NFL

Jed York has caused problems, but he isn’t THE problem with the 49ers

49ers Jed York John York Denise Debartolo York Levi's Stadium groundbreaking

I would say I was shocked by the way Lowell Cohn tore into Jed York in his recent column, but I would be fibbing. Cohn called York, a man in his mid-30s, “son” eight times. His final line was “Go away, son.” It was like the climactic point of a movie, when the wise, well-meaning protagonist gets rid of the slimy, entitled villain once and for all.

It was also the logical evolution of Cohn’s approach to summarizing York’s tenure in print. In late November of 2014, he provided not just an etiquette lesson, but an offer to take York out to lunch at Specialty’s Cafe to discuss how a youngish CEO should comport himself.

At least back then it seemed like Cohn believed York still had some redeeming qualities. Not so anymore.

Here’s what should happen. Your parents should promote you, one of those promotions with quotation marks around it. You parents should acknowledge all your hard work. Let you handle stadium concerts, Wrestlemania at Levi’s, minor-league soccer — stuff like that. Everything that doesn’t involve football.

If what Cohn suggested in yesterday’s column actually came to pass, 49ers fans from Eureka to Fresno would dance in the streets.

Then the smoke would clear and we’d realize nothing had changed. This isn’t Jed’s team. It’s not even Dr. John’s team. This is Denise DeBartolo York’s team, and other than the stadium address and the head coach every 2.5 years, nothing will change as long as she’s in charge.

***

If anything, Jed has been a tremendous son. (Sorry Jed, I swear I didn’t mean that in a snarky way.) Picture an army of columnists, radio hosts, bloggers, season ticket holders and Twitter egg accounts all firing arrows at the York family, only Jed is absorbing at least 99% of them.

Imagine if Dr. John was still the team’s main spokesperson now, during an age of social media when people are waiting all day, every day, to pounce on something they don’t like. Dr. John was reviled to a degree that Chris Cohan never was in the mid-2000s, simply because the Warriors didn’t really matter as much when Cohan and Bobby Rowell were busy running the team past the earth’s surface and crust, deep into the magma below. Now, with Jed front-and-center, Dr. John and his wife can hide from the press and the fans while still maintaining the same control over finances they had throughout the 2000s.

Every time I tweet a joke about the 49ers or the latest in my long (probably too long) list of stories criticizing Trent Baalke, I get at least a half-dozen replies to me and @JedYork, as if Jed will see the tweets in his mentions, spend more money on the team, and feel bad about himself.

OK, maybe the last part occurs from time to time. Here’s what York said on Jan. 4 after firing “Jimmy T.”

“I’d say the biggest thing, I think I’ve taken things too personally. Interactions with the media, some of the criticism from fans, I think I’ve internalized that too much and I’ve taken it too personally. I think I’ve done things and we can get into tweets that I’ve sent and thank god you can’t see tweets that I didn’t send. Those things aren’t helpful for the team. As much as I’d like to share how I feel about the team, it’s not helpful for our club for me to talk about how I feel when we win, how I feel when we lose. It’s ultimately a distraction. It’s hard enough to win football games in the National Football League. It’s harder when you have somebody that tweets something that’s a distraction to the club and I can’t do that. I think you’ve seen me take a step back from twitter and from other social media and I think it’s important for our team and that it’s important for our fans to have a good clear communication with the club. But, I’m emotional. I learned that from my uncle. Both of us put holes in walls. Both of us have screamed and yelled and said things that we wish we could take back. Some behind the scenes, sometimes in front of the public and I can’t be a distraction to this team. The world is so much different today than I think when my uncle ran the team. It’s not a one-day news cycle. It’s a 24-hour, literally a second-by-second news cycle and I can’t add to that.”

He knows how the fans feel, and he knows they love his uncle more now than ever. That’s probably why he mentioned “my uncle” seven times during that press conference. But despite all that, Eddie DeBartolo is never coming back.

There’s a clear rift within the family …

… and this is the Yorks’ team now. And if mom and dad reassigned Jed as Cohn suggests they should, who would be his replacement? Paraag Marathe? Denise’s Labrador retriever? (For the record, I don’t know if she currently owns any pets.) It’s not like they’re going to find (and pay) the next John McVay or even Carmen Policy.

We all know that the young Jedi has made some unfortunate decisions. The way he bought into Mike Singletary showed his naivete. Texting “We’re going to win the division” to Adam Schefter after Singletary’s team started 0-5 in 2010 showed an especially brash kind of cluelessness. We can keep going on and on about Baalke and Jim Harbaugh and Jimmy T until this post stretches past 2,000 words, but let’s let the dead horse deteriorate on its own.

