ESPN analyst Louis Riddick is a name frequently attached to the San Francisco 49ers vacant general manager position. He is the only candidate that has publicly discussed the attractiveness of the GM job in San Francisco, and at times seems to be using his platform at ESPN to openly campaign for the job.
Riddick has 13 years of experience scouting NFL players in roles as a pro scout and director of pro personnel for Washington and Philadelphia. In both roles he was responsible for evaluating players around the NFL who could potentially join the team through free agency or trades. Riddick’s time evaluating NFL talent would seem like attractive work experience to a 49ers organization who will likely be big players in free agency, with over $80 million in cap space for 2017.
While Riddick’s practical experience is a big plus, his track record carries one serious red flag: the 2011 “Dream Team” Philadelphia Eagles. Coming off three consecutive playoffs appearances, and hoping for a push over the Super Bowl hump, the Eagles hit free agency hard in 2011. They signed highly prized free agents Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, and Jason Babin as well as additions of Ronnie Brown, Evan Mathis, and Vince Young for depth. They also traded for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
These high profile additions led newly signed backup QB Vince Young to call the 2011 Eagles a “Dream Team,” a label that would haunt the team all season. The signings were a disaster. They finished 8-8, missed the playoffs, and the following season Andy Reid was fired as head coach after a 4-12 finish.
That 2011 Eagles team has since become the go-to cautionary tale regarding free agent spending, and the wrong way to build a football team. Bleacher Report ran a long form piece about that team last offseason that is an interesting read.
As director of pro personnel, Riddick was directly responsible for evaluating every addition from the NFL ranks to that 2011 Eagles team. Working under GM Howie Roseman and director of player personnel Ryan Grigson - both controversial figures in their own right - Riddick’s opinion should have carried significant weight in pursuing Asomugha, Babin, Young, Cromartie, and others.
No outsider truly knows the exact dynamics of the 2011 Eagles personnel department, and plenty has been reported about the toxicity of culture in that front office in recent years. It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that Riddick gave accurate assessments of the 2011 signings, but was overruled by Roseman and Grigson. Ultimately though, those signings exist as a major red flag that must be considered part of Riddick’s resume.
The 49ers desperately need to hit a home run with their GM choice. Riddick has never held a role scouting college players, or been involved in the draft in any official capacity. Despite his 13 years of experience scouting NFL players, his resume is entirely too narrow for fans to feel comfortable with him as the choice for GM. Despite Riddick’s public stumping for the job, it would be best for the organization to look in a different direction.