The San Francisco 49ers sit at 1-11. Naturally, everyone has an opinion on what’s going wrong. In an interview on 95.7, former 49ers’ coach Mike Nolan expressed his.
Nolan came to the defense of beleaguered general manager Trent Baalke. The former San Francisco head man really only blamed Baalke for picking Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly as the last two head coaches.
“At least identify the problem correctly. It’s about players first, and I think they have the right guy in place to pick the players,” H/T Grant Cohn, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “But unfortunately for Trent, I think the choice of Tomsula hurt him, and currently right now Chip Kelly is not helping him either. All of a sudden you say, ‘Look, we can’t keep (Baalke), he’s the one that picked the last two guys,’ I guess is maybe what they’re saying. I’m not sure overall. Nonetheless, that’s a blemish that Trent is going to have to carry a little bit.”
There’s an element of truth here.
Tomsula coached the 49ers to a 5-11 record in one season, a downgrade from 8-8 in Jim Harbaugh’s final year. But the record wasn’t his problem. Tomsula’s problem was that he appeared completely overwhelmed on the sideline and in other head coach duties — such as press conferences.
Kelly doesn’t have that problem. But after winning in Week 1, San Francisco has fired off 11 straight losses. The play of Colin Kaepernick has been the only occasional bright spot, but even he’s been largely inconsistent. Firing a coach after one season may seem harsh, especially given that the previous coach also lasted only one year. But if Kelly goes 1-15 or 2-14 in a year that produces virtually no positives, it’s a real consideration.
The problem is that Nolan is overlooking Baalke’s other mistakes.
Baalke has made some decent first round picks for the 49ers. After that, though, he’s had only a few hits and a lot of spectacular failures. When you stack his draft resume against John Schneider of the Seattle Seahawks, it’s not hard to see why the teams have gone in such opposite directions since meeting in the NFC Championship Game following the 2013 season.
The quarterback position has been a real problem for San Francisco, as well. Since taking Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft, Baalke has selected two quarterbacks — B.J. Daniels (seventh round, 2013), and Jeff Driskel (6th round, 2016). The 49ers entered 2015 and 2016 with Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert as the only real quarterback options on the roster.
When San Francisco was a Super Bowl contender, Baalke would often draft players coming off of injuries with good physical tools. With one of the more talented rosters in the NFL, it made some sense. But when the talent from the Super Bowl contending teams left, none of the “redshirt” players made any real impact.
That’s all on Baalke.
So, what’s Nolan doing here? Maybe angling for a job? Maybe something else entirely. But while criticism of Tomsula and Kelly is certainly fair, Nolan’s defense of Baalke is out of place.