Jed York can salvage things if he learns these four lessons

Jed York can salvage things if he learns these four lessons

In reconsidering Jed York as he begins his heel-turn as an owner, let us put out a coaching rumor that, while it won’t happen, really should.

Lane Kiffin.

Having been thrown off the Alabama sideline before the biggest game of the season, having taken a job we know he thinks is well beneath him at Florida Atlantic, and with a past that includes a hilarious firing by overhead projector by Al Davis and a bizarre tarmac ejection at USC, he is the ideal choice for the new 49ers.

And when we say “new,” we mean the “You Don’t Dismiss The Owner” 49ers.

York’s Monday presser needed some hours for processing, as it was designed only as an act of unpleasant obligation by someone who can no longer endure the public nature of his job. He was at times combative when confronted with bear-baiting questions, he was rigid in the responses he did give, he folded the team’s glory days in with his own, left the impression that the fired Trent Baalke was a lousy communicator and the defrocked Chip Kelly was an indulgent parent to the players, and he left giving no indication that he ever wanted to do another presser ever. In fact, it would not have been surprising to learn that he would probably offer a bonus to anyone who could provide him with a justification for skipping them entirely.

Oh, and he used the word “culture” 16 times as though it had any meaning other than a vague coverall for organizational and people skills he wants others to develop while struggling to command himself.

In the end, of course, Jed will do the next presser, the one in which he introduces his new general manager and coach so as to give off the illusion that he is completely behind them both in their mutual quests to win games and get people off his back.

He knows better than to hope that will happen soon, though. Turning the S.S. Hot Mess will take a few years, which means there is more abuse for him to bear. It is his lot in public life to be the guy who is disliked in bad times and ignored in good ones. He has gone from merely uncomfortable in interview settings to downright disgusted at having to submit to them.

And he has discovered that the sound bite most used to assault his Monday performance – “You don’t dismiss the owner” – was simply a statement of fact when he was essentially asked to justify why he shouldn’t be fired by his mother. In short, the truest thing he said in the entire 20-plus minute Q-and-S (question and snap) session is the one thing for which he will be hammered most.

He has taken that knowledge that everything is potentially self-incriminating with him, and unless either Paraag Marathe, Al Guido or some other highly placed confidant can convince him otherwise, he is seriously considering and/or on the verge of becoming the owner who never speaks publicly/for the record at all.

He has enough role models now – Stan Kroenke in Los Angeles, Bill Bidwill in Arizona, Paul Allen in Seattle, Danny Snyder in Washington, the Glazer boys in Tampa to name but a few. And his Monday presser had enough aggression in it to suggest that he is prepared to take that step as soon as he completes this new hiring cycle.

He will continue to use his national media confidants for leaking and other utilitarian purposes, either directly or through intermediaries, as he seems to have concluded that it gives him the most throw-weight and the least exposure for his PR buck.

But in terms of winning over hearts and minds in the market which defines him, those days seem over. At one point he believed that winning would solve any ill, then he and Jim Harbaugh fell out spectacularly in an extended row so upsetting that neither man has mentioned the other’s name publicly since.

In other words, they hate each other’s living guts and will quietly cheer at each other’s professional and personal setbacks. That’s one for the permanent file.

And having lost that public battle in what can be considered a decisive rout, York must surely be approaching the conclusion that he is to suffer his father’s fate – ignored in the best times, mocked or blamed specifically in the worst. Only Jed gets mocked by an entire civilian air force, which is something John never had to endure.

What else makes this worse is that Jed once knew the good times – when he hired Harbaugh and enjoyed the benefits of the first two years, and when he unveiled the new stadium which is no longer praised but serves as the enduring cash cow for the entire DeBartolo/York family.

Those days are almost surely gone now, and can be salvaged only by a comprehensive self-abasement campaign in which he learns the most important lessons an owner can learn, namely:

- Credit comes to those who do not seek it. When the good times come, the best sentence to use in acknowledgement is, “They did it, not me,” because everyone gets rich when the team wins.

- Blame is best and briefest when absorbed rather than delegated. In hard times, everyone likes to hear, “I did it, not them,” and if you have to remind people that you’re still the boss anyway, so be it.

- If big media crowds upset you, develop one-on-one relationships with the ones you see most and have the greatest affinity for, if for no better reason that they get rid of that stomach acid that swells every time you walk past one of them. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single howdy that wasn’t a requirement.

- And for God’s sake, don’t hire Lane Kiffin. You have enough problems as it is.

Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in


Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in

The 49ers concluded the first wave of the free-agent signing period with the signings of players to fill the team’s biggest offseason needs.

--Cornerback. Aqib Talib would have been the answer in a trade with the Denver Broncos, but he wanted to play elsewhere. Instead, the 49ers signed veteran Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut a day earlier.

--Interior offensive line. Center Weston Richburg was the player the team had rated as their top target in free agency, and they signed him to a lucrative five-year deal.

--Running back. The team decided Jerick McKinnon was a better fit than Carlos Hyde. They wrapped him up with a four-year contract.

