Alert Follow us at @49erswz until Twitter fixes the issues with our official account.

Personnel and Personalities

Apr 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM2


With the voluminous information available via the internet, many fans today know almost as much about a potential 49er's measurables as do some NFL personnel departments. The scads of mock-draft info available during roster-replenishment season, not just from beat writers and national experts, but from the appended comments by fans, testify to the generally high level of expertise. Many articles that speculate on future, or recapitulate past, personnel moves, whether by draft, trade, or free-agency, come replete with a rundown of a player's height, weight, strength, speed, Wonderlic scores and other stats. And, of course, salary-cap cost.

However, while NFL personnel departments have perfected the science of measurement, they must still grapple with the very imperfect art of personality assessment. How will a certain player fit, not only on the field, but off it? How coachable will he be? How quickly might he mature? How susceptible to off-field distractions? How well will he handle potential fame and big money? How diligent will he be with his preparation, how careful with his health? How well will he adapt to big-game pressure, media scrutiny, longer work hours? How will he react to temporary setbacks? Failure? Success? Intense competition?

In other words, teams must necessarily judge a prospect not only on the merits of his measurements, but also on the contents of his character. In this regard, personnel departments have considerable advantage over the rest of us, who, in our dogged quest for home-team news morsels, must settle instead for scraps. However, team reps can talk to a player's coaches, his family members and friends, his teachers, teammates, opponents, fellow students, and, alas, agents. Still, most of this information comes second hand. So, in order to get the gut-reactions begotten by face-to-face encounters, teams schedule in-person meetings with prospective draftees.

Different teams rank the importance of the character issues -- no surprise -- differently. The late Al Davis, for instance, sometimes eschewed character issues altogether in favor of measurables. In fact, he occasionally seemed to view irascibility, particularly in a veteran player, as a positive. Bill Walsh sought out smart players. Team-builders often tend toward those characteristics in others which mirror their own traits. Mike Singletary wanted physical players, preferably with an "f."

Obviously, every team craves stupendous athletes who simultaneously function as supportive teammates, exemplary role models, and responsible citizens. In a perfect world. However, in this one, the team brass may sometimes need to make tough decisions when evaluating what a particular player may bring, not only on the field, but off it. As Harbalk continues the task of remaking the 49ers, what sort of personalities, in addition to personnel, might they project onto their future vision for the team?

Trent Baalke of late exemplifies flexibility, acquiring players by any means necessary, including free agency, draft, trades, and even signing players out of retirement. He proved quite flexible in manipulating the 2012 draft. He plans. He prepares. And he also stays ready to act should an opportunity present itself. Jim Harbaugh has also shown an openness to flexibility, especially on offense, not only in his game plans and play-calling (heck, he rebooted the 49er offense in mid-season last year), but in his use of personnel: defensive linemen play fullback; Delaney Walker played multiple positions; the 49ers line up in a multitude of formations. So, particularly with potential draftees in the later rounds, they may well look for a player who asserts "I'll play any position to help the team," with genuine sincerity.

Vince Lombardi once ranked the three most important things in life as God, family, and football. Jim Harbaugh might add "and more football." Given that he comes from a coaching clan, even a portion of his family life involves football. Harbaugh not only dreams, thinks, and imbibes football; it would surprise no one if he consumed pigskin for breakfast. Supposedly, he bonded with Colin Kaepernick over the duo's fraternal football zeal. Yes, Harbaugh would probably love a team filled with gridiron grunts (the football equivalent of gym rats) at every position. All else being equal between two prospective draft picks athletically, look for Harbaugh to press for the more football-centric choice, yes, even in the early rounds, which often yield future team leaders.

The Harbalk tandem often talks about filling a roster with internal competition at every position. Indeed, the head coach relishes using the term "compete," usually with that halfway-demented gleam in his eye, that gleam of which we fans heartily approve. We prefer to call such football fervor not "fanaticism," but "dedication." We want this guy as our head coach. Likewise, he will want highly competitive players everywhere he can get them. Again, every team covets these kinds of players, but for some organizations, the term "competition" becomes merely a clichéd mantra. Harbaugh really means it.

