Gamble interviewed for GM jobs this offseason, didn't end up with one. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, he indicated the Eagles were more than just a fallback, for a guy who grew up in South Jersey and whose father, Harry, is a former Eagles president.
"The timing wasn't right [last year] for a lot of different reasons, some professional, some family," Gamble said as he prepared to head off for the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "Then this whole thing came up again. I have enough relationship with Howie, enough dialogue. Living out in Pac-12 country, I've got a lot of respect for Chip Kelly . . . I've been in and out of his [Oregon] building, he's been in and out of [the 49ers'] building, I think he's a hell of a football coach."
Gamble said he and Roseman spent "5 days on the phone" last year after the draft.
"We chatted again [after Super Bowl XLVII], and you know what, it was time. I was real excited about it," Gamble said. "Again, I wasn't looking to go anywhere; I was in a great situation with some great people . . . as good as it gets in this business. [But] it's Philadelphia. That means something. It's a little bit different, this [NFL personnel] thing. There's not a lot of movement, not a lot of opportunity. I didn't know when it would come up again, and I was ecstatic to come back . . . I loved this franchise, loved this city."
It's rare for a team to allow its personnel director to leave in the middle of draft prep, right before the combine, especially when it is basically a lateral move. Gamble, 49, acknowledged having "a real tough conversation out there." He indicated that while the 49ers weren't willing to let him go to the Eagles to work under Roseman a year ago, they agreed then that if the opportunity came up again this year, he could take it.
"Not a great time of year, no question, but I think because of my relationships there, with our GM, Trent Baalke, the way we got along, the way we worked together with the head coach [Jim Harbaugh] . . . they were nice enough to allow me to do it," Gamble said.
Gamble said right now he is "trying to jump in and help, any way I can."
Gamble began his NFL career with the Eagles in 1988.
"I thought Buddy Ryan was about as good as it gets as far as evaluating players," Gamble said. "Spent a lot of time, sat with him, had a ton of respect for the way he operated, what he looked at . . . considered him a mentor from that standpoint."
Gamble left the Eagles in 1995, taking a coaching post with Rich Kotite's Jets. Then he scouted for the Panthers, Ravens and Colts, spending 1998-2004 under Colts GM Bill Polian, before going to the 49ers.
Gamble looked like a decent bet to get a GM job earlier this offseason; in fact there were reports he would be hired by the Jets, who ultimately went with John Idzik, from Seattle.
"Fits and personalities and those types of things. It would probably be easier to ask the clubs [why it didn't work out] than it would be for me," Gamble said. "Probably, looking back, I could have handled some things differently. It's all a learning experience - how you go into things, how you answer questions, your ultimate goal . . . to spend some time with the people I got to spend it with was a great experience."
Does Gamble still want to be a GM, which could make his return home short-lived?
"I don't really have an ultimate goal," he said. "I've worked in football, this'll be my 26th season coming up, and that's what I do . . . If you win, anywhere you are, and you're in a prominent position, those things are going to come up . . . I don't fixate on it, I don't think about it . . . I'm just excited to be here and do what I can do here to help this team, this franchise, these people here, give 'em everything I've got."
On Twitter: @LesBowen