The heat on San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke has risen over the past few days since the NFL free agency period began. With the biggest name added to the roster being placekicker David Akers, fans have expressed their disappointment in the team’s lack of activity in improving the roster.
It’s hard to read what Baalke has in store for the 49ers. When asked about the team’s interest in wide receiver Plaxico Burress (who ended up signing with the New York Jets on Sunday), the general manager refused to discuss the topic.
Baalke, however, affirmed that he has a plan and the team is following through with it.
“We are going to be patient, we have been patient, we do have a plan, we’re executing the plan,” Baalke told the media on Saturday. “I guess the only thing that’s going to tell is the test of time, and how successful this plan is will be measured by how successful we become on the field.”
Success on the field hasn’t been there for the 49ers for some time. They haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2002 season and the NFC West has not been a challenging division for the past couple of seasons.
During the last week of the 2010 season, team president Jed York said that they would go through an extensive search to find the right general manager for the team. Michael Lombardi, Tony Softli and Ted Sundquist were names that were linked to the 49ers. All had great qualifications for the position. But the 49ers went in-house and stuck with Baalke.
Baalke doesn’t have a strong background in the front office of an NFL franchise like that of Lombardi. But what the organization saw in Baalke was a man that knew the inside of the building and in the team’s eyes, did a good enough job as the interim general manager for the season.
Since the days after the NFL draft, Baalke has been for the most part out of the public eye. There wasn’t a real chance to see him work his magic in bringing in big names from other teams during the summer. All we knew about him was what he did in the NFL draft.
And when playoff contenders like the Eagles and Patriots pulled off headline acquisitions through free agency and trade, the 49ers remained silent. They were linked to prized cornerback Nnamid Asomugha, but in reality, getting the Pro Bowler was a real longshot. After all, the 49ers claimed that they weren’t going to be major players in the free agency race.
Landing a stud like Asomugha would have been out of character according to the 49ers’ plan.
What Baalke and the 49ers have established right now is an approach that doesn’t look like a team desperate enough to bring in the best pieces to win. The 49ers have holes to fill at almost every position and yet they haven’t made a splash. It’s hard to convince fans that the plan will work when nothing has happened. But the front office believes that it will work.
Baalke is asking for the fans, the media and all the critics to trust him and to just wait and see what he has in store for the team. Despite the criticism and concern, he’s sticking by his plan.
It’s a confident statement to make from a general manager who is still trying to establish his identity in the storied 49ers franchise.
“Our plan wasn’t to be ultra aggressive early in free agency, and that’s neither right nor wrong.” Baalke reiterated of the team’s blueprint. “We have a plan and we’re going to execute it.”
So who is the general manager of the 49ers? He claims that he is a man with a plan.
What is that plan?
He won’t tell — but he just wants you to trust him on it.