Team President Jed York has narrowed the list of general-manager candidates to two, Trent Baalke and ex-Raiders executive Michael Lombardi, according to a team source. York is expected to make a decision either tonight or tomorrow morning.
Baalke has been considered the leading candidate since the search began last week, and he has been conducting business - he's had exit interviews with players and coaches over the last two days - as if he were the de facto general manager. However, York apparently was impressed with a two-hour interview he had with Lombardi, who now works for NFL Network, last Tuesday. York had another interview with Lombardi this week, possibly today, and is deliberating between the two.
Lombardi is close to the man believed to be the team's top choice to become the next head coach, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh. The two worked together with the Raiders in 2002-03 when Lombardi was in the personnel department and Harbaugh was the quarterbacks coach. They have remained friends since that time. Contacted yesterday, Lombardi maintained he was not a true candidate and that Baalke would get the job.
Meanwhile, the team officially begun its head-coaching search today by requesting permission to interview Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. York has said that the team's next general manager will be the one conducting the head-coaching interviews and will make the final decision on who gets the job. If the 49ers are going to make a strong push to land Harbaugh, as they are expected to do, they first need the general manager in place.
Baalke was in South Florida last week while Stanford was preparing for the Orange Bowl. Baalke, however, said he didn't meet with Harbaugh at the time but has met with him at Stanford - 15 miles from 49ers headquarters - when he was scouting Stanford players in the fall.
When Baalke took over for McCloughan, York said that he would pay close attention to how Baalke ran both the draft and the team's personnel department. Baalke has characterized the period since he took control as a "nine-month job interview." One of Baalke's mentors is Bill Parcells, who hired Baalke as a scout with the Jets in 1998. Baalke also has been heavily influenced by former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan, who brought Baalke to the 49ers in 2005 as the team's western region scout. Prior to that, Baalke spent four years with the Redskins scouting department.
Former Rams executive Tony Softli, ex-Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist and former Saints executive Rick Mueller also are known to have interviewed for the general manager position.
-- Matt Barrows