With the departures of Patrick Willis, Ray McDonald, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore, the Mike Nolan/Scot McCloughan draft era is just about wrapped up. There are only two guys left: Joe Staley and Vernon Davis. And only one FA signing — Justin Smith.
Hard to believe, but GM Trent Baalke has been on the job now for five years. This will be his sixth draft. As you can see from the talent listed above, the 49ers’ previous success rested on the backs of the Nolan/McCloughan players. From here on out, it will be Baalke’s team, win or lose.
The fact that the Nolan/McCloughan core players defined this team for ten years gives you an idea of how much good or bad a GM can do for a franchise. Are Baalke’s draft picks and FA signings going to define the team for the next ten years? If so, what is that definition going to be?
If I’m Baalke, I’m thinking right now that my legacy is currently in the hands of Jim Tomsula, who is not an NFL caliber Head Coach. Tomsula is not going to bring out the best in my players, like Jim Harbaugh did for Nolan & McCloughan’s players. In fact, I’m not even going to let Tomsula coach the effing team. Here’s some pom-poms, Jimmy. I’ll coach the team myself.
That’s not a very smart move, but it’s the only move Jed York left him with when York insisted that Tomsula be either the DC (so long, Adam Gase) or, by default, the HC. I’m willing at this point to give Baalke the benefit of the doubt for not being so incredibly stupid that he actually thinks Tomsula is the man for the job. If I’m wrong about that, then there won’t be anything to cheer about in 49erland for a long, long time. Ten years might be the short end of a screw up that monumental.
At this point, the jury is still out on whether Baalke is even an above average GM. Let alone competent to coach the team. Signing Torrey Smith looks good on paper, but the other FA signings so far look like recycled junk. The upcoming draft is critical for Baalke, even more so now that the guys he drafts are the ones he’s going to coach. It will be interesting to see if he still spends picks on torn ACL guys who can’t play for a year.