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The Baalke Effect...

He's great but he's no John Schnieder
Originally posted by Ronnie49Lott:
The NFL's Best GMs-
Being a good general manager can be as simple as finding the right quarterback. It can be as complicated as a meddlesome owner forcing you into picks and moves you don't want to make, picks and moves that come to define a reputation.

So we're not going to pretend this is a straightforward exercise. This is a league where coin flips can determine draft position. You don't always get a fair shake. But we still know what a good GM looks like. Perhaps more than in any other field, patience is a virtue. GMing like there's no tomorrow might net you the occasional Josh Gordon. More often, it saddles you with Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. Even in a "what have you done for me lately?" business, the game is best played long.

When you boil it down, a GM can control:

— Who he hires.

— Who he drafts.

— Who he signs, and for how much.

— Who he lets walk, and when.

If you excel in these four areas, you're generally headed toward years of playoff contention. If not, regime change. Even in a sport with so many variables, it's almost always that simple. So as we embark on free agency, here are the league's top 32 GMs, with this year's three new hires written up separately at the end. Without further ado.
1. Bill Belichick - Patriots
2. Ozzie Newsome - Ravens
3. Ted Thompson - Packers
4. John Schneider - Seahawks

5. Trent Baalke - 49ers

Operating as the 49ers' de facto general manager in the 2010 draft, Baalke took Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati in the first round, and Navorro Bowman in the third. He's been on a largely uninterrupted winning streak ever since. Officially named GM in January 2011, Baalke's first move was hiring Jim Harbaugh, who's turned out to be the best coaching prospect since Belichick. Together, Baalke and Harbaugh cleaned up the 2011 draft, and have sent three straight teams to the NFC Championship Game. The paint is peeling in some places. Baalke's 2012 draft class was one of the worst you'll ever see, while his relationship with Harbaugh has reportedly seen better days. It's possible Baalke could eventually lose a power struggle. Until that day comes, he'll continue running circles around his colleagues.

http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/nfl/46433/57/the-nfls-best-gms
Crazy, I didn't even know Bill Belichick was a GM.

My rankings would go like this:
1. Trent Baalke - 49ers - On the scale of: Who he hires (Harbaugh and resigns top internal coaches) — Who he drafts (2012 isn't over yet and 2011/2013 may end up being epic) — Who he signs, and for how much (the FA list last year was the best in the NFL and we barely spent a dime) — Who he lets walk, and when (Goldson but restructures and resigns LT our young core of players; part of the best FO in the game on all these fronts). 2013 seemed like his first real draft. 2012 to me, still feels like one of those drafts he let every key coach pick their player (grades are still out on LaMichael James, Joe Looney, Darius Fleming & Jon Baldwin). Even in 2013, guys such as Cooper and Daniels were also great late picks who played very well for other teams. The fact that this team was so stacked in talent and depth from 2011 on, yet all players were given a fair chance to succeed and did in many cases (i.e. Ian Williams, T. Brock, Alex Boone, TJE, etc.) is incredible. Without a doubt, Baalke has a short-term and long-term approach to keeping us on top of the league for years and years to come. Stock-piling draft picks (most in the NFL every year), signing all the young core players, his eye for talent in the late rounds and as UDFA's and his ability to bring in 2nd and 3rd tier FA moves that pay off BIG TIME has been epic. Couple all of this with the salary cap management and this is the best FO in the game, bar none. My only concern is that at some point, he needs to step in and ensure this offense rises WELL above it's current 30th ranking and ensures the secondary is not smoked in the playoffs for the 3rd straight year. If that requires bringing in a real OC and handing that unit over and/or enforcing some philosophical changes on offense AND defense (i.e scheme), then so be it. But as far as talent, I'm not sure what more he can possibly bring in. The rest is on the coaches to use it and use it properly and the players to execute.
2. John Schneider - Seahawks - The guy made 1,000 moves his first year and clearly brought in the defensive players Pete wanted to a T to fit his mold/scheme/philosophy and it paid off. He was also willing to mortage the future some with some bigger named FA's and it paid off in the end. His ranking can't be higher for now b/c the true test will come from this year on re: the salaray cap management with huge contracts due to be paid (i.e. Sherman, Wilson, etc.).
3. Ozzie Newsome - Ravens - A top-notch GM but a GM's real strength is how he manages the team once you pay your QB big dollars. And so far?
4. Ted Thompson - Packers - Seems to have no issues retooling the offense but every year, his defense is a joke...that's on talent and keeping it.
5. Bill Belichick - Patriots - As a GM? I'm not sure about this one...as a COACH, he is able to plug-and-play guys better than anyone but if he was a stellar GM, he wouldn't have too.
[ Edited by NCommand on Mar 11, 2014 at 7:49 PM ]
Nice post NC. Listening to Casserly, Pioli, et al, (and there are a lot of them),there are a number of principles Baalke adheres to:

