Jed’s New Structure Just Isn’t Safe

May 23, 2010 at 8:19 AM


Did you hear? The big news out of the OTAs?

Sure, there were some lesser stories. Master motivator Mike Singletary was unable to motivate half his defense to show up. (Nate Clements went AWOL even at the cost of half a million bucks; aren't you LOVIN' the team spirit?) Alex Smith showed off his new Peyton Manning leadership skills, though the impression went a bit south when he started, you know, throwing. (But don't worry; the QB isn't the most important player, remember?) And our new fleet of punt returners were rattled by the stiff winds of, um, Santa Clara. (Is it too late to put a ROOF on that stadium?)

The BIG news, though, was something else.

After much thought, study, and analysis, Jed's come up with our new organizational structure.

Prepare to be inspired.

In March, when he announced Scot McCloughan's exit, he told us he wasn't sure what would come next. He'd let Trent Baalke run the draft, and then he'd figure out "what's the right structure."

Not exactly a vision of Singletarian clarity.

But the draft went on, and the draft went well. Baalke, the so-called "point person," proved he was compatible with Singletary; he proved it, of course, by doing exactly what Singletary wanted. But whatever. The draft went well.

That's good news, naturally. But it comes at a price.

Jed took the draft as evidence that a mushy structure works. So now he's decided to keep it. And that's a bad idea.

There isn't one right way to build a successful football organization. Typically, there's a head football executive (with any of various titles) and a head football coach. But the executive can be over the coach (think Bill Polian over Tony Dungy), the coach can be over the executive (think Bill Belichick over Scott Pioli), and the coach can even BE the executive (think Bill Walsh, but beware; thinking of him too much can cause nostalgia of a heartbreaking sort).

The organizational chart doesn't matter. What matters is the clarity of the chain of command. A successful organization involves cooperation, but ultimately it's not a democracy.

There's gotta be one boss, and everyone's gotta know who it is.

Let's take a look at Jed's new structure, and let's figure out who's the boss, shall we?

As expected, Baalke's officially the head football executive. (True, Paraag Marathe's title is "executive vice president of football (and business) operations," whereas Baalke's is merely "vice president of player personnel," but until Marathe's in charge of any football operations that don't involve the use of a slide rule, Baalke's the head football guy.) And Singletary, of course, is the head football coach.

But who's over whom? The answer is: nobody.

Try to follow this. According to Jed, Singletary "will have control of the 53-man roster," as he's had "from when he was hired." (From when he was hired, eh? That's news. And McCloughan's exit is starting to make a LOT more sense.) Baalke's "in charge of the draft" and "in charge of trades." Free agency, too? No; for reasons unknown (and likely inexplicable), Baalke can't be in charge of THAT, so he and Singletary will be "working together." Neither reports to the other, and both report to Jed. As for who's got the all-important authority to hire and fire the head coach, Jed could only offer a joke: "The head coach because he is going to keep winning."

Good one, Jed.

So, got it? Baalke can draft and trade for the players he wants, but the roster will feature only the players that SINGLETARY wants. (Put another way, Baalke can bring 'em in, but Singletary can send 'em right back out.) As for who we sign in free agency, that's more important than drafting and trading (?!), so Baalke and Singletary will make those decisions together. (If they disagree, I can only assume it'll be rock-paper-scissors, best of three.) And though I don't suppose that Singletary's REALLY in charge of whether he's fired--though I doubt I'd be surprised--I think the question's a bit too important for Jed to dodge with a bit of schtick. Is that decision up to Jed? Or is Dear Old Dad still pulling that string?

Did you figure out who's the boss? If so, you're a whole lot smarter than I.

It's easy to assume--as I'd been assuming--there IS a boss, and it's Singletary. That draft of course was clearly his, so you'd naturally think he's a Belichick, with Baalke playing the loyal Pioli. But Jed didn't say that, and despite all the flak I've given Singletary, I'd much rather have him in a Belichick role than the kind of mush that Jed's set up. At least there'd be that clear chain of command. There'd be one boss, and everyone would know who it is.

