clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trent Baalke talks offseason, Chip Kelly hire, and improving the roster in Damon Bruce interview

The San Francisco 49ers general manager had a lengthy interview with 95.7's Damon Bruce on Friday. We got a look at his offeseason focus, the new coaching staff, and his love of dogs. Here's what he had to say. You can listen to the full audio here

On the Chip Kelly hire and why he and Jed York feel it's the right hire:

Well, first of all we think he's an excellent football coach. And as we went through the process, the same things I talked about in the presser. He used the term football guy, what does that mean? He's got no hobbies. He really doesn't. Football is his hobby. Football is his passion. Football is his life, and he gives everything he's got to the game. Guy that has great respect for the game, past and present €”someone that I think as you saw in the press conference. Obviously very intelligent, quick witted and a guy with an excellent offensive mind, but not only offense as I said in the presser again, very well rounded, been on both sides of the ball, gets involved in special teams. He's involved in the whole package.

On what Chip Kelly's New Hampshire house and dog is like:

Well, I'm a dog lover. That was easy for me. It was a very relaxed setting. Obviously, a very nice home and as you would picture €”very detailed, very clean, but we had an excellent conversation. We sat for about 4 or five hours and Jed, he and I just got into all the different areas that we wanted to visit with him on. And the flow of information was excellent. Back and forth, there was good  synergy amongst the group. We shared a very similar vision, and that was obvious early in our conversation on how he looked at the building and running the football side of things. It was a great fit and it was a great fit early on.

On speculation that he brought Jed a list of names and a decision was made, did he bring Jed the name or did he choose the name that got hired:

No. Jed and I went through this process together. I put together a list of candidates and let Jed take a look at it and he was on board. We set a plan to meeting with those individuals. We met with all of them, I had a great conversation, obviously with coach Kelly, when we got done with that, we let him know we had several more interviews to go and he was very appreciative of the time  and that's how we left it at that time. We went through the process for three to four more days until it became clear and like I said, the group that we interviewed, very talented group, I learned a lot in the process. And all of those guys had some very good things going for them and certainly want to wish those guys all the best as they move forward in their careers, but at the end of the day it was an easy decision for us.

On the possibility of things not working out due to a power struggle between him and Kelly:

I said this a couple times, there's perception and there's reality. I try to deal with reality. The great thing about Chip's relationship with myself and my relationship with Chip and how I do business and how he does business, we have a very close friend that's worked with both of us in Tom Gamble. Tom Gamble has worked with me since 2006, we came to the San Francisco 49ers together. He left for two years to go to Philadelphia with Coach Kelly. Worked with Coach closely as his personnel guy, then came back to the 49ers a year ago. And all of the questions that many people have, have been answered. Tom was the bridge to that. How do I do business? And how does coach go about his business and what he said to me personally, I saw very clearly in the interview process an what he shared with coach, he saw in the interview process so it was a natural bridge.

On Curtis Modkins being brought in, why a Lions running back coach when the Lions were last in rushing this year:

Well right now I can't share anything with you, because nobody is under contract at this point in time. There's still paperwork to be worked out so there's no sense in talking about people who aren't under contract.

Would the move work philosophically with Chip Kelly; putting him with a guy who coordinated the last running attack in the NFL with the ground game part of Chip's undoing in Philadelphia:

Well, once again, I think from my perspective, if you want me to get into this Damon as you always keep digging deeper and deeper, I've got complete confidence in Coach Kelly to put together an A+ coaching staff. So contrary to what people believe, I'm not involved in that hiring process. I fully believe in chip, I fully believe in his ability to put that staff together, and he has the complete reign to do just that.

How close was he to Mike Vrabel, on a possible offer made:

Once again, there's no sense in getting into it. We like Mike, we like Mike a lot. Awfully good football  coach. Certainly got a great pedigree, played the game, learned and mentored under a lot of quality people both as a player and now as a coach. So he was definitely a guy we were interested in and I'll leave it at that.

So many people have two questions: 1: What really went wrong with Jim Harbaugh, really? And 2: Did Trent Baalke really think Jim Tomsula would have success as a head coach?:

Well, I'm going to say this. We're way past the Jim Harbaugh questions. He's done an awfully good job at Michigan. He's in a good position there, and I'm happy for him, I really am. A fun team to watch this year. And respect to Jim Tomsula, coach Tomsula, you know you there's  sometimes in life you make decisions and they don't work. And I'm not one to look back, you learn from it and you move forward and that's what we've done, we've learned from it, we've moved forward, we've hired Coach Kelly to come in here and build this program back to where it needs to be and we're confident he's going to get us there.