1. Pay your own...he has been steadfast in this, and it makes sense over anything else in FA.

2. Except in a very unusual circumstance, don't buy first tier FAs, get value in the 2nd and 3rd levels...usually after weeks one and two. This has been his pattern to date. I think the only way Rivas shows up here is for a drastic pay cut, say comparable to league avg, $8.5 mil because he wants a ring, and just might bring us one. I would rate this as highly unlikely.

3. Balance your pay scales so they make sense and you don't end up paying a guy like Rivas the ungodly sum of $16 mil/yr. This keeps other players happy with sensible salaries for those that deserve it and lesser salaries for those a rung lower than the pro bowlers.

4.Injury...no matter if the guy is the best OT, CB, QB in the world, if he has injury history, chances are you can't count on him when you need him most.

5.Build mainly thru draft, and somehow, we again have 12, maybe 13 picks this yr. I understand he did it, but still have trouble understanding how with 3 seasons in NFCC playoffs including one in SB, he managed to get so many picks. A lot of this is picking someone else's pocket. But yet he does it. This yr, our #1, two 2nds, two 3rds, 2 4ths, 2 5ths(?), a 6th and 3 7ths. For a team that has won so many games in 3 seasons, that is ridiculous, but is classic Baalke.

6. Make good picks...not sure how they did it this past yr, and 2012, but one helluva lot of guys were true quality...if not here, then elsewhere.

7. Don't overpay...Oakland Raiders, just coming out of cap hell, suddenly have what, $59 million to spend. That just tells you they overpaid yr after yr after yr. Their NFC counterpart? Big jer, in Dallas, who desperately need help on D, but without releasing or trading DeMarcus Ware, can't afford to buy anybody. This has to do with item #1.

None of this is news, just a summary. Trent's big deal? Will be how he handles the kap deal. Frankly he is very good Qb, but not great. 30th best O in the league pretty well substantiates that. I don't think Baalke sees kap as the physical specimen JH does. I think he sees him as a kid who still has to learn how to play Qb, and is improving yearly...but clearly, with no SB and 2 real shots at it, doesn't deserve the big money until he has proven he CAN win it all. Had Kap won either of the last two really great shots at a SB, yes, absolutely pay the man. But I think Baalke wants to see if Kap can win a SB. If not in the next two yrs , with all the talent assembled around him, then maybe kap is one of those Dan Marino types, who was a great QB, but just couldn't win the big one. I don't know this but my guess is Baalke is giving kap two yrs to win the SB. If not done then, I could see him traded/released. That would also mean Trent has 1 or 2 very good prospects in the wings. I am curious how interested he is in Colt...does he just walk?

