Jags hire ex-49ers exec Baalke as GM, removing interim tag

Sports

FILE – This is a 2020 file photo showing Trent Baalke of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL football team. The Jacksonville Jaguars formally named Baalke general manager on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (AP Photo)

The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Trent Baalke as general manager Thursday, removing the interim tag from his title and pairing him with new coach Urban Meyer.

Team owner Shad Khan is switching to a coach-centric model in which Meyer and Baalke will both report to him to “have transparency and (fill) the needs and concerns of both parties without really getting filtered or have a chain of command.” Meyer, though, is expected to have final say over the roster and most everything else.

“Trent thoroughly knows the NFL and the dynamics of today’s game, has an exceptional eye for talent and I know will have excellent chemistry with head coach Urban Meyer as they begin their mission to bring a consistent winner to our fans in Jacksonville,” Khan said in a statement.

Khan interviewed five minority candidates and Baalke for the team’s open GM job. He met with former Houston executive Rick Smith, current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, former New York Giants GM Jerry Reese, former Cleveland GM Ray Farmer and New Orleans executive Terry Fontenot.

Fontenot was named Atlanta’s GM on Monday.

Khan, the league’s lone minority owner, made it clear this month that hiring a person of color to one of the team’s top two spots wasn’t a priority.

“I want to get the best person for the job,” Khan said. “I think diversity is very important to me for many, many different reasons. I think we’re going to look far and wide, but I think what’s most important is this inflection point for the franchise we have the best leaders.”

Baalke served as Jacksonville’s director of pro personnel in 2020, returning to a front-office role for the first time since San Francisco fired him and coach Chip Kelly following the 2016 season. Baalke spent a dozen years with the 49ers, half as GM. He hired Jim Harbaugh, who led the Niners to the NFC title game in each of his first three seasons and lost Super Bowl 47. Baalke also drafted quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second round in 2011.

Before moving to Jacksonville, Baalke spent three years (2017-19) working as an operations consultant for the NFL.

Jacksonville had one of the league’s most attractive coach/GM openings. The Jaguars have 11 picks in the 2021 draft, including four in the top 45, and are nearly $100 million under the projected salary cap. Adding to the appeal: Khan, a billionaire businessman, has shown a penchant for patience and a willingness to spend big.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.