The 2016 season is a huge one for general manager Trent Baalke. His 20143, 2014, and 2015 draft classes have had some hits, but a lot of players from those three years still have a lot to prove. There are some reasons for optimism from these classes, but for now, we’re in a wait-and-see mode.
If things work out, huzzah, but if not, logic dictates Trent Baalke could find himself with a pink slip sooner rather than later. Chip Kelly is in his first year with the team, and I remain convinced any pressure on this organization is on Baalke, rather than Kelly.
But don’t tell that to “anonymous scout.” Sports Illustrated spoke to said scout, and he put together a look at the most overrated and underrated player on each team. He also included an “extra point” for some additional thoughts. For the San Francisco 49ers, he listed Carlos Hyde as the most underrated and Colin Kaepernick as the most overrated. Neither review includes anything too surprising. But his “extra points” section offers some rather interesting thoughts:
If they were in a different division, these guys might be able to turn it around and have a good year. [General manager] Trent Baalke is a top-flight football person. You have to look at the circumstances of what happened to get them from making three straight NFC Championship Games to where they are now, which is a team coming off of a 5–11 year. It was a perfect storm. It would be crazy to move on from Baalke, to make him the scapegoat for all of these unusual circumstances that occurred over 18 months. Another ownership group would snap him up in a minute.
Trent Baalke is most definitely a “football guy,” but I don’t really know what the scout means when he uses the term “football person.” Baalke seems to have a keen eye for certain types of talent. He has done great in finding defensive linemen and some cornerbacks, but has struggled to get the team an impact wide receiver. He’s a believer in building in the trenches, but his flashier position picks have not been pretty.
I do think there are some circumstances about the past couple years that have been out of his control, but anonymous scout seems to suggest he is entirely blameless. I don’t think it’s nearly such a black and white answer on either side of this. I do sometimes question his overall body of work as a general manager, but there are positives to take from it.
I’ve seen people suggest Baalke is a better scout than a GM, and it is possible his grinder mentality, particularly the time he invests on the road scouting college prospects, would look good to scouts. Maybe like-minded people see him in that light. That’s not to say that this scout is wrong about Baalke potentially being snapped up, but the context of his opinion intrigues me.