Sure, everything looks rosy now. So far, Baalke and Singletary have worked well together--to whatever extent they've actually worked together--so why rock the boat? But ANY structure holds when the weather's calm. The question is how it'll hold in a storm. And no matter how well this season goes, we're bound to hit a storm or two.

In a typical structure, when the storm hits, the boss makes the call. He listens to advice, of course, but the decision is his. Clear leadership, clear accountability. But in THIS structure, when the storm hits, everyone will sit down, join hands, sing Kumbaya, and work through it together. The leadership is muddled, with no accountability at all.

History shows which structure's more likely to lead to success. But as we know, history's never meant much to the Yorks.
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.


91 Comments

  • Darrell G
    Wow Jeff, I guess some folks just didn't pick up on the columnist vs. reporter comparison. After seeing the 3-part interview from Maiocco, courtesy of the webzone, and reading back on a few articles I still have to disagree with you, although I understand the concern. Jed reminds me a lot of his uncle the way he is doing things, without a Carmen Policy type admittedly. I truly think he is not just trying to build the team to win, but to return it to its place amongst the elites for years to come. Where we do agree is that if he fails, there is only the guy in the mirror to blame.
    Jun 9, 2010 at 7:29 AM
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    Response: Jed's passion is pure DeBartolo. But his nuts-and-bolts organizational decisions strike me as pure York. Time will tell whether the former's enough to make up for the latter.
  • Dan
    Terry: Next time you see D.B. and your mouth isn't full, tell him bring it. That's actually not bad numbers for Smith's half season. A few less interceptions this year and he'll be golden. Why do I care what a Phoenix radio station says about the 49ers? If coach wants to drop his pants apparently he can do that whenever he wants. I'm just glad I wasn't there man. I'm still trying to figure out what team you're from, you listen to Cardinals radio, you want to have D.B.'s babies, I think you're a Packer fan. That would certainly explain everything. I do like Jed, if not just for the fact he pisses guys like you off.
    Jun 8, 2010 at 5:33 PM
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  • Terry B.
    Dan, you sure love telling everyone else to get off this site, don't you? Might I suggest that it's you who's on the wrong site? You would be much more comfortable at www.49ershomerzone.com. As for getting behind Singletary, I guess that would be better than getting Singletary's behind. Do you remember this? "Singletary called everyone to attention, dropped his pants and pointed to his rear end, to fully illustrate what the coach thought of his players' performance. According to a report that first aired on Phoenix-area radio XTRA-910, Singletary then berated the team for three to four minutes with his pants around his ankles." Let that sink in for a minute. We gave total control of our roster to a man who berated the team for four minutes with his pants around his ankles. (Where have you gone Bill Walsh?) And this total control was given by a kid with no qualifications or experience. So, yes, this makes me a little nervous about our future. Brees: 4388 yds, 70% comp., 34 TD, 11 int., 109.6 rating; Smith: 2350 yds, 60.5% comp., 18 TD, 12 int., 81.5 rating. And Dan wouldn't make that deal.
    Jun 8, 2010 at 8:43 AM
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  • mister nesbit
    it's too obvious you want coach Singletary to crash and burn, and it's pitiful how you're blatantly hoping for people to agree with you. hopefully you'll write something worth reading one day. so far your name near the title is intrigue repellent. don't change your name or anything. i need the fair warning.
    Jun 8, 2010 at 1:57 AM
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  • Delusional Dan
    The 49ers are favored by almost all the experts to win the NFC West for whatever it's worth. I don't listen too much to the predictors, but there's what your experts say. That's one or two playoff games removed from the championship game by my count, so how crazy am I? GO NINERS!!! -In your face-
    Jun 7, 2010 at 5:43 PM
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  • Dan
    Not replying to Terry B.: If you are behind the 49ers you ARE going to have to get behind the coach and the owners. Otherwise you are just an agitator here. I can understand concern, but I cannot excuse an outright personal vendetta which is what this section of this site seems to represent. A vendetta against the owner who seems to evoke feelings of jealousy because of his perceived undeserved position, and against the coach, which I cannot, after halfheartedly reading a few of your columns, explain. These two are the face of the team however, so you can't support the team and not support these guys. They aren't going anywhere. Now replying to Terry once again, and not happy about it: Dude get lost, I can change my mind if I want to. I don't owe you anything. You have no special knowledge of football, all you know is who won the Super Bowl. Do you know who is going to win this year? No. But you're sure as the Holy Encyclopedia of Idiotness it's not going to be the 49ers aren't you? You are not a supporter of the 49ers in any way. You are actually pissing on the best offseason we've had in years. You are now my least favorite nobody.
