2011 NFL Combine: 49ers GM Trent Baalke Speaks With The Media

The 2011 NFL Combine kicked off yesterday with offensive linemen, tight ends and special teamers checking in and getting ready. NFL coaches and personnel officials are out in force this week as they get a chance to observe most of the significant draft-eligible players. Given the large quantity of personnel power-brokers on hand, it's not surprising that we've got a whole lot of press conferences going down.

49ers GM Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh both spoke with the media today. I don't have the Harbaugh press conference transcript quite yet, but I do have Baalke's comments posted after the jump. Baalke spoke about a variety of issues and naturally there were quarterback questions. He was asked specifically about Coach Harbaugh's involvement in the decision process:

On whether he leans heavy on head coach Jim Harbaugh's evaluation of quarterbacks:
"Well, obviously we do. He's not only our head coach, he played the position, he's proven that he can develop the quarterback at the places he's been. And he's also proven in the short time in the league that he has an eye for that position. So, with that in mind, we're going to use all of our resources to make every decision and certainly the quarterback position is a vital one."

On whether he is talking about Harbaugh's evaluation with the Raiders:
"Yeah, the evaluations with the Raiders."

This isn't exactly shocking information, but I thought it was worth pulling out. His comments involve a lot of general platitudes about the draft class, but it gives us one more bit of insight into what Baalke is thinking as the draft approaches in two months.

General Manager Trent Baalke
Combine Press Conference - February 24, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center 

On the offensive line prospects in the NFL Draft:

"I think overall it's a good group. If you're asking specifically the offensive line, top to bottom, I think there's a lot of depth. But I think there's depth throughout the draft."

On the trend of offensive linemen going in the top five in the NFL Draft:

"I guess that's up to each individual team to assess whether the top end is thin or the bottom end. I think, once again, I think the draft is going to be a good draft. It's going to be a deep draft at a lot of positions. I think there will be good players to be found throughout it."

On offensive linemen intelligence and whether that plays a big factor in drafting them:

"Yeah, obviously intelligence is a factor at every position. You want to build teams that are smart. Smart football teams win games and that's been proven over time. So, it's a factor at the offensive line position, but it's a factor throughout every position."

On whether the potential of free agency after the draft alters his strategy:

"Well, I think it alters the strategy but you've got to be prepared for any scenario that comes up right now because there are a lot of unknowns. That's exactly where we're at. We're prepared for whatever scenarios take place."

On whether drafting a quarterback in the earlier rounds is more of a priority because of the unknowns:

"I don't think so. I think, once again, you have to have a plan for free agency. You have to have a trade plan. You have to have a plan for the draft. The order of it obviously, if it was a traditional order, it would make it easier for us to make decisions. But you've got to be prepared. It's an obstacle and we're prepared for it."

On the quarterback class and whether the strength is in the middle rounds:

"Once again, I think that's in the eye of the beholder where the depth of the quarterback position or the depth of any of these positions are. Whether its top loaded, bottom loaded or loaded in the middle, there are good quarterbacks at every level of this draft. There are going to be guys that get picked later on that become good quarterbacks. There are going to guys that get picked early that maybe don't have the success to where they've been picked. That's been proven over time. So, were going to evaluate every one of them and put a value on every one of them just like we are with every player in this draft and be in a position to pick them where we have them valued."

On whether he leans heavy on head coach Jim Harbaugh's evaluation of quarterbacks:

"Well, obviously we do. He's not only our head coach, he played the position, he's proven that he can develop the quarterback at the places he's been. And he's also proven in the short time in the league that he has an eye for that position. So, with that in mind, we're going to use all of our resources to make every decision and certainly the quarterback position is a vital one."

On whether he is talking about Harbaugh's evaluation with the Raiders:

"Yeah, the evaluations with the Raiders."

On some of the people that influenced him while working his way to general manager:

"I think it starts with my first job with the Jets and being fortunate enough to work for one of the best talent evaluators in the business in Dick Haley. I learned a lot from Mr. Haley also on that staff was coach [Bill] Parcells who I still consult and learned a tremendous amount from. [Patriots] Coach [Bill] Belichick was a part of that group and that entire staff because that staff was loaded with talent."

On what he learned from Belichick:

"Well I think more than anything, just his work ethic and his intelligence, the understanding of the game, every facet of the game and what it takes to play the game."

On how the quarterback uncertainties in the NFC West will affect who wins the division next year:

"I think, once again, it's proven you need a quarterback. This is a quarterback-driven league and you need a guy that can function at that position to be successful. So, with that in mind, whoever does a better job of answering that question and solidifying that position on their team is at an advantage. So I think it's going to come down to who can do that and then who can surround him with the best possible personnel."

On how he would define athletic instincts for a quarterback, as compared to head coach Jim Harbaugh's assessment:

"Well, I think what coach is talking about is their ability to adapt to the different situations that they come up with. They've got to be able to think on their feet, they've got to be able to throw from multiple positions and they've got to do it with accuracy and arm strength. So, I think when you're talking about the athletic instincts of a player, his ability to drop back, to feel the defense, to make quick-snap judgments and make them while he's in the pocket, make them while he's on the move from all different situations on the field."

On whether he consulted with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh about hiring his brother, Jim Harbaugh, as head coach of the 49ers and whether their family background played into his decision:

"Well as far as consulting with John, no. In fact, I've never met John. But in terms of how his background, his family background, played into it; I'm just a big believer in pedigree. And dating back, Jim's been a football guy his entire life. He grew up obviously - obviously his father was a well-respected coach, he grew up playing it, grew up wanting to be a coach, started coaching as a matter of fact while he was still playing, as everyone knows the stories. So he's a football man, He loves the game, he's got great respect for the game and I think that's the passion that I saw in him dating back to the time I ran into him out in Las Vegas at the All-Star games. I just had a real good feel that he was going to be successful."

On whether RB Frank Gore is still described as a "bell cow" player like he was in the past:

"Well Frank's definitely a bell cow. He's a heck of a football player and a heck of a young man. But coach has come out and said, ‘We're going to take every advantage of using Frank like we have over the years, but we're also going to develop some young guys.' We got another one in [RB] Anthony Dixon who we're very high on and obviously we're going to look to supplement that position moving forward. Whether that's through free agency or the draft or a potential trade, one of those three scenarios is going to land us another running back."

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