NFL

New coach, same story (and the clock ticks for Trent Baalke)

gab

It took less than a minute for it all to evaporate. The perception of the Seahawks as a broken team with the worst offensive line in NFL history, a gimpy Russell Wilson, and no way to consistently move the ball downfield. The perception of the 49ers as an upstart who could give Seattle a fight and beat the 9.5-point spread heading into this game, which turned out just like so many recent games at CenturyLink — worse, even.

The Seahawks are now back in a familiar position: favorites to win the NFC West. The division seems to be regressing as a whole, with the Cardinals losing badly to Buffalo. The Rams seem to be figuring things out after a weird and total collapse at Levi’s to start the season, so we’re back to the easy assumption most of us made when the season began.

That’s right, the 49ers are also in an all-too-familiar position: favorites to finish last in the division. The good news? With their glaring offensive needs, finishing last — not just in the NFC West, but overall — could be the best-case scenario.

Yes, this was Tomsulery 2.0. And Trent Baalke probably won’t be the team’s General Manager for long.

That doesn’t mean we should expect a midseason transition, unless the promotion of Tom Gamble to Asst. GM before the season signaled Jed York’s plan. The Yorks generally prefer to bring out the guillotine as a cleansing instrument after the last regular season game, so expect Baalke to wear a protective neck brace made of kevlar on Jan. 1, the day the 49ers host the Seahawks.

Today the 49ers dropped an all-time stinker in Seattle. It wasn’t just the final score (37-18 if you didn’t sit through the fourth quarter). It was how the game started — Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin slicing through a defense that resembled wet toilet paper. How the 49ers responded offensively arguably was even worse, with vanilla plays, short/ineffective passes from Blaine Gabbert (who isn’t even close to a long-term answer). That Gabbert only threw one interception and didn’t absorb a sack did nothing to wipe the stench away. Nor did scoring 15 puntos de basura in the last eight minutes of a game after trailing 37-3.

So, while Chip Kelly brought the English language back to the team’s press conferences, and a few of the faces on the field are different, this season has been close to a complete replica of the first three games of 2015.

  • Week 1: Blowout win late Monday night (they’re back, baby)
  • Week 2: Statistically dominated on the road early Sunday morning, on short rest, by a good team with some positive notes sprinkled in to keep the fans interested (tough game, not all is lost)
  • Week 3: Embarrassed on a Sunday afternoon by a division rival (reality is upon us, and it is unrelentingly painful)

How do we break this cycle? Kelly is safe. Gabbert isn’t, or at least he shouldn’t be. But who’s going to remedy this situation? Colin Kaepernick, even at full health and musculature, might represent an incremental improvement. But the answer is becoming clearer to all.

A GM who spends his ample draft capital mostly on defense, yet doesn’t have any pass rushers to show for it, shouldn’t feel comfortable in his current position. A GM who let his former star QB twist in the wind, seemingly confident that in Gabbert he had an option that no one else realized was franchise caliber, most certainly doesn’t feel comfortable in his current position.

The defense has shown glimpses of okayness. We can give Baalke that. It was excellent against the Rams and made some big plays in Carolina (while allowing 500+ yards, but nonetheless). But there are no surefire stars there, at least not yet. (The only players to register sacks were Ahmad Brooks and Glenn Dorsey, two players who are in the twilight of their careers.) And everyone thought Seattle’s offensive was impotent … until the second snap of today’s game, that is.

In the most important draft of Baalke’s career, he waited to draft an skill position player until round SIX. The first was running back Kelvin Taylor, who is now on the practice squad. Quarterback Jeff Driskel and wide receiver Aaron Burbridge capped a threesome of offensive draftees Baalke took in the sixth round; Driskel is a Cincinnati Bengal and Burbridge is looking for his first career NFL reception.

The 49ers started out 0-for-10 on third down, finally breaking the drought when Gabbert completed an 11-yard pass to Torrey Smith on 3rd-and-3 with under 12 minutes to go. Smith led the 49ers with 35 (yes, 35) receiving yards on the day.

The Seahawks were bound to have a game in which they showed that they’re still one of the league’s better teams, but the 49ers seemed pretty comfortable allowing them to regain their stride.

Talent, eventually, wins out. The Seahawks have stars on both sides of the ball, players taken in nearly every round of the draft who consistently win their matchups more often than not. The 49ers don’t have stars. They employ a roster that looks frustratingly similar to the mediocre group Baalke put together a year ago, a roster that looks worse with more exposure and will likely require years of patience to bear fruit. The Yorks didn’t exactly throw down big money to bolster this team, and that surely wasn’t Baalke’s call. But with the young Jedi’s hatred of Seattle and Baalke’s roster doldrums, patience has to be running thin. If the Yorks ever decide to bump their spending back toward the cap ceiling, it appears unlikely that Baalke will be the one doing the shopping.

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31 Comments on "New coach, same story (and the clock ticks for Trent Baalke)"

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calibear559
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calibear559

BASportsGuy fire balke

TJV__3
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TJV__3

BASportsGuy If Baalke goes, would a quality gm take the position if he can’t bring in his own hc?

mcguire49ers
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mcguire49ers

BASportsGuy agree fire Balke

BASportsGuy
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BASportsGuy

TJV__3 Good question … this is why I would expect an internal promotion like Gamble (or Paraag!)

jmethlouthi
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jmethlouthi

BASportsGuy the #49 ers fanbase would sell their collective souls to have Brian Hoyer start for them at QB.

TJV__3
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TJV__3

BASportsGuy that’s what I was afraid of. You would think Gamble had plenty of input on the current bad roster.

