San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne has returned to Australia, and spoke briefly with Australian media upon his arrival. He departed the Bay Area the day after the season finale against the St. Louis Rams, and will be back for the start of the offseason workout program later this spring.
Naturally, a swarm of Australian media was waiting for him at the airport. He was asked about his time in the NFL, and what he learned. There are more quotations here, but here is what he had to say about his time in the NFL.
It was great. Being in the practice squad obviously meant I got a lot of reps, I had to mimic the other teams we were playing. We played some really good teams. We played against the Falcons who have Devonta Freeman, who was one of their best rushers; the Seattle Seahawks, it was Marshawn and Thomas Rawls. We worked extremely hard and all the guys do. That's probably the biggest thing, everyone works really hard and for me to be given that opportunity in the last two games, I was obviously very thankful. I really didn't realize how much I was going to play in that Detroit game, so that was huge and gave me a lot of confidence and just being out there for a long period.
Hayne got a start in the team's week 16 matchup with the Detroit Lions. Shaun Draughn was out with a knee injury, Kendall Gaskins appears to be nothing more than an extra body, and DuJuan Harris had less than a week under his belt with the playbook. Hayne led the running backs with 35 offensive snaps. A week later, Harris got the start, and the bulk of the work. Harris had 46 offensive snaps, returning running back Mike Davis was on the field for 27 snaps, and Gaskins had eight snaps. As for Jarryd Hayne? He had one special teams snap and no offensive snaps.
Based on that Week 17 workload, or lack thereof, it seems clear that Harris was always viewed as a better short term option to close out the season. However, I'm surprised Gaskins got more work than Hayne in that final game. It was difficult at times to figure out what exactly the coaching staff and front office wanted out of Hayne. I would put this all on the coaching staff, but the front office likely had some influence on a lot of these roster decisions. The front office had control of the 53-man roster. Tomsula was supposed to be in charge of the game-day 46-man roster, but at times there was speculation the front office had their share of say in that. Who knows for certain, but the whole thing felt like a train wreck.
Hayne remains under contract this offseason, and will be back competing for a roster spot under a new head coach. I have no idea what to make of Hayne's future. I'd like to think a more creative coaching staff will actually know how to use a player who can operate in space like Hayne. I guess we're left to wait nine months to find out.