In what could be seen as an ominous sign for current general manager Trent Baalke, the team announced Monday that former senior personnel executive Tom Gamble has been promoted to an assistant general manager position.
The promotion for Gamble comes after years of a decaying franchise at the hands of Baalke, who has seen his team go from a Super Bowl contender to a bottom-feeder of the NFL in just a few short seasons.
Should Baalke’s self-purported “reload” continue to fail, the 49ers have positioned themselves to make an easy transition into a new era with Gamble at the head of the team.
Gamble’s history with both the 49ers and new head coach Chip Kelly likely made this an easy decision for CEO Jed York, despite his apparent close ties with Baalke.
Gamble has held various high-level positions around the NFL for 29 seasons now, having formerly served with the 49ers as the director of player personnel from 2010 to 2013, where players like NaVorro Bowman, Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith and Eric Reid proved to be key contributors to the once threatening NFC West team.
Gamble’s ties with Kelly may also be a sign of the franchise’s direction. It’s been reported that Kelly has a personal relationship with Gamble, having served together during the coach’s time in Philadelphia after Gamble left the 49ers to become the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel.
Gamble was released by the Eagles following the team’s decline, and Kelly was reportedly upset in the manner in which he was let go by former general manager Howie Roseman.
The personal relationship between the two may prove to be a key factor in the 49ers decision-making process.
After years of reported strife between Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh, which ultimately led to the dismissal of the beloved coach and the downfall of the franchise, a harmonious and friendly relationship between the new head coach and presumed future general manager may be just what York needs to cleanse the toxic atmosphere surrounding the team’s front office.
Despite what may be seen as his final move toward the chopping block, Baalke released this statement praising the promotion of Gamble to his new position:
“Tom is an accomplished talent evaluator who grew up around the game of football. Having spent the last 28 years of his life in the NFL, his wealth of experience has been invaluable to our organization for almost a decade. Tom is a hard-working professional and more importantly a good man. We are excited he will continue to play an integral role in the development of our team.”
Despite the low expectations that fans and the front office of the 49ers must rationally have this season, there is still a lot riding on the team’s play for Baalke. After years of misses in the draft and moribund free agency moves, some of Baalke’s young picks must show up this year if he wants to stick in Santa Clara.