This is my Saturday column.
Let your general manager do his job, Jed.
You keep saying you want to win with class, as if you know what it takes to win in the first place. As if winning is a given and what matters is the players’ moral standing. You should make yourself the general manager if class is what you want. You sign and draft the players. We’ll see how well you do. Otherwise, be quiet.
You may not realize it, but you’re undermining Trent Baalke. You hired him to get the best players he can find – that’s his job description. No, it’s more than his job description. It’s his mandate.
You didn’t hire Baalke to put together a team of clergymen. He would torpedo his own career if he got class players instead of good ones. People won’t care how classy your team is if it’s terrible, people simply will stop coming to the games. And then you will fire Baalke, and no NFL team will hire him to be their general manager. He’ll be known as the guy who gets players that lose with class.
Baalke should ignore you. That’s seems like what he’s doing.
He recently signed wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who has been cited twice for possession of marijuana. After the signing, Ann Killion tracked you down and asked what the thinking was behind the signing, considering your desire to win with class.
“I don’t know what the thinking was,” you said.
I can guess what Baalke’s thinking was – Simpson is a good player. The Niners need good players. Their record was 8-8 last year. That’s not a good record. Winning with class is impossible without winning.
One of the best players in the upcoming draft – wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham – has a track record similar to Simpson’s – or should I say just plain “record?” Green-Beckham was arrested twice in 15 months for possession of marijuana. Police also investigated him for allegedly breaking into an apartment and pushing a woman down stairs. Police never arrested or charged Green-Beckham for the incident, but the University of Missouri dismissed him from its football team, and he didn’t play in 2014.
If not for those off-field issues, Green-Beckham might be a top-five pick this year. It seems he will drop in the draft and Baalke will have to chance to take him at pick No. 15.
Should Baalke draft him?
Players like Green-Beckham don’t come around every year. He is 6-5, 237 pounds, he runs a 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds, and he dominated the SEC when he was 20. The SEC is the best conference in college football. Green-Beckham made 12 touchdown catches his sophomore season at Missouri. Julio Jones and A.J. Green – former top-10 picks – made 10 touchdown catches combined their sophomore seasons in the SEC.
If Al Davis were alive, do you think he would pass up Green-Beckham? Not on your life. As long as Green-Beckham wasn’t in prison or sentenced to exile, Davis would draft him with a smile.
Will you let Baalke do the same?
A reporter recently asked Baalke about winning with class. Here’s what Baalke said: “It’s a risk and reward business. We’re not going to bring people in we don’t feel can live up to what we expect a 49er to live up to. But we’re also not going to take everybody that has made a mistake in their past and take them off of our board. We’re just not going to do that…We do everything we can so that when we do take a player that has had some transgressions off the field that we feel like we can go forward with that player and not run into any of those situations moving forward.”
Translation: It’s not a class-reward business; it’s a risk-reward business. Take the best player and work with him.
In Green-Beckham’s case, give him a babysitter. Teams have been known to do that with problem players. The Cowboys did it with Dez Bryant. Al Davis did it with any number of players.
Here’s how it works. Monitor Green-Beckham’s every move. Don’t let him drive. Don’t let him do anything by himself. Hold his hand until he grows up. Protect your investment. Green-Beckham is worth the effort.
You might disagree. Maybe you feel he’s too much of a risk.
But it seems Baalke has positioned himself to work around any misgivings you might have. Green-Beckham and Colin Kaepernick just happened to work out together this offseason in Arizona. If Baalke drafts Green-Beckham, we can guess what Baalke will say to justify the pick: “We did extensive background checks on Dorial and felt good about what we learned. He and Colin worked together this offseason and they hit it off. They developed chemistry. Colin was especially impressed by Dorial’s work ethic.”
If this happens, swallow hard and try to smile. It may not be the class move, but it’s the right move.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.