The 49ers’ success is no fluke, and they once again have the organizational strength to be consistent winners, with Jed York as CEO and Trent Baalke as general manager.
Jed is nothing like his father, John, for which we can all be thankful. Though he’s only 30, he’s grown into the job he inherited, working tirelessly to get the funding for the proposed new stadium in Santa Clara, now scheduled to open in 2014, and he nailed down $850 million in bank loans about two weeks ago.
But to 49ers fans, his greatest achievement was getting Jim Harbaugh to sign on as coach, because Harbaugh was courted by other teams, especially the Miami Dolphins.
Earlier this year, I had a lengthy one-on-one talk with Jed, and this is what he had to say about Harbaugh: “Trent and I focused on Harbaugh from the beginning. We never tried to pressure Jim. We talked to him and told him he was the guy we wanted, but he didn’t have to make a decision immediately. We weren’t going to go out and sign another coach if he didn’t agree immediately. We weren’t going away.”
Harbaugh was busy coaching his Stanford team, and when the Cardinal won the Orange Bowl, he phoned York and told him he’d meet with Jed and Baalke the next day.
“I told him, ‘No, take the time to celebrate with your players,’” Jed said.
Then, Miami owner Stephen Ross wanted to meet with Harbaugh, presumably to make him an offer, but Harbaugh declined and returned home to sign with the 49ers.
“We talked a lot of football,” said York, “but we also talked about the organization.”
Jed was clearly in over his head when he and then-general manager Scot McCloughan had to hold a news conference in midseason 2008 to announce the firing of Mike Nolan, but he has confidence in his own judgment now. The prime example: His decision to make Baalke the general manager, removing the interim label. He was criticized for not going outside the organization but told me, “The other guys who were out there were all guys who other teams didn’t want. Why should we?”
Baalke is a tireless worker with a career record of having worked for top coaches, including Bill Parcells. In his first draft, he took offensive linemen Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis in the first round. Iupati was a standout from the first. Davis, who was the youngest player in the league in 2010, has had growing pains but more and more, he looks like a future star.
This year, with the No. 7 pick, Baalke took Aldon Smith. There were many cries of “Who’s he?” but nobody is saying that now.
Importantly, Baalke and Harbaugh work well together. If Harbaugh had wanted a quarterback on the first round, I’m sure the 49ers would have drafted one. But he told Baalke there was nobody available that he wanted in the first round — but he did want Colin Kaepernick in the second, so Baalke maneuvered to get him.
Meanwhile, Jed York is staying in the background, letting his coach be the main media attraction. That’s the way successful organizations work.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.