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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

An Open Letter to Jed York

Stewart M. Cockrell
Dec 8, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Dear Jed York,

Rumors are swirling around that Jim Harbaugh and Company are quickly on their way out the door after the 2014 season. Tales of dysfunction and turmoil seem to fill up my news feed on a daily basis with stories of discontent with Harbaugh. Allegedly Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh don't see eye to eye on personal decisions at times. Coupled with an anemic offense this season and underwhelming performances pretty much across the board in every game, I can see why the rumors are there and most, if not all of the fan base feels that Harbaugh will prowling the sideline for another team in 2015.

But as a fan, I have one bit of advice…Be careful what you wish for...

In 2003, following two years of disappointing playoff exits, your father Dr. York and his hand-picked general manager Terry Donahue chose to part ways with head coach Steve Mariucci. The 49ers had a few up and down seasons under Mariucci, but his career record with the team was a respectable 57-39 and he reached the NFC Championship in 1997 only to lose to Green Bay and likely would have made the NFC championship in 1998 had offensive juggernaut Garrison Hearst not broken his ankle against the Falcons. There is no shame in losing in back to back seasons to Super Bowl representatives/winners. Mariucci also was at the helm of the greatest comeback in NFC playoff history in his final season with the team. Outside of some problems with Terrell Owens (whom seemed to rub everyone the wrong way), the 49ers players seemed to love playing for the guy. If a coach can take a marginal talent like Jeff Garcia and turn him into a annual pro bowler, I think that deserves some recognition. But instead, your father decided that Mooch couldn't take us to the next level and dismissed the coach in 2003. True, Mooch flirted with the Tampa Bay job leading into the 2002 season, which I'm sure rubbed your pops the wrong way. I get it; pride is a fickle, fickle beast.

I'm sure I don't need to remind you of what followed, but let's rehash it a bit. Terry Donahue hired Dennis Erickson away from the Oregon State Beavers and he promptly went 9-23 over the next two seasons. Clearly, this wasn't acceptable to the organization and a full scale house cleaning ensued with new head coach Mike Nolan being brought into coach/build the team in 2005. Nolan and company were going to bring back a tough, working class defensive minded approach to the team. However, Nolan was unremarkable as a head coach and could not seem to keep an offensive coordinator to help the development of his #1 draft pick Alex Smith. After going 18-37 from 2005-late 2008, the 49ers released Nolan and promoted Mike Singletary to the position of head coach.

Now many of us fondly remember the Mike Singletary years for their interesting sound bites, pants dropping during half time speeches, and him randomly banishing star players to the locker room. Singletary, like Nolan before him was a tough as nails defensive guy that lead 90% on inspiration and 10% by the seat of his pants. Having never held a coordinator position, he leaned on men that shared his offensive philosophy of good defense and a strong ground game. Unfortunately it never really jelled under Singletary and he was fired in late 2010 after going 18-22 as our head coach. This lead the way for the courtship and eventual hiring of Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh prior to the 2011 season and instant success ensued. I won't rehash all of the last three years here, because you were present for most of it. But I will remind you of the 43-17-1 record he has posted since he has been here and I will also couple that with a 5-3 playoff record.

I bring this history up simply to remind you that history tends to have a way of repeating itself, and great NFL coaches don't come along every day. History also shows that consistency is the best way to be a contender year in and year out. For examples, see no further than Bill Walsh and George Seifert. If that hits a bit too close to home, look at Bill Belichick in New England and to a lesser extent Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati. You could say the same for the Andy Reid years in Philadelphia. New England has been the NFL model franchise for the better part of 15 years and has rung up an astounding record of 181-69 in the years that Bill Belichick has been the coach and had only one losing season to speak of.

Now I know Jim Harbaugh can be a handful. He is a powerful personality that can wear down the ordinary person. He is unwavering and unapologetic, on top of being demanding and fiery. While short term, most of us can agree that this is what organizations need from time to time, we can also agree that it can make even the most patience of people have a short fuse. Harbaugh's history has proven that he comes in, burns bright and then wears out his welcome in about four years. His competitive nature and demanding ways are what make him successful. He shouldn't apologize for it any more than you should expect him to change.