--Edge rusher. Lacking many options in free agency, the 49ers signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year contract in hopes he will earn a spot on the team and make a contribution at the “Leo” position.

The 49ers can still use more help at a number of different positions, including cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and edge rusher. While the 49ers might add some role players in the second wave of free agency, most of the major acquisitions at this point are likely to come in the draft.

On the 49ers Insider Podcast, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters addressed what positions he believes are strong in this year’s draft.

“I think running backs, absolutely. It’s a deep position,” Peters said. “Quarterbacks at the top is deeper than it was last year. Secondary, corners, it’s not deeper than it was last year, but it’s a strong class of corners. Those are the main ones. The offensive line class is a little better than last year, too.”

The 49ers got major contributions from their rookie class last season. Tight end George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back Matt Breida, defensive lineman Solomom Thomas, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Adrian Colbert each played more than 300 snaps.

The 49ers feel good about Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, as a starter with Sherman on the other side. Peters said a lot of the team’s rookies played larger roles than expected in 2017, but Witherspoon might have been at the top of the list.

“I don’t think he was active for the first four games,” Peters said of Witherspoon. “And he ended up playing at a high level at the end. Really driven, conscientious player who wants to be great. 

"We were lucky we got a chance to play a lot of rookies because that’ll help us moving forward.”

Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense


Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense

The player Kyle Shanahan studied on video was a lot better than the player he saw on the stat sheet.

The 49ers coach said he places a lot more emphasis on how he projects a player in his offense than what the player did with his former team.

And that is why the 49ers placed a large priority on signing former Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnonon the first day of the free-agent signing period. McKinnon comes to the 49ers on a four-year, $30 million contract with $11.7 million guaranteed.

McKinnon's stats might not suggest he is anywhere near a top running back in the NFL, but Shanahan sees it differently. And that is why the 49ers opted to pursue McKinnon instead of Carlos Hyde.

“I don’t know the numbers until I like the guy,” Shanahan said. “I always watch the guy first, and turn on the tape and get lost in it for a while. There were so many things I liked about him, visualizing how we would use him and stuff he would do. And even though there wasn’t a ton of it, you still got to see him do some stuff that we do a lot. Where he did it, he excelled a ton and was very good at it.

“Eventually, I look at the numbers and it did surprise me. Then you go back and you try to see why. I’m not going to get into all the whys, but I know all the stuff we liked about him, we cut up those numbers. I think they would’ve been good numbers.”

In four NFL seasons as a part-time player, McKinnon (5-9, 205), averaged 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. The past two years, he gained 539 and 570 yards with rushing averages of just 3.4 and 3.8 yards.

Hyde (6-foot, 230) is a bigger back with more production in his career. He rushed for 988 and 938 yards in 2016 and ’17 with averages of 4.6 and 3.9 yards.

Shanahan said he looked at every player who was available, and McKinnon was the player he evaluated to be the best of all the free agents. Shanahan has long valued running backs who are versatile in the run and pass games with an ability to make defenders miss.

“A good run is when you get more yards than what it was blocked for,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes, runs are blocked for negative 1 (yard) and the best run in the game was a 1-yard carry.

“Sometimes the one that most people could do is a 60-yarder because it was a busted coverage or a busted front and nobody was there. Numbers do tell stuff, but it’s never an absolute."

The 49ers signed McKinnon to be the starting running back with Matt Breida likely mixing into the action. The 49ers could also be in the market to add to the competition and depth through the draft.

Shanahan is likely to deploy multiple players, just as he did successfully with Atlanta Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. McKinnon is expected to take Freeman’s role. In each of Shanahan’s two seasons as Falcons offensive coordinator, Freeman accounted for more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 1,056 and 1,079 yards while catching 578 and 462 yards in passes.

“I’m just excited to be in the offense that I feel is a perfect fit for me,” McKinnon said on Thursday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

“Things that coach Shanahan has done with the backs like he did in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, I see myself doing those kinds of things. For me, I feel like the scheme is right. The fit was just perfect for me. I feel like I can’t be in a better situation as a player.”

Shanahan said he liked McKinnon as a draft prospect in 2014 out of Georgia Southern but it was more difficult to evaluate him because he mostly played quarterback in college.

But in studying McKinnon while with the Vikings, he saw a runner who has speed and elusiveness while also exhibiting the strength to break arm tackles. He set the record at the NFL Scouting Combine for running backs with 32 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press in 2014. But McKinnon's best asset might be his ability to be a factor in the passing game in blitz pickup, while also being a dependable receiver out of the backfield or in the slot.

“When it comes to separating and beating linebackers and safeties in man-to-man coverage, I definitely think he’s an issue for teams,” Shanahan said. “I think this league, when it comes to third downs and things like that, you move the chains based off of matchups, which allows you to get points in the long run. I think Jerick is very versatile and we can do a lot of things with him.

“He’s good enough to make it as a runner alone in this league. He’s good enough to make it in the pass game as just a third down threat alone, but when you can do both of those, it gives you a lot of freedom as a coach.”