All that’s left is ass-backward psychology. Today, rather than reiterating that Jed York is the king klutz of American sports and the miserable antithesis of all things Warriors, we will offer helpful solutions. This way, maybe he’ll listen to sound suggestions and not reject them bitterly from his bunker inside Levi’s Stadium, where, symbolically, Coldplay is getting the Super Bowl halftime gig.
How fitting: A once-acclaimed band gone bad will play on the home grounds of a once-celebrated football franchise turned wretched. Not that York or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have heard of Adele or anything, though it should be noted that Taylor Swift ripped up Jed’s turf in August.
When a 49ers game ticket is worth less than a parking spot these days … when the defense had 13 players on the field last Sunday … when a plane invades Santa Clara airspace with a banner that reads “Jed & The 49ers Should Mutually Part Ways” … and when his franchise has fallen farther and faster than any in recent sporting times — it all feeds into an urgent reality that York must slow the perceptional avalanche and make a dramatic change in his haywire organization. Other than stepping down as CEO and following through with his quiet wish to try California politics — I shudder — York needs a colossal move that stops season-ticket holders from dumping seat licenses en masse and reverses a depressing notion that the Niners are doomed for years.
I didn’t say he is capable of a colossal move. I said he needs one, lest he become the Joe Lacob of three years ago, with zero chance of becoming the Joe Lacob of now.
Having compounded one of the worst decisions in the annals of coaching (ousting Jim Harbaugh) by appointing a woefully unqualified successor (Jim Tomsula), York can’t afford to screw up his next hire and risk having a half-empty stadium for years ahead. And that tragicomedy will happen, given the outrageous price of the game-day experience, the preposterous distance from San Francisco and the beatings that some fans take in bathrooms and parking lots. You can’t open a $1.3 billion stadium, charge insane amounts, then trot out a no-name coach as the franchise face in what looks like a 3-13 season.
His botching of the Tomsula hire is intensified this weekend as the 49ers head to Chicago, where the Bears are coordinated offensively by Adam Gase and defensively by Vic Fangio. Either could have been the 49ers’ head coach right now if York wasn’t so enamored of Tomsula, the back-slapping, language-butchering defensive line coach who never had been an NFL coordinator, much less a full-time head coach on any big-time plateau. Imagine if Gase, who has done the unthinkable and turned erratic Jay Cutler into a fine quarterback, had been coaching Colin Kaepernick in recent months. Might the entire franchise dynamic be so much different, so much better? And might Gase have had a fighting chance with — pause for primal screams — Johnny Manziel, rumored to be on the team’s radar (VERY BAD IDEA) at the moment despite numerous behavioral issues in Santa Clara? Gase would have happened, too … had York not inisisted that Tomsula remain as defensive coordinator, a demand that chased Gase away.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Gase said in a media session Thursday. “It’s so in the past right now. I’m excited that I was able to come here. This is where I wanted to be.”
Fangio, who was Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator, was straighter to the point. “That’s their decision and their choice. I have nothing to do with that,” he said. “It’s their team. They do what they want with it.”
Translation: Both are much better off far away from Jed.
If he hasn’t already, York should be compiling a hot list of candidates and preparing his pink-slip speech for Tomsula, with the final game of a gruesome season coming Jan. 3 at The Zipper. It was Harbaugh who returned the 49ers’ coaching job to an elite place in the profession, and it was York who reduced it to a joke again. The possibility is strong that no well-regarded coaching name, in the NFL or in college football, will want any part of the gig simply because York is in charge. The mission for Jed, who still has time in his mid-30s to rescue his corporate image, is to shed his utter cluelessness and eventually prove that he might know what he’s doing. He can start with this hire, to be made before the Super Bowl, where the other league owners are prepared to make fun of him at cocktail parties.
Ideally, York also would fire his general manager, Trent Baalke, and start completely anew after a series of dry drafts and iffy free-agency forays. That way, with total power to offer, he could throw a double title at Sean Payton, who needs a change of scenery as a magical story fades in New Orleans. Baalke’s continued presence, which led to Harbaugh’s departure, will be an impediment to hiring the operational force required to fix this mess. But all signals indicate at least another year for Baalke, which restricts possibilities.
Money does bark, though. And thanks to his 68,500-seat ATM machine, Jed has plenty of it — Kenny Chesney is coming! He didn’t dip into his vault very far for Tomsula, but he’ll have to for the next coach, particularly to compensate for all anxiety factors in accepting a position that could be career suicide. With the 49ers now valued at $2.7 billion, fifth among NFL franchises after a 69-percent increase forged by their Candlestick-to-Levi’s move, York has no excuse not to pay top dollar for a premier coach.
He can hop on 101 and drive 14 miles to Palo Alto, where David Shaw again has proven he’s the best head coach (other than Harbaugh) not working in the NFL — and that includes NFL bust Nick Saban, NFL-phobic Urban Meyer and TV guys Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher, who have been away too long to be real candidates. When I asked Shaw about the 49ers earlier this season, he kind of smirked and shrugged, projecting an air that he’s above Jed’s nonsense. Shaw is not paid as well as you think, with USA Today’s trusted database ranking him 47th among college coaches at $2.24 million this year — not much more than Sonny Dykes, who is unhappy with $2 million at Cal and deserves better after generating offense, intrerest and, perhaps, the future 49ers quarterback in his Berkeley tenure. Shaw, for what it’s worth, received a loan from Stanford that had a $700,000 balance as of Aug. 31, 2014, says USA Today, per the university’s federal tax returns.
Point being, despite his avowed love for his alma mater and blood that oozes Cardinal red, Shaw would not be rejecting a $6-million annual offer from Jed — especially if he’s the coach and GM. He will be asked about the 49ers after the Pac-12 championship game Saturday night, and, as usual, he will repeat what he told me: He has the best job in coaching, right there in Palo Alto, and that friends in the industry say they’ll literally shake him if he ponders leaving. Jed should try wooing him anyway.
If Shaw and Payton say no, there’s Brian Kelly of Notre Dame, York’s alma mater. Maybe Kelly, who was blown out of his only national title game and might be tiring of college kids and recruiting and the inherent South Bend hassles, finally is ready for the pro game. Shaw would be a hit at the NFL level and has years of pro experience. Kelly has none and is no sure bet.
Or, in the end, Jed York simply could go full circle and hire Adam Gase. If Geep Chryst can make something of Blaine Gabbert, imagine what Gase might do with Gabbert or Jared Goff. That would assume he’d even listen.
“I feel like this is where I was meant to be,” Gase said.
He meant Chicago, not Santa Clara.