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Until he proves otherwise, Jed York shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt

Al Sacco
Jan 12, 2017 at 9:30 AM14

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When Jed York sat in front of the media recently and waxed poetic about how the San Francisco 49ers need to reestablish a championship culture and move forward with a general manager/head coach tandem who work well together, it sounded good, didn't it? After all, York's franchise hasn't exactly been the model of stability lately, and righting the ship is absolutely essential or he could risk a complete break in what's already a fractured fan base.

In the days since his press conference, York has made true on his promise to leave no stone unturned in an effort to find the right people, as the 49ers have interviewed (or will) pretty much every viable candidate for both general manager and head coach. Moreover, when you look at the options available, it appears there's no way San Francisco can screw this up.

The Niners are the only team looking for a new general manager, and there are more than enough exciting, viable candidates to choose from (Eliot Wolf, Brian Gutekunst, Louis Riddick, etc.). As far as the coach, arguably the two top options are Josh McDaniels and Kyle Shanahan, both of whom are available with little competition. The only other franchises still looking for a head man are the Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers, and it's unlikely McDaniels or Shanahan would wind up in either spot.

So here it is, all laid out perfectly in front of York, and fans should feel pretty confident that San Francisco is about to bring in two very good people. Thing is, for me, until York proves that he's actually going to do this, I don't think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Why?

To start, just look at what's transpired the last three years. The 49ers didn't just hit a bump in the road, they were historically dysfunctional and mismanaged in every aspect. San Francisco is about to hire it's fourth coach in the last 26 months, and they're the first team in 30 years to have consecutive one-and-done coaches.

It started by running the only successful coach the Yorks have ever hired (Jim Harbaugh) out of town in favor of Trent Baalke, who was single-handedly ruining the roster with every short-sort-sighted, conservative move. In an effort to rebound from the Harbaugh debacle, York and Baalke seemed to have the right idea in hiring the up-and-coming Adam Gase but pulled the offer at the last minute in favor of an unqualified defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula. So not only did they hire the wrong guy, they did so in the most dysfunctional way possible by alienating Gase in the process.

Fast forward to a year later, and York was back at the drawing board again trying to clean up the Tomsula mess. Instead of starting over when he should have, York attempted to hire a new coach, Chip Kelly, and stick him with Baalke despite the fact that the latter was on his last legs. 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. That's exactly what happened, and here we are.

Now York's back at square one and supposed to make a move to save this franchise. Excuse me if I'm not beaming with confidence. Even if you erase the last three years and take the York ownership as a whole, it's been a train wreck since 2003. Just look at the coaching records of the men they've hired.

Coach Record Winning Seasons
Dennis Erickson (2003-2004) 9-23 0
Mike Nolan (2005-2008) 18-37 0
Mike Singletary (2008-2010) 18-22 0
Jim Harbaugh (2011-2014) 44-19-1 3
Jim Tomsula (2015)* 6-11 0
Chip Kelly (2016) 2-14 0
*Tomsula was also interim coach for one game in 2010

So, other than Harbaugh, coaches hired by the Yorks have gone a combined 53-107 with no winning seasons. That's a decade of futility that's turned one of the NFL's gloried franchises into just another also-ran. It's as simple as this, excluding the strike-shortened 1982 season, the 49ers won 10 or more games 19 times in 21 years. They averaged 11 wins per season during that stretch. Since the Yorks started hiring coaches, they're averaging 6.9 wins per year even with Harbaugh's tenure. That's a theme at this point and an all too familiar one.

Look, anyone who reads what I write on a regular basis knows that I'll be the first to admit when I'm wrong. If York surprises me (and I hope he does), I'll be glad to sing his praises about making the right moves. I also fully understand that it could take some time, as McDaniels and Shanahan can't be hired until their respective teams are out of the playoffs. But until that happens (if that happens), York doesn't get the benefit of the doubt from me. If that makes me negative, so be it. Prove me wrong, Jed.

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.


