I agree that we need someone who can seamlessly run FA and the draft in sync, in concert with a stable coaching staff, to develop the best roster over time. If that guy can be the young, up-and-coming Kyle Smith and he brings with him respect around the league and connections with other teams through his father, that will be best case scenario (post-Bruce).
But we've already unlocked the beginnings to the winning formula imo, if accidentally:
We pursue and pay guys based on their fit in our team culture--hard workers who love football--and we hand them to technically proficient assistant coaches who know how to motivate. That's a change from the Vinny years. We do not overpay good players just based on name value, we consider scheme fit and roster construction/salary cap allocation. That's a change from the Vinny years. We value our draft picks and hoard more than the standard allotment--this is the BIGGEST change from the Vinny years, and by far the most important. It is simply a numbers game, no matter WHO you have making the picks, as long as the picks are made following a purpose and are given a stable environment in which to develop.
I do not exaggerate when I say that studies have been done, and over a long sample size NOT A SINGLE NFL TEAM DRAFTS BETTER than any other. Let me repeat: no NFL franchise consistently hits on picks more than any other over a long period of time. Teams have hot streaks (like Seattle putting together that defense/secondary from mid-late round picks in a single draft or two but then ruining it by trading away multiple cost-controlled 1sts and not valuing their OL), and teams have cold streaks. And some teams provide their prospects the time to develop without constantly changing coaches. That's it.
The single significant factor that leads to teams hitting on draft picks more than their peers? Quantity. The more picks you throw at the wall, the more that stick. The second biggest factor that allows drafted players to develop into hits at a better percentage? Stability. Usually this involves the same coaching staff, which usually also involves a stud QB keeping teams afloat even when they hit cold streaks in roster building.
My point is that if we proceed with these main variables staying the same, we will eventually stumble into a hot streak in the draft and have a period of playoff success:
1. A core leadership group of Jay and assistants, plus Kyle Smith, Shaeffer, and seemingly Doug Williams in a buffer/facilitator role.
2. A core philosophy of valuing and hoarding draft picks and drafting guys who love football.
3. Continuing to smartly navigate the salary cap in a way as to keep our important homegrown talent while cycling out replaceable pieces for new cost-controlled rookie contracts, not becoming too top-heavy.
These 3 factors staying stable may not get us to a spot that a HOF QB would, but it should help us ascend into a competitive tier.
That's why our QB being 34 is kind of scary, even if he turns out to be a perfect fit with Gruden and the talent assembled around him. The number one thing that can derail this slow but steady progress towards being a good, stable franchise is having a crater at the QB spot in future years that undermines the rest of what's been built to the point where someone gets impatient and brings in a new regime who throw out the baby with the bathwater and starts the process over again.
Jay is not special. Our talent evaluators may not be special even if we boot Bruce and go with Smith. Our roster may not be special. But keeping everything stable, fostering a football culture and just throwing 8-10 draft picks at the board without being idiots about the salary cap every year IS the best way to consistently win 9-11 games...and when your FO lucks into a couple home run drafts in a row, you get a monster roster for a few years and you're in position to capitalize already.
Alex Smith has to be good and we have to adequately replace him in a couple years, if everything else stays the same. That's our ticket--stability, lots of draft picks, smart cap management, and good enough QB play to keep it all relevant.