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It’s Time For Jed York To Step Up

Aug 31, 2014 at 11:42 AM

The San Francisco 49ers had quite the offseason. They had four players arrested and two others involved in an investigation into a suspicious incident and with each the 49ers have given the same boilerplate statement, only the name of the player being changed. Through all of this, one voice has been missing leading to the question:

Where's Jed York?

It appears that he is doing an impersonation of Clark Griswold. You know the scene from National Lampoons Vacation where Sparky is driving late at night and falls asleep. The family station wagon going down a random off-ramp only to miraculously not hurt anyone and end up in a hotel parking lot.

That's Jed York, or should we call him Sparky?

From 2000 to 2010 the 49ers had only nine players run into trouble with the law and get arrested. They were near the bottom of the league, and their fans crowed about the troubles of other franchises.

Unfortunately that is no longer the case. Since Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke were hired to run the football operations in 2011 the 49ers have had the most players arrested out of all NFL teams with 10.

Fortunately for Sparky, his team has won. Imagine how loud the call for change would be if they weren't.

The 49ers bottom line it appears is winning. And doing it at all costs. The character of those on the team is not important.

Not only are all of the arrested players still a part of the organization, York has allowed Harbaugh and Baalke to go out and sign troubled players off other rosters as well.

For example, during the 2013 offseason Baalke brought in troubled cornerback Eric Wright despite his two prior arrests. Baalke did the same thing this offseason, bringing in Chris Cook. Cook's two arrests were part of a league high 12 incurred by the Minnesota Vikings since 2011.

Win on Sunday that's all that matters.

That should have become clear to everyone who watches the NFL when York allowed his football men to play Aldon Smith for the entire game against Indianapolis only two days after driving his vehicle into a tree while intoxicated. Smith was two times over the legal limit in California. If it wasn't, it became crystal clear when the 49ers decided to pick up his option for 2015, only a couple of weeks before Smith would enter a no contest plea in a Santa Clara County courtroom.

The 49ers should stop the charade that they are concerned about Aldon Smith, the person when in fact all they care about is Aldon Smith, the pass rusher.

Prior to each draft, while setting up their big board, the 49ers go their list of players and issue select individuals a gold helmet. The gold helmet is meant to signify players who met certain on and off-the-field criteria. That criteria includes among other things: Do they have a passion for football? Are they clean guys off the field? Are they going to be family men first?

This sounds nice, until you go back and look at the 2011 draft class. Three of the first five players the 49ers selected that year have been arrested at least once since they were drafted, and that number goes up to four when you add in undrafted free agent Demarcus Dobbs.

How many of these guys were given gold helmets?

Earlier today word came that defensive end Ray McDonald had been arrested for domestic violence. As if that wasn't bad enough, the alleged victim is pregnant. This comes on the heals of the NFL announcing stiffer penalties for first time domestic violence offenders and while 49ers fans debated the length of the Aldon Smith suspension compared to that of Ray Rice. What is that they say about people who live in glass houses?

None of this will change until York decides to do something about it. The question is, what will have to happen before he decides to take action? Perhaps the McDonald incident will get Jed involved.

My guess is that we will continue to see the status quo until it hits the team where it matters most, the wallet. When the sponsors, the ones helping fund the new stadium, become tired of having the negativity around their brand is when it will stop.

