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.
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.