JACKSONVILLE, FLa. – The Jaguars looked far and wide for their next general manager, but wound up not even leaving the building.
Jacksonville removed the interim title from Trent Baalke, naming him the team’s new GM on Thursday morning. The move had been expected in wake of the team naming Urban Meyer as head coach a week ago.
Baalke joined the Jaguars in February 2020, serving as the director of player personnel. Now, he has the second GM job of his career, a position that he said he wasn’t sure would come again. Baalke spent six years as the GM in San Francisco. He joined the Jaguars last February in a director of pro personnel role.
The word alignment was the buzzword on Thursday afternoon, with Meyer, Baalke and owner Shad Khan saying that decisions for the franchise would work best when everyone was in sync.
“I think you learn. You learn everywhere, at every stop. I think you learn from the mistakes you make, right? You learn more from the mistakes you’ve made over your career then you do the positive things,” Baalke said. “But I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about handling, dealing and working with coaches, a lot about dealing and working with players, a lot about team building and what it takes.”
Rebuilding the Jaguars is going to take a lot of work, something that Baalke is well aware of since he was with the franchise through the worst season in its 26-year history.
Baalke took over on an interim basis as general manager Dave Caldwell was fired in late November. The Jaguars went on to finish 1-15, with 15 consecutive losses to end the season. Khan fired head coach Doug Marrone the day after the regular season ended and turned his attention to a football operations reset.
Baalke’s promotion means that the Jaguars have now filled their two biggest offseason holes. Khan hired Meyer a week ago as the team’s new head coach to replace Marrone.
Baalke served as the GM of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2016. In that time, the 49ers went to the playoffs three straight years, including the 2012 season when they lost the Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens. Baalke’s final three years saw the 49ers fall off to seasons of eight wins, five wins, then the low water mark, a 2-14 season.
Baalke and Meyer will help reshape a franchise that is coming off of the worst season in franchise history. The Jaguars have the No. 1 pick in the draft for the first time and an NFL-high in salary cap space.
Meyer said that he met Baalke years ago when quarterback Alex Smith was drafted out of Utah with San Francisco’s No. 1 pick, but didn’t know him better until the past couple weeks.
“I like blue collar people,” Meyer said. “... We got to know each other about our families and other important things, but we’re right to work. We’ve got a job to do for a great owner, and it’s a big job. It’s a job that’s going to take a lot of manpower.”
Baalke’s most significant draft picks include defensive end Aldon Smith and quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2011, defensive back Eric Reid in 2013 and defensive end DeForest Buckner in 2016.
Smith made the Pro Bowl in 2012, his second year in the league when he was also named a first-team All-Pro. Reid made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2013. He was one of Kaepernick’s most vocal supporters. Buckner made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and was voted a first-team All-Pro in 2020 with the Indianapolis Colts.
“Spending the last, a lot of time with Coach Meyer in the past couple of weeks I’ve learned a tremendous amount,” he said. “I think life’s a journey. I think learning is a journey. And I think every day you wake up if you’re not waking up with the mentality that you’re going to learn something, you’re missing something. So, I’m just looking forward to where we’re currently at and where I know we can go.”