NFL

How Jed York could make things even worse

I don’t want this to devolve into a Smash Mouth roast, since their Twitter behavior seems to consist of a guy (or several) throwing whatever crap against the wall they can find in hopes of going viral. Their recent habit — posting photos as a tribute to recently-deceased celebrities, with their own band logo prominently slapped on as if Smash Mouth themselves sponsored the fatality — shows they’re willing to do and say anything to get attention.

Still, @smashmouth was the source of a pretty funny set of mini-rants and mini-arguments to follow this morning.

This wasn’t the first time Smash Mouth went to bat for Trent Baalke. You might quibble with my rankings, but if you had to rank Baalke’s advocates in terms of loyalty and volume, the order would probably look something like this.

  1. Trent Dilfer
  2. Tim Ryan
  3. Smash Mouth
  4. Bob Fitzgerald
  5. Ted Robinson

Baalke’s standing with 49ers fans is another matter, as the team’s Chief Hoarder of Defensive Backs has gone from being thought of as a shifty, value-driven genius to the most hated non-ownership figure since Lawrence Phillips allowed Aeneas Williams to zoom past him on a blitz and render Steve Young unconscious.

The most likely scenarios to be announced when Jed York speaks with the media next week (and as Tim Kawakami points out, Jed only speaks after terminating an employee) are either (a) Baalke is fired and Chip Kelly stays or (b) Baalke and Kelly both get axed. It doesn’t really matter if that means the Yorks hire someone to oversee football operations who then hires a GM, or they hire/promote a new GM who’s willing to work with Kelly, or they find a new GM who gets to choose his own coach. As long as the Yorks fire Baalke, a large group of fans will be willing to give Jed and his parents the benefit of the doubt — at least through free agency and the draft, anyway.

But what if Jed’s loyalty to Baalke, and Baalke’s loyalty to the Yorks, results in what most fans would consider their ultimate nightmare:

BAALKE STAYS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cphNpqKpKc4

This would certainly mean no more Kelly, because someone has to pay for what will probably be a 2-14 season, and Kelly has gone out of his way to subtly and overtly complain about roster quality. The Baalke/Kelly relationship is surely more cordial than Baalke/Harbaugh was at the end, but it’s probably fairly icy by this point considering the team’s performance and Kelly’s methods of explaining why they lose almost every week.

While keeping Baalke is the least likely scenario, at least as far as conventional wisdom tells us (Jay Glazer reporting that Kelly’s job is safe is still the leader in the clubhouse as far as 2016 San Francisco 49ers leaks go), it’s still possible that Baalke weasels his way through this.

Stop cursing my name for a minute and please, just bear with me as I ask a few questions.

— Other than very few penalties and no character issues (except for Bruce Miller, but he was selected by Baalke and Kelly probably didn’t want him on the roster anyway), what mark has Kelly made on this team (or the NFL as a whole)? Whose talents has he maximized on offense? Couldn’t Baalke concoct an argument that Kelly’s offense, plus his inability to lure a respected defensive coordinator, hampered Baalke’s prized pupils? (Granted, it’s a short list of pupils headlined by DeForest Buckner, who Baalke will probably use as his chief argument for staying … along with @smashmouth’s timeline, of course.)

— Isn’t it possible that Baalke has never gotten to hire his first choice? He wanted Bill Parcells before going out and getting Jim Harbaugh. The York family (including Denise) loved Jim Tomsula and probably still does. And hiring Kelly seemed to be Jed’s way of trying to follow in his uncle’s footsteps when he hired an “innovator” named Bill Walsh. Kelly definitely didn’t seem like a Baalke guy, just based on the latter’s draft priorities.

— The 49ers have nearly 20 guys on injured reserve this year, including 10 starters and several other “contributors.” They also had all of those departures after Harbaugh left — not only the infamous retirements, but free agents fleeing as well (which saved the Yorks a little money over the last two seasons). We all know how ridiculous it is to use those excuses to buoy Baalke’s standing as a general manager — particularly since his freaking job is to maintain depth to avoid getting crushed by injuries in an insanely violent league, and he’s done an exceedingly poor job of finding solutions at quarterback and wide receiver, two positions that are KINDA important in the NFL. But we know there are people who York respects (think the list above, perhaps without Smash Mouth but who knows) who believe it’s Kelly’s fault and not Baalke’s that the team is absolute trash.

***

If Baalke pulls off the unlikely feat of convincing Jed and his parents that he, and he alone, deserves one last chance to not only make the team’s earliest draft selection since Alex Smith, but hire his NUMBER ONE choice for head coach … hoo boy.

I’ve been asked by friends like KNBR 1050 host Ted Ramey if the 49ers have hit rock bottom several times this year (pretty sure I got the same question last year, too — we were so, so naive). My answer is no, the abyss could be never-ending. Because every time I think things can’t get any worse in Santa Clara, they lose to a team like the Bears. Or the Jets. And no matter how bad things get, no one seems to care.

I don’t think Baalke is going to last through next week (I’ve been predicting a promotion for Tom Gamble for months). But these are the Yorks! So anything is possible, including Jed naming Paraag Marathe as Baalke’s replacement.

However, if Baalke — a Parcells disciple who doesn’t possess his mentor’s ability to build a true *team* instead of a collection of assets — gets his chance to make the head coaching hire, with little to no input from the Yorks, we’re looking at an even longer rebuilding period than this would take if the Yorks tore the whole thing down. Whether Baalke went after Tom Coughlin (a rumored candidate in the later stages before they eventually hired Kelly) or someone else from the Parcells coaching tree like Steve Spagnuolo (yuck), it wouldn’t matter.

That’s right, even if Baalke was able to trade for Sean Payton while keeping the No. 2 overall pick, this team will end up going nowhere for the rest of this decade. Baalke isn’t the worst talent evaluator in the world, but he’s stubborn and has shown an inability to shake the terrible habits (this is where you can insert the same jokes about ACL tears and A.J. Jenkins we’ve been hearing for years) that got the 49ers into this mess … despite what a pop-rock act from San Jose might tell you.

And yes, I know most of you will skim this post (or not read any of it at all) before heading to the comments section to make “You’re an All-Star” jokes. Knock yourselves out.

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