A key date is coming soon ... its outcome will affect results this season and beyond for all 32 NFL teams and also result in nearly 1,200 guys losing their jobs within a period of hours: September 2nd ... NFL Cut-Down Date.
I doubt that I am alone in believing that Bill Walsh was one of the very best GM/HCs ever in building teams and manipulating rosters. Each year at this time, when I start to construct what I believe to be the "right" Final-53 for the Niners, I go back and re-read some of Bill's thoughts on the matter. I just did that and thought that it might be appropriate to share some of his thinking. Thus, the following is quoted from Walsh's book entitled "Building A Champion" (St. Martin's Press, 1990):
(Note: Walsh speaks here with the voice of the HC ... but remember that, while John McVey was Director of Player Personnel and did much of the contract negotiations and other grunt work, Walsh was also the GM, did a lot of the off-season player evaluation work himself, and made all of the final trade/roster decisions.)
"A coach has to be very strong in his player moves. If he becomes overprotective of a player's feelings or sentimentalizes his history with the team, he can damage the team over the long haul. Nor can he afford to consider how a move looks to the press and public, or to give too much consideration to how a player's teammates will react. There's always the possibility that you'll release a given player a year or two before absolutely necessary, but in making decisions for the future, you'll find you're right much more often than you're wrong."
Paul Brown's "... position was that if the man can play and he's your future, he should play now. Don't justify a decision for the sake of expediency. That's been my philosophy since. If a young player can perform as well as an aging veteran and can be expected to perform at that level for several years, he should be in the lineup. Or if there is a specific situation in a game better suited for the younger player, he should be utilized without hesitation."
"Coaches are often more comfortable with veteran players who understand the system, but they fail to realize that the younger player thrust into that role will develop rapidly and will assume the responsibility. On a number of occasions I had to hold out against a very persistent assistant coach who was campaigning to keep an aging veteran ..." "... we caught some hell from newspaper writers, who claimed we had a cold, indifferent, calculating organization that simply disposed of athletes on a whim. It wasn't whimsical at all but the result of an objective evaluation of veteran players. No veteran we released ever again played as well as the man who replaced him on the 49ers."
"The early signs of a player coming to the end of his career are chronic minor injuries, or injuries sustained early in a career that now start to bother him. This shows up primarily in his lack of practice time. At first, he misses Monday and Saturday. Then, it becomes a matter of giving him light workouts on Wednesday and Friday as well, working him hard only on Thursday. Finally, the player is reduced to hardly practicing at all, and then playing effectively for only part of the game, or even every other week. Yet, even then, the player may play effectively when he does, so fans will see him miss a couple of games but then come back and play well in the next one. Fans appreciate the athlete and are excited by his performance, and they don't understand what is really occurring."
"At that point, it is up to the coach and general manager to make a judgment. There may well be a younger player on the squad who can play as well as the veteran, or at least close to that level, but who can play more and has a future. Fans can afford to be sentimental about the aging veteran, but a coach cannot."
Lynch and Shanahan have already turned over more than 50% of the roster that they inherited. However, the Niners still have a number of "marginal" players on the roster IMO ... not guys who are necessarily aging veterans but guys whose performance abilities are just on the edge of being NFL-caliber or who have continuing injury issues. This season is one for learning new schemes, developing the younger players, and building the roster for the future. In that regard:
1. First, I'm hoping that Lynch is making every possible attempt to trade some of the guys on the current roster so that we get something (anything) in return, because we will not get any compensation picks in the near term in return, regardless of how we lose them. Candidates could IMO include: TE McDonald, DL Dial, and WR Kerley; RB Hyde and S Tartt might even be possibilities. Although I doubt that either has any trade value, hopefully Lynch would try to trade both TE Celek and LB Harold at well before just cutting them.
2. Then, I am hoping that Lynch and Shanahan will, in making their final cut-down decisions (regardless of any trades consummated), opt for the younger guys with potential in preference to continuing to retain guys who have been only marginal performers since Baalke acquired them.
3. Finally, I hope that Lynch and his staff will carefully scour the cuts of the other 31 teams to identify players who could be an upgrade to what we already have after our own cut-downs.
Just something to think about.