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A case for and against each of the 49ers general manager candidates

Too much info on all these potential GMs? We’ll run you through the pros and cons of each GM to bring you up to speed

There’s a lot to run around and check when looking at who the San Francisco 49ers are considering for general manager. Since interviews are scheduled and one piece of this puzzle may be figured out soon, it may be a good idea to take all the prospective candidates and just run through them all. Let’s take a look:

Eliot Wolf

NFL: Green Bay Packers-Training Camp Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Organization: Green Bay Packers
Role: Director of Football Operations
Interview Status: Interviewed Thursday

The name most have heard before anything happened, Wolf was connected to the 49ers when then-GM Trent Baalke was still in the building. Baalke’s gone, Wolf is being interviewed, and the long rumblings of interest may indicate he’s the 49ers’ guy.

Wolf spent his football career as an executive solely with the Packers. He also is a generational guy; his father was Ron Wolf, an NFL executive as well. The younger Wolf has been with Green Bay to oversee Aaron Rodgers get drafted, be a part of a Super Bowl season, and be a part of a consistent culture in Green Bay.

Why you want this guy:

There’s no way Green Bay intended on taking Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 NFL draft. No one expected the quarterback to slip the way he did. He wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger, but to be around those that manage a draft board and have that improvisational feel to draft day, where things are being navigated and rewritten will help the 49ers roster. Also, Green Bay loves this guy. He’s been promoted the last three years and even blocked for interviews as GM elsewhere. It’s believed he’s to be Ted Thompson’s (current Packers GM) successor. It’s for a reason: He’s been around the best in the organization and seen several situations unfold.

Why you don’t want this guy:

The Packers, while in the playoffs have one of the most inconsistent rosters. While lately that can be attributed to injuries, they are sometimes hot, sometimes cold. They started 2016 with arguably Aaron Rodgers’s worst start ever. While some of this can be attributed to Rodgers, his O-line and defense were not helping him out. Wolf can navigate a draft board and pick players, but Green Bay has had a difficult time finding complete playmakers and depth.

Brian Gutekunst
Organization: Green Bay Packers
Role: Director of Player Personnel
Interview Status: Interviewed Thursday

The other Green Bay candidate. After Thursday, those coffee meetings in Green Bay’s kitchen have to be awkward. Gutuekunst began as a scouting assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs and later joined the Packers in 2012. He’s been there ever since.

Why you want this guy:

Gutekunst has been with Green Bay since 2012 and hasn’t been demoted or replaced, despite being in the same job. You can read most of what is said about Wolf and use it for Gutekunst, except the fact he wasn’t there for the Rodgers pick.

Why you don’t want this guy:

All the candidates besides Gutekunst have at least some sort of role as director of player personnel and Gutekunst has only been doing it since mid-2016. Not much experience there. Gutekunst seems to be a bit of an interview to get some ideas. Speculatively speaking, it could be that Gutekunst is being interviewed for a different role in the organization just for familiarity with Wolf. Putting him into the GM role at this point with the limited experience of dealing with pro personnel/contracts is a bit of a troubling issue—it’s almost like naming a head coach from a D-line coordinator who never served as defensive coordinator. It may be a bit overwhelming for him.

Nick Caserio

New England Patriots 2009 Headshots

Organization: New England Patriots
Role: Director of Pro Personnel
Interview Status: Unknown

Caserio is like another version of Trent Baalke—but one with a bit more competence. Beginning his career as a graduate assistant in the college ranks, Caserio has spent over 15 years in New England. He even was a coach during 2007 (wide receivers). After the 2007 season, Caserio went back to the front office, resumed his role and has been doing the same gig ever since. Originally thought to interview with the 49ers, now we have no idea if an interview is to happen. It’d be safe to assume it won’t, but never say never.

Why you want this guy:

Caserio has been there to negotiate contracts for the likes of Gronk, sign undrafted free agents like Malcom Butler, and look to the draft in even the 2nd round to keep Quarterback depth under Tom Brady with Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s also been credited by Bill Belichick himself as a huge cog in the Patriots wheel. He’s been in the same organization for over 15 years, and if he is another version of Trent Baalke, we don’t have to worry about him getting the coaching itch, since he got it out of his system—even when Brady had 50 touchdown passes. The year of coaching may have helped his stock even.

