The latest installment of “Jed York Does Groundhog Day” went about as well as one could expect. The San Francisco 49ers’ CEO admitted he hasn’t been the ideal owner, but didn’t show that he has yet processed all the lessons he needs to, in the words he appropriated from Vince Lombardi “pursue perfection.”
The best moments came when York admitted he’s been hypersensitive to criticism – after all, who isn’t? The worst moment came before that, though, when he walked out alone, because it showed that as an organization, the 49ers have again missed a bet.
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General manager Trent Baalke should have been there with York, sharing the shame of the day they made necessary, acknowledging his judgmental errors both in hiring and in talent acquisition. If mea culpas were required on the day after a coach’s firing, Baalke’s should have rung out as loudly as York’s. Indeed, York’s morning meeting should have included this suggestion to Baalke: “You will stand next to me and you will take the same impertinent questions I do, and no, you’re not too busy.”
It should be noted that Baalke did meet with reporters several hours after York met with the media -- but most fans didn't get to see that, and they can decide for themselves if it matters to them.
But Baalke apparently has an eternal hall pass from his boss, or York still thinks the minimum public exposure will do at a time when it clearly won’t. The 49ers have much to answer for in the wake of Jim Tomsula’s firing, and York’s contribution was to share the fact that he learned how to punch holes in walls from his uncle Eddie.
In other words, the 49ers don’t have a roster problem, or a chain-of-command problem, or an optics problem, or an atmospheric problem, or a leaks-to-the-national-media problem. They have a dry wall problem.
This will surely come as a great relief to contractors everywhere.
As for the rest of it, York’s annual presser was a cavalcade of meh. He said he didn’t tolerate leaks from his building while not explaining why so many things that could have only originated from his building come from his building. He said he wanted to let his football people make the football decisions, but his football people (all one of them) weren’t around to talk about those decisions. He said he wanted only to look forward when asked to humor the media’s Harbaugh fetish, but he still believed in the concept of the head coach as the “face of the franchise,” which is how Harbaugh derived his ability to wage war against his owner.
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He talked about salary cap room without acknowledging that most of the time, it isn’t cap room but draft acumen that determines success. He said that Baalke assembled a championship-level team before without mentioning that many of those pieces were in place before he was named general manager in 2011. And he said there was no timetable for hiring a new coach without noting that there could be as many as nine openings developing, and that if he and/or Baalke have someone specific in mind, he should be very concerned about speed.
In fairness, though, he did acknowledge the planes that dotted his air space.
In short, he made it about him, when this team’s issues go far beyond him. He sets a tone, but the mess is not his alone. He thought this was an opportunity to look humble as though it was a public relations challenge when that is only the beginning of it.
Jed York needs more than anything else to learn that there are things that cannot be dictated from above, that timing matters, that flexibility in the face of changing conditions is important, that the “accountability” he keeps blathering on about is not just a one-time-a-year thing, either from him or for the people who run his franchise in his name.
In sum, he has much still to learn about the family business. There are owners twice his age who have much to learn about this business, so he is not unusual in that case. He acknowledged that he has some personal shortcomings, but that isn’t what has barrel-rolled his team’s reputation back into the side of the mountain. This was a monumental organizational failure, and the organization was scandalously under-represented in Monday’s presser.
In other words, no franchise worthy of the name has only one face. Jed York’s face isn’t seen much, but the novelty of seeing his face alone at times like this is nowhere near sufficiently useful . . . not to him, not to Trent Baalke, not to the fan base, and not even to the sheet rock industry.