The San Francisco 49ers recently talked about running back Jarryd Hayne, the Rugby League convert who the team signed, released and signed again last season, his first playing American football. General manager Trent Baalke explained why Hayne was demoted to the practice squad, saying the team made a decision on "what's best for the football team in that period of time," via The Sydney Morning Herald.
You might think that's a standard response and I'd agree for the most part, though of course what's best for a bad team like the 49ers and what's best for a team in the thick of a playoff run are two entirely different things. What's best for the 49ers at any given time might actually be sticking with the projects to give them valuable reps to properly see what they have with said project.
I suppose the exact word choice here sticks out to me because a source told me in late January that Jim Tomsula was not interested in any projects that extended beyond 2015-16 and that he discounted anything that lacked immediacy. Tomsula was "uninterested in multi-year projects," according to my source.
While Hayne was not specifically named, it lines up with a lot of what we'e heard to this point. Tomsula served the 49ers well for many years as a position coach, but everything about his time as head coach in San Francisco points to him simply wanting out and wanting to simplify things as much as possible before he got out.
That doesn't mean that Tomsula singled out Hayne and said that he had to go. It doesn't mean that Tomsula didn't want to see what Hayne could offer. But it does lead me to believe the 49ers had the wrong idea about where the franchise was headed and were, in fact, rather ignorant of their own shortcomings well into the thick of the regular season.
A team in playoff mode and a team in rebuilding mode have two different goals. Sure, all 32 teams want to win the Super Bowl, but I think there were plenty of questionable decisions as the season went along. At what point did the team actually start looking to the future? When the veterans played a dozen pointless games they didn't need to play, and while Carlos Hyde sat on the roster for literally no reason for the bulk of the season?
Fortunately, Baalke did address Hayne's future, and suggested that Chip Kelly is "excited to get his hands on" Hayne. He said the team will find out in "short order" who does and does not fit with the team. Baalke said the 49ers couldn't have too many guys that didn't contribute on Sundays (without giving Hayne much of a chance to do so, mind you), but his explanations are well-reasoned.
Hayne was raw. Hayne fumbled a couple times. This is not yet another post to overstate the value of Hayne, but one to hopefully illustrate that his ample potential was possibly mishandled a season ago but just might be something worth being excited about going forward.