There is a distinct difference between a player being suspended for a performance enhancing substance and breaking the law the motivations and circumstances are fundamentally different. But when it happens to the team, it’s time to ask the hard questions. What ties these events together? The only consistent pieces of the equation are CEO Jed York and General Manager Trent Baalke.
Baalke is clearly willing to look beyond a player’s previous indiscretions during college and take a chance in the hope that they will turn out to be contributing members of the team. His tendency to draft injured players is also a common thread during his tenure as general manager. While every team takes a chance on players during the draft selection process, there’s a consistent – and disturbing – theme to Baalke’s picks; players end up in trouble on or off the field. That’s the norm for these 49ers.
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Dating back to 2012 there have been 12 different scenarios involving a player from the team getting into legal trouble. 5 of those incidents were involving the same player, but was still bad enough to rank the team in the top five in the league. Let that sink in for a bit. Top. Five. Over 4 years. Whether it is a first time offender of league rules like Aaron Lynch or a multiple time offender like Aldon Smith, the core issue is still the same; suspensions and legal problems just continue to happen on this team. While the blame has to go somewhere, you can be certain that Jed York will make sure it takes a very long time to make its way up to ownership.
For fans that wish that Jed York would remove himself from the franchise, there’s no silver lining. I feel that is next to impossible. Given the profitability of the team and stadium it is clear that he won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Rather than admit to a mistake Jed would easily prefer to add Trent’s name to his list of scapegoats along with Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula, the Hound, and Walder Frey as he repeats the names to himself before going to bed every night…sorry I got my wires crossed there.
Back to Baalke…his draft resume goes beyond these character based picks and continually selecting injured players. As the general manager in 2012 he missed on an entire draft, meaning that not one player from that draft remains on the team at this point. And since that dumpster fire of a draft, out of thirty total players selected by the team only one has been to the pro bowl. It is fair to say that without a capable head coach and staff players will only do so well. Except for the fact that Baalke’s fingerprints were all over the decision to move on from Jim Harbaugh as well as insert Jim Tomsula as his replacement.
Perhaps Trent had no way of knowing how much of a magnet for police activity Aldon Smith would become or that a quality selection like Chris Borland would decide to retire. But when the front office swears that “class” is a focal point for the team then turns around and signs a clearly questionable player like Jerome Simpson knowing that he is going to be suspended by the league it offers yet another reminder of the lack of decision making in this front office.
In previous articles I’ve mentioned my optimism about the 2016 draft class and still maintain that the team could see instant impact from a few of the selections. But this trip down memory lane has made it painfully clear that there should be a new general manager for the 49ers after this season regardless of how this draft class performs.