It flew a little bit under the radar yesterday because of Thanksgiving travel, but 49ers GM Trent Baalke joined Ted Robinson and Tim Ryan in the broadcast booth prior to Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins.
Baalke was asked about 2017, his emotions, the defensive scheme, Dolphins coaches developing players, Miami’s football philosophy, the 49ers’s offensive line protections and Vance McDonald.
We’ve been critical of Baalke all season long, but would like to give him this opportunity to have the floor. Here’s the full transcript.
Ted Robinson: How much of (your) time right now, given where the 49ers season is, is devoted to watching next year’s players?
Baalke: “I’ve been watching the college games a lot right now. The free agent market, getting that lined up. So we’re spending a lot of time doing that. We’ll have the scouts come in December. There’s a lot of prep work going into the next two, three months after the season ends.”
Tim Ryan: Trent, this has got to be a grinder for you. Obviously the dialogue of a nine game losing streak…emotionally and mentally, how do you keep yourself up and positive? Because it’s really out of your hands at this point.
Baalke: “I don’t know if you do keep yourself up, or positive. I think you are drained. It’s a draining experience. I feel bad for the fans, I feel bad for a lot of people, the ownership in particular. You know, they give us everything we need and I’ve said that. I’ve gone public with that. If we don’t get it done, put it on me. We’ve got all the resources necessary. Funding has never been an issue at the free agent market, or any other thing that we’ve needed. So, it falls strictly on my shoulders. I’m disappointed, I’m disappointed with the outcome up until now.”
Tim Ryan: Thoughts on the defense the past couple of weeks? The staff will say they haven’t played any better, certainly (two weeks ago) against New England and then in the run stuff with a couple of big pops by LeGarrette Blount. When you watch the tape, I don’t think there’s any question run defense has tightened up over the last couple of games. I just think we need to get out of stunting linebackers, that’s when you give up the big one. Talk about the run defense.
Baalke: “I think the fits have gotten better. We’ve tightened things down, inside the tight end, which has helped, and we needed to. We’ve gotten ourselves in situations where we’ve been stressed, especially at the inside linebacker position and it’s cost us some games. Playing good run defense, discipline fits, you know it, you played it. We’re up against a good running team today again (Miami Dolphins) and a damn good back. We’re going to have to fit things up solid inside.”
Tim Ryan: Talk about Jay Ajayi their running back, a couple of 200-yard games. The No. 1 back in pro football the last five games in a bunch of stats. I think four or five games, they’ve given him 20 plus attempts. Just thoughts on this guy, fifth-round pick out of Boise State.
Baalke: “The only reason he fell in the draft was for medical reasons. (There) was a little uncertainty of how long his career would be. But he certainly held up this season and hopefully he holds up for a long time. He’s an exciting back. I think the Miami staff has done an excellent job to recommitting itself to the run game and put it on that offensive line to do what it needs to do to make that thing go. So they are to be commended for that. We’ve just got to come out, and once again, play strong up front. We’ve got to win the line of scrimmage inside and make him go lateral. That’s your best chance of stopping him.”
Tim Ryan: When you look at Miami, a 1-4 start and of course a five game win streak (later would be six after beating the 49ers). It reminds me of the 49ers three, four years ago where they are going to manage risk with their quarterback, going to run the football and they’re going to play defense.
Baalke: “They do an excellent job of playing complimentary football. They shorten the game, they do what they need to do offensively, they keep their defense off the field as much as they can. They do a good job with field position. They do an excellent job. They have a five game winning streak going and they are playing awfully good football.”
Tim Ryan: In terms of protection, and this is what I wanted to talk to you about, how can we help? And I don’t see a lot of help in terms of helping offensive lineman in protection in this system, in this scheme of Chip Kelly’s. Joshua Garnett, Trent Brown — how can we get them a little bit of help today against Suh and Cameron Wake.
Baalke: “First of all, we have to run the ball effectively on first and second down. We’ve got to be able to run play-action on first and second-down. We’ve got to get first downs on first- and second-down and not wait until third. We’ve got to stay out of third-and-long situations. Teams tend to heat it up a little, bring a little more pressure at you, we’ve got to do a better job of getting the ball out of our hands quickly when they do.”
Tim Ryan: I like Vance McDonald in this game. And when you look at their linebackers they do play defense and they’ll play a lot of that Cover-3 combo coverage with the little trick stuff… You drafted him. McDonald is a matchup problem.
Baalke: Vance has done a real nice job, especially the last four to five games. He’s really coming along and developing into the player we always thought he would. He’s gotten much more consistent, he’s doing a good job blocking. He’s a good all-around football player and he has a chance in this scheme to do some things as you say because the matchups are favorable.
Ryan: Another winnable game, but damn they are hard to win.
Baalke: “They are. The NFL is tough, week-in and week-out. We’ve just got to come out and hopefully put 60 minutes of good football together.”