49ers’ dysfunction trickles down from Jed York

Oct 21, 2016 at 5:29 PM16

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.
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.


  • m_brockalexander
    Can't believe York STILL believes that Baalke is still the man for this job. Just listen to the video from last January about all the opportunities to improve with the most draft picks and $ 50 million in cap space. What did he do with it, Jed? He made your team WORSE. Time to make a change, Jed.
    Oct 28, 2016 at 12:41 PM
  • JACK
    Good article. I'm so tired of Matt. M. and followers continue to blame Kaepernick. He doesn't have anyone around to help. Who thought Carlos Hyde was an upgrade to Frank Gore, or Q.P. was going to make us forget Michael Crabtree, Vince McD. was better than Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker? Ted Ginn Jr. is still helping his team.The last time Kaepernick was good, he had a good team around him. And the last time Kaepernick was bad, remember he had a make shift offense line. Dan K. has been injured the last two years, and A.Boone was to worried about his money to be effective. A.Davis was hurt, and continued shifting the line around trying to find the right combination. If our 49ers are going to get better, trade Carlos Hyde for a high draft pick, as high as one can get?? And get a second round LB, and get some 1st, 2nd, 3rd round WR's. Give Kaepernick some help, I'll bet we'll be talking then about " he's back ". Kaepernick isn't perfect, he is good enough ,when put quality around him, he can take us to the " GAME ".And for once, can this organization start investing in our players. Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, should have been paid and still 49ers.
    Oct 27, 2016 at 8:42 AM
  • Bob
    Baalke plays the averages in the draft. He trades down to get more picks figuring some of those players will pan out. Who else would give up a third and fourth round pick for four or five picks in the sixth and seventh rounds? And now what you have is a late round team.
    Oct 26, 2016 at 3:02 PM
  • SantaFeSteve
    San Fran is very Liberal but it is still part of the U.S. If the team allows certain players to insult the U.S., it will never have success re fan appreciation or other players wanting to play for that team. Many player benefit from endorsement contracts. Who would conclude that being associated with the 49'ers was a good idea. So it is costly for players to play for the 49'ers. Thus free agents will leave. There is some talent on that team. They have a good run offense. It does not take much to go from first to last or last to first. They need to clean up their act. They may need psychological assistance for certain players. If your head is not into the game the results will not be great.
    Oct 25, 2016 at 11:58 PM
  • Mustangmele
    Here's one thing that wasn't brought up or acknowledged... the unxpected retirements of so many veteran pro bowl players. I'm not saying Baalke hasn't whiffed a few drafts, nor am I an apologetic, but that many retirements of key players in a single off season would set the best franchise and GM back a couple years. You can't write an article like this and not bring that up.
    Oct 24, 2016 at 5:13 PM
    Response: Good point. At the same time, you probably should not allow some of your top players to walk in free agency when you don't have suitable players to replace them or can't draft suitable players to do so. Surprise retirements on defense have had an impact on the current state of the team, but so has an inability to draft offensive players well. Early retirements, which is becoming more common, have not helped Baalke, but the team was already regressing even prior to that.
  • Anthony
    Lifelong 49er fan here. My friends and I are no longer spending a dime on 49er merchandise or tickets. Eddie D ran the team for 21 years, delivered us 5 rings and a winning culture. Yeah he wasn't a saint, but we won, and that's all that matters. The York's never step out into the trenches, they are too private for all that, it is just about the $$ for them. Eddie D valued winning and when his sister outmaneuvered him for control of the team, that is when we became irrelevant. Harbaugh brought some of what Eddie D helped create a generation ago, then the Yorks destroyed that as too. Let's do Eddie D a huge favor and no longer buy anything 49ers until he is allowed to buy back his team.
