Scot McCloughan, former 49ers GM. News of his potential departure began filtering out about this time last week. The 49ers announced a "mutual parting" after five days of silence. Even some of McCloughan's longtime friends in scouting have told me they never saw it coming. It's just stunning for a GM to vanish from the scene without even making a formal comment -- just as his team finally appears in position to contend for a playoff spot with the players he helped assemble. It's all a little surreal. This marks a professional low point for McCloughan. He'll be back in some capacity. He's not yet 40 and his reputation as a scout shouldn't suffer in the long term.
Trent Baalke, 49ers player personnel director. McCloughan's departure left Baalke in charge of the 49ers' draft room. Baalke has a chance to show he can lead the 49ers' personnel department. If the draft appears to go well, it's conceivable Baalke could remain in charge through the 2010 season at least. He probably never would have wanted to take the top job under these circumstances, but the opportunity is still a good one. The timing of McCloughan's departure makes it extremely difficult and probably unlikely for the 49ers to go outside the organization for a new personnel chief this offseason. The need for continuity makes Baalke the logical choice to remain in a leadership role. Pro personnel director Tom Gamble is also in the mix.