Until then it's win at all costs. And that's unfortunate.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Mojorisin
    Look how wrong you can be... By: Mojorisin Date: Sunday, August 31, 2014 at 3:27 PM Shame on Baalke that we lost Glenn Winston to the Browns (red flag guy, should have cut Lamichael). Now that's a different story. Keeping James over Winston was a good choice.
    Sep 10, 2014 at 3:01 PM
    Response: Although they recently cut James it still was a smart choice to keep him over Winston. Winston would have given them nothing different than Gore or Hyde and played no special teams.
  • DaNiners
    As someone who has followed the 49ers for over 35 years, I must say that I am growing tired of the drama. At some point, they are going to lose much of their fan base, or Harbaugh will have to go. No one wants to see that, but there is always a scapegoat in these situations. Baalke could be just as much to blame for drafting players with apparent character issues, but I don't he take the fall. Clearly, York won't. The pressure will mount on Harbaugh if McDonald is found guilty and they don't cut him loose. I suspect they will cut him loose and that is pretty sad having to lose another talented player because the team cannot seem to keep these knuckleheads in check. Pretty sad time to be a Niner fan on a lot of different levels..none which have anything to do with our ability to win football games.
    Sep 2, 2014 at 10:14 AM
  • Keven E
    What is any owner to do to " get in front of the issue"? How does anyone know the Yorks have done nothing to try. If a parent punishes a child for poor behavior, does that parent have to put out a public notice that they have punished that child so that everyone feels satisfied. The answer clearly is no, it is so easy for "The Moral Police" to come out and PRE-JUDGE every player and chastise the owner based on an arrest. FOR ALL MEN PLEASE REMEMBER, if you are attempting leave a room for instance, a woman is trying to force you to stay by holding the door and gets banged by that door anywhere on her body. If it leaves a mark and the police see it, they are well within their right to determine grounds for felony assault. Point is McDonald has been proven guilty of nothing as of yet. Furthermore, how accountable is your employer for your behavior after work? This story is one ridiculous notion after another.
    Sep 1, 2014 at 1:29 PM
    Response: York hasn't made any public comments, instead he leaves that up to Harbaugh.
  • John
    The bottom line for EVERY team is winning. Teams shy away from players with a bad history only if the players talent isn't worth the risk and/or if they think the locker room isn't strong enough to handle it. We don't know the facts yet on the Mcdonalds arrest. Seems many people are reacting as though all the facts have been presented and he was found guilty. As for Jed...He's not a true Team President. He didn't work his way through the ranks and earn his position. He was born to rich parents that don't care enough to hire competent football executives to run the team. So wondering when Jed will weigh in is a hilarious exercise in futility.
    Sep 1, 2014 at 9:35 AM
  • fight exploitation
    Smith received his punishment. McDonald has only been accused. The NFL policy was constructed with input from individuals who purport to seek the end of DV but by only holding men responsible and who benefit politically and financially from doing so. If McDonald was defending himself; I hope that he fights this so that gender politics can be prevented from further exploiting those who were actually abused.
    Sep 1, 2014 at 9:00 AM
  • Tira DeLeon
    It is great to read of your views of what a leader should do in times as such. However, these men of brass were not voted by the public, they were placed either through inheritance or a board of members of such. I suppose your looking for York to reiterate thr NFL's policy already in place and let America know he is does not partake nor will his organization enable such demeaning behavior. Yea, not everyone will react according to the way we hope. However, we just have to wait for action to take its course
    Aug 31, 2014 at 9:21 PM
    Response: True. York is still just a kid in many ways. Look, he had no problem going out and selling the public on his new stadium. He needs to stop hiding behind Baalke now and get out in front with what's going on with his organization and employees. He's let it sail far off course and needs to start fixing it.
  • Chris Erickson
    Hey Jack, do you think a locker room that has multiple dudes with character issues combinded with dudes that are high character really fits the win first blue print? I don't know about you but I would think the team would have a hard time building chemistry, trust, and bonding for a common cause when they have guys with such differing values and morals. Do you think Baalke and Harbaugh take those things into consideration?
    Aug 31, 2014 at 7:56 PM
    Response: I don't think so. They all have a common goal when in the locker room, meeting room, or on the field.
  • sfniner