    Oct 24, 2016 at 10:01 AM
  • Nick
    York simply doesn't care Its unbelievable that Jed is related to Eddie ! This must be killing him slowly the greatest owner in history sitting at the thanksgiving dinner table with the worst owner in history can you imagine the dinner conversation ! "Can you pass the turkey uncle Eddie".
    Oct 24, 2016 at 6:46 AM
  • Paul
    York has no football or business background, and it shows. He worked for one year after college before joining the family business. He said "Mommy, can I run the 49ers?" Mother tells him " Sure I never gave an F$&@ about them".
    Oct 23, 2016 at 6:12 PM
  • KB57
    Isn't it about time to stop discussing the details of the 49ers failures and place the awful performance of this team on Jed York. You can guarantee as long as Jed York calls the shots, this team will stink. Do you really think Trent Balke wants to be 40 million under the cap? OBVIOUSLY, Jed York as told Balke here's your budget, work with it. And when it doesn't he fires someone and acts like it's not his fault. Remember, York demanded we hold him accountable. What an arrogant ass.
    Oct 23, 2016 at 3:22 PM
  • Niner1
    The mutual agreement is that Jed York looked looked like an idiot when ran Harbaugh out. GM Baalke is doing no better by not spending cap money that is there. There were good defensive players available and they decided money in the bank is better. They both should step down and I'm a long time Niner fan and this point I'm all for boycott, I don't want to give York any of my money.
    Oct 23, 2016 at 5:49 AM
  • OldCoach
    "Trickled down"??? I'd call it an avalanche.
    Oct 22, 2016 at 11:45 AM
  • niner
    Eddie was ecstatic when he learned he was the 122 best sports organization. it took Baalke to explain it wasn't good news as there were only 122 organizations evaluated. they wanted to hire the worlds best spin doctors (HIlliarys) to counter Lisa Debartolo ( who is now the cult hero to 49er fans) but Denise and John said it costs to much. Heard Jed asked his barber to take the job.
    Oct 22, 2016 at 8:27 AM
  • Carl
    It is quite remarkable. There is a man who made San Diego State relevant. He was promoted and quickly transformed Stanford into a championship program while coaching the largest upset in college football history. The same man instantly turned around a decade of disaster in Michigan. Your not going to believe this, but this coach is the 5th winningest coach in NFL history (the best in past 35 years). The San Jose 49ers should have hired Jim Harbaugh. Oh! That's right. They did. The 49ers hired him and then removed him. So here we sit. ESPN now ranks our San Jose 49ers the worst franchise in sports. The quick results speak for themselves. The 2015 plan was to resign the worst starter on the Harbaugh team to huge contract so that good players could not be afforded. Force Harbaugh out. These two moves screamed intelligent. Hire "a teacher" as the head coach for one year and give him $14 million to go away. Then suppress the roster in hopes of drafting a quarterback in 2017. Then sign a slot receiver for almost nothing because the team might set all-time records for bad in the pass game.
    Oct 22, 2016 at 6:37 AM
  • RishikeshA
    Thanks David, as the losing continues it's not a stretch to say that the real Super Bowl for the Yorks was the Stadium being built. Not spending in free agency, avoiding the quarterback issue, and firing the best coach since Bill Walsh shows, me at least, winning is not the paramount issue.
    Oct 21, 2016 at 8:03 PM
  • Nflguy
    Jed loves to pretend there was no separate ownership during the championship yrs. You see by saying "my family" he gets to pretend he owned the team during those championship seasons. Jed is clearly surrounded by yes-men. Why else would he be so dumbfounded that many in the media felt he was obviously lying about the circumstances around Harbaugh leaving. Got his stadium then immediately screwed the fans. Only hope we have is that he will eventually grow tired of being hated and mocked and will step back and let others run team.
    Oct 21, 2016 at 7:40 PM
  • Judy
    Please leave Jed York ! This feeling is mutual among all fans ! Let Debartolo run things, please !!! U have managed to disgrace this organization beyond belief, so , so sad .....
    Oct 21, 2016 at 6:09 PM

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