appropriate for this situation:
drummer (a well known quote, GM who said it unknown): "If you do your job with the fans in mind, you will wind up in the stands along with them."
LondonNiner (from Henry Ford): "If I'd asked people what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse."
The 49ers are in the midst of trying to get a new stadium built. They have the framework for a deal in place down in Santa Clara, which was voted on and approved back in June. However, a big part of paying for a new stadium is in the form of personal seat licenses. A year and a half ago I had a chance to speak with Jed York and when we discussed the stadium issues, he had this to say:
But I think, as a follow-up question, if there's no naming rights market, if people don't want to buy stadium builders' licenses, then this deal doesn't move forward. It's that simple.
While this was a year prior to the election, I see no reason this issue hasn't changed. The fans are going to need to basically invest in the team and the stadium. If the fans lack confidence in the franchise they would be less inclined to invest in any sort of licenses for a new stadium.
However, the best way to get the confidence of the fans is to start winning games. The 49ers won't be taking seat license orders for several years, which means they've got time to turn the team back into a winning product. If that's the case, why concern yourself with fan displeasure at promoting Baalke if he's the guy you want and the guy you think can do the best job?
Whether Baalke actually can do the best job and is the best option is up for debate. But if I'm Jed York and I think he's the right guy for the job, should fan concern right now be an issue? If I think Baalke will get the 49ers back into the playoffs and back into a consistent contender, does fan opinion at this very moment really matter? If the team starts winning the fans will come back.
If Baalke is Jed York's guy and he proves he can do the job, I guarantee public opinion will swing wildly in York's favor. People might complain now, but if the 49ers start winning, those complaints will quickly disappear. It's the nature of fandom and sports. This Fox Sports report could be complete BS, but if there's truth to it, the whole thing comes across as even more odd. Jed needs to hire the person in whom he has the most confidence to do the best job. If it's Trent Baalke, hire Trent Baalke. If it's not Baalke, then don't hire him.
I'm not here to say Jed York should ignore the fans in all instances. However, in the case of the general manager and coach search, I just don't think it's a wise decision. I could find some kind of fan support for virtually any candidate (well, maybe not Matt Millen!). That doesn't make them the best candidate. Jed needs to stick to his guns and hire/promote the guy he wants. It's as simple as that.