Option_Zero
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Option_Zero

BASportsGuy dude didn’t bring in any free agent talent this year, can he be surprised at this? Must have been told he’s safe

BASportsGuy
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BASportsGuy

Option_Zero Are we sure he was allowed to spend?

Option_Zero
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Option_Zero

BASportsGuy a GM with job on line spends some fucking money if he has any self preservation sense

Option_Zero
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Option_Zero

BASportsGuy weren’t they swimming in cap space thanks to retirements? If York wasn’t gonna allow spending just fire him now

gschwenk16
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gschwenk16

BASportsGuy too bad its not ticking for Jedd. Baalke deserves much of the blame but it’s Jedd’s team. Incompetent and cheap.

MilpitasNinerGu
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MilpitasNinerGu

BASportsGuy has an NFL GM ever devalued the QB position more than Baalke?

DenverDrew44
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DenverDrew44

BASportsGuy good article. Hope you’re right because Baalke is terrible. Bet Gamble is next GM as in house hire’s #PureYork #FailTheFaithful

MikeClark7
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MikeClark7

I guess they decided to take the protest to a new level and just layed down for the game.

coredump
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coredump

BASportsGuy TJV__3  You’re almost certainly correct; I assume you’re (somewhat) kidding about Paraag the GM, but it’d be par for the course in lil’ Jed’s tenure.  The dysfunction almost takes you back to the Donahue years, eh?
I can’t shake the feeling that this team is going to get a lot worse before it starts to get any better; and the near-incessant focus of many fans on the starting QB really misses the point:  the off-field problems have to be fixed before the on-field problems can be sorted out.

PhillipPhipps
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PhillipPhipps

BASportsGuy The sooner they fire the clown the better! Basically he’s put together a roster mainly consisting of back ups & average starter

coredump
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coredump

TJV__3 BASportsGuy  Most likely not. But I think we’ve also seen that the Niners aren’t a sought-after destination for coaches and management anymore, not if they have other options.  Likewise with free agent players, almost certainly.

You can’t have the Niners’ run of public dysfunction, rumors, alleged politics, and even just smoke=fire speculation around the league and media, without a corresponding impact on hiring and recruiting.

Coolhandluke_25
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Coolhandluke_25

BASportsGuy Can’t see the Yorks swallowing another coaches salary. Baalke must be sweating

PhillipPhipps
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PhillipPhipps

BASportsGuy Somewhere in Michigan Jim Harbaugh is grinning from ear to ear and laughing his ass off

AndrewSilva253
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AndrewSilva253

BASportsGuy god I missed your 49er articles.

MilpitasNinerGuy
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MilpitasNinerGuy

Not addressing the QB situation for years is a fireable offense. For a franchise that won SBs with Montana and Young, I can’t understand for the life of me why the Yorks allow Baalke to completely devalue the position.
Every year that passes, I’m more amazed at what kind of coach Harbaugh must be to turn out those results.

MilpitasNinerGuy
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MilpitasNinerGuy

Nor should they. It remains to be seen how successful Chip can be in the NFL, but there’s no doubt he’s not coaching with a full deck right now.
Every other team seems to find QB and WR talent. Not us.

laughlikeahyena
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laughlikeahyena
At least the 49ers are in good position after this season. My personal expectations for them was to have at least a decent o-line and see if they had a QB on the team. The o-line is better than decent, it’s pretty good, only giving up 2 sacks. That leaves QB and we all can see that Gabbert is not the answer. I ultimately want to see Kaepernick in Kelly’s offense, but he’s probably still recuperating from off-season surgery. The 49ers will have the most amount of draft picks, albeit late round and mid round compensatory (i.e. non-tradeable) picks. They… Read more »
fuzzysuzie
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fuzzysuzie

Yea, I missed them too!

Paly64
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Paly64

Hue Jackson chose to live/work in Cleveland rather than San Francisco. I live in Ohio and like what I’ve seen of Cleveland, but come on. That must say something about the organization.

Dudeman2134
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Dudeman2134

Man, those teams from 2011-2014 look even better now which, shockingly, lost talent as Baalke’s reign progressed. Can we get a banner to fly over Santa Clara that condemns both Jed and Trent?

aeolus24
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aeolus24

Despite all the spin, hoopla and media circus about the hiring of Kelly, it’s the players that make the team. 
No real changes last year to this year, a few more athletes but no big name receivers, no impressive QB and the past years of drafts have been pretty much a giant bust.
Harbaugh looks better and better right now. Baalke like far too many of his picks have been a bust.

NinerRich
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NinerRich
Trent must not even have pride in himself. How can anyone continue to be so bad at assembling a football team and not feel humiliated? It’s embarrassing! He not only makes it embarrassing for himself and the organization but as a die hard Niner fan I am getting tired of feeling embarrassed when I see the Bills destroy the Cards and we can’t even stop a couple of back up players!!!! My God man!!!!! This team looks like a train wreck!!! Trent has got to go!!!! I think it is now without question that there is not going to be… Read more »
Tom Jimsula
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Tom Jimsula

The problem is the organization is rotting from the top on down.   Either we need new ownership or hope that Jed will be tired of losing and hire a solid President of Football Operations and get the heck out of the way.
If no, we will be living with a poor man’s Chis Cohan ownership and the losing it brings for generations.

coredump
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coredump

@Tom Jimsula  Another possible longshot:  Mommy & Dr. John get tired of losing, take away lil Jed’s toy, hire a football guy President, etc.
But again, as long as the stadium is well-booked with Taylor Swift, WWE and monster truck rallies, the money rolls in and the York Clan are happy.

lime
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lime

Finish 2-14, draft Lamar Jackson QB, get another good draft pick in 2018 draft, get rid of Kelly bring in David Shaw for 2018 season! Back to relevance!

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