    Jun 7, 2010 at 5:13 PM
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  • DaNiners
    Like I said, you are a know-nothing and your responses continue to prove that point. Unfortunately, it is an accepted practice throughout most pro sports that players in contract years hold out during voluntary activities. Believe me, most of the other players do not fault them for taking care of business. Next, do you really just go by the reviews of one journalist in order to make your point? In fact, if you are going to publish your opinion, don't you think you should have some first-hand knowledge as opposed to just listening to one person...weak, weak, weak. Moreover, I read every Maiocco article on OTA's and he had several different reviews of Alex based on how he performed on a particular day. A couple great, and others not so good. It is normal during spring ball to be inconsistent and rusty, but you already knew that, right? Seriously, know something before you put pen to paper, you goof.
    Jun 7, 2010 at 5:39 AM
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    Response: On the OTAs, of course I'm aware that holdouts are common, but I guess I just thought that if anyone could, Mike Singletary could motivate his players to put their individual goals aside for the good of the team. I guess he couldn't. (So, one could ask, why is he the coach again?) And on Smith, you might recall scolding me for asserting that he looked only average at the OTAs. He looked "very good," you said. Now you admit that according to the various reports (of which I cited one example just for convenience), he looked "great" sometimes and at other times "not so good." So I guess when you said he looked "very good," you must've meant "very good except when he was not so good." Or, basically, average, which is what I said. Only here could someone call me a know-nothing and then go on to agree with me.
  • Terry B.
    Dan, you said you wouldn't reply anymore. So now you're not a man of your word either? Dan, you will just never get it. Everyone here supports the 49ers. This has nothing to do with support. Support does not mean losing touch with reality, which I'm afraid you have. Drew Brees is better than Alex Smith; Sean Payton is better than Mike Singletary. Just the facts, folks. The problem is not your support for the 49ers, the problem is your patently ridiculous statements like "The road to the NFC championship goes through San Francisco." And, yes, Dan you did argue that Singletary would be a good columnist. In reply to my assertion that he wouldn't, you said that you would love to read a column by Singletary. Am I supposed to infer from this that you want to read him because you think he would be a BAD columnist? And arguing that Alex Smith in the right situation could be better than Brees is no less delusional than arguing that he's currently better than Brees because there is no evidence to support such a belief. As for you and Limbaugh, Limbaugh = Republicans are always right; Dan = 49ers are always right. What's the difference?
    Jun 7, 2010 at 5:12 AM
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  • Dan
    Congratulations on your brilliant tricky question (you must be proud of that kind of brain power) and your obviously expert hypothesis of my sanity based on my support of the San Francisco 49ers' coach and quarterback. I still don't know why I respond to you, but it's making me feel like I'm stooping a couple (hundred) levels.
    Jun 6, 2010 at 3:16 PM
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  • Terry B.
    Dan, interesting that you say I can't read, but you somehow couldn't figure out that Sean Payton means Sean Payton. Anyway, the question put to you was perfect because if you answered yes it would mean I'm right and if you answered no it would mean you're crazy. Thank you so much for your answer Dan. I now know everything I need to know. I just pray you never get a job in our front office.
    Jun 6, 2010 at 2:07 PM
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  • Dan
    Correction to match your stupid impossible scenario that does not interest me in the slightest and I can't believe I'm wasting my time. I see you meant Sean Payton. No, I'm not impressed with your coach, I think it's against the spirit of the NFL's protecting the quarterback from death or permanent disability to set your team against an old worn-out tired quarterback (who I respect and loathe in a way). I lost respect for all of N.O. last year. I'm tired of your responses anyway so say what you want, I won't be responding to you Terry, you don't belong here.
