The San Francisco 49ers face numerous decisions this offseason. They have to figure out what is up with Colin Kaepernick and his contract, but even bigger is figuring out their plans for the football operations side of things. Do they fire Trent Baalke and/or Chip Kelly? Do they keep both? When a team is sitting at 1-10, the general belief is somebody probably should not be around next season.
One topic that has come up more and more is the idea of adding a president of football operations. The 49ers have Al Guido installed as team president, but his role is likely tied strictly to the business side of things. Trent Baalke is in charge of the football decisions, but we know Jed York has been involved in certain aspects of the operation of that side of the team. And as the past 2+ seasons have shown, it is not working out.
We are starting to see numerous suggestions for how the 49ers can change things. Tim Kawakami has tweeted for a while about the idea of hiring someone specifically to be in charge of all football operations. That person would hire the general manager and head coach, and essentially be the Al Guido of the football side of things, leaving the York family to sit back and keep their noses out of any semblance of football decisions.
They both suggest bringing in Mike Shanahan to run football operations, and Kyle Shanahan to be the team’s head coach. Jones talked about it as GM Mike, while Steve went a bit more specific and said Mike as president of football operations (or whatever that title would be called) to be in charge of the overall philosophy, and then hiring a general manager to handle more of the nitty gritty.
Mike Shanahan did some good things in Washington before it all came crumbling down in a power struggle with Dan Snyder and Robert Griffin III. Kyle Shanahan initially had the nepotism label placed on him, but he has stepped out on his own, and is currently doing great work in Atlanta.
Kevin Jones used to cover Washington, and so he knows a thing or two about the Shanahans. He points out their stubbornness, which has led to issues. For the elder Shanahan, it created havoc in Washington. For the younger Shanahan, he resigned from Cleveland amidst reports of meddling from the front office.
Stubbornness can be a problem when dealing with prickly ownership, but if power is handed over and ownership steps out of the way, maybe they could turn this ship around. It could just continue careening down the road, but change for change’s sake might just be needed. I am not holding my breath for York to give this kind of power over, but crazier things have happened.
I think Chip Kelly deserves credit for doing good work with a talent deficient offense. I would be perfectly fine seeing him back for another year in Santa Clara. The problem is what that means if the team does fire Trent Baalke and look for a new general manager. If York fires Baalke and promotes Tom Gamble, it is not an issue given Gamble and Kelly’s relationship. But if York fires Baalke and wants to hire an outside GM, or actually bring in someone to handle all football operations, wouldn’t they likely want to hire their own head coach? It would not be Kelly’s fault, but that’s often a cost of doing business.
And if the team keeps Trent Baalke around? Well, the emergency exits are on each side of the cabin, and please follow the emergency lighting to avoid trampling each other as you escape the burning wreckage of the 49ers organization.