A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Jarryd Hayne last suited up for the 49ers. The San Francisco franchise had a horror season to forget with Jim Tomsula at the helm, overseeing a campaign that shifted quarterbacks while promoting a head coach and squad player with no previous experience at NFL level. On every count it was an unmitigated disaster but all Australian fans want to know about is the future of the former Parramatta Eels superstar.
The hype started early when he ran 63 yards over 5 carries against the Houston Texans for his first preseason hit out, including a terrific 33 yard punt return for good measure. Fast forward a week to the Dallas Cowboys game and Hayne’s confidence had gone through the roof to rack up 84 yards over 3 punt returns. At the height of the hype, Tomsula called Hayne a “world class athlete” to raise expectations way beyond the average rookie.
What transpired was a season of false starts, mistakes and a very public growing pain that included a few stints with the practice squad as speculation about a return to rugby league became louder by the week. Thankfully for his sake the 49ers’ fortunes only delved further into the mire with the Hayne Plane in lockdown, paving the way for a reintroduction back into the fold.
In the wash up his 2015 statistics told the story of a man finding the transition from the NRL to NFL a predictably difficult one. From his 8 games, Hayne ended the season with 52 rushing yards from 17 attempts, 27 yards from 6 receives and 76 yards from 8 returns. Such was the chaos in the 49ers leadership ranks that he was placed in defence for a brief period.
That’s how bad it got. So bad, in fact, that Rob Schneider of all people had a very public smack down of 49ers CEO Jed York on Twitter.
York’s first act since the completion of the season was to send Tomsula packing before hiring the recently departed Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. This call split 49ers fans because on face value, hiring a coach that was just fired smells of opportunism at best and poor planning at worst, but the out-of-the-box thinking tactician still has enough currency in the game to be worth another gamble by a franchise.
Kelly left a bad taste in the City of Brotherly Love, particularly with the administration of the Eagles. He pushed his weight around to influence key recruitment decisions and when the team bundled out of playoff contention, there was only one man left holding the can. Chips style is very much in the same mold as Ross Lyon in the AFL or Des Hasler in the NRL – creating a dictatorship that puts them firmly at the top of the tree. It’s Chips way or the highway.
This is potentially good news for Jarryd Hayne because if he likes the player, then the likelihood of someone coming over Kelly’s head to cut him seems implausible. The head coach’s philosophy of innovative offence with players who can manage various positions on the field gives Hayne a slight edge. But as a decision nears on where he fits in the roster gets closer, he’ll need all the support he can get.
While Hayne soaks up Super Bowl 50 in Sydney with friends, family and fans alike, he will have an anxious wait to see if and when he joins the squad for pre-season training camp. Of all the franchises he could have gone to, the 49ers in 2015 were easily the most dysfunctional of the lot. Fortunately if he comes out the other end, nothing else in the NFL will phase him.