Trent Baalke’s “Team ACL” squad. The idea of “accountability.” Photos of the crowd at Levi’s Stadium after halftime. There are so many cliches we’ve been subjected to as 49ers fans/observers/critics, but none match the usage rate or overwhelming stench of “win with class.”
Everyone latched onto the word “class.” But maybe “win” was Jed York’s key qualifier, and the c-word flies out of the luxury suite window when the team doesn’t get to hang a Super Bowl banner. Besides, the 49ers seemed fairly classy when they were winning more often than they lost … unless you got your boxer briefs in a bunch whenever Jim Harbaugh threw a tantrum on the sidelines. Or, if you want to get picky, when you looked at the San Jose and Santa Clara County police blotters.
Alright, so the team wasn’t exactly classy a few years ago, in the sense that you’d want to bring every member of the roster to your grandparents’ house for Sunday supper. (“No, Ahmad – please put the beer bottle down! Grandpa wasn’t disrespecting you, he looks at everybody that way!”)
The post-Harbaugh 49ers want everyone to know that they do a lot of community service. That’s fantastic. Their wide receivers may not be great at football things, like running routes, getting open or catching passes, but at least it’s a position group that produces Walter Payton award candidates (and even a winner, in the case of Anquan Boldin).
There should be more to it, though.
We knew last night that the 49ers were going to fire Baalke and Chip Kelly. Baalke came to Levi’s Stadium today and announced during his radio pregame show interview that the Yorks relieved him of his duties. Several reports said that move was made on Friday. Alright, whatever. I’m not sure why he was kept around for the second half of this season when it was clear long ago that he wasn’t the answer, or why he decided to attend today’s game (maybe he knew DeAndre Smelter would make his first catch), but that’s fine. Baalke was treated like royalty by Jed, and there aren’t many teams that would’ve kept him after last year, let alone throughout this entire season. Baalke knows he shouldn’t burn bridges and will probably get a decent job with another team within the next week or so.
Kelly came to Levi’s Stadium today and coached a football game, talked to his team, and held a press conference where he effectively said goodbye and assured the assembled media that his upcoming meeting with the Jedster wouldn’t be an episode of “The People’s Court.”
What’s up with 49ers coaches and judge-based TV shows? That’s probably something we should address later. Or, maybe not.
Let’s talk about class. Let’s REALLY talk about class. Because Jed, the supposed arbiter of what is classy and what isn’t, wouldn’t know class if it slapped him in his face with a white glove made of the classiest silk.
We’ll get to see that face at 10 am tomorrow. That’s what we were told in an official statement released about an hour and a half after the 49ers lost 25-23 to the Seahawks and fell to 2-14.
The San Francisco 49ers announced that both Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly have been relieved of their duties. The organization has begun its search for the team’s next general manager and head coach.
49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York will address the matter at 10:00 a.m. Monday morning in the Levi’s Stadium auditorium.
“I have informed Trent and Chip of my decision to pursue new leadership for our football team,” said York. “These types of conversations are never easy, especially when they involve people you respect personally and professionally.”
Yep, the 49ers had a statement prepared. Probably as early as Friday.
Trent Baalke has been informed he’s being fired, Chip Kelly has not. He’s mtg w ownership after game
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) January 1, 2017
This was another totally wasted year by the 49ers, who regressed AFTER Jim Tomsula and are no closer to finding a franchise quarterback than they were at this time last year. This was also the third straight year that the 49ers have ended the season by (1) letting the world know their head coach will not be employed after coaching the last game of the season, and (2) still allowing/forcing the coach to go through the motions anyway.
So whatever you want to say about the 49ers’ ample cap space, or an incoming GM’s ability to shape the coaching staff and roster, or even how there are only 32 football professional teams that truly matter on the entire planet, let’s remember that when it comes to class and thinking on one’s feet, Jed is about 50 steps behind where he pictures himself.
Oh, last night’s leak(s) didn’t come from Jed? Or even anyone in the organization, like Paraag Marathe or even Baalke? Maybe they came from Kelly’s agent, or an agent representing someone who has designs on replacing Baalke or Kelly? It … does … not … matter. The cat hadn’t just vacated the bag — the bag was on fire, full of animal feces and singeing someone’s welcome mat last night. And Jed let that bag burn down to poopy ashes.
Hopefully the leaks didn’t come from Jed. If they did, and he didn’t make the move to officially fire Kelly before 6 pm this evening because he was too lazy to figure out who’d be a half-decent interim head coach (hint to Jed: no 49ers fan would’ve been upset if you had just let Tom Rathman do it), or lacked the courage to face Kelly until the last possible moment, there isn’t much hope for the Jedster.
This is a pattern. So anyone who accepts a job as the team’s next general manager, or especially its next head coach, will know going in that unless things go extraordinarily well for an organization that currently features a barren roster and multiple psychological scabs they won’t allow to heal, they’ll likely end up in the same spot a year from now — waiting for tweets from Schefter/Rapoport/Glazer to let them know their fates after Week 17.
True class isn’t holding your nose high, ignoring the “haters,” or standing in a dignified pose on the sideline while wearing a sweater vest. It’s doing the right thing when the right thing is uncomfortable. It’s admitting the truth before it’s convenient to do so, especially when the only person who might get hurt is you.
But instead, Jed did it the way he always does: spending the last several days preparing for his BIG STAGE press conference moment after the last game of a failed season, while either leaking to national reporters or looking the other way. (And no doubt looking forward to all of the staged locker room photo shoots with the new GM and head coach. You know, the ones where they all hold footballs while wearing suits — so cool!)
Meanwhile, yet another outgoing head coach got one last chance to coach players — who already knew he was a goner — through a meaningless game, before holding an awkward press conference with a vacant stare and/or tears in his eyes, talking about how much he loves his players and proud he is of the work they did together. This is pro sports, so if the Yorks luck into some playoff wins over the next few years, most people will forget how Harbaugh, Tomsula and Kelly were made into sympathetic figures as their final/only seasons drew to a close. But those playoff wins usually don’t happen by accident. This pattern of firing coaches in an unnecessarily messy fashion, after Jed is unable to keep his plans to himself until the very end, speaks of someone who is all-too-comfortable lecturing others on what is actually his biggest flaw.
It leads me to wonder … if Jed ever worked in a position where he could be fired at any time, would he treat coaches in this manner? NFL owners fire coaches all the time, and it’s not like one could point to Jed’s uncle as a great example. (Eddie D. famously said this about Marc Trestman during a press conference: “He’s gone.”) However, until the leaks slow to a trickle, and the 49ers handle these sorts of things in way that’s close to normal, I see no reason to believe Jed will ever figure out how to manage a team. And to those who say this stuff doesn’t matter: I agree! But I wasn’t the one who brought up “class” in the first place.