A Wait Against Time Continues as York Looks for a Coach

Jan 14, 2017 at 7:05 AM


Two weeks have passed since Jed York's press conference announcing his New Year's resolution to turn the 49ers around, and in that time his rudderless ship still sails without a head coach or general manager.

Yet somehow the 49ers are in a better position than I thought possible on New Year's Day.

Fans have watched every NFL franchise with a head coaching vacancy find their dancing partner for 2017, wondering when a move would be made to fill San Francisco's vacancies. Six teams ended the 2016 season in need of a new head coach, and only the 49ers remain as the divisional round of the playoffs approaches. One-by-one, teams have chosen the leadership they think necessary for success – giving their fans hope heading into the long offseason.

But there hasn't been a move in Santa Clara. Just interviews, rumors, and three names – Josh McDaniels, Kyle Shanahan, and Tom Cable.

The obvious eyesore to fans and media on this shortlist is Tom Cable. Jed can't help but set himself up for criticism, and hiring Cable would paint a well-deserved target on York's back. When you claim 'winning with class' as your moral standard, hiring a coach whose past is checkered with allegations of violence amounts to blatant hypocrisy.

On the other hand, if he avoids the ethical sinkhole of Cable, either McDaniels or Shanahan would be the closest thing to a homerun hire York could manage. For the first time since Harbaugh, there are legitimate contenders to take the reins in Santa Clara who would enter the building based on their success in the previous season rather than their mere availability. Shockingly enough, Jed might have learned something from the past few years, and this coaching search has shown it.

Jed beat us over the head with his desire to "reestablish a championship culture" in San Francisco – to do that, he wants guys who come from championship caliber stock. He learned that lesson thanks to Adam Gase.

In the days after Baalke's firing, we learned just how close the 49ers came to hiring Adam Gase following the Broncos' 2014 playoff loss. The job was his, and Baalke called it off at the 11th hour. Gase didn't land a head coaching position that offseason, but his ability as a coordinator got him a job this past year in Miami after a short stint in Chicago.

As the 49ers limped through this past season, York undoubtedly spent 2016 aware of Gase's success in his first year as a head coach. He saw exactly what we saw – a promising coach earn his team a Wildcard berth. Would those have been Jed's results if the 49ers had snagged Gase? Compared to San Francisco, Miami has an incredibly talented roster, so most likely not. Even so, hypotheticals are haunting. Clearly, waiting out the playoffs almost delivered a talented candidate in the search to replace Harbaugh. With the franchise free of Baalke, the current search shows that Jed thinks he has it figured out.

If this seems like praise for York, it's not. This is a conclusion that he should have reached before the Tomsula hire, and one that would have prevented the Harbaugh divorce. The mockery this franchise has become is due to York's leisurely approach to reason. The best that can be said of this coaching search is it's the most committed Jed has been to a singular vision since building Levi's Stadium, even if he's only been at it for two weeks.

For fans, 14 days won't make up for years of poor decision-making from Jed, nor should it – Jed's tenuous relationship with patience is what's brought the franchise here. On this date one year ago, Chip Kelly was given a chance to bring lasting stability to the 49ers and 365 days later his office is empty. Exactly two years ago, the clock started ticking on Jim Tomsula's 15 minutes of fame only for time to run out after one season. These moves were essential, but they don't speak to York's resilience.

We'll learn a lot about Jed's interest in turning this franchise around next week. As teams are eliminated from the playoffs this weekend, does Jed pounce on the first available assistant coach from his shortlist, or does he wait for the best? If the Patriots ride Brady's arm to the Super Bowl, does Jed have the stamina to wait for McDaniels? The answers to these questions will shape not only the future of the 49ers, but York's relationship with fans who would love to hold him accountable if only they could.

Sadly, the only person capable of holding Jed accountable to his word is Jed. There are still ways this search can go wrong, and York can undoubtedly find new ways to disappoint. For fans, there's nothing to do but wait and see if Jed blinks first as he plays chicken with this coaching search.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


1 Comment

  • mbniner
    I agree, I think that York understands the blunder he made by letting Baalke torpedo Gase at the last minute and he has made the right decision to wait for what was probably his original two top choices to become available. Today he will have the opportunity to hire either one of the two Packers GM candidates or Shanahan as coach. This is the pairing I'm hoping for, although Mc Daniels is also a good coach, The caveat is that McDaniels was the recipient of having a great QB and surrounding cast and a great overall team with a stout defense. It's not clear to me how he would fare with lesser talent. Shanahan, on the other hand, has done an outstanding job with a lesser team.
    Jan 14, 2017 at 10:19 AM
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