Their basketball team led SportsCenter last night with their win over undefeated UConn. Their football team, which is going to their first ever BCS game, has the quarterback and coach every desperate NFL team is dying for. Usually a year where they win the Big Game soon after Cal is forced to cut several athletic programs would be an enjoyable one for Stanford, but this has been nothing short of a banner year.
And Jed York is looking on, hoping to recapture the same magic from The Farm.
That’s if you believe the reports that Jed has already made up his mind on his supposedly new GM, which actually looks to be nothing more than a convenient, relatively inexpensive (compared to hiring a GM candidate from outside the organization) title change for Trent Baalke. And whether or not the 49ers are in such a hurry to fill the empty position of general manager to give themselves a better chance of keeping Harbaugh away from the Michigan Wolverines or another NFL team, all this means one thing: Jed lied on Sunday when he made comments about hiring a GM who would then have 100% say in who Mike Singletary’s replacement would be.
Or did he?
Sometimes we hope for things so much we don’t read between the lines, or even read the lines that are on the page. Or maybe that’s just me, who thought the team could possibly be on their way to hiring some Scott Pioli/Mike Holmgren/Bill Parcells type to run the organization, finally taking the reins away from Jed (who was instrumental in both the Nolan and Singletary hirings, especially Singletary). But Jed never promised this:
Could you hire a general manager?
Is he on your staff or is it something you’ll have a search for?
JY: We’ll have a search.
Would a general manager then make a coaching decision? What order is this going to happen?
JY: We’ll have a general manager, and as we move forward, that will be something that the general manager and I will discuss together.
Jed always planned to have the final say on what coach would be hired, and he never promised that the GM he’d “search” for would come from outside the organization. His plan was made before his locker room comments, and the plan seems to be an all-out push for Harbaugh.
How you feel about this depends on how you feel about Jed and his ability to get this done, and if you trust him to make a decision on who the right coach is in the first place. Actually forget that; do you trust Jed at all? Do we have any reason to? Let’s face it, the reason why the radio hosts treat him with such reverence is because he’s accessible and articulate. Ralph Barbieri, who could barely contain his (justified) skepticism about Singletary, LOVES Jed.
After the Monday night win at home against the Cardinals last year — a huge win at the time that I attended, a game that seemed to portend the Niners’ bright future (stop laughing) — Jed called Damon Bruce and was in an extremely good mood. He talked to Bruce for an hour that night, and sounded as excited as I was after that game, although to be fair it was my birthday and I had tailgated in the parking lot with my future wife and a dozen strangers for about three hours before the game. But that’s neither here nor there, as they say.
Is Jed just like one of us, only with the good fortune of being born into a rich family that had an NFL team fall into their laps? Does it even matter? After all, people who are both young and rich make good decisions from time to time. They aren’t all on the E! Channel.
Here’s why you should be worried: the 49ers have been great at getting rid of so-called problems over the last decade, and even better at deflecting blame. If Jed promotes Baalke, it’s like saying that Jed’s free to finally bring the team back to prominence now that Dennis Erickson, Terry Donahue, Mike Nolan, Scot McCloughan and Mike Singletary are gone. But what do all of these men have in common? They were all hired by the Yorks. How many questionable, relatively inexpensive moves are going to fail before they finally cede control of important organizational decisions like this?
Remember when John York was holding press conferences and sucking the life out of the fanbase about six or seven years ago, and we heard through the grapevine that he was grooming his son (who had just graduated from college at the time) to be the next person to call the shots? Remember how scared that made everyone? Then Jed was allowed to speak, and since he was different from his socially awkward father, our natural instincts to be positive about the Niners made many of us hope he’d be Eddie 2.0.
(Here’s the best present Eddie D. ever gave his nephew: the amount of goodwill the 49ers bought by winning five Super Bowls. This is a team that hasn’t had a winning season in eight years, but every time there’s a glimmer of hope — like last year’s 8-8 campaign that was actually pretty fraudulent when you look back with an unbiased view — a majority of the fans are mentally predicting their sixth Super Bowl. Jed has one more chance, one more coach to hire before the Yorks full feel the wrath. And that means blackouts, rude signs that security will have to confiscate at Candlestick Park held by fans wearing paper bags on their heads, and complete apathy.)
The thing is, Jed still might end up being another Eddie D., at least in the winning sense. He obviously cares about winning. Eddie D. was hardly perfect either, as anyone who remembers the Joe Thomas years before Bill Walsh and John McVay saved the day would tell you. And if Jed is serious about signing Harbaugh and has convinced his parents to foot the bill, then more power to him. Because as Gary Radnich will tell you (again and again), what made Eddie D. a great owner was that he spent more money than Nic Cage.
But if Harbaugh turns Jed’s money down, or it comes out that the Yorks’ offer was too low, people are going to stop expecting good things to happen (if they haven’t already). The 49ers have to somehow lure a coach to with a package headlined by Jed, Baalke, and mediocre talent at every position besides middle linebacker, tight end and punter. It doesn’t take a Stanford grad to realize that’s a risky proposition.