If the report that Jed York is going to fire both Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly after Sunday’s much-anticipated end to the 2016 season is correct, then York has truly mastered the art of blame delegation.
Which is also known as “Owner’s Prerogative,” especially when that owner is so far over his skis that he can see the underside of his own feet.
Baalke’s firing as general manager was expected as part of the team’s three-year freefall from Super Bowl contender to sub-minimal schedule filler. But Kelly's position was believed to be safe, if for no better reason than his firing would mean that the York family, penny-careful that they are, will be paying for the idle hands of two coaches while seeking out the services of a third.
Instead, if ESPN senior busybody Adam Schefter, who broke the story is correct, both Baalke and Kelly will pay, and be paid, for Jed’s exceedingly flawed hiring skills.
That last part should be the part that comes as the least surprising bit. While Jed is not the team’s owner, he runs it and therefore may as well be the owner, and an owner must be able to do two things well if he or she does not expect to spend his her adult years coated in ridicule.
One, spend money wisely. And two, hire the most important subordinates even more wisely. Jed is erratic at the first, almost entirely awful at the second – and the one time he did get it right, with Jim Harbaugh, the two placed themselves at swords and shields within two years and helped speed the football operation to its present place as the National Football League’s penultimate dumpster fire.
And now he will get to do it all again, with no more evidence that he has the skills or resources to satisfy the requirements of being the boss than he has to date.
Yeah, it’s gonna get grimy around 4949 WTF Boulevard again.
This was the problem in Oakland until Mark Davis was convinced to turn his football acumen over to longtime Raider and Packer executive Ron Wolf, who in turn gave him Reggie McKenzie, and the results you see today. It took awhile, and it required that Davis not be the impetuous blame delegator York has shown himself to be, but the Raiders have a grand on-field future before them.
The 49ers? Now they are virtually nameless, faceless, devoid of system or philosophy, and if anything are worse off now than they were in 2004, the last time they went 2-14 and fired a coach.
Worse yet for them, there is no indication that York knows where to go or whom to ask for the fresh ideas Wolf provided for Davis. Somewhere, John Vernon’s words of warning/advice to Stephen Furst in Animal House can be heard faintly in the background.
In the next days and weeks, suggestions will be made from all corners about “the perfect guy” for Job One, Job Two or both, and most of them will be disregarded as impractical, unaffordable, naked clickbait or just standard rumormongering (“Hey, Rex Ryan’s looking for work! He’d be fun!”).
But this isn’t about who, but what. The most important decision Jed York has ever had to make is upon him again, and that is to decide the following:
1. How important football truly is to him.
2. How important his ego truly is to him.
3. How important getting credit for success is to him.
4. How important avoiding blame is to him.
5. And finally, what does he really want the 49ers to be to him and his family – crown jewel or cash cow.
He is at that moment now more than ever, and he will be burning an awful lot of family money trying to answer those questions over the next few weeks. If he only wants people to stop hiring planes to invade his airspace, he will fail. If he only wants to hire someone new to make it look like he’s listening and then does it again in 2017, he will fail worse.
If he doesn’t actually decide once and for all that the stadium is the adjunct to the football team rather than the other way around, he will fail continually, and his father’s unhappy tenure in his chair will look like winning the Nobel Prize in comparison.
In short, screw this one up like he has the others and he will stay screwed well into the Retching Twenties.
But at least we can ignore the symptoms and get down to the root cause for a few days. Jed.
That is, until he offers up new names for us to wrap in a cloak of skeptical disdain because the 49er coaching job is not a destination any more, and the 49er general manager’s job is no more important than that of the Jaguars or Bills or Rams or Browns. It’s just a gig until a better gig comes along – unless there is organizational genius in Jed York that has to date been either forgotten or gone undetected.
But no pressure, Jed. It’s only your legacy at stake.