Although things got off to a good start for general manager Trent Baalke, he was undoubtedly under a lot of scrutiny as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ inaugural season began. As with former head coach Urban Meyer, Jags fans were eager to get Baalke out of the organization, but ownership kept him and gave him another chance.
Now, with nine days to go until the start of training, many still have doubts about Baalke as he has struggled to make progress since becoming a general manager.
Patrick Daugherty of NBC Sports he’s among the skeptics when he ranked Baalke 28th in his senior rankings, which looked at executive managers (or teams) around the league.
27 Trent Baalek, Jaguars
After being promoted to Urban Meyer’s caretaker last year, Trent Baalke couldn’t keep the sports car from veering off the road. The Jags fired Meyer but opted for Baalke to boost his strength. It’s a vote of confidence in a general manager whose best decision since Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco was hiring Jim Tomsula. After working to rebuild a franchise that has won more than six games at a time since 2010, Baalke should push the easy button on his first decision. Trevor Lawrence had a rough year amid Meyer’s woes, but he’s still a solid fencer. Another finish at No. 32 allowed Baalke to join Lawrence and edge rusher Travon Walker, gifted as the curiously unproductive SEC sackmaster. He also worked as a head coach for “safeties” in Doug Pederson, the Super Bowl winner who wore out his welcome in Philadelphia. With a coach and a quarterback, Baalke cashed in on some of his problems, excelling at Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, CB Darious Williams, LB Foyesade Oluokun and DT Foley Fatukasi, among others. This isn’t the way to do it, but most teams don’t usually come off a 3-14 campaign with a quarterback. Nothing in Baalke’s or Jacksonville’s recent history suggests that this partnership will be a success, but Baalke’s steady spring has given this arranged marriage a chance to see if there is love beyond the dowry.
The Jags’ front office can best be described as “diverse,” with owner Shad Khan describing their approach as “collaborative” this offseason. While this appears to indicate that Baalke and Doug Pederson are working together on front office decisions, Baalke’s time spent with those decisions and his record as a general manager should be scrutinized.
Baalke is entering his eighth season as a general manager, and his long tenure as a general manager has not been successful. In fact, half of his tenure has resulted in six wins or fewer, including the 3-14 record the Jags compiled last season.
When Baalke was successful as a general manager, he was with the San Francisco 49ers and Jim Harbaugh. From 2011-13, the 49ers were very impressive, leading to two conference championship games and a Super Bowl. And while they all ended with losses, their team looked to be top notch with big names like Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, and NaVorro Bowman leading the way.
However, a heated argument between Harbaugh and Baalke led to a stalemate, and Baalke has not been able to find or be paired with the right coach since. Of course, concerned Jags fans coming into the season when Khan retained Baalke despite his bad reputation among his teammates.
After years of getting the chance to be a general manager, Baalke may be on his last chance at leading the front office. That’s why he needs to be with Pederson.
Much like his time in San Francisco with Harbaugh, Baalke now has a great coach who excels at teaching the offensive side of the football and quarterbacks. Combine that with the fact that Baalke had the opportunity to create one of the greatest franchises of all time, and the veteran general manager has the necessary ingredients to be successful. He could add to that and make the Jags’ roster as elite as the 2011-13 49ers, but the key will be to highlight more talent than he did in the past, and find a way to work with Pederson.