Trent Baalke is no stranger to being under fire.
Ever since he reportedly played a part in the strife that forced former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh out the door, he’s been scapegoated by media and fans for the team’s demise.
The calls for his ouster have gotten louder this year as the Niners have stumbled out to a 1-8 start and look to be regressing in every measurable statistic. The biggest indictment of Baalke is likely how outmatched the team looks on a weekly basis. It’s hard to blame head coach Chip Kelly for the 49ers’ failures when he hasn’t been given much to work with personnel-wise since he landed in Santa Clara for the job.
But that didn’t dissuade Kelly from giving his boss a vote of confidence on Thursday. When Kelly took the job in the offseason, he said that he and Baalke were in lockstep when it came to how they perceived the game and that hasn’t changed after more than a half of an NFL season together.
“I think we see the game similar in terms of how you’re supposed to be, how you’re supposed to be stout up the middle, how you’re supposed to, what we’re looking for in players in terms of how that works,” Kelly stammered. “So, we don’t differ on what we value in a football player. Toughness, physicality, all those other things. I think that’s first and foremost on Trent’s list. That’s always been first and foremost on my list.”
He was then asked if he was committed to getting the job done with Baalke.
“I mean, we’re all under scrutiny,” Kelly said. “We all understand that. That comes with the territory, but we’ve got to all do our jobs.”
He struck a similar tone when he was asked about defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil’s status with the team — that they’re all performing for the same team and that they all need to do better as a group and not resorting to blaming individuals.
It seems Kelly just wants to get through this season and get to work forming an improved roster — although it becomes increasingly unlikely that Baalke will be there for the process.
Kelly’s guy, personnel director Tom Gamble, works for the team and the coach said on Wednesday the current arrangement, which includes a good deal of traveling for Balke, has worked because “whenever Trent is not here, Tommy Gamble is here and whenever Tommy Gamble’s not here, Trent is here.”
But at a certain point, Baalke won’t be there anymore, especially as the Faithful’s calls for his job increase in number and volume.
At this point, you just have to wonder when, because when you log two lost seasons in a row in the NFL, usually someone’s employment status changes.