SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is well aware of the pressure that comes with his high-profile job.
Heading toward what figures to be a pivotal 2016 season, Baalke knows his team needs to take a step forward.
"If you're in the National Football League, you're on the hot seat," Baalke said Sunday afternoon. "Sometimes it's a little hotter than others, but this is a performance-based business. You're here to win."
Winning was something the 49ers did plenty of during Baalke's first three seasons in the role. San Francisco went to three NFC championship games (2011-13) and went to Super Bowl XLVII as Baalke claimed the 2011 NFL Executive of the Year award in his first season on the job.
After winning a total of 13 games over the past two seasons and changing head coaches twice, attention has turned to Baalke. He acknowledged Sunday that this season should offer a better idea of how his past few draft classes have developed as the 49ers figure to lean heavily on young players he has drafted in the past three years.
"I think there will be more clarity to it," Baalke said. "Let's face it, you've got to develop players. You have to draft well and you have to develop well, and it takes both sides. It works in unison. This is a developmental league in a lot of aspects. These guys are coming into the league younger than ever, less experienced than ever with less time on task than ever because of the ways the rules at the collegiate level are set up."
Last week's decision to name Tom Gamble the assistant general manager raised some eyebrows as Gamble and coach Chip Kelly have worked together before but Baalke said Sunday the move had actually been in the works since before Gamble departed for Philadelphia in 2013.
When Gamble returned to the Niners last year, it essentially was only a matter of time before he would get a title with more clarity than the nondescript "senior personnel executive" title he previously held.
Baalke said he was well aware of how that move could be perceived but pointed out that it was his decision to promote Gamble.
"I don't live in a cave," Baalke said. "I think I understood exactly what was going to happen. And that should show you even more that I don't care. In all honesty, (he is) deserving of the position."
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