Unless the objective is to run this franchise into the ground — er, into the shredding sod — Jed York should not be CEO of the 49ers. As hastily as Mom and Dad appointed him to run the family football shop, they should remove him with the same urgency and locate a crisis manager who’ll apply a tourniquet to this profusely bleeding debacle. It should be obvious by now that everything Jed touches turns not to metallic gold, but to an unspeakable substance.
Hey, maybe he can use it to grow the grass.
“Win with class,” Jed says.
I see no chance of winning. And where exactly is the class? When was the last time this dopey emoji of an NFL organization produced a positive headline?
Over the weekend, Jed was in Canton, Ohio, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. He watched as his uncle and godfather, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., delivered the introduction for former 49er Charles Haley. Did it occur to Jed to arrange quality time with DeBartolo, the ultrasuccessful if troubled owner during the 49ers’ dynasty days, and ask for advice in how to fix the ongoing mess? Or is such a meeting forever taboo after the spiteful court battle that saw Jed’s parents, John York and Denise DeBartolo York, wrestle control of the Niners from Eddie after his guilty plea in a 1997 corruption drama?
It’s mind-boggling to know how the 49ers were operated then — first-class in every way, regal in reputation and results — and how Eddie’s nephew is ruining them now. Should we check Jed’s DNA? If Mom and Dad won’t let him deal with Eddie, why doesn’t Jed visit with Carmen Policy, the calming influence behind DeBartolo amid the dynasty? Policy is still very much respected in league circles, hired as point man for the group that wants to attract the Raiders and San Diego Chargers to a proposed stadium in southern California. But in a recent interview with the Orange County Register about the Carson project, Policy expressed sadness that he has been cut adrift in The Jed Show, if for no other reason than his close friendship with Eddie.
“I guess I’m like most people who have been part of an organization that has enjoyed some success and you feel like you’ve contributed something to that success. When you’re no longer part of it and you wouldn’t even be comfortable being around it, it’s a sense of loss,” Policy said. “And you’ve got to be constantly reminding yourself, well, that’s the way it is. When new people come on board, they’re taking over a situation, they want to do it their way. They want it to be a reflection of their style. They don’t want to be constantly reminded of what we did before, ‘Oh, you’re part of the past, oh, yeah, weren’t those great years?’ They want to leave their mark.”
Try graffiti that has defaced a vintage art piece.
Jed revealed his immaturity and incompetence by contributing to the toxic environment that ran off Jim Harbaugh, who only directed the 49ers to three straight NFC title games after inheriting a wayward team. Rather than manage the internal differences between his hot-wired coach and general manager Trent Baalke, Jed sided with Baalke, conducted a whisper campaign in the media and fired Harbaugh, who continues to be a national conversation piece at Michigan while the 49ers slide into a black hole.
Jed’s regime hasn’t commanded respect from the players, who continue to find trouble off the field with alarming frequency and an apparent disregard for the consequences. Baalke’s personal project — saving Aldon Smith from his alcohol troubles — backfired with a Thursday night arrest that led to his release, which only undercut whatever progress management had made in dumping Ray McDonald and pledging a low-tolerance policy for personal conduct problems. Smith’s arrest was the 12th time in 3½ years that York has dealt with an police issue involving a player. At what point does the boss take blame for bad character?
Jed left San Francisco for a sweet land deal 40 miles from Candlestick Park, in sleepy Santa Clara, where a $1.3 billion mall has lost all romantic attachment to a rich, glorious past in a parking lot beside an amusement park and a convention center. Levi’s Stadium feels like a tech start-up that gets to host events like Taylor Swift concerts and WrestleMania 31 and disregards how a busy calendar ravages the playing field. The stadium should be here, not there, and if I’m already sick of the drive, what about the fans?
Jed and Baalke replaced Harbaugh with Jim Tomsula, who was hired because Jed wanted him to be “a teacher” of “players and coaches.” Tomsula has been a career position coach in the NFL, never a coordinator. His only experience as a full-time head coach was nine years ago in Europe. When he was hired, his CSN Bay Area interview went mortifyingly viral, with Tomsula’s every inaudible grunt or incoherent stumble — “I mean, uh, we’re gonna, uh, we’re gonna, we’re gonna win today. That’s, our, uh, uh, you know, it’s, it’s one-week calendars once you get into the season,” he said of the 2015 mission — suggesting he’d be a work in progress at best or a one-and-done punchline at worst. He stood tall as a leader after Smith was released, saying, “If one person out there reads this, and you’re struggling, get help. Go get it. You’re worth it. … And although Aldon will not be playing football here, we will be supporting him. He will not be alone.” But while Tomsula is likable and human, he should not be in this position, learning on the job for a team that just 2½ years ago was five yards from winning a Super Bowl.
Jed is cursed, too, having watched a succession of retirements from players who all left the sport prematurely, from Patrick Willis to Chris Borland to Justin Smith to Anthony Davis. Or, maybe they were just tired of the place and sensing the inevitable decline ahead. Isn’t it the CEO’s responsibility to have a pulse of the company, to perform damage control when he senses a mass exodus? Or does Jed not have a clue? When rumors flew that Smith’s arrest came after a disagreement with Colin Kaepernick — something about the quarterback’s Mercedes and his relationship with an ex-girlfriend of Smith — it didn’t seem to matter that the reports were completely bogus. It’s that such drama is entirely possible in Ninerland, true or otherwise.
Jed York is 35. He has headed up day-to-day operations since 2009. I realize, in a Zuckerberg world, that people are running companies at obscenely young ages, but Mark Zuckerberg did create Facebook. Jed did not create the 49ers. He was a fan whose parents happened to own the team. Only 17 years ago, he was the captain of his high school baseball team. Only 13 years ago, he was graduating from Notre Dame with a degree in finance and history. What prepared him to start running the 49ers at 29?
While in Canton, Jed also saw Bill Polian deliver his induction speech as one of the NFL’s eminent franchise builders and fixers. Wouldn’t Polian, still sharp and well-informed as an ESPN analyst, be an ideal influence to help the 49ers, if only for a couple of years?