It doesn’t look like the Jacksonville Jaguars are closer to hiring a head coach than they were a week ago and a big reason might be the presence of general manager Trent Baalke. It’s been reported throughout the process that several candidates for the position aren’t interested in working with him and it’s hard to blame them.
Baalke’s reputation around the NFL isn’t great and you will be hard-press to find any players or fellow executives who will vouch for him, which makes the Jaguars’ decision to stick with him even more puzzling. Ok, so maybe he’s difficult to work with but that doesn’t matter as long as he can hoard talent in Jacksonville, right? That’s the thing, he’s not that great at identifying good players. Sure, the Jags’ 2021 draft class is full of upside but that looks like the execution and not the norm. He’s struggled to find playmakers in the draft in the last years of his tenure as a general manager of the 49ers, which ultimately end up being one of the many reasons he was let go.
Baalke could have a Pro Bowl player in front of him and he wouldn’t be able to tell. At least, that’s how things played out when he released fullback Michael Robinson back when he was with the Niners. But don’t take our word for it, Robinson recently talked about the time Baalke cut him. Here’s what he had to say about the incident.
"I remember walking up to his office, Trent Baalke looking at my face and saying, “You aren’t good enough to play in the National Football League. You have a fourth-string running back and at best, you are a third-string fullback. Maybe you should go into scouting you want to have a job?” I was a 26-27-year-old, young man in the National Football League, and I was pissed off. They don’t get me wrong. It gave me an opportunity to go win a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks. But I went to a Pro Bowl. from a talent evaluator standpoint and again, you can say what you want about my comments because he cut me. You say what you want to about Trent Baalke, but I just don’t think he’s a great talent evaluator. That’s just my personal opinion."
The Jaguars should have already moved on from Trent Baalke.
As Robinson said, he went on to have a productive stint with the Seattle Seahawks and made the Pro Bowl in 2011. The former NFL fullback and host of Good Morning Football acknowledge that he’s biased since he talked about his personal experience with Baalke and not someone else’s. However, it’s not hard to imagine his exchange playing out the way he said it did.
Again, it doesn’t matter if Baalke lacks good people skills (but it would help) as long as he’s good at his job but the fact that he doesn’t have a good track record hiring coaching and is more interested in winning power struggles than football games, it’s hard to imagine the Jaguars turning the corner with him as the general manager.
Byron Leftwich reportedly told the Jaguars it was either him or Baalke and the fact that the general manager hasn’t been fired doesn’t reflect well. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator is the organization’s top candidate for the job but they can’t fulfill a (pretty important) request, what should others expect if they get the job?
If Leftwich ultimately turns down the Jags’ job because of Baalke, the team will have limited options to fill their vacancy. Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is suddenly a candidate for the opening but what if he isn’t interested in working with Baalke either, what will the Jaguars’ brass do then?