Softli first; Baalke the favorite?

The 49ers’ search for a general manager officially kicked off today, but there is an early sign that president and CEO Jed York might not look far to find the man for the job.

As first reported by Comcast Sports Net Bay Area, York has interviewed Tony Softli, who was the vice president of player personnel in St. Louis from 2006 until May when the team did not offer him a contract. Softli was Carolina’s director of college scouting from 1995-06. With Softli’s interview, the Niners fulfilled the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and senior football operations positions.

York has said that Trent Baalke, the Niners’ vice president of player personnel, will be considered for the general manager job. The NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora said, via Twitter, that “(he’d) be surprised if Trent Baalke doesn’t end up getting that position.” LaCanfora has broken several 49ers stories this season. On two occasions this month, he was the first to report the identity of their starting quarterback before it was announced by former coach Mike Singletary. LaCanfora broke the news in September that the Niners had fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.

Baakle, in his 13th NFL season, has spent six years with the 49ers. After the departure of ex-general manager Scot McLoughan in March, Baalke assumed many of McLoughan’s responsibilities, but did not have the GM title.

The team’s director of player personnel from 2008-09, Baalke was in charge of San Francisco’s draft in April and received high marks as each of the Niners’ eight draft picks, including four taken after the fifth round, made the team.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Ted Sundquist, the Broncos’ general manager from 2002-07, will fly in for an interview with York this week. Sundquist is the director of player personnel for the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks. The 49ers cannot interview candidates currently with NFL teams until the end of the regular season.

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