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I realize that this article flies in the face of everything we have read in the last two years about our bean-counting, villain of an owner, but it needs to be written. I am fully prepared for the onslaught on e-mails from those of you who feel that Dr. York was the worst thing to hit San Francisco since the Earthquake of 1906.
York has been called everything from cheap to miserly, and deserves a reprieve. People frequently cite three examples of his penny-pinching ways. 1 - He locks up his Gatorade at night. Who cares? 2 - He replaced bottled water with an elaborate array of drinking fountains. Cry me a river. 3 - He doesn't want to pay for the personal postage needs of everyone in the organization and their families. Neither would I. These "roadblocks" have nothing to do with championships, and didn't stop Mariucci from compiling the best record in the league during his last two years with the team.
Let's talk about what York has done. He has paid the maximum that the league allows in player salaries every season. He renovated the weight room, an enormous project, at the suggestion of the players. He is planning on unveiling a proposal for a new stadium at Candlestick Point this winter and will pay for the majority of it with his own funds, a move that distinguishes him from most owners in terms of his loyalty to the city and fans. He just spent $10 million to rid himself of a coach and general manager who were eroding the credibility of the franchise.
You might argue that he is at the top and bears ultimate responsibility. Is it his fault that the state of California is bankrupt and San Francisco isn't exactly doling out money for stadiums? Is it his fault that Terry Donahue and his yes-men back-loaded contracts to put us in the salary cap situation we're in now? Is it his fault that Donahue hired Dennis Erickson, who is a bright mind in his own right, but didn't have the people skills to attract equally innovative coaches to his sidelines?
York has arrived at all the rational conclusions. Erickson inherited a division winning team and within two years morphed them into the worst team in the NFL. Donahue mortgaged the team's future, didn't work hard enough, and created an intolerable environment for coaches. Can we really blame York for having a blind spot when it came to Bill Walsh's hand-picked successor?
Will York one day have the commanding presence of a Bob Kraft? Maybe not. But he is a phenomenally bright individual who has shown over the last week that he knows when to stand back and when to take charge. He paid a handsome sum of money this week to wipe the slate clean and bring in fresh talent. The least we could do is grant him that clean slate.