With Kelly, Baalke likely out, York must decide what is truly important to him

With Kelly, Baalke likely out, York must decide what is truly important to him

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.

The NFL changed the definition of the 'catch rule' again and it won't be the last time


The NFL changed the definition of the 'catch rule' again and it won't be the last time

I’m going to miss “surviving the ground.” I’m going to miss “completing the process,” too. But I won’t miss the way the NFL rules committee likes to use words to refine officials’ training. That, fortunately, will never end.

After all, I believe the NFL has been marching boldly toward creating a sport that the people who are paid to play it and pay to watch it do not understand, and that’s a level of chaos I can enjoy because if we know anything at all about the NFL, it is that it has three levels of problem-solving.

#1 -- Denying that a problem exists, and calling people who say it does know-nothings, morons and potentially liable in a lawsuit.

#2 -- Admitting a problem exists only after years of careful study in which it starts with the desired result and then tailors any fact-finding to reach that result.

#3 -- Implementing a solution that solves nothing, and in doing so either makes the original problem worse or replaces it with a more vexing problem.

In fact, vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said that very thing in explaining the plan to the Washington Post’s Mark Maske. “We worked backward,” he said. “We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule. Slight movement of the ball, it looks like we’ll reverse that. Going to the ground, it looks like that’s going to be eliminated. And we’ll go back to the old replay standard of reverse the call on the field only when it’s indisputable.”

Of course, Vincent was also required to explain why “surviving the ground” and “completing the process” made sense when those were introduced, so let’s move past all that to the real issue here.

Football is essentially ungovernable, and becoming more so with each additional year. Part of it is the dichotomy between making a violent game less violent without making it sufficiently less violent. Part of it is large, fast people being asked to play at full speed to strike smaller targets. Part of it is taking simple common sense as a judgment tool away from officials because at its heart, the decision-makers hate its officials and give them increasingly absurd things to adjudicate on the fly and then punish them when it can’t be done.

And part of it is old football coaches being asked to tailor their sport to meet the entertainment demands of a younger demographic that isn’t sitting still for a convoluted game that lasts three hours. This is another way of saying that football is slowly but surely being viewed by the younger generation as “your dad’s game,” and are going to basketball or e-sports or even no sports at all for their fun.

In other words, the league is trying to change a rule to address a rule that was introduced to change a rule to take judgment from people who are supposed to apply structure to a game that already had plenty of it.

So the catch rule will be changed yet again, and in two years the complaints about that rule will overwhelm the league again. We will go from "surviving the ground" to "mastering the air space" or someone equally nonsensical verbiage, and the idea of simplifying a rule book that is beating the game it explains across our skulls is simply beyond these guys.

Ex-49er Daniel Kilgore describes 'crazy,' 'frustrating,' 'heart-breaking' week


Ex-49er Daniel Kilgore describes 'crazy,' 'frustrating,' 'heart-breaking' week

Daniel Kilgore’s mind was at ease on Feb. 14 after signing a three-year contract extension to remain with the 49ers – the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

But all that changed on the first day of the open negotiating period when he learned the 49ers reached an agreement with New York Giants free-agent Weston Richburg on a five-year contract. The same firm, Rep1, represents Kilgore and Richburg.

“Originally, I knew Weston was on the Niners’ board for left guard,” Kilgore said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “When I knew that he was going to sign with the 49ers, I was thinking, ‘Hey, we just got a new left guard.’ I hate it for Laken (Tomlinson).

“But, then, you kind of find out he was coming for center. That’s when I was thrown for a loop.”

Kilgore described the days that followed as “crazy,” “frustrating” and “heart-breaking.”

One day after the 49ers officially signed Richburg to a five-year, $47.5 million contract, Kilgore was traded to the Miami Dolphins. The 49ers got little in return for delivering Kilgore to what appears to be a good situation. The team’s swapped draft spots in the seventh round, with the 49ers now choosing at No. 223 overall, while the Dolphins pick at No. 227.

Kilgore lands in a situation to be a starter. He also received, in essence, a 13.3-percent raise for leaving California to go to Florida, where there is no state income tax. The 49ers structured Kilgore's contract so the first payout of a $2.3 million roster bonus was scheduled for after the start of the new league year – after the trade. The Dolphins pick up the entirety of the three-year, $11.75 million contract the 49ers negotiated with Kilgore.

Kilgore said he was never asked to compete for a job at guard with the 49ers. He said he did not request a trade, either. He was told, in essence, he was no longer in the 49ers’ plans.

General manager John Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area last week both Richburg and Kilgore are best at center. To ask either to submit to a change of position would set up one of them for failure.

Looking back, Kilgore said he wonders if he should have turned down the 49ers’ offer and gone into free agency. But that approach had its risks, too. All he wanted, he said, was to be compensated fairly and remain with the 49ers.

“I was really thrown for a shock,” said Kilgore, who won the Bobb McKittrick Award last season for his displays of courage, intensity and sacrifice. “You just wonder, ‘What If I did go free agency?’ (But) that wasn’t me. I knew where that team was going. I’m familiar with the area, familiar with the coaching staff, my best friends are on the team. So I knew this is where I wanted to be. I didn’t see myself going anywhere else.”

Now, he will be moving to South Florida, where he will attempt to establish what he felt he had with the 49ers.

“You want to be there and be a part of something on the rise," Kilgore said. "That was the frustrating thing, that you’re no longer going to be there. It’s frustrating and heart-breaking, but you move on. I’m going to South Florida, and that makes things a heck of a lot better.”

Kilgore said he had some hard conversations with Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan last week. Ultimately, he said he respects both men for the way they handled an awkward situation. Lynch said last week when the 49ers signed Kilgore to an extension, the club believed there was a likelihood Richburg would not still be available a month later as a free agent. Richburg was the only center the 49ers would have sought to replace Kilgore, Lynch said.

“I hope the fans out there know the truth about everything and know that Kyle and John did it in the best interest of me and the best interest for the team moving forward,” Kilgore said. “There’s no bad grudges or anything like that. We’re all still friends at the end of the day.”