The recent extension that Justin Smith signed with the San Francisco 49ers got me thinking about how good of a job that the 49ers’ front office is doing. Thanks to spotrac.com, we can see that Smith was signed to a three year $16.7 million deal that includes a signing bonus of $6.5 million and $9.5 million guaranteed. Keep in mind, Smith is arguably the most valuable player on their defense. Many thought that he would be gone after his deal but thanks to the 49ers’ front office, he is scheduled to be a 49er through 2016.
The 49ers’ front office is what I call a three headed monster. Of course, many people have contributed to the success that the crew at 4949 Centennial Drive has experienced. The major figures are the CEO, Jed York, the General Manger, Trent Baalke and a relative unknown: COO, Paraag Marathe. These three executives have set the 49ers up to be a serious contender over the next few years.
Jed York is a 49ers fan at heart. He saw first hand how a first class organization operates. York had the privilege of spending time with his uncle, Eddie DeBartolo Jr. who also served as a mentor. The success that the 49ers have had stems from three decisions that were made by York.
The first decision was firing then head coach Mike Singletary. Next came naming a new general manager after Scot McLoughan and the 49ers abruptly parted ways. Trent Baalke was the Vice President of Player Personnel and had taken over the responsibilities of the GM so it was a natural transition. Once a GM was in place, the final decision was going to be hiring a head coach.
Jim Harbaugh had enjoyed a successful stint at Stanford University and was the preferred choice by a few franchises. The Miami Dolphins and 49ers were the finalist. York and Baalke were able to get Harbaugh to stay in the Bay Area and become the head coach of the 49ers. That decision turned out to be a perfect situation for everyone.
The first two decisions that Jed York had to make turned out to be very wise ones. Harbaugh went on to win the Coach of the Year award in his first year of coaching at the NFL level. Trent Baalke also won the Executive of the Year award.
One thing about Jed York that has been remarkable is his ability to put his ego aside and have full trust in what his head coach and general manager feel is necessary for success. A perfect example of that is how he handled the switch from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.
Harbaugh and York talked in length about who would be the starter at quarterback prior to their game against the New Orleans Saints. Harbaugh expressed concern over whether or not York would be in agreement with naming Kaeperinick as the starter. York in so many words told Harbaugh that he supports him as the coach and it was his decision to make. We all know how that decision turned out.
Another thing that Jed York has done is spearhead the construction of a new stadium which has resulted in the Super Bowl being played in San Francisco in 2016.
Trent Baalke has been the driving force behind the construction of the powerful 49ers’ roster. In his first draft, he selected Anthony Davis and Mike Iupatti, but the best selection was in the third round when he selected an undersized linebacker from Penn State named NaVorro Bowman.
Baalke has taken some risks in the draft such as Aldon Smith as the seventh player selected overall in 2011 draft. All in all, the 49ers have selected 36 players in the past four drafts under Baalke. A whopping 29 of them will enter the 2013 training camp as members of the 49ers’ roster.
One thing that can be said about Baalke is when he targets a player, he will do what he needs to do to draft him. Look at how they targeted Eric Reid as a top option to fill the void at safety. Baalke traded up 13 spots from pick 31 to get his top target.
The best thing that Baalke has done is stockpile draft picks for the 49ers. The draft that just passed saw the 49ers select a total of eleven players and next year they are slated to have numerous picks in the first three rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.
He has also shown the knack for being able to find the right free agent for the 49ers at the right price and in the right situation. Carlos Rogers for one, entered free agency and the 49ers snatched him up after the Philadelphia Eagles broke the bank for Nnamdi Asomugha and the Houston Texans paid big more for Jonathan Joseph. Rogers turned out to be a second team All Pro player and a starter in the Pro Bowl.
Last but not least is Paraag Marathe. He is the 49ers’ main contract negotiator and salary cap expert. He is responsible for making a lot of deals happen that people thought would not get done. His ability to maintain a lot of core guys and stay under the salary cap is a major reason why this team is set up to be an annual contender. Marathe is also the primary person that handles any compliance issues with the collective bargaining agreement.
Marathe has shown the knack for knowing when is the best time to extend a player at a cap friendly number. Ray McDonald and Ahmad Brooks are examples. Putting together a roster like the 49ers and keeping the team together without a doubt is not easy. Pretty much all of the 49ers’ free agents have come in and had an impact.
The three headed monster: Jed York, Trent Balke and Paraag Marathe have done a remarkable job of making sure that this franchise is set for years to come.