    I don't think that playing Aldon in the Colts game was an endorsement his behavior. It was keeping him close to help him buy into his treatment. I think that if McDonald actually assaulted his pregnant wife and there are no mitigating circumstances that he will be unemployed in the very near future, matter what the courts or the league decide. I don't think they are as unengaged as you suggest. You are just having trouble recognizing the nuanced approach that the49ers have taken
    Aug 31, 2014 at 6:26 PM
  • Dave
    I agree with almost all your points except picking up Aldon Smith's 5th year option. That money is only guaranteed for injury. It didn't send any message. They could cut him next week and they wouldn't owe him a dollar on his 5th year. It made perfect sense to pick up that option. BTW if we did cut him next week I would bet 29 other teams would call him and offer a contract.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 6:04 PM
  • htwaits
    The implications of what you wrote, to me anyway, seem different than what you intended. It wouldn't be a bad idea to try to formulate a better description of what you think York should put in place. I'm assuming that you don't mean that he should hold a press conference the same day that one of these incidents take place. Kawakami's high hobby horse seems, again to me, to be a bit higher than yours. I'm not someone who would understand all the legal implications of the agreement between the player's union and the "for profit" owners or the "non-profit" NFL. I also haven't a clue about what powers remain with the owner of the team based on the contracts his organization sign with each individual player. During the long course of my live I've noticed that our politicians are frequently indignant about what those in power are doing with that power -- that is, until they get hold of power themselves.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 4:24 PM
    Response: You might be right.
  • Mojorisin
    As far as ownership demanding a higher moral standard, Really? I think you are suggesting the 49ers should have cut ties with Aldon to set the example last year. He would be wearing lime green shoes right now if they had done that. Some red flag guys are diamonds in the rough, Alex Boone for example. I can't wait to see Kenneth Acker at CB (red flag guy). I don't blame Baalke for doing his homework and finding value in these guys. I DO blame Baalke for the horrible 2012 draft and consecutive whiffs on back up QBs (Mccoy and Gabbert). Shame on Baalke that we lost Glenn Winston to the Browns (red flag guy, should have cut Lamichael). I can understand why Harbaugh is not happy with Baalke as the GM. I blame Jed for siding with Baalke over Harbaugh when Baalke is the one that screws up the most, it would be the equivalent of Harbaugh going 4-12, they would run him out of town.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 3:27 PM
    Response: I didn't say they should have cut Smith. Please try not to put words into my mouth. Playing him against Indianapolis? Now that's a different story. Keeping James over Winston was a good choice.
  • htwaits
    Is it possible that this kind of situation isn't as simplistic as you and some others think it is? I'm not being sarcastic. It seems that the action that you and other like minded folks are looking for is that York should, as a matter of policy, terminate all contracts within minutes of an arrest being made. That of course would mean that York would be open to additional punishment in civil court. "Tough it out Jed!" seems to be the mantra.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 2:47 PM
    Response: That's not what I'm looking for. I think York should be in front of it so that it doesn't happen at all, and have clear procedures in place if it does. Neither appears to be happening right now.
  • Jack Stewart
    I don't disagree that Baalke might take players who have character concerns (e.g., Wright, Cook), but using the 2011 draft as an example is very misleading. None of the three referred to (Kilgore, Culliver, and Aldon) had been arrested before they were drafted. There was no indication they would have trouble with the law. To use this as an example of Baalke's looking the other way on character issues is disingenuous.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 2:36 PM
    Response: There were red flags around Aldon Smith's character before the draft.
  • Mojorisin
    Who are we kidding? Are 49er fans supposed to be better than the Ravens fans that gave Ray Rice a standing ovation in his first preseason game? How about the fact that the NFL doesn't check for HGH and a lot of the guys are raging on it? These guys are gladiators paid millions to create mayhem on Sundays, not to sing in the tabernacle.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 2:20 PM
    Response: There's nothing in the piece about how 49ers fans should act.
  • Shane
