Grant Cohn: Time for the 49ers to sweep out Trent Baalke
Before the season even started, we knew Trent Baalke would be the 49ers' scapegoat if they needed one. Now they're sinking fast, and they need one. It seems inevitable they'll fire him by the end of the season.
I say get it over with. Fire Baalke during the bye week, a week and a half from now.
This is nothing personal against the 49ers' general manager. I rather like the guy. He's pleasant to me, says hello. Uses my name. Treats me the same way no matter what I write about him. I respect that.
But, come on. The Niners should have fired Baalke 21/2 years ago when they heard he couldn't get along with Jim Harbaugh. Now the Niners have no Harbaugh and no choice but to terminate Baalke as well.
Let's remind ourselves of Baalke's football sins. He has put together the least-talented team in the NFL despite having more draft picks than any other franchise since 2013, and having more than $43 million in cap space right now. His roster has zero quality receivers, zero quality quarterbacks. Zero players you would expect to become elite during their careers.
What the Niners have are young role players mixed in with other young role players who have torn ACLs.
Fire Baalke first thing Monday, Oct. 24.
Show the players the team has a future, a new direction. Show them the team still cares about winning, still cares about this season, and refuses to lose game after game without making major changes, or at least introducing new points of view.
Promote assistant general manager Tom Gamble to interim general manager. Don't make him the official GM just yet — Jed York and his parents need to make a list of other potential GM candidates and start doing research and background checks on all of them.
While Gamble runs the roster the rest of the season, the Yorks can seek permission to interview members of other teams' personnel departments and, even if the Yorks don't hire one of them, the Yorks can learn about the personnel-evaluations methods of the people they interview and find out who likes which players in the upcoming draft and free-agent market. The Yorks need to start gathering intel as soon as possible.
If they wait until the end of the season to fire Baalke, the Yorks will miss out on that process, and the front office won't have these additional months to adjust and restructure itself and learn.
That's why the upcoming bye week is the perfect time to fire Baalke. If the Niners do it then, the interim GM, probably Gamble, would have the rest of the season — nine weeks — to meet with the Niners' scouts and other personnel people to reorganize the staff and the procedures they use to evaluate players, and to eradicate Baalke's influence on the team.
Firing Baalke will create a fresh, new perspective on personnel within the organization, and most likely will bring out more contributions and free thought from the rest of the staff which likely feels downtrodden and not listened to.
Gamble and the scouts can create their own 'shopping list' for free agency during the bye week. This would give the Niners' personnel people time to study tape in greater depth, and to visit and observe potential free agents in games around the league who might fit the Niners' system.
At the same time, the scouts can do midseason re-evaluations of college players who have not lived up to preseason expectations, who recently have emerged as pro prospects and who missed the initial evaluation because of an injury.
The scouts also can create their first mock draft during the bye week, so they can indicate which players they value as first-round picks, second-round picks and so on.
The scouts can share their midseason evaluations with Gamble so he can express his views as well. And the scouts can collaborate with the coaches to find out what they believe to be their biggest needs and what type of players they prefer at each position.
Let the scouts do what Baalke couldn't. Baalke is terrible at collaborating with his coaches. He simply drafts and signs the players he wants, and expects the coaching staff to fit those players into their schemes. Tank Carradine comes to mind. He was a defensive end in a classic 4-3 defense at Florida State, and Baalke drafted him in the second round even though the Niners don't use a classic 4-3 defense.
The coaches tried to bulk him up and turn him into a 3-4 defensive end, where he failed. Now, they're trying to slim him down turn him into an outside linebacker, where he also is failing.
Not his fault, nor the fault of the coaches. Carradine doesn't fit this team. Baalke never should have drafted him or others like him. It's a long story.
Time to go, Trent.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the 'Inside the 49ers' blog for The Press Democrat's website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.