Jed York, the 49ers' CEO, admitted nothing could fully prepare him for being the public face of one of the most prominent franchise in all of sports.
“But I certainly knew there was nothing I wasn't going to do to be successful,” said York, whose dogged determination helped the 49ers land a new stadium in Santa Clara and Super Bowl L. “The guts and drive my grandpa had, he instilled in me.”
It shows. The 31-year-old York is entering his third year as the 49ers' CEO, seemingly on top of the world. Three years ago, the 49ers were a sad-sack franchise, so far away from their glory years that one could never imagine a turnaround was imminent.
Today, the organization is a model of stability, having reached the NFC Championship Game two straight years and the Super Bowl this past year. When York left his job as a financial analyst for Guggenheim Partners in New York City to join the 49ers in 2005, some of his first jobs included sewing names on the back of jerseys and learning how to tie an ice bag and wrapping an ankle.
York versed himself in every aspect of the organization — from the ground floor up — and there was no time for his ego and pride to get in the way. Confident yet humble, York's overall vision of running an organization revolves around hiring innovative people, exchanging ideas through heated discussions and allowing everyone to do their jobs.
“I'm not going to micromanage,” said York, who was at SAP in Palo Alto earlier this week along with 49ers President Gideon Yu to talk about the team's partnership with SAP. “The first thing about leadership is you need to be present to be successful.”
Although York embraces the use of technology to help a team, the NFL isn't exactly at the forefront of innovation when it comes to action on the field.
“As of now, the NFL won't even allow [a coach] to use a calculator in a game,” York said. “In [some] sports, if teams are using a spreadsheet, that's advanced technology.”
York admires former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who has won an NBA record 11 titles as a coach but garnered criticism along the way for only being able to win because he had some of the greatest players in the history of the game on his rosters.
“I hope my biggest criticism will be that of course I had success because I had all the superstars,” York said. “I hope people say that about me 20 years from now.”