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Jed York is backed into a corner and has no one to blame but himself

Al Sacco
Dec 30, 2016 at 11:09 AM13

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Jed York has put himself in a precarious position. In the coming days, the much-maligned CEO of the San Francisco 49ers will have to make decisions that will shape the future of his franchise for the foreseeable future. The conclusions he'll have to come to with be both difficult and expensive, and it's a situation I would assume no NFL owner would want to find themselves in. Don't feel sorry for Jed though, as he's not worth any of your sympathy. Often in life, you bear the brunt of your choices, and that's where Mr. York finds himself at the moment. These are his mistakes, his shortsightedness that's painted him into this corner. Where York goes from here is up to him, but the path back to respectability will be a treacherous one.

York's first mistake was how he handled the Jim Harbaugh situation, but I don't mean actually letting Harbaugh go. While he was a tremendous coach, life with Harbaugh had apparently grown toxic. Things were so bad, the dysfunction even leaked onto the field as the 49ers finished 1-4 to close out 2014, and saw their playoffs hopes get drenched in the process. Sometimes even the most blissful marriages deteriorate and end up in divorce, and I'll accept that was the case here. After the marriage is over, though, you have to make good decisions in order to move forward in a positive manner. This is where York's downward spiral started to spin out of control.

Replacing Harbaugh, who despite his quirks led the 49ers to a 44-19-1 regular season record, wasn't going to be easy. If you're going to let someone as successful as that go, you have to hit a home run with his successor. It seemed the Niner's brass had the right idea initially, as they appeared ready to tab then Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase as the next man up. Gase is the kind of young, innovative offensive mind that can rejuvenate a franchise, and he reportedly had planned to keep San Francisco's ultra-successful defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, on board. What you would have had here was a perfect scenario that would have kept some of the continuity from the previous regime intact, as well as adding some much-needed life to an offense that had become stagnant under Harbaugh.

Unfortunately, due to York's (alleged) meddling, things fell apart last minute with Gase. York reportedly insisted that Gase hire defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as defensive coordinator, something Gase was said to be uncomfortable with. The result was Gase on the outside looking in, and Tomsula being promoted to head coach. Looking back now, the whole thing seems like a joke. Tomsula was one-and-done after a 5-11 disaster, and Gase is now the head man in Miami and about to lead the Dolphins into the playoffs.

I truly believe that much of the Tomsula debacle had to do with the fact that York's surrounded by yes men and people who enable him to live in his bubble. He thought Tomsula would be a good idea, and that the fans would buy into it given the team's recent success. Instead, the fans were outraged, and the public perception of York went into the toilet. This, most likely, took him by surprise and forced his hand to fire Tomsula after one season.

While getting rid of the over-matched Tomsula was a good choice, York once again screwed things up by not starting over completely after 2015. General manager Trent Baalke, who has taken what was one of the best teams in the NFL and destroyed it, should have also been let go. Whether it's missing on draft picks, ignoring glaring team needs, or taking too many chances on injured players, Baalke's decisions are the main reason San Francisco went from a top three roster to a bottom three roster within a few short years.

So York keeps Baalke around to help hire the next head coach, even though the general manager himself was clearly on the hot seat. The tandem settled on the controversial Chip Kelly, who some would say is better suited for the college ranks anyway. What this did was set up an awkward situation for the future, as another bad season with minimal player development would most likely spell the end of Baalke, and leave Kelly twisting in the wind.

Fast forward to the present, and that's exactly the situation we have. Everything that could have gone wrong for the 49ers did in 2016, as the team was inconsistent on offense and historically bad defensively. They have no answers at quarterback or wide receiver, and much of the young talent on defense has proven to be underwhelming thus far. Add that all together, and you have a two-win season on your hands.

Now Baalke is all but certain to be fired, but what does that mean for Kelly? If York decides to hire a general manager from outside the organization, that person will want to bring in his own people. Odds are, that will leave Kelly without a place at the table, which means the 49ers would be on their fourth coach in four years. Cleveland Browns, anyone?

Another option (which would be a very York thing to do) is pretending to do a "search" and then settling on promoting assistant general manager Tom Gamble. Under this scenario, Kelly stays as coach and gets another chance to prove he belongs in the league. In fairness to Kelly, the roster he inherited is awful, so most weeks were like bringing a knife to a gun fight for him.

Still, the 49ers are so broken right now, so damaged, that a completely clean slate may be the only way to go. That would mean York would be stuck paying Tomsula, Kelly, and Baalke large sums of money just to start over with another regime who will also be making major bucks. That's not an ideal situation by any means, but like I said, sometimes in life, you reap what you sow. York did this to himself, and it's time to pay the piper.

Al Sacco has been covering the 49ers since 2013 and has had his work used by national outlets such as ESPN and USA TODAY. If you'd like to reach Al with a media request, please contact him via Twitter @AlSacco49
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.