  • Ant Chon
    See you back here next year. Nothing is going to change. 15 years later and still clueless dorks. Yes fish rot from the head down. They got lucky with Harbs, he was good for 49ers but too good for insecure dorks.
    Jan 14, 2017 at 12:10 PM
  • Vincent
    Bill: Stop making excuses for the Yorks. Seriously man, you sound like a bot account. Oh, and by the way, Bill Walsh nver hired D.Erickson. Terry Donohue did. Bill Walsh was already getting phased out of football ops guessed it. The Yorks.
    Jan 14, 2017 at 4:20 AM
  • mbniner
    50y, now tell howvyou really feel.
    Jan 13, 2017 at 1:34 PM
  • Dallas Niner Fan
    50year, you hit the nail on the head. Totally agree with you.
    Jan 13, 2017 at 7:34 AM
  • 50yearformerfaithful
    Fish Rot from the head, down and this stinking rotten pile of an organization is rotten because of John York and his rotten apple that fell right from and under the dying fat ignoble backstabbing tree. Jed is simply learning incompetence, petulance, backstabbing and greed from the original failure John York. He took a playoff team to irrelevance and his sliver spoon dipstick boy outdid him in falling further faster and with more disgrace and ignobility. The york family is a classless bunch of greedy morons who were forced to buy into a business they watched not ran. They did nothing to build the 49ers and EVERYTHING to make if fail. They have no loyalty to players coaches employees or fans, a disdain for the public. He thinks he can learn on the job from his backstabbing failure father mentor and surround himself with yes men bean counters who similarly don't know shit about football. Harbaugh told the little twat to his face and he still didn't get it. The result. Michigan is a winner and Little backstabbing jed york is still a petulant loser, Losing daily. WHOSE GOT WORSE OWNERS THAN THE 49ERS, NOOOOOOOBODY
    Jan 13, 2017 at 7:08 AM
  • José Magaña
    Come on 3 coaches in 3 years. Stop kissing a**. What about all the leaks?
    Jan 13, 2017 at 5:26 AM
  • Scott
    I'm pretty sure there are not many fan's willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Especially any life long fans.
    Jan 12, 2017 at 5:39 PM
  • Fresh
    Benefit of the doubt? Hell he burned all that good will to ashes after he fired Harbaugh, hired that bum Tomsula and likened him to Steve Kerr. Get all the way tf outta here with that.
    Jan 12, 2017 at 3:35 PM
  • Dallas Niner Fan
    Bill, So hiring good GMs and coaches are a crap shoot? How about having good management and hiring skills and knowing what the hell you are doing. Look at the organizations like the Steelers and New England that make good hires consistently you think that that is just luck? I think not. Anyone who thinks that York is not totally incompetent at this stage of the game is delusional.
    Jan 12, 2017 at 2:12 PM
  • Bill
    Are you kidding? 1. He is the owner - he can not be fired, get over it 2. Details count and you have left them out. Harbaugh was his first hire, really. Erickson can be blamed on Walsh as much York. Nolan is very unfairly judged (OC's McCarthy left after 1 season, Turner left after one season at the last min.). Tomsula was an attempt to keep all the good things about Harbaugh and dump the crazy. Chip was an honest mistake. Singletary was his worst error. BTW - why aren't you ripping the drunk, Scot for some of these errors? 3. Eddie only made one good hire at head coach and 3 mistakes, about the same record as Jed. George was a mistake, but Walsh left such a great system and great assistant coaches it made George look great. I get tired of people crapping on Jed. It's time to be realistic - you hire coaches until you find the right one, you hire GM's till you find the right one. You look like a genius once you find the right ones and you look like a fool until you do. And of all the Harbaugh lovers - Jed hired him, Jed stole him from the Dolphins who offered more power and more money !!!!!!! Why does Jed get blame for firing him and no credit for hiring him?
    Jan 12, 2017 at 1:06 PM
  • NinerGM
    Although I agree that Jed doesn't get the benefit of the doubt, attributing him with personnel decisions his dad made is a bit too far; it's as if there was one writer writing poorly on this site and I attribute that performance to every writer here. I'm all for holding people accountable for decisions THEY THEMSELVES make, but more than that skews the analysis for me. You should never be responsible for a decision just because you have the same last name as someone else.
    Jan 12, 2017 at 11:42 AM
  • Nick
    I realize time is ticking but York should hire a guy to run the entire football operation first then go from there with GM and coach looks like that's not going to happen so I anticipate another mess. York really needs to step aside if not this pattern will continue. Great article BTW !
    Jan 12, 2017 at 11:33 AM
  • Niner
    Mcvay is gone to Rams . Macdaniels has not done well with Brady and belecheks teams. In Denver his players called him a punk. ( this is a teacher?). The real winner is shanahan! But the Yorks are just too ignorant and cheap to go out. And get him. Stupid is as stupid does.!
    Jan 12, 2017 at 10:30 AM
  • RishikeshA
    Al, you're being too nice.
    Jan 12, 2017 at 10:02 AM

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