Why you don’t want this guy:

Two words: New England. The organization doesn’t have a good track record when its pieces exit and go elsewhere. For starters, in 2009, then-vice president of player personnel, Scott Pioli left to go to Kansas City. That didn’t end so well. Pioli made a trade for Matt Cassel, hired Todd Haley as head coach, and it took only two seasons for the Chiefs to hit the tank.

While Pioli was in KC, New England never bothered promoting Caserio to the vacant position. Maybe Caserio didn’t want the job? Maybe it didn’t matter since New England has so much involvement by everyone with the way it handles its players with Bill Belichick usually winning out with the final vote. That alone is another red flag—there’s just so much in New England, one guy—or even two if Josh McDaniels comes with him—that perhaps the 49ers just can’t replicate the standard they have.

Louis Riddick

Louis Riddick head shot from ESPN ESPNL

Organization: ESPN
Role: Analyst
Interview Status: Scheduled for next week

He may be a TV guy, but Louis Riddick was director of Player Personnel for both Washington and the Philadelphia Eagles. Those teams he worked under were nothing to sneeze at. Riddick has been vocal about how good the 49ers situation is and brings experience both as an executive and a player to the table.

Why you want this guy:

While in Washington, he worked in the second Joe Gibbs tenure—a lukewarm tenure at best, but good players like Sean Taylor were drafted on his watch.

Philadelphia is his claim to fame. He worked there during the Andy Reid years and guys like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were drafted. He also was there when the Eagles took a shot Michael Vick after being recently released from prison and signed Vince Young as a backup after his exit from the Tennessee Titans. Philadelphia’s play in Reid’s final years was awful, but it was definitely from an under performing roster and Reid’s own personal issues at the time—not from the players on the field. Also, Trent Baalke was not the most comfortable guy in the press. He’d probably be uncomfortable just having coffee with. Riddick changes all this with a great personality that the San Francisco front office really could use. Keep Jed York off that podium! Plus Riddick has praised several different coaches as an analyst which dictates he’d be open to different philosophies if a particular coaching hire didn’t work out. Less of a ‘his way or the highway’ attitude.

Why you don’t want this guy:

Odd he’d be out of football for three years. Is that by choice or because no one wanted him? Furthermore, Reid had the same powers that Bill Belichick had in New England and had final say in the roster. His influence either could have been huge or marginal with the Eagles’ acquisitions. The fact he’s working at ESPN could be a red flag as the game may have passed him by. He hasn’t been scouting for three years and the 49ers have a huge draft to be had and free agents to sign. Does he have anything on what’s to come? How long would it take for him to get a team together and get all the reports necessary?

Jimmy Raye III

San Francisco 49ers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

No, NOT that one!

Organization: Indianapolis Colts
Role: Vice President of Football Operations
Interview Status: Scheduled

Son of fired 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye II (Alex Smith’s only consistent offensive coordinator before Jim Harbaugh arrived), JRIII has a wealth of experience under his belt. He’s done contracts, roster evaluations, salary cap numbers etc. He got his start as a offensive quality control coach in Kansas City before moving on to the San Diego Chargers as a scout and later director of college scouting. He became director of player personnel with the Chargers and later was brought to Indianapolis to be the VP of Football Operations.

Why you want this guy:

Raye III has some solid progression through the ranks. He’s got a dab of coaching to start and the executive roles certainly show experience. San Diego draft picks like defensive tackle Corey Liuget had to have his fingerprints on it. In Indianapolis, he was probably in the room during the Andrew Luck contract negotiations and also probably had a hand in prying Frank Gore from the 49ers hands. Let’s also not forget the 2012 draft and the pick of T.Y. Hilton. He’s been around all facets of the business which means he can put on any hat and help out getting things done.

Why you don’t want this guy:

All the teams Jimmy Raye III worked on either were not very good, or went on a downward spiral quick. There also have been some boneheaded decisions he had to have been in the room as they went down, the trade of a 1st round pick for Trent Richardson in 2013 being one of them. This can easily be blamed on general manager Ryan Grigson, but it doesn’t bode well for JRIII to have been around for this. Also, Andrew Luck’s contract isn’t exactly helping the Colts’ free agent market right now.

George Paton

Organization: Minnesota Vikings
Role: Assistant General Manager
Interview Status: Completed

George Paton is a bit of an enigma. He’s no stranger to turning down interviews, and now he’s finally getting that itch to possibly progress somewhere else. He’s been with the Vikings for 10 years and worked in tandem with general manager Rick Spielman in other clubs like Miami and Chicago. The fact Paton is willing to interview means there must be some good in the 49ers job.

