With John York in charge, the 49ers have no hope. This week’s comic opera, with Mike Nolan returning as coach and Scot McCloughan becoming general manager, is only the latest example of York’s incompetence. It makes no sense from either a football or business standpoint.
For years, Nolan was passed over as a head-coaching candidate, despite a résumé that included a father who had been a successful head coach and a background as a defensive coordinator.
Now we know why. In three years with the Niners, Nolan is 16-32, and he took a considerable step back this season.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Nolan announced the firing of offensive coordinator Jim Hostler and said, “We’re all held accountable for what we do.” Fine, except that Nolan has never acccepted any responsibility himself for what’s gone wrong.
Players can spot a phony. Sources close to the players have been telling me since the season started that the players have tuned out Nolan. There is also the example of the Monday night game in Seattle, shortly after the death of Nolan’s father. A team that is behind the coach usually plays with great emotion in a game like that, but the 49ers were flat as a pancake.
So, you bring back a losing coach who has no support from his players, who had a widely publicized falling out with his quarterback — and then you have to go out and sell season tickets? Good luck with that.
It’s almost impossible for an NFL team to lose money, but the 49ers have reportedly done that in recent seasons, because they’ve had to buy up unsold tickets to have “sellouts,” so games can be on local television. They’ll have to buy up many more tickets next season.
I have great respect for McCloughan, but York did him no favor by putting him in what can only be viewed as an ambivalent position. When Nolan talked of continuing to be the “one voice” of the organization, it was obvious he won’t yield power gracefully.
And, of course, there is still a shortage of football people in the front office. That’s why York has had to make decisions that should be made by people who know the game.
York makes the common mistake of owners who get into sports, thinking that success in one field makes them capable of running a sports franchise. In one of our first conversations, York boasted of his success in running horse racetracks, but there’s no comparison with running an NFL team or a racetrack, where the horses are the stars and jockeys, trainers and horse owners only get paid if they win.
Now, York is apparently grooming his son to run the operation, but Jed appears to be a chip of the block(head). York had to bring in Andy Dolich to try to rescue what appears to be a permanently stalled stadium project.
It’s altogether too reminiscent of the Arizona Cardinals, who have spent decades of struggling under the ownership of Bill Bidwill, but even the Cardinals are ahead of the Niners now.
Success in the NFL requires an owner who stays out of the way of his football people, a general manager who gets the players and a good coach to get them to play well. When you have only one of the three, you have no chance.