From subpar drafts to an avoidance (refusal?) to sign big-money free agents to his force-out of coach Jim Harbaugh after the 2014 season, general manager Trent Baalke has made a mess of the Niners. As Schwab notes, Baalke and the team did have to deal with an almost unprecedented offseason in 2015, as a litany of key players decided to retire. But from this spot, the most inexplicable move might be shoving Harbaugh out the door.
Harbaugh turned the 49ers around immediately upon being hired in 2011, taking a 6-10 team in 2010 to a 13-3 record and appearance in the NFC Championship game, the first time since 1997 the franchise went that deep into the postseason. From 2003-2010, as San Francisco cycled through three head coaches (plus two interims), they averaged less than six wins per year; in four seasons under Harbaugh, they averaged 11 wins a year.
Is Harbaugh difficult to work with and basically an odd duck? Yes. But is he the only one? And this is the NFL – isn’t it basically an unwritten rule that difficult personalities and headaches are endured if they’re good at their job? Patriots Hall of Fame running back Kevin Faulk told a story this year for an ESPN the Magazine story that he said “good morning” to Belichick every morning for three years – three years! – before Belichick finally looked up and responded.
On the Hot Seat
Trent Baalke, GM, San Francisco: The 49ers’ loss in Super Bowl XLVII seems so long ago. Owner Jed York and Baalke may be friends, but Baalke is not doing a good job for his franchise.
John Fox, Chicago: Fox is known for his teams enjoying a second-year bump under his watch – his Panthers enjoyed a four-win improvement from his first year in charge to his second, and the Broncos saw a five-win improvement. But barring a major turnaround, that’s unlikely to happen in Chicago, which is 1-5 and with seeming no answer as to what to do at quarterback: stick with Brian Hoyer or go back to Jay Cutler once Cutler is healthy?
Seat’s Still Warm
Mike McCoy, San Diego: McCoy bought himself some time when the Chargers picked up a divisional win over the Denver Broncos last Thursday, but play in Atlanta this week in a game that could be a shootout.
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis: Coming off the Colts’ meltdown loss in Houston on Sunday night, when they gave up 14 points in the last 2:37 and lost the game in overtime, Pagano told reporters he was “encouraged”. His optimism is admirable, but there’s no way to spin it: that was a terrible loss to the Texans.
Ryan Grigson, GM, Indianapolis: It’s pretty well documented how we feel about him. Pagano said the Colts are currently a three-quarters team and have to become a fourth-quarter team. That’s when veterans and experienced players who know the system come in handy. You know, the type of players the Colts would have if Grigson’s first couple of drafts weren’t so bad.