Granted I don't know what Trent is thinking but I believe this pretty well summarizes most of his philosophy. And yes, I did miss a few.
Originally posted by pasodoc9er:
Nice post NC. Listening to Casserly, Pioli, et al, (and there are a lot of them),there are a number of principles Baalke adheres to:

1. Pay your own...he has been steadfast in this, and it makes sense over anything else in FA.

2. Except in a very unusual circumstance, don't buy first tier FAs, get value in the 2nd and 3rd levels...usually after weeks one and two. This has been his pattern to date. I think the only way Rivas shows up here is for a drastic pay cut, say comparable to league avg, $8.5 mil because he wants a ring, and just might bring us one. I would rate this as highly unlikely.

3. Balance your pay scales so they make sense and you don't end up paying a guy like Rivas the ungodly sum of $16 mil/yr. This keeps other players happy with sensible salaries for those that deserve it and lesser salaries for those a rung lower than the pro bowlers.

4.Injury...no matter if the guy is the best OT, CB, QB in the world, if he has injury history, chances are you can't count on him when you need him most.

5.Build mainly thru draft, and somehow, we again have 12, maybe 13 picks this yr. I understand he did it, but still have trouble understanding how with 3 seasons in NFCC playoffs including one in SB, he managed to get so many picks. A lot of this is picking someone else's pocket. But yet he does it. This yr, our #1, two 2nds, two 3rds, 2 4ths, 2 5ths(?), a 6th and 3 7ths. For a team that has won so many games in 3 seasons, that is ridiculous, but is classic Baalke.

6. Make good picks...not sure how they did it this past yr, and 2012, but one helluva lot of guys were true quality...if not here, then elsewhere.

7. Don't overpay...Oakland Raiders, just coming out of cap hell, suddenly have what, $59 million to spend. That just tells you they overpaid yr after yr after yr. Their NFC counterpart? Big jer, in Dallas, who desperately need help on D, but without releasing or trading DeMarcus Ware, can't afford to buy anybody. This has to do with item #1.

None of this is news, just a summary. Trent's big deal? Will be how he handles the kap deal. Frankly he is very good Qb, but not great. 30th best O in the league pretty well substantiates that. I don't think Baalke sees kap as the physical specimen JH does. I think he sees him as a kid who still has to learn how to play Qb, and is improving yearly...but clearly, with no SB and 2 real shots at it, doesn't deserve the big money until he has proven he CAN win it all. Had Kap won either of the last two really great shots at a SB, yes, absolutely pay the man. But I think Baalke wants to see if Kap can win a SB. If not in the next two yrs , with all the talent assembled around him, then maybe kap is one of those Dan Marino types, who was a great QB, but just couldn't win the big one. I don't know this but my guess is Baalke is giving kap two yrs to win the SB. If not done then, I could see him traded/released. That would also mean Trent has 1 or 2 very good prospects in the wings. I am curious how interested he is in Colt...does he just walk?

Granted I don't know what Trent is thinking but I believe this pretty well summarizes most of his philosophy. And yes, I did miss a few.
Fantastic post and I was listenig to CC as well...and he's spot on his assessment. The thing that impressed me was how well Baalke hit on "meh" UDFA/2nd and 3rd Tier FA's. That's an eye for and pulse on talent around the league (non-stop job). And he had in many many more "talent" but they were let go and/or never developed by this staff for a variety of reasons. I have a feeling he'll do the same thing this year and this time, when he brings in someone, I won't just say, "meh" or "camp fodder."
I didn't know it at the time of original post, but pure Baalke. Basically traded Whitner for Bethea, both really rock 'em sock 'em hard hitters, but Bethea is much more likely to prevent a pass being caught than tackling the receiver after the completion. That was my one(and big) complaint about Whitner. Great hitter, but lacking in pass prevention. Bethea is a step up in coverage, and at .5 mil/yr LESS than what Whitner got. PURE BAALKE. Win all the way.

