Former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli says the key to Jon Baldwin's success lies largely with the person throwing him the ball.
"You can't just throw a guy out there and throw a little magic dust on them and say, 'Hey, this has got to happen,'" said Pioli, who drafted Baldwin 26th overall in 2011. "I think a big part of Jon's development will be how he's used and his whole relationship with Colin."
Colin Kaepernick is Baldwin's fifth starting quarterback in two and half years. Pioli said part of the reason Baldwin never flourished in Kansas City was because the Chiefs had a revolving door of offensive coordinators, receivers coaches and quarterbacks. In the last two years, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn all started games at quarterback. After winning just two games last season, the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith.
"He works really, really hard at his craft," Pioli said. "What I did a poor job in helping Jon's development was keeping continuity and consistency around him, and that's not Jon's fault. ... Again, I think part of what happens between quarterbacks and receivers is very much chemistry related and repetition related."
Pioli, who is now an NFL analyst for NBC Sports, said he's rooting for Baldwin to succeed in San Francisco and noted that the receiver has all the tools to do so. Baldwin was a basketball star in high school - and was recruited heavily by Jim Harbaugh's brother in law, Tom Crean, at Marquette - and those skills show up on the football field.
"Some guys are big-bodied that don't know how to use their body to create separation," Pioli said. "Jon does know how to create separation by using his body."
As everyone who watched the end of the Super Bowl knows well, the 49ers could stand to improve their red-zone offense this year. Baldwin is over 6-4, has long arms and can leap 42 inches, and he would seem to be an ideal target when the goal line is in sight.
Said Pioli: "He has the tools and the skills to be that player, but again a player's ability in the red zone really plays to the chemistry thing and the trust that a quarterback needs to develop with that receiver."
The regular season begins in less than three weeks, and Kaepernick and Baldwin have practiced together for a grand total of one day. How quickly can that chemistry possibly develop?
It depends on the individuals involved. Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin, for instance, seemed to hit it off immediately. As early as May, it seemed like the two had been playing together for a decade. On the other hand, A.J. Jenkins spent a large chunk of the offseason by Kaepernick's side and a connection never seemed to take hold.