When you finally emerged, you told us you were ready for the backlash. After all, it's just part of the job. When you're president of the Niners, you said, "sometimes you need to take shots personally."
Well, Jed, this is certainly one of those times.
Oh, I knew it wouldn't be easy. You had to complete two difficult tasks. In explaining Scot McCloughan's departure, you had to show us you had a good reason, without conveying the reason itself (clearly a skeleton in McCloughan's closet). And in addressing the future, you had to show us you had a good plan, without making promises you couldn't deliver.
Nope, not easy. But hey, you're president of the Niners. You've got a draft in a month, and a stadium vote in two. You'd come this far with your pleasant demeanor and PR savvy, but now you needed to show us more. You had to show us some substance behind your style. You had to show us the leader you are.
So how'd you do, you ask?
Not well, Jed. Not well.
The McCloughan stuff wasn't ALL bad. There was nothing wrong with taking what was clearly a firing and dressing it up as a "mutual parting"; it's a bit dishonest, but when you appreciate what your employee's done, you give him the chance to save some face. And though you seemed a bit cold when you declined to define his legacy (how 'bout the legacy of leading us to respectability out of Donahue's darkness?), you sounded great when you expressed your affection and wished him and his family the best.
But here's how you should've said it. "A personal issue recently arose to drive a wedge between Scot and the organization, and we agreed that a mutual parting would be to our mutual benefit. Obviously out of respect for Scot's privacy I can't reveal the nature of the personal issue, but on behalf of the organization I'd like to express my thanks for Scot's efforts and wish him and his family the best."
Or something like that.
Instead, sounding like you'd been told to stick to a poorly written script, you repeatedly deemed the issue "a private personnel matter." It's a weird phrase without an obvious meaning, and you were immediately asked whether you meant "a private PERSONAL matter." You insisted the right word was "personnel," going so far as to correct a talk-show host who'd said "personal." Yet you conceded the exit was for "personal matters" and wouldn't have happened for "personnel reasons."
You see why we were confused, don't you? McCloughan was a member of the Niners' personnel, but his primary task was to hire OTHER personnel. So when you said "a private personnel matter," we couldn't tell whether the personnel at issue was McCloughan himself or the personnel he'd hired. When you (sort of) clarified he'd left for "personal matters" and not "personnel reasons," you (sort of) confirmed the issue was McCloughan himself. But then you were left with the peculiar official position that this was "a private personnel (not personal) matter" that was based on "personal matters" (not "personnel reasons").
Good lord, Jed. I know you were only trying to be tactful, but I doubt that even YOU could understand what you were saying. You didn't come off as strong, sure, or even particularly smart. You looked like a kid with something to hide. A kid who was trying to fool us. A kid who shouldn't be trusted.
Worse was your explanation of why you stayed silent for five days while speculation was out of control. You said you'd promised McCloughan that silence, and you proudly reported your "integrity is more important to [you] than trying to get out a story." But when a talk-show host smartly asked what those five days were FOR, you could only stumble around: "Just to figure out how, the uh, you know, the mutual separation was gonna take place."
Look, Jed, we're not stupid. We know you spent those days hammering out a settlement of McCloughan's contract. That's just business. But when you run a tight ship, you're always out in FRONT of the story. You settle your business BEFORE it breaks. You show us, again, you know what you're doing.
On your first task, you didn't. And on your second, it only got worse.
Again, it wasn't ALL bad. Obviously, our first concern was the draft, and you strongly assured us that you were "prepared." You told us our board was virtually set and Trent Baalke was ready to run it. Those were credible assertions, delivered with confidence; as far as the draft goes, you put a lot of us at ease.
But next came the big question: what then? Who would be your next general manager? You did well to say it wouldn't be Mike Singletary, Paraag Marathe, or yourself. But then you said, strangely: "I haven't decided on whether we're going to have a general manager."
Sorry. Did you say you "haven't decided"?
On the radio, you explained. "There aren't 32 people in the league" who have all a GM's qualifications, "not just a personnel piece, but the understanding of, you know, contract negotiations, the market for players, ... the business aspect of sports." So you can't assume you'll find such a guy; instead, you'll get through the draft, and then you'll figure out "what's the right structure." "We need to make sure that we have the right structure in place to be successful in the future."
All this brought on a couple of questions. First, Jed, if you think a GM must have all that, why did you give McCloughan the job? After all, Marathe's your contract and salary-cap guy; either your view of a GM's a little restrictive, or you just admitted you blew it with Scot.
Second, can't this franchise just pick a structure and go with it? Think about it. In 2004, we had a GM over a head coach. In 2005, we had a head coach over a "vice president of player personnel." In 2008, we went back to a GM over a head coach. And now we've got a "director of player personnel" AND a head coach, with neither really over the other, and no idea what's coming next.
Can't you just FEEL the "championship culture"?
