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Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke were never this transparent

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John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan aren’t afraid to tell the media and fans the truth. The Jim Harbaugh Trent Baalke Partnership? The less said the better.

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Last week, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch answered a question regarding the 49ers original plans with then-Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins once free agency hit in 2018.Lynch said that Kyle Shanahan was in a bit of mourning after the team traded for Jimmy Garoppolo. What followed was clarification from Lynch, and an interview on Monday where Shanahan got a bit more in-depth about what the plan was originally, what it became with Jimmy Garoppolo, and how Cousins became an afterthought.

The new regime under Lynch and Shanahan has exercised a higher level of transparency and it’s certainly welcome. At least they are clarifying comments and offering some depth to what they meant on a certain issue—and it’s not so much backtracking either.

Compare this to the regime of former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke. Good luck getting anything out of those two. Baalke would sometimes deflect questions with long, 400-word answers of rhetoric about “process,” and Harbaugh would often answer an entirely different question in its entirety. But when you really asked some tough questions, or just questions of relevancy, it turned into media gold.

Take their own quarterback situation following the 2011 season. No, not Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, but Alex Smith and Peyton Manning. In the 2012 offseason, Manning was returning from neck surgery that kept him out of the 2011 season and released by the Indianapolis Colts so the team cold make room for 1st round pick Andrew Luck. The 49ers were coming off an NFC Championship Game where they had no offense from their wide receivers and zero lanes in the run game as a result. Regardless, the 49ers indicated they would retain Smith at the close of the season as he headed into free agency. That was until word came out the 49ers were working out Manning following his release from the Colts.

Keep in mind, this all came before Alex Smith was seen flying to Miami because the 49ers hadn’t locked him up at the start of 2012 free agency, due to them waiting on Manning’s decision. Smith was reportedly in negotiations with the Dolphins, but later went back to the 49ers.

Of course when asked about it, the team tried putting their own spin on things. Harbaugh, in particular called any reports of the 49ers being interested in Manning “erroneous.”

So erroneous Manning called Harbaugh personally to tell him of his decision to go to the Denver Broncos shortly after his Duke workout. Harbaugh would say Alex was always the starter and even went so far to say he was trying to see if he could get both Alex and Manning. The media dug deeper to get some sort of answer on what the 49ers were thinking, but got nothing but misdirection and smoke screens.

When asked, even Smith was a bit surprised, despite Harbaugh’s claims that everyone knew where everyone stood. It wound up being one of the worst-kept secrets and embarrassing for the 49ers to not even acknowledge their intentions, let alone provide some context on the entire situation.

Had Harbaugh or Baalke admitted what the team was up to, who knows how things would have played out. Obviously the situation was different then as it was now. The 49ers eventually benched Smith for Colin Kaepernick and Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

On the flipside, Shanahan and Lynch haven’t been afraid in the slightest to say what their intentions were, even if it might have hurt some feelings along the way. When they can’t talk about a situation, they will say just that.

It certainly makes for a better look rather than scrambling to find the right word.