INDIANAPOLIS — Trent Baalke’s time as 49ers general manager couldn't have started much better.
He was selected as NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America for his part in helping the 49ers go from 6-10 to 13-3 in his first season as GM in 2011. The next season, the 49ers came oh-so-close to winning it all, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII.
Baalke, in his second season as GM of the Jacksonville Jaguars, said he thinks back fondly on his 49ers days.
“My time there was well-spent,” Baalke said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine when NBC Sports Bay Area asked him about his 12 years with the 49ers. “We accomplished a lot. We had some failures. That’s part of this business.
“You ride that wave, and sometimes you’re at the top of it and sometimes you’re at the bottom of it. But I have nothing but respect for that organization and the people who own it and manage it.”
Jaguars owner Shad Khan on Tuesday announced he will leave football decisions to new coach Doug Pederson and Baalke after recently announcing plans to hire an executive vice president who would have final say on football decisions.
"I feel we’re best served at this time by allowing Doug, Trent and their assistants to take ownership of our path forward,” Khan said in a statement.
San Francisco 49ers
This is Baalke's second go-round as a top NFL decision-maker. The 49ers fired him after the 2016 season, along with coach Chip Kelly, to set up Kyle Shanahan as San Francisco’s fourth head coach in four seasons. John Lynch replaced Baalke as GM.
The 49ers’ roster was in such disrepair after the 2016 season that Shanahan and Lynch were signed to six-year contracts because of the anticipated time that would be required to turn around things.
Baalke praised the ownership of the York family. He joined the 49ers in 2005 as a scout under personnel chief Scot McCloughan. He took over — first as vice president of player personnel, then as GM — following McCloughan’s departure in March 2010.
Baalke chose Aldon Smith with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. That selection paid off early, as Smith quickly asserted himself as one of the top pass-rushers in the game. But Baalke was forced to release Smith after just four seasons because of repeated off-field incidents.
Baalke took chances on injured players in the draft, selecting seven players coming off torn ACLs over a four-year period. None of those players panned out.
Several unproductive rookie classes weakened the roster, though Baalke did preside over drafts that brought in NaVorro Bowman, Jimmie Ward, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.
Baalke said he can draw on his 49ers experiences in his current role in Jacksonville.
“I think any time you go through what we went through in San Francisco, you get better,” Baalke said. “You learn from the successes and you learn from the mistakes that you made. And certainly we made a few, and I made my share. And you hope to learn from them and not repeat them.”