But you weren't done, Jed. You were just about to break my heart: "If there's a future Hall of Fame general manager that's out there on the market, it's certainly something you'd think about. [But] I doubt that a future Hall of Fame general manager is gonna be on the street."
Seriously, Jed, you just kill me.
Back in December, Mike Holmgren was on the street. He might not've been a "Hall of Fame general manager," but he'd clearly be an elite "football czar," "head of football operations," whatever. He lived in northern California, and he had those roots in Niners glory. Most of us thought that hiring him would be "certainly something you'd think about." But you said you certainly wouldn't.
And now that he's the czar of the Browns--and Mike Shanahan's the czar of the 'Skins--you fire your GM and tell us, oh well, "I doubt that a future Hall of Fame general manager is gonna be on the street."
And isn't that just like this franchise under the Yorks, these accidental owners. Other franchises make the bold moves, and ours is left behind. We watch as the top names go to other teams--the top executives, the top coaches, the top players available by trade or free agency--while we just sit, trying to figure out "what's the right structure." Spinning in circles, again and again.
For a decade, we'd watched the Yorks botch one move after another. Time after time, they'd acted without sensitivity, without discretion, without a clear vision. In short, without professionalism. Yes, THAT'S the word. In the Mariucci/Erickson transition, in the Nolan/Singletary transition, and indeed in the DeBartolo/York transition, they'd looked--more than anything else--like amateurs.
This was your moment, Jed. Your chance to show us you're truly different. Instead you just showed us more of the same, another episode of The York Family Amateur Hour.
A decade in, the show goes on, no end in sight.
Date: April 13, 2010 at 12:32 AM
Comment: Jeff this article is spot on...when I read it, I had to do a double take. Due to the fact that most journalists bow down to kiss the ring of the Yorks. Plain and simple the Yorks are the Keystone Kops and The Gang That Could Not Shoot Straight rolled into one. This once proud franchise has been run into a ditch since the Yorks took over the team. I love the 49ers, but I don't like our current ownership. If they fail to get this fairytale stadium in the suburbs, they should just pack it in, and sell the team. We need leadership at the helm of the 49ers, and the Yorks don't fit that bill. The Yorks are cheap to a fault, they will not hire on real experienced football people, and they are absentee owners...they live in Ohio. The 49ers need local ownership, and someone who wants to WIN, no matter what it costs. And the Yorks are not the most honest people either...they lied to SF as to why they didn't want a stadium in the City. Now they are lying to the taxpayers of Santa Clara about the cost of the proposed stadium in their city. Plus Denise York has said on record that she doesn't like football, they got the team for Jed to run...I'm just sayin...
Date: April 3, 2010 at 7:59 PM
Comment: I keep hearing comments here and elsewhere about how Jed the boy blunder should have made a play for Holmgren or Shanahan when they were available... Yes, that would have been ideal, however ask yourselves this: if you were Holmgren or Shanahan or any other elite coach/football czar type, who is in high demand, would you honestly WANT to come back to the 49ers right now? When you are in a position to take your pick from almost all available openings, why in the world would you seriously want to come and work for the Yorks? As long as the Yorks are calling the shots from the Ivory Tower, we will continue to get second rate talent, coaches, and front office personnel when we need the best of the best to become champions again.
Date: April 1, 2010 at 2:36 PM
Comment: I heard that the 49ers might have hired Matt Millen. This has to be an April Fools joke. Matt Millen is actually the uncontested worst GM in football history. However if it's true every fan should take a long read into this guy's past and reconsider if they want to pay his salary with their ticket revenues. He's admitted he's a bad GM on national T.V. He's hurled some very unprofessional insults at players and had to publicly apologize for them. He was the sole inspiration for the 3 year Fire Millen movement which included chants at professional sports events such as NBA games, hockey games, college football games around the country, and the 2006 Thanksgiving game at Ford Field. I just can't believe anyone would be stupid enough to give this guy any football job much less make him GM again. Anyway if he has been hired to do the job I'm not buying any more tickets to the games because this guy doesn't deserve the job and I'm not going to help pay him.
Date: April 1, 2010 at 10:06 AM
Comment: matt millen article is the yearly april fool's joke!!!
Date: March 31, 2010 at 6:23 PM
Comment: This is a good article, I agree with you and don't, at the same time. Everything you say is valid. The reality is we don't know why Scot is not with the niners anymore. A personal/personnel matter is pretty vague by design. He could have been caught banging a secretary in the equipment room and now she is threatening a lawsuit (he is going through a divorce), we will most likely never know. To can your GM right before the draft, there had to be something. I would give him a pass on the media circuit due to trying to keep it in house. My problem is that he stated many times that they were prepared for this. If that is the case, for how long? Holmgren/Shanahan were on the market and would look great in red and gold, but the niners of today don't even look anything like they would need to, to run the system they would implement. Do you blow it up now and start over? I don't know, but it will be interesting to watch! My 2 cents!
