This is my Friday column.
Trent Baalke, you sly dog.
I thought I had you figured out. I thought I could read you like a map.
I knew you revealed your master plan for the 49ers’ coaching search when you said, “This isn’t a rebuild situation. This is a reload situation,” at the end-of-the-season press conference.
But, I still couldn’t predict who you would hire.
I figured you would promote coaches from within the organization — you made that obvious. Hiring a head coach or coordinators from other organizations would mean rebuilding, because new coaches bring new schemes that take months, sometimes years for players to master.
I thought, “Which coaches on the 49ers deserve promotions?”
I thought the answers were obvious — Vic Fangio, Ed Donatell and Mike Solari. It is common custom to promote a successful coordinator to head coach, and Fangio is the best defensive coordinator in the NFL. I figured you would make Fangio the head coach.
Donatell, the defensive backs’ coach, was the best defensive position coach on the 49ers the past four years. Five Niners defensive backs earned Pro Bowl appearances since 2011 — Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner, Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea. I figured you would make Donatell the defensive coordinator.
And I figured you would make offensive line coach Solari the offensive coordinator. He was the 49ers’ best offensive position coach for four years. He turned Joe Staley and Mike Iupati into perennial Pro Bowlers, and he turned Anthony Davis into the best right tackle in the NFL.
I see where I erred now.
I can’t think like you, Trent. You’re 50 steps ahead of me. I’m not in your league.
Not only did you not promote Fangio, Donatell and Solari, you fired them.
Was I way off, or what?
For head coach you promoted Jim Tomsula, the defensive line coach who never has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL. Most general managers don’t hire defensive line coaches to be head coaches, but you’re a trailblazer, Trent.
For defense coordinator, you promoted Eric Mangini, who hasn’t coached defense since 2005 and was out of football for two seasons until you resurrected his career in 2013 by hiring him to be a senior offensive consultant, whatever senior offensive consultant means. In 2014, you promoted him to tight ends coach and, under Mangini’s guidance, Vernon Davis had the worst season of his career. Davis went from Pro Bowler to nobody in a matter of months under Mangini. That’s pretty offensive.
I didn’t realize Mangini’s performance, or lack of performance, made him the best candidate to become your defensive coordinator. I’m learning from you, Trent.
Still, I can’t quite get my head around the promotion of Geep Chryst to offensive coordinator. Please bear with me on this one.
Chryst and Solari were the only two position coaches on Harbaugh’s roster who had been offensive coordinators in the NFL, so it dimly crossed my mind you might promote Chryst to be the offensive coordinator.
But, Chryst’s resume seemed weak to me. Chryst coordinated the Niners’ red-zone offense, which stunk, and he coached the quarterbacks, who earned no trips to the Pro Bowl under Chryst. Colin Kaepernick’s passer rating has decreased every season he has been a starter in the NFL. Chryst again.
Last training camp, Jim Harbaugh had to bring in George Whitfield to help Chryst coach. Whitfield is an independent quarterbacks coach who was 23 years old the last time Chryst was an offensive coordinator.
This year, Kaepernick has to work on his mechanics with another “guru” — Dennis Gile, who tweaked Tim Tebow’s mechanics in 2013. If Chryst could teach mechanics, Kaepernick would have good mechanics and wouldn’t need Tebow’s tutor.
But, that’s not the worst thing about Chryst.
When I think of him, I think of the first play of the Niners’ game against the Raiders this season.
Remember that play? It was a play-action pass designed for Bruce Miller in the flat, designed to get Kaepernick in rhythm.
Kaepernick looked at Miller, who was wide open — no defender within 8 yards — and decided not to throw to him. Kaepernick decided to ad lib the first play of the game instead. He scrambled to his left, threw deep to Michael Crabtree and got picked off.
Here’s what puzzles me, Trent. How do you expect Chryst to lead the offense when he couldn’t even lead Kaepernick for one play?
I’ve struggled with the puzzle for days, but I think I’ve put the pieces together. Most general managers want good coaches, but you’re not like most general managers. You’re ahead of the curve.
You deked everyone and hired bad coaches.
You have a genius I can’t figure out. I’ve got my eye on you, Trent.
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.