And true to form, I didn't even know who Bethea was until I saw Eonblue's video. Bethea was a guy not in the glittery lites, and nowhere near the top of the FA list. Once I saw the video with #41, I loved the signing. Oh yeah, at .5 mil less per yr than Whitner got. That is Baalke value....at both ends of the deal.
Originally posted by pasodoc9er:
I didn't know it at the time of original post, but pure Baalke. Basically traded Whitner for Bethea, both really rock 'em sock 'em hard hitters, but Bethea is much more likely to prevent a pass being caught than tackling the receiver after the completion. That was my one(and big) complaint about Whitner. Great hitter, but lacking in pass prevention. Bethea is a step up in coverage, and at .5 mil/yr LESS than what Whitner got. PURE BAALKE. Win all the way.

And true to form, I didn't even know who Bethea was until I saw Eonblue's video. Bethea was a guy not in the glittery lites, and nowhere near the top of the FA list. Once I saw the video with #41, I loved the signing. Oh yeah, at .5 mil less per yr than Whitner got. That is Baalke value....at both ends of the deal.

Yeah just noted, hours into FA and the FO has already made 15 great moves!
Originally posted by VANiner:
When I read articles about our "interest" in guys like Revis, Harvin, Bowe, etc., I kind of laugh it off as uninformed media folks writing about what they don't know a thing about. On that note, Mike Sando who covers the NFC West for ESPN, is about the only writer I have seen shoot down most of these rumors...because he actually pays attention to the team.
One thing you have to remember is that many of these guys are writing these articles for attention / traffic on their website. I'm guessing a lot of writers that put out these rumors don't actually believe them.
Originally posted by pasodoc9er:
I didn't know it at the time of original post, but pure Baalke. Basically traded Whitner for Bethea, both really rock 'em sock 'em hard hitters, but Bethea is much more likely to prevent a pass being caught than tackling the receiver after the completion. That was my one(and big) complaint about Whitner. Great hitter, but lacking in pass prevention. Bethea is a step up in coverage, and at .5 mil/yr LESS than what Whitner got. PURE BAALKE. Win all the way.

And true to form, I didn't even know who Bethea was until I saw Eonblue's video. Bethea was a guy not in the glittery lites, and nowhere near the top of the FA list. Once I saw the video with #41, I loved the signing. Oh yeah, at .5 mil less per yr than Whitner got. That is Baalke value....at both ends of the deal.
Agreed with all the above. It could look far better than it does now when the info on the contract is revealed. He may be much cheaper than Whitner.
I really don't get why Ted Thompson is so highly regarded. He picked a guy who was in the argument for being the #1 pick in the late 20's when he had an aging and yearly contract drama queen in Favre at QB and not much else. Besides that draft pick which he gets faar too much credit for he has been ok imo. He shuns FA far too aggressively, and is overly confident in the continued growth of players who have not shown enough to earn that trust. His defense is and has been total garbage for more than a few years and he allows the good players he has on defense walk with out much of a fight while holding onto guys who are mediocre at best.

My argument is that if he had not lucked into Arod, he's nowhere near a top GM.
Baalke doing a great job already at a time I was sure would be slow & quiet for the 49ers! I love our front office so much!
Baalke is BOSSS
Two low key trades today that are smart IMO. Gabbert is a 24 year old QB with a ton of talent, and starting experience. Not only that, you add in the motivation Kap will get from remembering that Gabbert was drafted ahead of him. All of this for a late pick that probably would have been a rookie that was cut from the team.

Martin is a talented and young OL. He does not need to be the mainstay for this OL which will take pressure off him. He has first round talent, and it sounds like we are getting him for a 6th or 7th pick. Again, another pick that would have probably been thrown away on a rookie.

Good stuff, Trent!
Originally posted by TheRatMan13:
Two low key trades today that are smart IMO. Gabbert is a 24 year old QB with a ton of talent, and starting experience. Not only that, you add in the motivation Kap will get from remembering that Gabbert was drafted ahead of him. All of this for a late pick that probably would have been a rookie that was cut from the team.

Martin is a talented and young OL. He does not need to be the mainstay for this OL which will take pressure off him. He has first round talent, and it sounds like we are getting him for a 6th or 7th pick. Again, another pick that would have probably been thrown away on a rookie.