I'm not going to sit here and advocate that everything is perfect with this team. This is clearly the most talented team given to Harbaugh and Company, but it is also the most injury plagued team that he has had as well. Holes along the offensive line, offensive linchpin Vernon Davis being banged up, both all world linebackers being lost for the season and a carousel of defensive backs that you never quite know how are going to play from week to week. Coupled with a real and true regression at the QB position and you have the recipe for a sub-par season and that is exactly what we have this year. I know all teams deal with injuries, but this team has been ravaged by them. And despite all of that, Harbaugh has put up a respectable 7-6 record and should finish the season no worse than 8-8. Shoot, even Bill Belichick had to deal with Matt Cassel for a season and Robert Kraft didn't call for a full scale change. Even Bill has laid a couple eggs in the Super Bowl and yet there he stands on the Patriots sideline to this day.

So Jed, while you sit there in your office and contemplate your next move, I ask you to think about the past decade leading up to Harbaugh's arrival and how one poor, short sided decision can cost your team in the long run. Make changes where they need to be made, on the field and at the coordinator and assistant coach level, but look long and hard about the man that wears khakis and prowls the sideline. He is the way he is because of his competitive nature and it doesn't matter if all the players, Baalke, or even you really like the guy. What should matter is the long term success he can bring to this organization.
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.