    Jack, its ironic cuz I've been meaning to post for about 2 weeks but for various reasons couldn't. I do want to start by saying I love how much you post, your variety of topics, and responses to comments. The irony is Ive loved your last 4-5 pieces and haven't gotten to weigh in and now I have the time and respectfully disagree. I agree with Caly, what can you do? I agree there is a problem but you haven't stated your opinion on an answer. The NFL puts out a policy that basically says: don't hit woman or else and 5 days later a guy gets arrested for DV. I mean, you can fix stupid. Its a catch 22. The fans don't want "thugs" but if you lose they jump on you even worse. so can you just keep cutting pro bowl caliber players? can you just screw up the cap for the next 3-4 years because guys are too STUPID to obey the laws of society? My point is I guess its just not that easy. I think Jed is in a brutal spot, and these players need to take accountability. It starts there. The NFL is already suspending these guys, what more can Jed do?... anyway, great work lately man, keep it up. look forward to chatting again soon.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 2:03 PM
    Response: Shane, Thanks for taking the time to comment. No worries, if you agree with everything I say I'd be worried. It's about being proactive and setting the standards of behavior up front. From everything coming out of the organization over the last 6 months that hasn't happened.
  • Edd
    Sorry, I have to disagree with you. I am shocked and disturbed by McDonalds' behavior, but the mechanism is in place and for good reason. It is the 49ers objective to put together a winning roster. It is the NFL's responsibility to establish/maintain standards for their product. If you believe the 49ers must take personnel actions absent due process of law, then you are wrong. Also, you must establish rules preventing the penalization of the team financially for cutting players due to behavior issues. I hope they sack this guy, but it's not Jed Yorks call until McDonald is convicted of crime.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 1:46 PM
    Response: I'm not saying cut McDonald or Smith or any of the guys who have been in trouble. Harbaugh and Baalke are always the front men for York doing his dirty work. He needs to step up and say enough. This is my organization and these are the standards we expect all of our employees to uphold and stick to it.
  • RL
    Like REB4 said, this is Baalke's responsibility. He is the person in charge of all personnel decisions. The guy is overrated anyway. Baalke needs to take ownership of his mistakes. The 49ers never used to be like this until he took over as the GM. I remember how we used to be proud of ourselves in being a disciplined team, I guess those days are gone.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 1:09 PM
    Response: I don't blame it on Baalke or Harbaugh. Their job is to win games. That's what York hired them to do. It's York's job to set the direction for the organization and hold his employees to it.
  • NumbersDntLie
    Football is a business.. a business of making money. The opinions of people with moral standards need not to apply because the NFL doesn't give a damn, unless bad press affects the bottom line.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 1:06 PM
    Response: Why do you think Goodell came out with the new punishment levels around domestic violence?
  • Glenn
    Jack Hammer is an idiot!
    Aug 31, 2014 at 12:58 PM
    Response: Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Glenn.
  • Caly
    What can they put behind their lip service? How do they show they have standards? There is nothing they can do but cut them and that only hurts the entire organization. The owners hands are tied until the can cut them without salary cap penalty. Would you fire and employee because of your standards if it meant you would lose millions of dollars and not be able to make it back?
    Aug 31, 2014 at 12:34 PM
    Response: I would. Leaders have standards that they hold individuals to. York has not shown himself to be a leader.
  • Jay T
    The players the 49ers brought in that have had past issues have not had issues while with the team. The problem has been with other players. The fact that the "problem" players have behaved themselves better than those who had drafted or signed as street free agents says a lot more about the team than the losers who allowed money and fame cloud their judgement.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 12:19 PM
    Response: There were character concerns with Aldon Smith prior to the draft.
  • Orgules Brantanomous
    Aug 31, 2014 at 12:08 PM
  • REB4
    The front office wants to take credit for all the success, Well THEY OWN THIS! THIS IS ON BAALKE AND YORK! Harbaugh doesn't make personnel decisions, Baalke does. Be a man and accept responsibility and suspend yourself and take a pay cut.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 11:55 AM
  • Caly
    What can the owner or coach or anyone in the organization do about it? They can't baby sit grown men 24 hours a day. The same as any company can't do with their employees. So what do they do cut everyone that has off the field problems and absorb the cap hit as to cripple the ability to pay and compete. Until the nfl steps up and allows for teams to cut players that the nfl suspends without having it effect the cap then the owners, even if they want to can't do much about these problems.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 11:51 AM
    Response: Put something behind their lip service. Show they have standards within their organization.

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