Let’s start with a scenario.
Imagine a really terrible relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s starts out really promising. They’re very attractive and you’re excited about what’s in store for both of you. But the first year of the courtship is a disappointment. They’re not really as committed to the relationship as you are. You were expecting a lot more in return.
Concerns are growing but you don’t want to pull the plug because you’ve already invested lots — clothes, jewelry, you now have a chihuahua together — and, let’s not forget, they’re good looking! But at least now they recognize things could be better. So, they decide to spend some time with renowned relationship counselor Kevin Taepernick in Georgia. Your significant other doesn’t end up staying very long, though, much the disappointment of people rooting for you guys to figure it out.
Come the start of year two of the relationship, not much is different. They still don’t seem all that willing to put in the effort to make this work. You’re left unsatisfied most days. Eventually, you get fed up. Despite all the potential that remains, you realize it’s not worth it anymore, and you end it.
Tell me you wouldn’t do otherwise?
As convoluted and high-off-his-ass crazy as that scenario sounds, it’s basically what happened with the 49ers and AJ Jenkins.
The Niners cut ties on Monday with their 2012 first-round pick and now-bust, sending him to the Chiefs in exchange for a fellow first-round disappointment, receiver Jon Baldwin. The Chiefs, in case you didn’t realize, are becoming 49ers castoff island.
Jenkins hauled in a grand total of zero catches in just three games of being on the active roster for SF in 2012. Word had it that Jenkins was never truly NFL-ready in his first year. Not that the team needed him; it had plenty of other capable receivers who stepped up. But, with expectations elevated as the team looked down the depth chart to fill Michael Crabtree’s Achilles-imposed absence, Jenkins failed to impress. He had a rather pedestrian training camp and tallied just one catch, which he fumbled away, in two games this preseason, despite playing the most snaps of any receiver on the team.
Criticism from the media began to ramp up, most hilariously from trying-too-hard-to-be-cool Chris Mortensen saying Jenkins needed more “swag.” Concerns about his confidence and work ethic began to evolve along with doubts about whether Jenkins would even make the 53-man roster. And now he were are.
It just wasn’t the right fit, nor worth the hassle any longer. Better off cutting your losses while Jenkins still has some inherent value left. But, for what it’s worth, Jim Harbaugh was quite vociferous about his beliefs that Jenkins can still make it work in the NFL:
“For those — the scribes, pundits, so-called experts — who have gone so far as to say that he’s going to be a bust, should just stop,” Harbaugh said a year ago. “I recommend that because they’re making themselves look more clueless than they already did. I’ll go on record: A.J. is going to be an outstanding football player.”
Rrrrear! Somebody is cranky. But I really do hope somebody in the media comes out with a business card that lists their title as “scribe, pundit, so-called expert.”
According to Niners Nation, the trade will result in $873,187 of dead money for the Niners in 2013 and $1,746,374 in 2014.
As for Baldwin, he hasn’t been immune to his own struggles since being drafted 26th overall by the Chiefs in 2011. He has just 41 catches for 579 yards and two touchdowns in two seasons and has a problem with drops. But, hey, unlike Jenkins, he at least has more NFL catches than your pet hamster! Also, at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he does have size on his side, so that’s a plus. He probably won’t be expected to be a major contributor, but the Niners could utilize that size in the red zone, as will already be the case with Anquan Boldin. Ahem, end of the Super Bowl, anybody?
For both players, it’s a “fresh start,” as Jim Harbaugh put it. A change of scenery, new coaching staff, different environment, an escape from the pressure of major expectations. Perhaps even a wake-up call. Maybe that’s just what both players need.