— Matthew Snelson (@matthewsnelson7) September 3, 2015
The 49ers’ sense of timing is a little off. Everyone watching Carlos Hyde knew he was running on a bum wheel, but the 49ers gave him a full workload against Baltimore and sent him to the wolves (i.e. Seahawks) less than a week later before deciding maybe the stress fracture in his foot required a little rest.
Today they added running back Kendall Gaskins to the active roster and waived Jarryd Hayne, the Australian Rugby League Football star who made several highlight plays in the preseason and fumbled a few times too many as a punt returner during the regular season.
While unexpected, the move makes sense on the surface.
- Hayne isn’t a fully formed running back.
- The 49ers probably got tired of adding “fumble-prone returner” to their long list of roster shortcomings each week.
- Hayne was inactive against Seattle.
- With Hyde out on Sunday, the 49ers wanted insurance in case Reggie Bush gets hurt again, since they didn’t have confidence in Hayne and rookie Mike Davis looks very easy to tackle so far.
The 49ers are reportedly hoping he’ll clear waivers and join their practice squad. Maybe that will happen. The Seahawks had interest in Hayne before he signed with the 49ers, and they seem to love any and all former Niners, but their roster calculus may not allow for an Aussie addition. The Raiders need a returner, but they already have plenty of running backs.
But if the 49ers lost faith in Hayne now, less than halfway through the season, why did they add him to the first 53-man roster coming out of camp? He started learning a brand new sport less than a year ago, so obviously there were going to be growing pains. He has NFL size and speed, and his elusiveness in space seemed like a valuable asset on a team that isn’t exactly stocked with playmakers. Plus, the 49ers are 2-5 and headed to the front of the 2016 NFL Draft line, so developing prospects is what they should be doing anyway.
This is the team that doesn’t hesitate to draft guys coming off ACL tears. They messed around with Lawrence Okoye for multiple years. Suddenly Hayne is not game-ready enough for this organization?
Again, there’s plenty of football logic to today’s move. Several longtime American football players on the roster and practice squad probably thought he was a gimmick who shouldn’t have been on the team. Some coaches may have felt that way as well. He did fumble three times. But the move to sign him showed rare creativity from the front office, and anyone who knew Hayne’s story understood that he was dealing with a drastic learning curve.
Taking all of this into consideration, the decision to sign Hayne looks like a money grab. After a horrendous offseason, Hayne’s presence excited not just his home country of Australia, but 49ers fans who were DYING for a fun story. His jersey was featured in the team store before the final roster was announced. The team’s social media department posted Hayne videos and “Hayne Plane” tweets (complete with airplane emojis) at every opportunity this summer. Once the buzz died down and the jerseys stopped selling, the 49ers no longer had any use for him — perhaps the cons outweighed the $$$.