  • 35 years a fan
    If Harbaugh is let go then it clearly shows the fan what the organization is about. It is certainly not winning. It is more about ego's of the owner and GM. Why? Our GM is great at collecting draft picks, but when you are unable to turn those picks into productive NFL players who should be blamed? Stevie Johnson was a nice pick up but Odell Beckham was there at 18 and our GM selects a safety. All those picks All Coach has done is win. This team has been decimated by injuries but is still competing.
    Dec 15, 2014 at 5:37 AM
  • t
    I thought we had him another year. Let him finish his job on the terms of his contract then let's makes a decision.
    Dec 14, 2014 at 3:24 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Every day Sean Payton wakes up he and says Thank God I don't coach for the S.F Niners. He blew the shitter up in N.O and no one is talking about sending him out the door. Why? Because everyone else in their division sits and drops marbles.
    Dec 14, 2014 at 9:45 AM
  • Lucky Phil
    Garth Brooks was known as a "Thumb with a hat". Jed York is a "Flacid penis with shoes". Lets just let Ballke and Harbaugh work this out. They may hate each other but if i'm the owner and boss, I don't give a shit. I tell the both of them we win a SB next year or you are both out the door. And if I was JH, I would re-run the story of the SB winning Giants in 2012 with the Rocky theme song. The Giants had a terrible season and their head coach, Coughlin was hated by everybody but that hard stool grinded out two SB's. So, my advice just sit on the shitter, (Play the Rocky theme song) Until you get results.
    Dec 14, 2014 at 9:36 AM
  • Terrible_Ted
    Just 2 seasons ago the 49ers were the future of the NFL. Now we are watching the carcass of the 49ers play out these final few games in a daze. What the he11 happened? The underhanded meddling of Jed York and Trent Baalke are surely to blame. You read of unnamed sources saying this or that about Harbaugh. These 2 clowns have never won anything. When Harbaugh is gone, once again we will take our place as cellar dwellers.
    Dec 14, 2014 at 1:07 AM
  • Niner fan in Miami
    It is insane that this is actually happening. Seriously. Who has the level of success tha Harbaugh's had for their first three years at a job in any career in the world and has to deal with something like this. I hear so much talk about our talent -- and we do have a lot of it, but so do half the teams in the league. As matter of fact if any of about half the teams in the league would have had the success that the niners have enjoyed over the last 3 years you could point to a ton of players on those rosters and say that they are the reason the team is so successful. Every team has first round picks and stud athletes. Every team has a bunch of that, were their team to be successful, they would be pro bowlers. Again, this is so ridiculous that it feels fake. The fact that the local media is not feasting on The Yorks and the front office over this whole ordeal is truly mind boggling. Really. How is this happening?
    Dec 14, 2014 at 1:05 AM
  • Oscar
    If u dont like Jed decision find a new team or shut up Harbaugh ain't did nothin 4 real but tease the fan base we can do better plenty good young coach out there brighter than his weak ass
    Dec 14, 2014 at 12:28 AM
  • Oscar
    Jed fire his ass you doing the right thing dumb play calling in big game he'll never beat Pete Carroll start over is a good time for a change
    Dec 13, 2014 at 11:17 PM
  • bluemonday
    Jed !! We paid so much for the ticket to your new Gig. We don't want your family to bring us back to the bad and sad Erickson-Nolan-Singletary era again. I personally will sell my PSL back if coach Harbaugh will not return to the sideline next year.
    Dec 12, 2014 at 9:10 PM
  • Sm
    keep harbaugh
    Dec 12, 2014 at 3:51 AM
  • Ann G.
    I have followed and loved the niner's for the past 35 years. I seen great coaches and awful coaches. When the niners went through the ugly years starting with Erickson it was painful to watch but I remained hopeful and faithful. All the bad mouthing generally starts at the top. If you are going to ax someone maybe it should be Balke, he seems to be the biggest complainer. Keep JH, he's the teams best bet. You have no suitable replacement. The open letter speaks volumes so read, wake up and just maybe JH will stay and you can keep your dignity. I am sure Bill Walsh is just shaking his head.
    Dec 11, 2014 at 9:23 PM
  • niner
    dear jed, manup and become like Eddie d and hire another bill walsh. smart educated withknowledge of modern football ( see kyle shanhan or adam Gase) Wco is doing well check our green bay ( you took nolan over mcarthy and rodgers???) ravens, chiefs. enough with the wanna be mike diktas. you can afford it, quit being to penny wise pound stupid.
    Dec 11, 2014 at 8:04 PM
  • David W.
    Thanks for writing this great letter. Exactly what I would say to York. Jed - Prove to the fans that you care more about the team than your own ego. One thing has been proven over and over again, meddling owners screw up football teams. Don't be the next Al Davis or Jerry Jones! While I watched every play of those ugly 10 years before Harbaugh, if our team becomes another owner destroyed organization then I won't do it again. I think other current die hard fans like me will also question why we should continue to support a team with an egomaniac owner.
    Dec 11, 2014 at 11:53 AM
  • Larry Imoe
    They need to keep Harbaugh for all the reasons above, but I think it is all about the money, not winning or losing. Harbaugh, Davis, Iupati, Crabtree, all looking for new contracts,,,plus how many others they have signed to 1 year contracts. Yorks are known to be profit hungry, and look to balance wins to profits. they follow Bidwells (Az. Cardinals) formula of winning enough to put butts in the seats, then clean house and reduce payroll.
    Dec 11, 2014 at 8:18 AM
  • John Gardelius
    Maybe the problem is with Trent Balke. Harbaugh is the best Coach we've had since Seifert and Walsh. Remember when we won the SB in 1981? What happened the following year? We were horrible....Let it all play out and I promise Harbaugh will get us back to the promise land!!!!!!! We can't lose this guy..
    Dec 11, 2014 at 7:54 AM
  • Stephen Green
