It’s unlikely we’ll ever know how much of a role GM Trent Baalke played in decimating the 49ers’ coaching staff at the end of the 2014 season. There’s no doubt about Jed York‘s role. He wasn’t clever enough to disguise it and looked like a fool trying to disown it.
But Baalke, as he always has, flew beneath the radar. This is a guy who seized his chance when former GM Scot McCloughan drank himself out of town and made the most of it. He’s outlasted two head coaches and carved out for himself perhaps the most powerful role in the organization in the process. And all without ever saying beep about squat.
He stayed in the background while Mike Singletary bungled his way out the door. He stayed in the background while Jim Harbaugh turned the franchise, including Baalke and York, into a roaring success. And he let York be the point man in sabotaging Harbaugh.
But he won’t be in the background any longer. When he blurted himself into the introductory presser for Jim Tomsula, he let everyone know who was in charge, who was THE MAN.
Without Harbaugh around to work miracles even if Baalke flunks FA or the draft, Baalke will have to succeed or fail on his own now. Tomsula is his guy. The players are his, too.
Harbaugh provided Baalke with a safety net. In 2012, Baalke hit a complete zero in the draft, but Harbaugh went to the SB anyway, and nobody thought to criticize Baalke. But he’s up on the high wire alone now. His FA signings and this 2015 draft will be more scrutinized and pawed over than at any time in his tenure. Let’s hope he enjoys the exposure. And that he’s as good as he thinks he is.