  • JerryD
    Jed should be fired! Mommy and Daddy need to look outside the family to hire an intelligent, non-arrogant CEO. We know this wont happen, so let us all be prepared for another few years of disappointments.
    Jan 1, 2017 at 3:56 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Nobody wants a flaccid penis... In the words of Mike Sing "I can not play with them, I can not win with them, I can not coach with them. Get this flaccid penis out of my face, I can't do it. I want winners". You know what we need!!! Whose the big swinging dick around here??? This organization needs Lucky Phil! You know it!
    Jan 1, 2017 at 2:31 PM
  • Niner
    I disagree, the Yorks have fragile small egos. They will blame someone else because they don't have the courage to look into the mirror and admit they have been the 49ers cancer for the last decade. If they admitted that, they would have to hire a real NFL person who will not be acquired dumpster diving on the cheap , which they love to do.
    Dec 31, 2016 at 9:59 PM
  • Trumpy
    Too bad Trump was elected the US President. Trumpy could have bought the 49ers from Jed Dork and his family and dumped Kaepernick the next day. Well anyone is better than the Dorks right??
    Dec 31, 2016 at 3:35 PM
  • Former9erFan
    Al Sacco- you agree with letting Harbaugh go? Really??? He should have been given power and trusted with selecting his own GM. Any 49er fan who believes Harbaugh should have been let go is delusional. How many more years of losing will take to get your head screwed on right? May 15 or 20 years of being a joke might change your view.
    Dec 31, 2016 at 9:33 AM
    Response: You're taking it out of context. If the situation had deteriorated to the point where they had to separate, then it is what it is. While I would have rather kept Harbaugh and extended him, that simply wasn't happening. So you have to move on, but you have to make good decisions from there which York hasn't done.
  • 50yearformerfaithful
    An inept dentist who does not know one thing about professional football much less people was handed a 12-5 playoff team with a history of 5 Super Bowl WINS and flushed it down the toilet. After his failure the ignoble meddling backstabbing silver spoon got handed a gift in Harbaugh who saved the franchise from the depth of york imcompetence and true to york for lil silver spoon flushed that team right down the toilet just like his ignoble moron daddy. You see niner fans, the apple does not fall far from the tree. The yorks are a family of selfish greedy ignoble egomaniacs that care about your money and your money alone. They are born with money and bathe in money and could care less about their own lack of integrity honor or whether the fans santa clara or anyone else. They are the epitome of greed dishonor. Rotten from the head down. WHOSE GOT WORSE OWNERS THAN THE 49ERS???? NOOOOOO BODY
    Dec 31, 2016 at 7:23 AM
  • John
    York will take the least expensive way out. He loves money. The 49ers are going to make him and his parents huge amounts of money for the next several years no matter how they play.
    Dec 30, 2016 at 11:58 PM
  • Raul
    Harbaugh didn't need to go. Great head coaches are much harder to find than a GM. The Yorks suck, but they did get the hiring Harbaugh part right. If they can get the right people in the front office, probably a coach, and spend the excess cap money they may not be as bad as most think. Jed has little to lose he doesn't own the team his parents do. He didn't spend his on money on a thing. It is like giving the car keys to a ten year old that nobody taught how to drive.
    Dec 30, 2016 at 3:37 PM
  • don
    Pretty much nailed it. The only thing I would like to add is that Vic Fangio leaked that if he did not get the Head Coaching position he wanted out. Whether Gase could have changed his mind is speculative. I thought Jed should have fired Baalke in 2015 and hired a new GM with Fangio assuming HC duties. That did not happen. Instead Jed bet on Baalke who hired Chip who runs an offense that clearly no one in the league thinks is competitive. They use pieces of it but no one runs Chip's offense and in a "copy cat league" that speaks volumes.. Jed at this point needs to clean house, hire a respected GM, let him hire a HC and get the heck out of the way..
    Dec 30, 2016 at 2:14 PM
  • Gerry
    Jed seems to be in a great position. The 49'er organization is worth a small fortune. It has a new stadium and, they have a ton of salary cap space. Like his father, Jed has been exceptionally successful fielding, as his father once said, "A fiscally responsible team". Jed seems to have hit that one out of the park! The only failures are with the fans that enabled the Yorks to exploit a deep loyalty for a formerly great organization. It's a shame, and I'm sorry that it's true. But, Jed is not in a bad position at all! We are!
    Dec 30, 2016 at 1:24 PM
  • Michael Brock-Alexander
    Nicely done, Al. Great article.
    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:58 PM
    Response: Thanks Mike!
  • Lev
    While I hate York. He can still save face. Hiring a football operations guy to help with GM search is a start. Once the GM is in place one simple statement can make York look smart while also saving face. "THE NEW GM WILL PICK HC and I stand behind that". While eating the contracts to past coaches is never ideal. He could still look good out of this. Promoting Gamble shouldn't even be an option. Kelly will never change. Defense will always be lack luster and the offense will never catch up in time to be decent. Keeping him is just spinning our wheels. Has to be a complete wipe of all football peeps. Including releasing up to 20-25 players.
    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:04 PM
  • Shemp
    I disagree with your premise that the divorce with Harbaugh had to happen. York values compliant sycophants more than he does high maintenance winners. His inability to make the marriage work with one of the best coaches in the NFL was his downfall, and instead of axing the GM, who was a compliant sycophant, he axed the high maintenance winner. You can't find a GM or owner in the NFL that agrees with what York did or how he handled it. Not one. York fired Jim Harbaugh, lied about firing him, and then replaced him with Jim Tomsula. Think about that. That's all you need to know about York. That in itself is a microcosm that captures everything that is wrong with Jed York as a leader and as a decision maker and as the pre-pubescent face of this once great franchise.
    Dec 30, 2016 at 11:17 AM

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