San Francisco

Niners' Critics Starting to Zero in on GM Trent Baalke

Lack of young, quality players on San Francisco roster is becoming more apparent during team's 1-5 start to this season

The 49ers are 1-5 and looking worse by the week. Since opening with a victory over the Los Angeles Rams they’ve been run over in five straight games.

The Niners’ defense is awful, the quarterback position has been a problem, the wide receiving corps is weak and the change in coaching from Jim Tomsula to Chip Kelly hasn’t given the franchise any kind of creative spark.

San Francisco ranks last in the NFL in offense and sixth from the bottom in defense. As the 49ers prepare to host Tampa Bay Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, a second victory this weekend seems a long shot.

As the season slips away, voices of 49ers observers – Bay Area media and fans – are getting louder in the call for firing general manager Trent Baalke.

Longtime columnist Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group, in a Wednesday column, notes the 49ers’ cupboard is bare of young talent – particularly at wide receiver, linebacker and quarterback – and that recent drafts haven’t produced the playmakers the franchise needs. The Niners have slipped from 12-4 in 2013 to 8-8 in 2014, 5-11 last season and 1-5 in 2016.

“Really, the 2016 49ers are a talent-evaluator’s nightmare – overmatched on both sides of the ball, without obvious growth potential in most key areas, severely in need of playmakers and stacked with questionable, flawed or failed draft picks," wrote Kawakami.

“As a bonus, the 49ers are without a realistic QB option heading into 2017, unless Colin Kaepernick revives his career in the next few months.”

Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat also believes Baalke is responsible for many of the franchise’s ills, and argues the 49ers should have fired the GM during the 2014 season when he showed he couldn’t get along with head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Cohn – even before the team’s loss to the Bills this past weekend – called for Baalke to be let go ASAP. There’s no reason to wait until the end of the season, he wrote.

“Let’s remind ourselves of Baalke’s sins,” wrote Cohn. “He has put together the least-talented team in the NFL despite having more draft picks than any other franchise since 2013 and having more than $43 million in cap space right now. His roster has zero quality receivers, zero quality quarterbacks. Zero players you would expect to become elite during their careers.”

If that were to happen, assistant GM Tom Gamble would likely step into the vacancy.

Firing Baalke during the season may not happen. Ownership may wait until after this season for a full review. But as the season progresses, it’s unlikely the voices calling for his dismissal will get any softer.

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