The San Francisco 49ers have all sorts of problems. The roster has young talent, but not nearly enough talent to be consistently competitive. The game-planning has had problems when it comes to the second half. Some will blame Trent Baalke, some will blame Chip Kelly, and some will blame both.
While plenty will blame the York family for the team’s current failures, we’re left to focus on what can actually change. The Yorks are not going anywhere, which means the team is approaching a point where it needs to make a decision about the current state of the franchise.
There is plenty of talk about firing Trent Baalke. Whether you agree with that or not, it is in the conversation. Back in 2015, when the 49ers “mutually parted ways” with head coach Jim Harbaugh, Jed York talked about accountability. He was asked when Trent Baalke would be held accountable, and he said, “Do you have a stopwatch?”
It is entirely possible the 49ers do not fire Trent Baalke after this season. I think they will barring some dramatic turnaround, but anything is possible. If they do fire Baalke, the plans for hiring a new general manager will have some complications revolving around head coach Chip Kelly.
The team hired Kelly this past offseason to what is being reported as a four-year, $24 million contract. Frequently, when teams are firing their general manager, it is part of a complete overhaul when the team hits rock bottom. The 49ers are in the discussion for worst team in the NFL, but I am not certain they have officially reached rock bottom.
The overhauls usually involve firing the GM and coach in large part because a new general manager is going to want to hire his own coach. He wants someone who has a similar philosophy when it comes to personnel. Rather than force a coach to put square pegs into round holes, hiring a GM and then a coach can ease the transition.
If the 49ers fire Baalke, but don’t fire Kelly, does that all but guarantee Tom Gamble gets promoted from assistant general manager? The 49ers promoted Gamble from senior personnel executive to assistant general manager this past summer. Gamble spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons in Philadelphia. He worked with then Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman during that time. Gamble was fired at the end of the 2014 season amidst a power struggle between Kelly and Roseman.
Kelly and Gamble seem pretty close, which would seem to set up a good working relationship in Santa Clara, if that is how things play out. If the 49ers fire Baalke, but retain Kelly, any potential GM interview candidate would know he is coming in to a situation with an existing head coach. It is possible some candidates would jump at the chance to work with Kelly. Or, it is just a sign that Gamble is the guy who would replace a potentially fired Baalke.