    Jun 6, 2010 at 12:02 PM
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  • Dan
    To answer your question, no. I would rather see this team, which I have been watching and bragging on, just go to the playoffs than have them make some Lakers-steal-Pao-Gasol-type trade for two quarterbacks when we only need one, and win the Super Bowl. Buying championships ruins the satisfaction of victory. Please stop misrepresenting me, I'm just a fan of my team on my fansite. You really should just post on your own team's site and leave this one alone.
    Jun 6, 2010 at 10:38 AM
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  • Dan
    To Terry, Words you put in my mouth I didn't say: Singletary would be a good columnist, Alex Smith is better than Drew Brees, and other teams are not improving in the offseason. You need to work on your reading skills maybe. I would like to read a column by Mike Singletary, I do think Alex Smith could be as good or better than Drew if conditions are right, and I don't think the rest of the NFL is improving as much as we are. While I acknowledge that the "experts" are plenty good analysts, they don't know everything. I don't think your 200 experts had New Orleans winning the Super Bowl, did they? There's no better victory than one that everyone said you couldn't win. Thank you for being a part of that for the 49ers. It's just too bad that you guys are allowed to post on this site. Also Rush Limbaugh is a jerk too. He twists people's words, makes assumptions, and has no moral character. I do think you're a jerk because you attacked me personally with names and questioned my mental state instead of sticking to your rightful opinion. But I'm not going to compare you to dirt like Rush Limbaugh because he's in his very own category. And why would I need Brees if I had Payton?
    Jun 6, 2010 at 10:30 AM
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  • Terry B.
    Dan, if you believe that 1) the road to the NFC championship goes through SF, 2) Mike Singletary would be a good columnist, and 3) Alex Smith is better than Drew Brees, then, yes, you are delusional. And this is not my opinion, it's indisputable fact. And if acknowledging this makes me a jerk, then I'm a jerk. But I'm also grounded in reality. Please answer this question for me; I can't wait for your answer. If you could trade Smith and Singletary straight up for Brees and Payton, would you make that deal?
    Jun 6, 2010 at 8:30 AM
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  • Terry B.
    Dan, I think your problem is that you seem to forget that the other 31 teams have players and coaches too, and that they also spent the offseason fixing weaknesses and improving their teams. Yes, Singletary has good football knowledge, but do you think Sean Payton just might, too? In order to pass the roughly half of the NFL that finished better than us, we not only have to get to where they were last year, but to get to where they are after the past offseason. Here's an experiment I would like to try. Take the 200 most knowledgeable people about the NFL and ask them, if they were starting a franchise and they could choose as a coach Sean Payton or Mike Singletary and as a QB Alex Smith or Drew Brees, who would they choose? If the results were anything less than 200 Payton/Brees combos I would be shocked. It's O.K. to root for Alex Smith but acknowledge that you'd rather have Peyton Manning. That doesn't make you less of a fan. Being a fan does not mean disassociating from reality. I once heard it argued that Rush Limbaugh has no credibility because you know what he's going to say before he says it. That's kind of like you, Dan.
    Jun 6, 2010 at 5:04 AM
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  • Dan
    Delusional? Why, because I'd rather stick with the 49ers than jump on the Drew Brees bandwagon? Maybe you think I'm delusional because I think the 49ers will match up well against the Saints at home. But don't tell me I'm delusional because I believe in my team, Jerk. And don't call me a homer either cause you don't know me and you never could, with your limited capacity. I wish the best for you and whatever team it is you support, but my 49ers are going to stomp on your team. You're delusional cause you spew this negative crap on my team's fan website.
    Jun 5, 2010 at 10:19 PM
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  • Giant9er
    I really can't believe how negative you are. Is there anything about the team you do like? How about the niners go 10-6 and host 2 playoff games? Smith goes to the pro bowl, along with VD, Crabs, Gore, Willis and half the O-line? There's just as much fact behind that as there is in this piece.
    Jun 5, 2010 at 8:59 AM
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    Response: Giant, this piece is my opinion on the facts about our new organizational structure, as Jed described it. If YOU'VE got an opinion on those facts, positive or otherwise, feel free to share it.