Good stuff, Trent!

Exactly...both 1st/2nd round talent at 6-7th round prices. Sort of like Dorsey last year!
Originally posted by tohara3:
Baalke doing a great job already at a time I was sure would be slow & quiet for the 49ers! I love our front office so much!

Same here!
Originally posted by NCommand:
Originally posted by pasodoc9er:
Nice post NC. Listening to Casserly, Pioli, et al, (and there are a lot of them),there are a number of principles Baalke adheres to:

1. Pay your own...he has been steadfast in this, and it makes sense over anything else in FA.

2. Except in a very unusual circumstance, don't buy first tier FAs, get value in the 2nd and 3rd levels...usually after weeks one and two. This has been his pattern to date. I think the only way Rivas shows up here is for a drastic pay cut, say comparable to league avg, $8.5 mil because he wants a ring, and just might bring us one. I would rate this as highly unlikely.

3. Balance your pay scales so they make sense and you don't end up paying a guy like Rivas the ungodly sum of $16 mil/yr. This keeps other players happy with sensible salaries for those that deserve it and lesser salaries for those a rung lower than the pro bowlers.

4.Injury...no matter if the guy is the best OT, CB, QB in the world, if he has injury history, chances are you can't count on him when you need him most.

5.Build mainly thru draft, and somehow, we again have 12, maybe 13 picks this yr. I understand he did it, but still have trouble understanding how with 3 seasons in NFCC playoffs including one in SB, he managed to get so many picks. A lot of this is picking someone else's pocket. But yet he does it. This yr, our #1, two 2nds, two 3rds, 2 4ths, 2 5ths(?), a 6th and 3 7ths. For a team that has won so many games in 3 seasons, that is ridiculous, but is classic Baalke.

6. Make good picks...not sure how they did it this past yr, and 2012, but one helluva lot of guys were true quality...if not here, then elsewhere.

7. Don't overpay...Oakland Raiders, just coming out of cap hell, suddenly have what, $59 million to spend. That just tells you they overpaid yr after yr after yr. Their NFC counterpart? Big jer, in Dallas, who desperately need help on D, but without releasing or trading DeMarcus Ware, can't afford to buy anybody. This has to do with item #1.

None of this is news, just a summary. Trent's big deal? Will be how he handles the kap deal. Frankly he is very good Qb, but not great. 30th best O in the league pretty well substantiates that. I don't think Baalke sees kap as the physical specimen JH does. I think he sees him as a kid who still has to learn how to play Qb, and is improving yearly...but clearly, with no SB and 2 real shots at it, doesn't deserve the big money until he has proven he CAN win it all. Had Kap won either of the last two really great shots at a SB, yes, absolutely pay the man. But I think Baalke wants to see if Kap can win a SB. If not in the next two yrs , with all the talent assembled around him, then maybe kap is one of those Dan Marino types, who was a great QB, but just couldn't win the big one. I don't know this but my guess is Baalke is giving kap two yrs to win the SB. If not done then, I could see him traded/released. That would also mean Trent has 1 or 2 very good prospects in the wings. I am curious how interested he is in Colt...does he just walk?

Granted I don't know what Trent is thinking but I believe this pretty well summarizes most of his philosophy. And yes, I did miss a few.
Fantastic post and I was listenig to CC as well...and he's spot on his assessment. The thing that impressed me was how well Baalke hit on "meh" UDFA/2nd and 3rd Tier FA's. That's an eye for and pulse on talent around the league (non-stop job). And he had in many many more "talent" but they were let go and/or never developed by this staff for a variety of reasons. I have a feeling he'll do the same thing this year and this time, when he brings in someone, I won't just say, "meh" or "camp fodder."

And when you follow these principles, you don't have needless locker room politics based on MONEY. When the leaders on the team get paid the most $ and you don't have a FA that comes in and resets the bar forcing salary cap Armageddon, you don't have to make the case to any player why "you're not getting paid more than Patrick Willis".