49ers

York has his work cut out for him in replacing Kelly, Baalke

York has his work cut out for him in replacing Kelly, Baalke

SANTA CLARA -- There must be something inherently charming about Jed York that he keeps hidden from the rest of us, given that he manages to fire people and still get them to finish their projects. Most bosses have to have someone from HR in the room and a security guard outside in case things get hinky.

But Trent Baalke showed up for his last official day as the team’s general manager even though he’d been fired two days before (and despite an erroneous Twitrumor that he’d been escorted from the stadium by security), and Chip Kelly coached his final game as though there was still something to prove.

Of course, Game 16 went down the same as most of Games 2-through-15. The 49ers took an early lead, couldn’t hold it and lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 25-23. They played hard, even getting into several scraps with the ever-obstreperous Hawks, but all they managed to nail down in the end was one last cruddy memory and the second pick in the April 27 NFL Draft.

A draft, most people agree, that won’t provide the new general manager and coach, the old owner or the rapidly aging fan base a nucleus around to which to build the next glorious age.

In short, everyone played their roles to the end – the players praised Kelly, Kelly praised the players, Baalke did his radio show for one last round of justifications and then faded back into the mists, and York was conspicuous by his much-voted absence.

And two hours and eight minutes after the game, Kelly got the horse’s head Baalke had been given. Once again, Jed told us something he doesn’t like without giving any indication of what he does like. And perpetual dissatisfaction is no way to run a business.

In other words, with all this change, there wasn’t much change at all.

You see, while most folks will be focusing on the identities of the next GM and coach (or coach and GM, if Jed decides to work backwards), the atmosphere is what needs the biggest workover. There is no compelling reason for excitement around either of these vacancies, no more than for the Chargers’ coaching job (Mike McCoy got canned after losing to the Chiefs), the Rams’ coaching job (Jeff Fisher was canned nine days after being extended), the Jaguars’ coaching job (Gus Bradley got it on a plane ride home), the Bills’ coaching job (Rex Ryan cleared space for Anthony Lynn to lose his first game), the Broncos’ coaching job (Gary Kubiak announced he is stepping down), or possibilities in Arizona, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and New Orleans.

And yes, it figures that the 49ers would be looking for a new coach when the market is replete with more stable offerings.

As for the general manager gig, it comes with its own set of worries – namely, what kind of general manager Jed wants. He wanted Baalke until it became untenable for him to stay. He wanted Mike Nolan until the load of two jobs caused him to fail at both. He wanted Scot McCloughan until his personal issues became too much to handle. Indeed, he has valued his general managers far more dearly than his coaches, and that was even before Jim Harbaugh ruined his opinion on coaches by being too much like Jim Harbaugh.

But York fancies himself a better judge of employees than he has the evidence to prove, so there is no compelling reason for the quiver of excitement to overtake the fan base, or the look of sullen admiration from his fellow operators that he somehow found a diamond necklace in a kiddie pool. He isn’t even good at explaining what he intends to do, why he intends to do it or even what methodology he would employ.

That is, until he seeks out the wisdom of the national media on the theory that validation and name-dropping go hand in hand.

So until someone can explain what Jed actually wants his football operation to be, the identities almost don’t matter. The order of hiring almost matters more, because if he hires the coach first, it means he still believes he has a special insight into the game that allows him the luxury of not deferring to people who should know acres more on the subject.

Jed is good at several things – making a stadium turn into an ATM machine, avoiding the public, firing people and paying coaches not to work for him. Other than the money thing, none of these are useful social skills or confidence-builders.

And that is what he needs most right now – a way to indicate not just to unhappy fans but to the hiring pool that he actually does have a grasp on this football business, even if his grasp is to let go of it and hand it to someone who can repair what he has wrought. The “it’s one of 32 jobs so anyone would be desperate to have it” logic doesn’t work when the brand has been so comprehensively devalued.

So here’s where we are. Jed has to sell himself to people who know more than him to work for him, and his record is so tatty that it won’t do it for him. After all, no new job candidate will be comforted with “Well, I have a lot of experience firing people and paying them afterward” as a selling point.

2020 NFL Draft: How 49ers' John Lynch prepares while working from home

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AP

2020 NFL Draft: How 49ers' John Lynch prepares while working from home

The 2020 NFL Draft will be held as scheduled -- albeit remotely -- amid the coronavirus pandemic, keeping 49ers general manager John Lynch plenty busy during California's shelter-in-place order.

In-person visits with prospects at the team's facility or elsewhere are off, but Lynch said he is able to make the most of watching film of potential picks while working from his home office.

“People have a lot bigger problems than we do, I can tell you that,” Lynch told NBC Sports' Peter King for his "Football Morning in America" column. “This year’s a lot different than any year scouts and GMs have had, obviously, with all the challenges. But this time of year, what you really need is time.

"The other day, [coach] Kyle [Shanahan] called and said, ‘This is unbelievable! I’m getting so much done.’ And he’s right. He and I, this time of year, would be watching this tape in our offices, and the difference is our doors aren’t getting knocked on 50 times a day. I’m really getting a lot done.”

Lynch and Shanahan have more prospects to examine than they did a month ago. The 49ers acquired another first-round draft pick -- No. 13 overall -- when they traded dominant defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. San Francisco, before then, was scheduled to make its first pick with the No. 31 overall selection.

[RELATED: 49ers' Jones switches agencies entering final year of deal]

That additional prep very well could've included watching Louisville's Mekhi Becton, whose Cardinals were on-screen in footage Lynch was watching during a video posted to social media last week showing how he was preparing for the draft at home. The offensive lineman is projected to be a top-10 pick next month, and Lynch simply wouldn't have had much reason to watch him with the 49ers' first pick set for the very end of the first round.

We'll know some of the players whom Lynch, Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers closely watched when the NFL draft begins April 23. The 49ers currently have seven picks: Two in the first round, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.

Colts' DeForest Buckner, Sheldon Day driven by 49ers' Super Bowl loss

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USATSI

Colts' DeForest Buckner, Sheldon Day driven by 49ers' Super Bowl loss

Sheldon Day and DeForest Buckner will be teammates on a new team next season, driven by the last loss with their old one.

The defensive linemen joined the Indianapolis Colts this offseason via free agency and trade, respectively, after playing together for the 49ers since midway through the 2017 season. Day and Buckner's final games with San Francisco were in the 49ers' 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, and Day said the pair has additional motivation after not lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy last season.

"It was right there in our hands, and all we had to do was squeeze it and grab it (in Super Bowl LIV), and we let up," Day told reporters on his introductory conference call last week (via Colts.com). "So ultimately we have a chip on our shoulders and we know how to get there, and now we know what to do to overcome that shortcoming that we had."

Buckner sacked eventual Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes 1.5 times in the game, accounting for three of the 49ers' nine QB hits. Day, meanwhile, played a little over half of San Francisco's 76 defensive snaps and picked up a tackle.

[RELATED: 49ers' Jones switches agencies entering final year of deal]

The Indianapolis native played in a career-high 16 games with the 49ers during the 2019 regular season, and Day started each of San Francisco's playoff games. Day credited his growth to playing with Buckner, and he's going to continue picking his brain while they're still teammates.

"DeForest (has) made me detail my game," Day said. "So we would be working on pass-rush moves, bouncing ideas off of each other, just trying to make sure that our game grew together, and we're always giving each other tips. If I see something on film [I'm reaching] out to him, and vice versa. So, man, what a special guy he is."

All the while, the 49ers' Super Bowl LIV won't be far from either player's mind.