  • Terry B.
    So now Dan is hanging out with the 49ers? Dan you're seriously becoming delusional. The word homer doesn't even begin to describe you. You're in a category all by yourself.
    Jun 5, 2010 at 8:36 AM
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  • Dan
    We'll be playing New Orleans early enough in the season, maybe you can sit by the Saints' bench and kiss up to the great Drew Brees. I'd much rather hang with the 9ers. Singletary would write better than this whiny dribble. He also has more football knowledge in his pinky than you amateurs have collectively so that alone would be worth it. I restate my last post, get off the soapbox and make room for some real football talk.
    Jun 5, 2010 at 8:10 AM
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  • Terry B.
    "The 2011 NFC championship goes through San Francisco." Well, Dan, I guess we can all stop listening to you, as all of your credibility just went out the window. I'll email Drew Brees and let him know there's a new sheriff in town. As for whether anyone on this board would be a good coach, I don't know, but I suspect that Singletary would not make a good columnist, so it's probably even.
    Jun 5, 2010 at 5:35 AM
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  • Dan
    The 49ers ARE going to tear it up this year and you guys can just continue to cry about whatever it is Singletary did to piss you guys off. You guys aren't going to get an "insider" or whatever it is you want. You're stuck with what we have. Too bad, if you don't like it. You're wasting your time, holding hands whining about the coach here. The 2011 NFC championship goes through San Francisco. If you want it, you have to go through us. You guys would make terrible coaches by the way with all your complaining. You should stop pretending you know something.
    Jun 4, 2010 at 6:32 PM
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  • DaNiners
    This is just a poorly written article with little in terms of facts to back your assertions. The Nate Clements point is beyond ridiculous and frankly shows little or no understanding of why veterans decide to show up at OTA's. Deciding not to show up for OTA's is purely related to Clements', Lawson's and Franklin's contract situations. Effectively, they are in contract years. Clements (although not actually in a contract year) will likely be cut by the Niners next year, while Lawson and Franklin are in contract years...none of them want to get hurt. This is normal for many players on many teams. They also want to make the point that they are a little pissed off. Next, Alex Smith looked very good in OTA's and is getting rave reviews for his newfound leadership skills. I mean really, the fact that your very first two points are nonsense does not help your case with regard to the rest of your article. Get it right, or stop posting.
    Jun 4, 2010 at 12:41 PM
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    Response: Seriously, are you kidding? Like I said below, guys skipping OTAs isn't the end of the world, but you don't have ANY problem with guys skipping out on their teammates? You think it's fine because, hey, they're just trying to show that they're "a little pissed off"? Truly unbelievable; the apologism just never stops around here. Meanwhile, as to Smith, if you read carefully you saw me acknowledge his "new Peyton Manning leadership skills." But as for his throwing, in his OTAs wrap-up, all Maiocco could muster was that Smith threw the ball "OK." Rave review indeed.
  • Terry B.
    The column Jeff should have written, according to a majority of posters: A lot of positive developments out of 49ers camp, folks. First, Alex Smith still looks erratic at the start of year two in the system. This is great news and shows that we can think outside the box. The whole "accurate QB" thing has been done to death. And have you heard, Singletary, whose best trait is motivational ability, can't get our players to show up at OTAs? This is great news because the players who won't be on the team in the fall will get a lot of reps. And I've heard that Singletary has not dropped his pants once during OTAs! And have you heard about our organizational structure? Again, why do what has been done to death and by so many failed clubs? Why don't we put a 28-year-old kid with no experience and no qualifications in charge and let him implement a bizarre system in which the person who has authority over the draft and trades does not have authority over free agency? What a great idea! We will win for sure with these developments! These are some of the greatest innovations since Bill Walsh invented the West Coast offense. Super Bowl!
    Jun 4, 2010 at 8:17 AM
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  • ray deanda
    Wow! Everything's wrong. Alex Smith can't throw. our punt returners can't catch. mike singletary is a control freak. let's just throw the towel in, the niners probably won't win a game. Nothing like being negative in a negative world. How about being optimistic, maybe the niners just might tear it up this year, just maybe. can you say maybe. Sure you can. I knew you could. Go niners.
