Jonathan Martin Reuniting with Jim Harbaugh Best-Case Scenario for His Career

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterMarch 12, 2014

AP Images

For those of you who thought offensive tackle Jonathan Martin would never play football again, think again. The San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins agreed to a trade late Tuesday night.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the 49ers traded a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015 for Martin’s services. 

As Schefter notes, the only way the Dolphins get the pick from the 49ers is if Martin is on San Francisco’s opening-day roster in September. At the moment, there’s no guarantee he will be, yet a lot can change from now until the start of the 2014 season. 

If Martin wants to rehab his image and make a name for himself in the NFL, reuniting with head coach Jim Harbaugh is the best thing that could have happened to him. Why? Because Harbaugh believes San Francisco’s locker room is similar to Stanford's. 

Here’s what was said when investigator Ted Wells interviewed Harbaugh for the Ted Wells report, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk

Coach Harbaugh emphasized that he never doubted Martin’s physical or mental toughness, and he believes that Martin can continue to have a successful career in the NFL. Coach Harbaugh also said that the atmosphere in the Stanford locker room, in his view, was not materially different from that of the San Francisco 49ers’ locker room.

Martin should be jumping for joy if that truly is the case. Not only does he get the fresh start he desperately needed, but he also gets to go to a familiar environment. Shoot, even a few of the 49ers offensive linemen have chimed in and welcomed the third-year pro with open arms. 

Despite some chatter that Martin isn’t strong enough to take life in the NFL, it seems like Coach Harbaugh, general manager Trent Baalke and the players believe his skill set will be an asset to the 49ers. 

While Martin’s play has mostly been viewed as a disappointment through two seasons, he did string together a couple of impressive performances in 2013. According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he tallied a plus-1.2 grade overall against the Indianapolis Colts (Week 2) and a plus-0.7 grade overall versus the Atlanta Falcons (Week 3). 

During those two starts, Martin surrendered one quarterback sack, zero quarterback hits and two quarterback hurries. Even though the sample size was incredibly small last year, he flashed the necessary talent to be seen as a solid contributor in the NFL. 

Pro Football Focus

Nonetheless, Martin still has a long way to go before he lives up to his lofty draft status. He needs to become a more consistent player. In 2012 and 2013, there were too many periods where he would have a fine showing one week and completely bomb the following week. 

The second thing Martin needs to do is be more of a physical player at the point of attack. When you go back and watch the tape, it’s evident that he gets pushed around far too often in the run game. Per PFF, he amassed a minus-6.0 run-block grade in 2012 and a minus-5.5 in 2013. 

The good news is, the 49ers have one of the best offensive coaching staffs in the league. This, in turn, will aid Martin’s development if he takes to the coaching. Since Harbaugh and co. rolled into town, they have coached up young players like Anthony Davis, Alex Boone and Daniel Kilgore. 

SANTA CLARA, CA - JULY 30: Daniel Kilgore #67 of the San Francisco 49ers participate in drills during practice at the San Francisco 49ers training facility on July 30, 2011 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Could Martin be the next offensive lineman coached up by San Francisco’s staff? 

Obviously, we won’t know the answer to that question until a later date, yet all it takes is one team to trust in a particular player. And as I mentioned before, Coach Harbaugh has already said he “believes Martin can continue to have a successful career in the NFL.”

In time, this sentiment could end up being true, but let’s not forget Martin still has to make the 53-man roster. This means he will have to supplant one of San Francisco’s backups in training camp, which is no easy task.  

Adam Snyder, Joe Looney and Carter Bykowski have all been with the 49ers for at least one season, so they have a leg up in terms of familiarity and coaching. Nevertheless, Martin does have the on-the-field talent to unseat Snyder and Bykowski. Furthermore, he has tremendous upside and offers versatility as a swing tackle, the same role Snyder played in 2013. 

With that being said, Martin reuniting with Harbaugh is the best-case scenario for his career. Yes, he will have to earn his stripes and make a name for himself, but that should be a whole lot easier now that he has escaped a futile locker room. 

Kudos to Harbaugh and Baalke; the trade is a low-risk, high-reward deal that could pay immediate dividends.


Follow @TysonNFL