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Jim Harbaugh (left) and general manager Trent Baalke have had the luxury of retaining key members of their staffs over the past two seasons. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Since general manager Trent Baalke hired Jim Harbaugh as head coach in 2011, the 49ers’ leadership group in the front office and coaching staff has remained virtually intact.
Over two years in which the 49ers first went 13-3 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game and then went to the Super Bowl, the franchise has had the benefit of few defections and a consistent direction.
Even after the 2012 regular season, when coaching vacancies occurred all over the NFL, the 49ers were able to retain their key assistant coaches because the team kept winning and they were temporarily off limits.
Now, however, with just a week before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the 49ers have lost a key front-office piece of their success story. Tom Gamble, the 49ers’ director of player personnel the past two seasons and a member of the organization for eight seasons, has been hired by the Philadelphia Eagles to become vice president of player personnel.
The Niners’ front office has been productive the past two seasons bringing in talent through both the draft and free agency, and Gamble has played a big part. Colin Kaepernick, LaMichael James, Aldon Smith, Kendall Hunter, Bruce Miller, Mario Manningham and Chris Culliver are some of the key players acquired in 2011 and 2012.
“I would like to thank Tom for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the past eight seasons,” Baalke said in a statement released by the 49ers. “He has played an instrumental role within our personnel department and is a true professional in every sense of the word.”
Eagles GM Howie Roseman called Gamble, 49, a “talented evaluator” and added: “He had a great run in San Francisco and they have been very successful over the last few years. He will jump right in with our group and get working on free agency and the draft.”
Gamble began his NFL career with the Eagles in 1988 under his father, Harry, who was the team’s president. He grew up in the Philadelphia region and had expressed interest in eventually returning.
According to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, the 49ers have several in-house candidates to fill Gamble’s job, including Joel Patten, the director of college scouting, Matt Malaspina, a national scout and Ethan Waugh, senior personnel assistant.
A Philadelphia Daily News story by Lew Bowen Thursday suggested the essentially lateral move by Gamble from his job in San Francisco to Philadelphia might be attributable to being “stuck behind two strong personnel voices, Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke.” But the story also quoted Harry Gamble as saying his son, “Really wanted to come east” and believes the situation with the Eagles is perfect for him at this point.