    Jun 3, 2010 at 3:21 PM
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  • Dan
    49ers = NOT a weak team. YEA GO NINERS!!!!!!
    Jun 3, 2010 at 10:40 AM
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  • louie
    Izzy, before you bring up 49er history you ought to get it right. 1. Walsh had a lot of NFL and college coaching experience before he was hired by Eddie. He was considered one of the brightest minds in football. He had never been an NFL head coach, mostly because he, like most super talented/creative people, didn't like to kiss ass. Comparing his experience and proven ability to Singletary's is a joke. Bill Walsh was not a rookie. 2. Carmen Policy was not on the scene at the beginning. 3. The unsung NFL heavy in the 49er organization was John McVay, who came over after years with the Giants. He was not a financial guy like Carmen. He was a GM in the true sense of the word. He was very involved in everything. He was an NFL heavy. 4. Walsh then proceeded to hire some of the best assistant coaches that the NFL has ever seen. There is not one NFL schooled/experienced management person in their leadership group, and there never has been since Eddie and Carmen left. And since that time they have been a weak team.
    Jun 2, 2010 at 8:57 PM
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  • Izzy
    RamItOn – I am not arguing the fact that the 49ers have sucked for years but Jed's action has mimicked more of Eddie's than his dad. I have no problem throwing John York under the bus, he brought in Erickson / Donahue then followed it with Nolan / McCloughan. In the two years that Jed is in charge, he has removed the decisionmaker that his dad had brought in. Jed cannot just rip the entire organization apart like Eddie did in 1979, that will be openly admitting that his dad dropped the ball. The way Jed is handling the organization should be segregated from the John York days and Jed's action should be judged on its own without a preceded notion that he will be like his dad.
    Jun 2, 2010 at 6:20 PM
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  • Dan
    You guys are pretty much assuming they can't get it done; you're giving up. Even in our worst years we have not given up so shame on you all who would count the 49ers out because you don't like the owner. Even Nolan never gave up. Raider fans don't even do this crap. 49er fans don't give up on their team and they don't talk trash about their coaches.
    Jun 2, 2010 at 5:38 PM
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    Response: No one said anything about giving up, Dan. We're fans, and fans don't quit. But fans CAN "talk trash about their coaches." Surely, Dan, there was a time when even YOU talked trash about Nolan or Erickson.
  • IWantWinners
    Winnie? So are we doing the name-calling thing now? Here's the thing, Jeffey Poo, there's a time to bitch and moan and a time to have a bit of optimism, sit back and see how it plays out. Everytime I read one of your write-ups it's like watching Blow with Johnny Depp all over again...It's depressing. Here's the truth about the complaints you have made...Coach Sing has improved the Niners product on the field the year and a 1/2 since he took over, Baalke, Sing & the gang drafted EXACTLY as they should have...Alex Smith showed marked improvement last year and all observations say he not only looks more in control but he is zipping passes all over the field. As for Jed, he's shown more DeBartolo than York since he took over and that is a GREAT thing. The problem I have with your writings is that you say things for shock value with no real backup to your points. There is really no depth to what you are saying in my opinion. I guess that's what opinion columns are for...Opinions...Well thought out or not...Keep writing and I'll keep slamming!! Sincerely, Winnie
    Jun 2, 2010 at 5:06 PM
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    Response: Jeez. I chose "Winnie" only because your handle is "IWantWinners" and I didn't want to type all that. Don't be so sensitive, man. This is s'posed to be fun.
  • Izzy
    Louie – It is obvious from your comment that "executives running the company are NOT inexperienced rookies" that you do not understand LEAN, you are a Traditionalist. When Eddie D hired Walsh and turned over the key of the organization, Walsh at that time would be considered an "inexperienced rookie" and numerous NFL insiders questioned Eddie's decision. Walsh had overall accountability and he built the functional support to meet his needs. The only person that he did not have direct control of was Carmen Policy, Carmen controlled the purse. So if you had your way, the Walsh hiring would never have happened because you would be looking for some savvy NFL experienced insider.
    Jun 2, 2010 at 4:22 PM
    0

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