View Mobile Site

What York does, not what he says, will matter most

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED January 6, 2016 12:54 a.m.

Jed York tried for public contrition in Monday’s long-awaited oops-on-me news conference, which is fine.

A lot of that was probably authentic, a lot of that was good for fans to hear, and a lot of that is relatively healthy to say and hear.

The 49ers’ CEO knows he has a quick temper and he knows it has led him astray more than a few times — and I’m not just talking about Twitter thermo-dynamics or little off-hand remarks.

I’m talking about hiring and firing decisions. I’m talking about the sour mood of that weird building.

So York saying conciliatory things and doing it by himself ... that’s not a bad moment for him or his family’s ownership tenure, in the middle of this awful period for the 49ers (but wonderful financial era for the Yorks).

But as always, it’s what you do, not what you say, that matters, and York is dealing with an all-time blunder — plotting to fire Jim Harbaugh (blowing up 2014 in the process) and hiring Jim Tomsula (and wasting 2015 in the process).

Now Tomsula is fired and two precious years have been lost, just like that.

One thought: Would York concede he has made errors in judgment recently because he got over-emotional?

And if he would admit that he screwed up the Harbaugh situation, does that mean York is now ready to bring in another volatile coach who can produce wins?

Another thought: If York knows he can be capricious — if he’s admitting this — why wouldn’t that lead to his family bringing in a football overseer to calm the waters when the Yorks get frantic?

But nope, the Yorks aren’t hiring a football-minded team president. They’re just not doing it.

They don’t want anybody else on the throne. It’s them, or nobody.

So we know York might have wanted this to be his Contrition Presser, but he wasn’t that contrite, and his family isn’t changing up too much, no matter what.

That was the lesson of Tomsula, by the way. The guy who makes the Yorks feel good about themselves is never the best guy to actually coach the team.

Maybe York was telling us symbolically that he has learned that, though he sure didn’t actually say those words Monday.

It was all symbolism, mostly, and to me, the shallowest part was York’s obvious attempt to repeatedly use his uncle Eddie DeBartolo Jr. as a shield for his own actions.

An obvious follow up to York’s repeat references to conversations with the former 49ers owner: If you say you don’t need help in a coaching search because you always have your uncle’s advice ... why didn’t you listen to Eddie D. on Harbaugh all last year?

Answer: Jed York only uses Eddie D.’s name when Jed is in trouble.

And he always over-does displaying the Eddie D. shield — and those five Super Bowl trophies — when he’s in trouble.

The truth is York never asked DeBartolo Jr. about Harbaugh because he knew the answer: Eddie D. is a big fan of Harbaugh’s style and talent and he’s on record about it.

So remember that when the Yorks try to hide behind DeBartolo’s real accomplishments.

When it really counted, when the Yorks were plotting against Harbaugh without a clue about what to do after him, they ignored Eddie D., who absolutely knew better.

Meanwhile, the most interesting structural part of the presser was the lack of definition about general manager Trent Baalke’s true role in the next days and months.

Baalke is leading the coaching search — his third as 49ers GM — but York was blurry about how the football operation will work when they come upon a candidate they want to hire.

Will that new coach report to Baalke on all matters? Or might Baalke have to give up some of his treasured personnel power if the new coach wants it?

Unclear. I think the Yorks are setting it up for Baalke to prove it or lose it with this hire: Get a great coach or else we’ll peel off your power.

Which is not a stable situation but will be intriguing for coaches who might think they can walk into an interview, charm the Yorks, get Baalke temporarily on board ... then grab at the power.

If the 49ers win immediately, the coach will be the power. That will happen.

But if there are struggles early on the field, as always, the 49ers will devolve into yet another franchise-tearing struggle.

If we’re looking for early hints, the new coach’s salary is going to be a huge point here; if Jed pays $7 million to $9 million a year, the new coach will have more power than Baalke.

And if it’s somebody like Sean Payton (if he can be acquired from New Orleans), the salary is going to be over $7 million per.

But Baalke is not giving up that power without a struggle, and he always wins 49ers power struggles.

Maybe Jed York is sorry about that, maybe he’s not. We know he wants to be better, but in the context of the moment, there’s no proof that he actually is. Read Tim Kawakami’s Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami . Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5442. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/timkawakami .


Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...