The past year has been a huge football education for San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne. Having never played organized football, he had a steep learning curve. It was arguably a smaller curve than Lawrence Okoye, but still a fairly significant curve.
We saw some significant physical attributes from Hayne in the preseason. He did not get a ton of opportunities in the regular season, but the practice squad provided an opportunity to learn both about being a running back, and about the NFL on a broader level. And hopefully that means a big jump in year two.
49ers executive Paraag Marathe thinks we can expect such a jump in Hayne's second season. Marathe joined Ronnie Lott and NBA agent Bill Duffy at a panel discussion, covered by San Jose Mercury News reporter Dan Brown. The panel was about the globalization of sports and the role tech plays, and so naturally a Bay Area conversation on this topic led to Jarryd Hayne questions.
Marathe talked about how elite athletes have a willpower and desire to succeed that is part of something special about them. Given Marathe is an analytics guy, it was intriguing to hear him talk about things that you really can't quantify. He talked about the team's draft preparations, and in discussing some of the limitations on statistics, had this to say about the pre-draft process:
"It's just trying to figure out who has that magic and how someone is wired,'' Marathe said. "When we were going through the draft process, we spent as much time -- if not more -- with their coaches, with their high school coaches, with their girlfriends, with their friends, with teammates."
Last month, former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan talked about something similar in discussing an "it" factor in why many players don't make the leap from average to good, or good to great. I do think there is something to this, but I also wonder how much this is a matter of front office shifting blame to the players. Of course, considering all of these players are world class athletes to some extent, it is reasonable to say some have an unmeasurable factor that others do not. It's an interesting issue considering how much of it is guess work to some extent.
For Jarryd Hayne, it makes sense though to think year two would be a big breakout year. His learning curve is still pretty significant, but it is going to be significantly less in year two than it was in year one. Yes, he has to learn an entirely new offense, but he can approach things with more confidence having gotten through the process of his rookie year. And considering the things he could potentially do as a back in Chip Kelly's offense, it's at least a little bit exciting to consider.