On Colin Kaepernick's future with the 49ers:

Well the future is bright. First, of all as we all know, Colin is in Vail Colorado rehabbing right now. He is coming off the season of injuries he had. Right now, it doesn't pay to talk about any of our guys. Coach hasn't worked with anybody yet. He's talked to him on the phone, he's tried to reach out to all the guys that are under contract and talked to most of them. I don't know if he's talked to all of them but he's certainly reached out and is trying to go through that process. But, we've got two guys, Blaine's stepped in and did some awfully good things. Obviously Colin has done a lot of very good things through his career here and Chip is looking forward to getting together with both of them and getting them on the field and putting them into his system and going to work. So, I wouldn't look into that anymore than what it is we've got plenty of time to get going here. The first thing we have to do is get a coaching staff in place then you got the offseason from a personnel standpoint, you've got free agency, you've got the draft. We just went through the CFL signings, so there's a lot of things we have to get done before we even get into this offseason program and into the training camp.

On the lack of offensive points being  a factor in hiring an offensive mind like Chip Kelly:

Well, as I said in the press conference I think he's a tremendously innovative coach and has been going back to his days at New Hampshire. And now, you follow his career at the University of Oregon and up into Philadelphia. He's certainly got a creative mind, he's got a system, he understands matchups and how they pertain to gametime decisions. He's very calm, collective on the sidelines; you see that on every stop he's made. There's a lot to like on the offensive side, but he understands defensive football as well and he also understands special teams. He's well rounded in that regard but he is going to run the offense, no doubt about that.

On addressing the many needs on the 49ers, and on drafting a running back after the free agent acquisitions during the season has changed his philosophy:

I don't know that it's changed, every year is unique. Like you said, in terms of each year, different names catch your eye for different reasons. There's going to be some system changes that we go through, on the offensive side, potentially on the defensive side, that changes a little bit at times what you are looking for. So there's that time you got to sit down with this staff and really go through and look at the personnel that we currently have, that's first and foremost evaluate that, from there you determine the needs. What do we need to get better offensively? what do we need to get better defensively? We're high on this locker room. There's a lot of good young football players on this team and there's some wily vets to go along with it. The other thing that's exciting if you're on the outside looking in, is we're sitting very good with respect to cap space and cash available for free agency. We also got as many as 12 draft picks in this upcoming draft and we just signed two players out of the CFL that we were very high on.

On who the second player besides Eric Rodgers is signed out of the CFL (this led to some banter from Baalke about how Damon Bruce didn't do his homework and was unprepared, Bruce ended the argument by saying "Did you just hire Jim Tomsula?"):

An offensive lineman that played his collegiate at Oregon state, a guy by the name of Colin Kelly

On if he'll take up the role of Anthony Davis and Davis' possible return:

As of right now, I've gotten no notification from the league saying that he [Davis]  has. But, that period is still open.

On the offensive line needing improvement:

Well I think if you take a look at the last three games of the season, that offensive line started—and if you look at the periods during the year, they performed fairly well, you're always trying to get better , you're always looking for better and there's some pieces there that are intriguing. We got some young guys that were playing well down the stretch and it's a process. And I'm not going to sit here and say we don't need to look to improve, because we do, but we're going to look to improve in a lot of areas this offseason.

On if there's a timeline to have everything put together:

You can start to look to some announcements here towards early next week. We're trying to get this thing pulled together, we'd like to have it pulled together by the middle of next week at the latest.  But I think when the names start to get released and the coaches, I think people will be very happy with the staff that Chip has put together and it's a quality group.

On the organization going through hell and back and how the Chip Kelly hire is good (according to Damon Bruce):

Well, the one thing I will say is: you make mistakes and the important thing is you don't shy away from it. You stand up, you admit it and there's things we have to do better as an organization, there's things I have to do better in my role in this organization and I'm not going to shy away from that. All you can do is learn from the mistakes that have been made, put your best foot forward, come to work and do whatever you can on that given day to get better and that's what we're going to do. Like I said earlier, it's exciting times. We got a new head coach that we are all excited about, we got a coaching staff that we're going to be prepared to announce sometime next week that we're all excited about. We have a lot of assets to improve this football team in both through free agency and the draft so there's a lot of things to be excited about. And I personally appreciate the fanbase. They have done a heck of a job sticking with us, through some tough times and they're to be commended for that. We certainly appreciate them standing by us

Who he has in the NFC conference for division champs:

I'm not going to go on record. I think you know me well enough you could probably answer that. But you know what?  they're two good football teams, two excellent football teams and they are very well coached. They got good players on both sides of the ball. It's going to be a heck of a game, I just hope the weather doesn't play into it because those are two good football teams who deserve to be where they are at.