Date: March 31, 2010 at 5:51 AM
Comment: I hate to break this to you, Jeff, but Jed York is the real OWNER of this team and that's the way it is. No, the team is NEVER going to be sold to someone who you think can bring the team back to its Glory Days. But Jed is trying very hard to make it work and I think it will happen. Critics like you are a dime a dozen.
Date: March 31, 2010 at 2:57 AM
Comment: This was the best article I've read about the 49ers yet in all my years following them. Awesome work! I wish pubescent Jed would read it and respond. What he should have done is just what you said: Fire McCloughan months before and bring Holmgren in as GM. Instead we have a couple of well traveled yet unspectacular people running the personnel side of our house and no roadmap for how our organization should be structured. Eddie D wouldn't have mishandled this situation like this, that's for sure.
Date: March 29, 2010 at 6:14 PM
Comment: Hope springs eternal. Now that Cohan is going and Davis eventually will be gone, we need to figure out how to get rid of the Yorks. Actually letting them go to wherever but keeping the name would be a thought. If Steve Young or Eddie D or Carmen Policy brought a new team to SF under the name of the 49ers and the Yorkies (you know the little dogs who just yap all the time) leave town, I'm buying tickets here! Don't let the door hit you on the way out Jed!
By: Dallas Niner fan
Date: March 29, 2010 at 2:25 PM
Comment: Jeff, great article, you are right on as usual. So Jed says that they were prepared for Scot's resignation, and then he says that he has no clue whether he is going to hire a GM or not??????? You would think that he would have that figured out, wouldn't you. The other thing you pointed out which I have thought from the beginning of this GM affair, if Jed is so on top of things why let this thing come down just before the draft? Why not replace your GM when people like Holmgren and Shanahan were available? As usual for the Yorks, poor timing and having no clue.
Date: March 29, 2010 at 1:00 PM
Comment: Can it be that the Warriors as a franchise have more promise than what was the crown jewel of the Bay Area, the SF 49ers? As most would know, ownership is everything. The Yorks are making that point more valid by the day, I am beginning to believe the Yorks have no interest in winning. They are incompetent owners and Jed is proving himself to be as football dumb as his parents. The announced sale of the Warriors has given the Bay Area and its long suffering fans hope. I think the same announcement from the 49ers is the only hope 49er fans have at this point.
Date: March 29, 2010 at 1:44 AM
Comment: Jeff, you hit it right on the head with the last sentence. "No end in sight" just haunts this team. I've been waiting so long for the Forty-Niners to once again rise to the top, that I'm afraid it just won't happen in my lifetime. Sometimes amateurs succeed in becoming professionals. Apparently Jed has more York than DeBartolo in him, so in the world of professional football, he will remain an amateur. He wants to meddle in the day-to-day operations. Someone like Shanahan or Holmgren wouldn't put up with that situation so don't get your hopes up, the team doesn't really need a GM, we have the Jed and Paraag show. Funny how they just had to hire Singletary so soon and then the experienced GM-Head Coaches became available. Bet Singletary would have stayed on as DC under any one of those HC's and this year we might have had an offense that could compete in the NFL. So now we can watch Jed, Sing, Raye and Smith in all their glory. So what's the excuse gonna be when they muddle around in the middle like they did last year?
By: Jack Stewart
Date: March 28, 2010 at 6:11 PM
Comment: Jeff, much of this is good analysis, especially the last few paragraphs concerning the people who are out there. But your letter-style article comes off a little snide in tone rather than disappointed. Having watched the 9ers for decades, I do think there's a difference in the way Jed has handled things versus the way his father did. And I don't think there's a problem with saying "I don't know" occasionally. It can lend rather than detract from credibility. But the real pressure is on Jed now: how do we draft, and what is the structure he comes up with? If he simply promotes someone from within, we'll have plenty to point to. If he hires someone we think is a star, he'll look like he was right in being patient.
Date: March 28, 2010 at 5:11 PM
Comment: One point--I think the reason McCloughan was fired has nothing to do with his personal life. It doesn't make sense. It WAS his personal decision based on personnel. I believe it was because he was confronted with a challenge to his responsibilities/control as GM and refused to go along. The draft was coming up, which is one of the few make or break days in the NFL year. Jed/Singletary/Marathe wanted more of a say (which is why they never had a REAL GM in the first place) in a specific issue(s) about McCloughan's control of pending choices/trades/moves up or down, etc., and he wouldn't go along. So, they bought him out to not say why he was fired, and promised not to blame him for leaving right before the draft. This was a sudden move. It has to do with his job. Not his life. He'll be back, on another team (not as GM) before next season.
Date: March 28, 2010 at 11:01 AM
Comment: This was the statement I've been waiting for. It was great. Thank you. Could you please do us reality based fans a favor by sending it to the "glass is half full" 49er beat writers (you know who they are)?