Of course team needs, a prospect's athletic ability, and value, can all trump character. But we've seen, with brother John Harbaugh's recent dust-up with his Super Bowl safeties, as with Jim's quick dispatch of Brandon Jacobs last year when the running back became disgruntled, that character does matter, both with coaches and players. Also, Harbalk often uses player visits as smokescreens and sometimes makes draft selections from seemingly out of the blue. Nonetheless, look for the pair, as per their own proclivities, to nudge the team toward players who, when ignited by inspired coaching, breath fire, thrive on football, and will willingly line up anywhere and everywhere.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


2 Comments

  • Mike Kenney
    Very perceptive piece. Lots of folks think coaching is x&o, but winning is more about culture than strategy. Harbaugh reportedly drove away from his personal workout with Kap without saying a thing. Kap thought he was miffed at his competitiveness. Obviously, he instead was sold. We can expect underperforming players and rookies to do better under his tutelage. Athletes worth having put a premium on winning over money. Coaches who allow for exceptions poison their own locker room. I see this perception very clearly in John and Jim. By the way, they both made it to the Super Bowl last year.
    Apr 9, 2013 at 3:14 AM
    0
    Response: Thanks for the perceptive insights. We sometimes get captured by stats, and underrate the importance of coaching.
  • Ladale
    I think this draft will emphasize speed, speed, and more speed. Guys to stretch the field for strong arm Kaepernick. No matter the position. Receiver, tight end, or running back.
    Apr 8, 2013 at 2:09 PM
    0
    Response: Kap would probably appreciate a speed speed more speed offensive draft. The defensive coaches might want some of that speed for their side of the ball, too.

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers practice and media schedule leading to Week 7 matchup vs. Patriots

By Site Staff
Oct 20, 2020

The San Francisco 49ers will hold three full practices this week as the team prepares for its Week 7 matchup against the New England Patriots. Head coach Kyle Shanahan, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and other various players are scheduled to speak with the media. The 49ers will make the press conferences available at 49ers.com, on the team's official mobile app, and its official YouTube Page. Below is the schedule, which is subject to change, for the upcoming week. All times are

Read the Full Article


49ers' Jordan Reed and K'Waun Williams showing progress during rehabs

By David Bonilla
Oct 22, 2020

Tight end Jordan Reed landed on injured reserve due to an MCL sprain on October 3. The San Francisco 49ers placed cornerback K'Waun Williams on injured reserve due to an ACL sprain on October 10. Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee, who observed the early portion of Thursday's practice, saw both players as they continue to rehab their injuries and prepare to return. It sounds like both are making good progress. Also spotted at practice, slot CB K'Waun Williams running around and catching passes. He's eligible to return of IR next week. TE Jordan Reed, who's been out since Week 3

Read the Full Article


Kyle Shanahan not revealing his starting safeties with Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward out vs. Patriots

By David Bonilla
Oct 23, 2020

The San Francisco 49ers will be without both of their starting safeties on Sunday when they travel to Gillette Stadium to play the New England Patriots. Jaquiski Tartt has been dealing with a groin injury all week and has been ruled out. Head coach Kyle Shanahan surprised reporters on Friday with the news that Jimmie Ward suffered an injury during Thursday's practice and also will not play. "He strained his quad in practice yesterday," Shanahan said. "So, we got the MRI back late last night, and he's not going to be able to go this week." The coach was asked if the injury could force Ward to miss multiple games. "It could," Shanahan responded. "They gave it, I think, a 1.5 grade. I don't think it would be real long, but we know for sure he's not

Read the Full Article

Featured

More Featured Stories

More by D.C. Owens

All Articles by D.C. Owens

More Articles

All Articles
Share 49erswebzone