For a while this offseason, the 49ers looked like a dysfunctional family on the verge of splitting apart.
After reports surfaced that the Niners had talked to the Browns about perhaps allowing head coach Jim Harbaugh to depart for Cleveland, multiple stories reported that general manager Trent Baalke and Harbaugh were often at odds.
After going to three straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl in three seasons working together, it appeared as if the Baalke-Harbaugh pairing might be unraveling.
But all that seems to have changed. Now that the long-awaited (and delayed) NFL Draft is about to begin Thursday, the 49ers’ front office again appears to be solid.
In speaking with reporters recently, Baalke said stories of a feud with Harbaugh were “misrepresented.”
“To say that it’s always two rams butting heads is so false and misleading,” Baalke told the Associated Press. “To say there’s no tension would also be false and misleading. It’s good tension, it’s creative tension. It couldn’t be better.”
But, the relationship will remain as it always has been – a pairing of two strong-willed, opinionated people who have both been successful at what they do. Baalke’s drafts have been among the most productive int eh NFL in recent years. Harbaugh has taken his team to the playoffs in all three of his seasons. But they aren’t BFFs and they don’t have dinner together or work out together or share coffee every morning. That’s not how they are.
“I feel good about where we’re at,” said Baalke. “If you want us to hug and mug for the cameras and do all that, you’re looking at the wrong two guys.”
The 49ers’ selections and moves during the three-day draft that begins Thursday could go a long way toward providing a glimpse into the thinking of Baalke and Harbaugh and show if they are indeed on the same page.
Baalke wants to infuse the roster with good, young (and less expensive) talent – as does Harbaugh. Harbaugh also has spent plenty of time traveling the country this offseason, personally scouting and interviewing quarterbacks – even though the 49ers have a solid No. 1 QB in Colin Kaepernick and a new, young backup in Blaine Gabbert. Though the need to use a high or mid-round pick on a quarterback doesn’t seem to be a high priority, figure that Baalke will draft a quarterback recommended by Harbaugh in the second or third round – while also addressing more crucial positions first, such as cornerback and wide receiver. Everybody will get what they want, and both Baalke and Harbaugh will come out of the draft excited and eager to get to work toward 2014.
“I think both of these guys are in the primes of their career and have the ability to work together for a very long time,” 49ers CEO Jed York recently told Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback. “It remains to be see whether that happens, but the results have been proven on the field. I don’t think there are many better combinations than Trent and Jim as a GM-head coach relationship, and I think they realize they work pretty well together. … They realize it may not be perfect but they really respect each other and they do like working together.”