Trent Baalke Fired by 49ers: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured Columnist

August 1, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke during training camp at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After six seasons, Trent Baalke has been fired as general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.

Owner Jed York spoke about the decision to part with Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly in the team's announcement Sunday:

I have informed Trent and Chip of my decision to pursue new leadership for our football team. These types of conversations are never easy, especially when they involve people you respect personally and professionally.

Trent gave this organization every ounce of effort he had over the last 12 years and his contributions were integral to the team reaching three straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl. I will forever be grateful for his dedication to the 49ers, and his friendship to me and my family. I wish Trent, Beth and their daughters the very best in whatever the future holds for their family. ...

Despite my feelings for Trent and Chip, I felt the decision to change our football leadership was absolutely necessary. The performance of this team has not lived up to my expectations or those of our fans, and that is truly disappointing. We all expected to see this team progress and develop as the season went on, but unfortunately that did not happen. That is why now is the time to find a new direction for this team.

ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the 49ers were going to fire Baalke along with Kelly.

"It didn't surprise me," Baalke said, per Kevin Jones of KNBR.com. "We've done some awful good things. Some very successful seasons. Unfortunately regret we weren't able to bring a championship to the Bay Area, which they so deserve. ... Wish this organization nothing but the best moving forward. I do see a bright future for them."

Baalke later spoke with Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, saying he has no plans for his future and is going to "take a few days, catch my breath and see what happens."

This move has seemingly been in the works since early December, when NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport suggested during an appearance on KNBR 1050 that Baalke appeared to be in trouble.

"(Baalke) might be in some danger," Rapoport said. "That will play itself out. I know Trent has said himself, this falls on him, and if they go 3-13, 2-14 or whatever, and he's said what he's said, it's tough not to point the finger at him, especially when he's already pointed the finger at himself."

The 49ers promoted Baalke to general manager in January 2011, days before bringing on Jim Harbaugh as head coach. The duo quickly elevated San Francisco toward the top of the NFL, as the 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship Game in each of their first three years together as well as an appearance in the Super Bowl in February 2013.

However, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's tip of Colin Kaepernick's pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the 2014 NFC Championship Game would be the unofficial end of the good times in San Francisco.

Rumblings of internal strife between Harbaugh and Baalke grew louder during the 2014 offseason, and the 49ers finished a disappointing 8-8 before parting ways with Harbaugh, giving Baalke a clear advantage with York.

In a profile of Baalke for The MMQB before the 2014 season, Greg A. Bedard noted the now-former 49ers general manager was not great at interpersonal relationships:

Most inside the 49ers' headquarters are so intimidated by his presence that team president Paraag Marathe pleads with Baalke to attend happy hours that are thrown with the sole purpose of enhancing relations between the football and business sides of the organization.

Then there's Baalke's perceived discord with coach Jim Harbaughβ€”his own hire, by the wayβ€”that stems from the fact that neither man has polished interpersonal skills. In NFL circles, Baalke likes to talk shop with the best and the brightest, but few walk away with a deep understanding of what he is all about. It doesn't appear that any of this has been cultivated by design.

Things continued to spiral for the 49ers after Harbaugh's departure. They went 5-11 in 2015, their worst record in a season since 2007, as the retirements of Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Anthony Davis and Chris Borland during the offseason left their roster undermanned.

San Francisco fired head coach Jim Tomsula after one season, paving the way for Kelly to take over. The 49ers' lack of talent didn't make things easy for Kelly, who finished with a 2-14 record in his only year with the team. The depleted roster was yet another indictment of Baalke's ongoing struggles to get much of an impact from draft picks in recent years.

However, that could have looked different in 2016 if Baalke had listened to those around him. According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, Kelly and others in the organization were interested in drafting Dak Prescott in the 2016 NFL Draft but Baalke said no.

After the team let Tomsula go last January, Baalke told reporters he understood his job would be next if the 49ers didn't show improvement on the field, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:

I appreciate the confidence that ownership has shown in me. But I also understand the gravity of the situation and understand exactly what this fan base looks for and what this ownership looks for. It's the San Francisco 49ers. It's about championships. It's about being in a position to compete for championships. You're not going to win it every year. That's unrealistic to think that. But to put yourself in a position to is really the ultimate goal and that's what we're striving to do.

Though it would be hard for any NFL franchise to survive the exodus of talent San Francisco has endured in recent years, Baalke struggled with what was supposed to be his best asset: player evaluation and development.

The 49ers are not completely devoid of talent. Recent first-round draft picks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner have upside, but few positions on the roster are set for the long-term future.

Baalke was the final piece of the puzzle to fall from that run of success across 2011-14. This was always going to be a difficult year for the 49ers, but things finally reached the point where York had no choice but to make a change.


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