Why you want this guy:

Look at what happened to Minnesota this season. That team was destroyed by injuries, yet they were still in it for much of the year. The depth of that team is undeniable and you can’t discount Paton’s hand in creating that roster. Your franchise QB is hurt? Helllloooo Sam Bradford! Your defense is hurt? Next man up. The depth and will of this team is a testament to drafting and free agency signings and the Vikings have really turned things around, despite getting dealt a horrible hand in 2016. Going back further Paton was part of the team that secured Brett Favre’s services in 2009 for a great campaign and NFC Championship Game appearance.

Why you don’t want this guy:

Look at what Minnesota had to give up to have a chance. They burned a 1st round pick for Sam Bradford of all people. It doesn’t get much better when he’s around in earlier seasons for blunders like the 2010 Randy Moss trade where he was released just 3 weeks later. He may have not had a hand in such things like Moss, since that seemed to be more an issue with owner Zygi Wilf, but do we really want a general manager letting owners have a say in anything? Or at least having experience with it?

Actually experience dealing with this wouldn’t be a bad thing...

Brandon Beane

Organization: Carolina Panthers
Role: Asisstant General Manager
Interview: Scheduled for next week

Interim GM in 2012, and maybe one of the most experienced candidates on the list, Beane began in the communications department in 1998 and has stayed with the Panthers ever since, getting into the front office/scouting ranks.

Why you want this guy:

Experience. Beane has some of the deepest experience of any candidate—including PR. He’s been there as Carolina turned around one of the worst rosters in football into a Super Bowl contender and had a hand in some successful drafts. If anyone knows how any department works, it’s this guy. Think of many work environments; having someone who is a jack of all trades is immensely useful and easy to get behind as a leader since he knows where any department is coming from on any decision. He’d know what to look for in a staff because he’s done it.

Why you don’t want this guy:

Being there since 1998 means a lot of good, and a lot of bad. Carolina had drafted players like Jimmy Clausen taking snaps under center at one point because there was nothing else to mobilize. There’s been some terrible drafts by the Panthers, but they always have been able to right the ship before the wheels completely come off. After their 2008 exit from the NFL playoffs courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers were awful for five years. Part of this can be attributed to injuries, part of this is a bad roster. But no team outside of New England is flawless for the amount of time Beane has been there.

Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer

Organization: Seattle Seahawks
Role: Co-Directors of Player Personnel
Interview Status: Scheduled for next week

Both the candidates can share a bio since they are both currently doing the exact same job. It’s not known what the 49ers are planning, if it’s a co-general manager situation or if it’s to take one or the other. If it’s one or the other, it’s another awkward coffee break between the two—worse than Wolf and Gutekunst since they at least have different job titles.

First Kirchner: He was a scout for the Carolina Panthers for eight years before coming to Seattle around 2009. With the Seahawks he began in the communication department and worked his way up to his current role in 2013.

Fitterer began as a scout in 2001 and worked his way up to director of college scouting. He interviewed for the GM position of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 and turned it down. Later he was promoted to co-director of player personnel.

Why you want these guys:

In Pete Carroll’s arrival, Seattle turned a 5-11 organization and made it one of the league’s best. In Carroll’s first season, the Hawks did some maneuvering to secure Marshawn Lynch in a trade and draft Russell Okung along with Earl Thomas. They managed to make the playoffs (with a 7-9 record) and the headaches for 49ers fans began, as the 1-2 man realized once again they had a football team. They managed to take Russell Wilson in the 4th round of the 2012 draft in what may have been the best draft for a team that year (2012 was awful for most of the league). Despite assumptions, wishes, and logic that says Seattle’s out of it, they seem to have the depth to prove naysayers wrong...

Why you don’t want these guys:

...That seems to be showing its holes rather often now. Seattle’s offense has gotten worse every year with this year being one the lowest. Since the 2012 draft, some good picks have been made, but the impact seems to lessen with each subsequent year. The trade for Jimmy Graham certainly helped the offense, but they gave up a 1st AND Max Unger (hurting the offensive line even more). Before that 2012 draft, the Hawks were caught in sub-.500 hell for a few years (one year of it with Mike Holmgren) and were making moves like trading for Charlie Whitehurst. Player after player was wasted and traded not making any impact, despite good coaching and product on the field.

Plus, do you really want the 49ers to do things like Seattle?