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Baalke on No. 1 selection: "An extremely important decision…"

San Francisco 49ers general Manager Trent Baalke watches warmups before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
San Francisco 49ers general Manager Trent Baalke watches warmups before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

JACKSONVILLE – In his first official day on the job, Trent Baalke offered no hints.

Urban Meyer didn't, either.

But on the day Baalke was named the Jaguars' general manager, he did echo the same sentiment Meyer shared last week in his first official day as head coach – and that's this:

The No. 1 overall selection hardly could be more important.

"Anytime you have the first pick in the draft and you're making a decision that's this impactful to the organization, there's challenges with that," Baalke said in a Thursday afternoon videoconference hours after being officially named the Jaguars' general manager.

"It's an extremely important decision and I'm looking forward to going through the process with Coach and the ownership to make that decision."

The Jaguars finished 1-15 last season and enter the offseason with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. It's the first time in franchise history they have held the No. 1 selection. Meyer, upon his hiring late last week, said: "Who we pick at that quarterback spot – that's going to be one of the most important decisions I've made in my lifetime, along with the partnership of our owner and general manager."

Meyer didn't discuss specifics about the position last week and neither he nor Baalke did so Thursday. Meyer last week mentioned three quarterbacks when discussing No. 1 overall: Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, Justin Fields of Ohio State and Zach Wilson of Brigham Young.

Meyer said while he and Baalke have discussed the No. 1 selection, his focus since his hiring has been on hiring a staff rather than personnel.

"To say we haven't talked about it, of course we have," Meyer said of evaluating possibilities at the spot: "That's going to be a deep, deep dive."

Baalke smiled when asked if having the No. 1 overall selection made the job easier.

"Easy, I don't know that that word exists in the National Football League," he said. "It certainly puts you in the driver's seat but there are no easy decisions in the National Football League. You work through the process. You do the best job you can and then you make the decision based on the knowledge you've acquired."


Much remains unknown about not only Meyer's coaching staff, but Baalke's scouting staff. And that remains the priority of both until finalized. But Baalke on Thursday confirmed one member of his staff: former Montreal Alouettes general manager and longtime NFL executive Tom Gamble. Baalke said Gamble already is on staff, though a position hasn't been finalized. "Right now he's just in, within the department," Baalke said. "The title thing – and I've never been a big title guy – we'll figure all of that out. I think the key is the value he brings to this organization, the value he brings to myself in knowing Tom and working alongside him as long as I have. I trust him, I respect him, and I'm just looking forward to working with him again." Gamble spent 1988-1994 in various scouting/front office roles with the Philadelphia Eagles, was a defensive quality control coach for the New York Jets from 1995-1996, served as a college scout with the Indianapolis Colts from 1998-2005, then spent 2005-2012 in various roles with the San Francisco 49ers – during which time he worked with Baalke, the 49ers' general manager from 2011-2016. He was the Eagles' vice president of player personnel from 2013-2014 and spent two more seasons with Baalke and the 49ers, being named assistant general manager in 2016. He was with the University of Michigan from 2017-2019 before joining the Alouettes. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us; we got free agency, we got a draft," Baalke said. "We got a situation in the NFL that's going to be historic with the [salary] cap going down for the first time [this offseason because of COVID-19 aftereffects]. There's a lot of things we need to work through and I'm confident in the group we have, and we're going to push forward with that group."


Baalke on how his 20 years of experience can help in Meyer's transition to the NFL after 17 seasons as a college head coach: "Coach Meyer is very aware of the differences between the two games. I'm a resource for Coach. That's the way I look at it. I provide a service where he can come in. He can bounce things off me. There are going to be a lot of questions. There are going to be a lot of things that are going to be first time for him. But in the short time I've been with him, the one thing I've realized is he's a quick study. It's not going to take him long to figure the rules out and everything that goes with it. He certainly as a coach, he knows his way around the practice field very well."

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