Marcio Jose Sanchez-AP

Marcio Jose Sanchez-AP



Following a disastrous 5-11 2015 season and the firing of head coach Jim Tomsula, San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York stepped up to the podium in January to address the media in an attempt to alleviate the concerns of fans that the franchise was quickly headed toward irrelevance.

The mindset among the Niner Faithful was that the York family got their shiny new home, Levi's Stadium, built on the back of the success of Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff. Once that was done, there was really no need for ownership to put up with a rocky relationship that they no longer wanted any part of. He even got a Super Bowl back in the Bay Area.

The belief is that York got what he was after and does not care about winning. That's a rather large assumption. Maybe it's true. Maybe it's not true. No one likes being so hated. It has to be embarrassing to have demeaning signs flying over your home stadium. It has to be embarrassing to read the hateful words directed at you on social media. It has to be embarrassing to try and give away free tickets to watch your team and then have the majority of fans tell you what you can do with those tickets. Jed York may have a strong desire to build a winning franchise. It's just clear that he has no idea how to do that.

Our own Al Sacco points out that, since the York family has had control of the team, they have had a part in the hiring of five head coaches not named Harbaugh. Those five coaches have combined for 52 wins and 98 losses with no winning seasons to their credits.

Under the York family, the 49ers have gone from a shining example of how an NFL franchise should be run to one of the worst run franchises in the NFL. They aren't even the best example of a sports franchise in the Bay Area anymore. They are the worst. In fact, ESPN ranked the 49ers as the worst organization in sports.

Here we are nine months after that press conference and six weeks into the 2016 NFL season and the 49ers' campaign to return to relevance this year already looks to be over. This isn't exactly what the fanbase believed they were promised during that January afternoon, and no one among the Faithful is happy.

Even the daughter of legendary former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. voiced her opinion regarding York's reign. On Tuesday, via Twitter, she grabbed headlines by calling an article by Lowell Cohn of the Press Democrat stating that York should exit as CEO, "interesting." She shared another article, this one by Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle, entitled, "Losing has become the 49ers' new normal."

"You've got to go, son," said Cohn in his article as if he were scolding a child. "Get out of the way. Just clear out." The meaning is evident, but there's no point. Jed York is not going anywhere. The York family is not going anywhere. "My family's owned this team since before I was born and they'll own this team after I'm gone," York said during the January 4 press conference. Don't hold your breath if you're waiting for Jed York to exit the picture anytime soon.

Rather than bringing in experienced football minds to help him make sound football decisions, York places a lot of faith in people that continue to fail the organization. One such glaring example is general manager Trent Baalke.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


"Trent's role is to find the next head coach and continue to build this roster and get us back to championship form," York said in January. "Trent has the skills to do this and get this done. He's built championship rosters in the past." Scot McCloughan deserves most of the credit for much of those rosters. Sure, Baalke contributed to them as well – working under McCloughan, but he wasn't the one making the final decisions. Despite being named Executive of the Year for the 2011 season, when the team went from a 6-10 season to a 13-3 season and then reaching the Super Bowl the year after, Baalke has slowly allowed that championship roster to erode.

"I believe in Trent's ability," York said. "We have a lot of opportunity in front of us. I don't know exactly where we stack in cap room, but I think we're top-five in the league in cap room today. We've got the most draft picks." Baalke doesn't spend the cap space and his ability to draft has come into question.



Looking back, Baalke probably should have been the one let go over Harbaugh, but the two just could not get along. Following the hiring of Chip Kelly, York was told that it was inevitable for general managers and coaches to clash. "I've never seen that before," York jokingly responded with a laugh. So Baalke remained. His roster decisions and lack of activity during free agency have decimated the 49ers' roster, which was once the envy of the NFL. Baalke has been stockpiling salary cap space as if a financial storm were on the horizon. For years, he has refused to be even a little aggressive in restocking the 49ers' roster.

Baalke is a big believer in building through the draft. The problem is, his drafts have been abysmal. He is also a big believer in selecting the best player available, even when his team has glaring needs. Drafting the best player available is a good strategy when your roster is stocked with a vast amount of talent, but when you are in dire need of a linebacker or a quarterback and you almost completely ignore those positions in the draft, something is wrong.

The 49ers defense is one of the worst – if not the worst – in the league. The unit has given up an average of 30.8 points per game (31st), 389.8 total yards (27th), and a league-high 174.3 rushing yards (32nd). Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil deserves his share of the blame, but in reality, it has been Baalke that has failed to maintain depth on the roster. O'Neil has been given very little to work with.

This week, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reminded us of some interesting Baalke quotes following the draft. Baalke was also asked about the 49ers not addressing the area that many felt to be a top area of need – the linebacker position. Baalke responded by asking, "Who said it was the top need on the team? I would respectfully disagree."

So here we are, months later with Nick Bellore and Michael Wilhoite starting in place of injured linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Ray-Ray Armstrong. In his defense again, neither of those injuries could have been predicted, but Baalke had to know that the depth at inside linebacker was at least questionable. After all, maintaining the 49ers roster is his job.

Baalke has had his opportunities. Through recent years, the 49ers have had more draft picks available to them than any other team. However, the lack of talent isn't limited to just the defensive side of the ball.

In his defense, we should acknowledge that Baalke did select a quarterback in this year's draft. Jeff Driskel was selected out of Louisianna Tech in the sixth round. Where is he now? Driskel is now a backup on the Cincinnati Bengals' roster because he couldn't beat out last minute free agent pick up Christian Ponder.

Following the draft, Baalke was also asked if he was tempted to draft a quarterback instead of CB Will Redmond, who started the 2016 season on Injured Reserve but began to practice this week. After all, players like Dak Prescott and Cody Kessler were still available. "Not really," Baalke answered.

Admittedly, the 49ers have a lot of young talent on defense and the potential at key positions could be there down the road, but potential doesn't always translate into success in the NFL. More often than not, it fails to evolve into a successful career. On offense, the potential is more scarce. Who knows if the 49ers will ever find a wide receiver tandem that will actually concern opposing defenses. The team's quarterback of the future likely isn't on the roster and that is the most important position on a football team. That's the position you build around.

How long will it take for the 49ers to dig themselves out of this hole? That depends on how long it takes York to realize that the problems with the team go way beyond the quarterback, head coach, or general manager. The problems on the team stem from the man who ultimately makes the big decisions. It's the same person that he sees in the mirror each morning. If he wants to change the culture of the team, it begins with changing how he runs the team. For the sake of the fans, who are now leaving Levi's Stadium only half filled for home games, he better figure out how to do that sooner rather than later. As of right now, the 49ers simply look like a franchise that has lost its way.