    Hi Stewart, Well written piece, and while I agree with most of it, there were a couple of points. Terry Donohue was Bill Walsh's anointed successor, he wasn't picked by Dr. York, Bill said that this guy was THE guy. Secondly, JH's throwback football has been rumbled by the rest of the defences in the NFL, half time adjustments aren't working, and game planning seems lazy. There seems to be a malaise and lack of conviction in the offence. Is it the players? If so, then it comes down to coaching, is it a lack of inspiration? If so, then it comes down to coaching. The defence is fine, and considering the injuries and suspensions, is playing well above it's level. The offence stinks, and as JH is meant to be an offensive minded coach, it comes back to him. Keep Fangio at DC no matter what, but questions need to be asked by Jed York of what Harbaugh intends to do to fix the offence.
    Dec 11, 2014 at 5:04 AM
  • Brent forester
    do everything possible to keep our coach unless you have someone equal or better. And i don't think there is ... We are just having one of those season,which happens . It happened in New England, did they fire there coach??? NO.. Go niners. We will be back ....
    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:49 PM
  • Hermi
    I hope this punk reads and takes this letter to heart. Get that freaken chip of your shoulder, since you really haven't earned it nor deserve it! Do what's right for the team, and keep our Coach!
    Dec 10, 2014 at 7:57 PM
  • Marisela Garcia
    I agree with this letter it right on the point! I have been a 49er frightful fan since I was a kid and Harbaugh is the best that has happend to the team his a great coach! I love Harbaugh please keep our coach! Im tierd of all the bad talking about our team. We need Harbaugh! Our QB he is a good QB use him as the Athletic QB that he is! His young and a lot to learn and he has that Coach to Improve him! 4 9er4L!!
    Dec 10, 2014 at 4:49 PM
  • Joe H
    I usually am the first one to grab a pitchfork a lynch demanding a coach be fired. This has been a horrible season for the 49ers and I have been thinking long and hard about what should be done. I constantly find myself wanting to pull the "fire Jim now button." However Jeb, if your reading this, I have to say keep Jim. There is no one better anyways and he is a damn good coach. This article is spot on and I'm glad I'm not the only fan buying into the media hype that Jim should be gone. We like Jim so at least wait until somebody that can compare comes along. DON'T BE AN IDIOT! KEEP JIMMY!!!! I cannot take another decade of losing 49ers. KEEP JIM!
    Dec 10, 2014 at 2:13 PM
  • Rick
    Very good article indeed.... I also think Jed should think hard about his next steps with regards to coaching staff changes. I also think Kaepernick should go back to his old look, with the soul patch, and get rid of the beard - it has done nothing for his look or his performance. I also think Coach Harbaugh should let him play like he did in the first season when he was more effective. And Coach, develop some new plays that include a hurry up offense that doesn't give the opponent time to adjust to your tactics - using up the play clock to get set is not working.
    Dec 10, 2014 at 1:56 PM
  • Ed
    same goes for the Cowboys firing Jimmy Johnson after winning Back to Back Superbowls ! SMH
    Dec 10, 2014 at 10:13 AM
  • Zoab
    Very nicely written. I woke up this morning to Middlekaufs tweet about a Profootball talk article talking about Tomasula being the favorite to be next coach. The decade before Harbaugh arrived seems to be right around the corner.
    Dec 10, 2014 at 10:03 AM
  • AR
    I believe in Harbaugh. He has proved himself as a talented coach. I also believe it seems that the company is holding back these players, to play the game in front of them. There is something holding back Kaepernick from doing what he does best, is play the game to win. What makes me believe in him, is the way he plays the game. I know its not QB to tackle, run the ball and sorts, but that is what makes him so great at what he does. He has not been throwing the ball this season like he was rocketing them across the field last season. Let Harbaugh coach and let Kap play the game he best way he knows how. If he is having a bad season, than so be it. GO NINERS!
    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:19 AM
  • Robert
    Great article! I just want to piggy back on a comment...when the chicago bears got rid of Lovie Smith i was flabergasted! Who gets rid of a 10-6 coach? Dont be like the Bears and let arguably one of the best coaches in the Nfl go. Stop whining about the personalities and look at whats important.
    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:01 AM
  • Tab
    I agree 100%. Mr. York, when you look at team and changes, give Harbough his job and ability to coach right there on our sidelines. Look at all the other aspects like OC, Gm perhaps and players that needs to move on. Harbough will get us back into playoffs and SB just have to trust him. Thank you Mr. York for keeping our Niners awesome!
    Dec 10, 2014 at 8:36 AM
  • Mike
    Please keep him. We need him.
    Dec 10, 2014 at 7:54 AM
  • Sam
    Harbaugh gave us 3 good years and then burned his bridges like everyone who knows him said he would do. I am glad York is ending this circus now and not letting it drag on for years. A big Thank You Harbaugh for a few great years. Hopefully you go to Oakland, do well and we meet in the SB. 49er Fan / Raider Hater
    Dec 10, 2014 at 7:39 AM
  • Big Al
    Harbaugh is an offensive liability. Thanks to Vic Fangio, this team has compiled a great record. Once Harbaugh learned he was gone after this season last Feb, he skillfully orchestrated this season's collapse. Why else would he completely overhaul a fairly successful offense, then not allow his QB to play more than a couple of series during the entire preseason? Kap badly needed reps and got almost none. His chance to learn the intricacies of the new offense was prevented by his coach who also removed the things he does best from the new offense and restricted him to the pocket with long sideline high-risk patterns. Harbaugh is either very dumb or very calculating. You decide.
    Dec 10, 2014 at 7:10 AM
  • ssoriano
    Jed, this letter is written perfectly and outlines our team. I can remember when fans of the 9ers did not want YOU, JED YORK, to even have a hand in the team. But you are here and it is your final decision on how to move forward. Just remember that the fan base is supporting our team and most understand a year of slide back.
    Dec 10, 2014 at 5:22 AM

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