***

If you’re a young 49ers fan who has never seen a Super Bowl win, being angry is understandable. And Jed is the obvious target, because he’s the highest-ranking executive that we get to see and even hear once or twice a year. He’s the one on Twitter, he’s the one who said “accountable” and “win with class,” and many call him the owner even though technically he is not the owner.

When it was reported over a decade ago that the Yorks’ plan was to put Jed in charge in short order, the reaction wasn’t YAY, A YOUNG FRESH MIND WILL LEAD THIS TEAM BACK TO GLORY. It was more like GREAT, IF THE APPLE FALLS DIRECTLY BELOW THE TREE THIS TEAM WILL BE SCREWED FOR MULTIPLE DECADES.

***

Most of us know next to nothing about Denise. Here’s a tidbit from a fantastic profile by Nancy Gay that ran in the Chronicle over 16 years ago.

A petite woman with huge brown eyes, a quick laugh and a love for bright red lipstick — “People love to write about it, but that’s who I am,” she says — DeBartolo York now oversees the huge business empire started by her father, Edward DeBartoloSr. She is, by all accounts, an astute, intelligent businesswoman whose net worth as of last October was listed at $700 million by Forbes magazine.

Yet in Youngstown, she is known simply as Denise or ‘Nise. Although she and her family live in a palatial home surrounded by a gate and 129 acres, the doors squeak in her 2- year-old Chrysler Sebring convertible, and the seats are covered with dog hair. She doesn’t care if her overweight Labrador retrievers, Butterscotch and Chocolate, chomp on bones on the marble floors. And there is no full-time help.

DeBartolo York walks by a huge dining table and fingers its pretty sage linen tablecloth. “Isn’t this great?” she says. “T.J. Maxx. $24.99.”

The story is dripping with resentment from Denise toward her brother Eddie, for spending lavishly and forcing her to sue “to recover $94 million in debts owed by him.” She ended up with the 49ers as a result after previously being a silent 50/50 partner with Eddie, and the rest is history.

Eddie D is now a Hall-of-Famer, still a fan favorite. The Yorks are reviled, Jed most of all. It’s fair in that Jed seems to enjoy the limelight a little too much at times when things go well, but his parents have been skating for years and there’s no guarantee anything would improve if Jed left. In fact, things could get even worse! (It sounds impossible, but at least Jed was able to land Harbaugh for a short while.)

If Jed never existed and the team had the same results under the Yorks (124-137 record, well on their way to 12 non-playoff seasons out of 17), Dr. John would be hated in this region more than every Dodger, Seahawk, Cowboy, Chief, Bronco, Cavalier, Clipper, Laker and L.A. King combined. At some point the fans would start mentioning @DeniseDYork in all of their angry tweets, too.

Jed has contributed to this team’s problems. But in the grand scheme is he more a symptom than *the* problem with this franchise. Sports are cyclical, and that’s something York and Baalke backers point out when they discuss the team’s most recent downturn. But as long as this family is in charge, and they feel like they can weather the ever-mounting criticism as long as their operating income stays high (it’s been over $100 million each year since Levi’s opened), we’re probably going to see this same unfortunate cycle repeat itself for the foreseeable future — even if Jed leaves his post as CEO and gets into politics or something.

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42 Comments on "Jed York has caused problems, but he isn’t THE problem with the 49ers"

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EthanBroseph
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EthanBroseph

BASportsGuy this take is too hot for twitter

MilpitasNinerGu
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MilpitasNinerGu

BASportsGuy jed’s problem this year worse than airplane banners….we don’t care anymore. Watch how empty Levi’s is this week. I’m tired.

neilwilsonvoice
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neilwilsonvoice

BASportsGuy disagree. it all starts at the top. Denise and John might be just as at fault

acheney747
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acheney747

BASportsGuy certainly an interesting take. I wonder what the eventual outcome will be. Doubt they will stand for 1/2 filled stadium

BASportsGuy
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BASportsGuy

neilwilsonvoice be honest, you didn’t read the story did you

Dragonsflames
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Dragonsflames

BASportsGuy If Jed is the man who ultimately decided to keep Baalke over Harbaugh and then hire Tomsula then YES, he IS the problem.

BASportsGuy
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BASportsGuy

Dragonsflames Guessing his parents had some say in that decision as well.

Dragonsflames
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Dragonsflames

BASportsGuy Maybe, but we would only be guessing. We know Jed has been in charge for a fact, and we also know he has done a terrible job.

BASportsGuy
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BASportsGuy

Dragonsflames How did his father do in that role?

dandanville50
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dandanville50

BASportsGuy It doesn’t make a difference if Denise is in charge of this mess.The Yorks,led by her,are both Incompetent and Greedy!

beandoggerel
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beandoggerel

Lowell Cohn is such a clown; I’m surprised he had time to write that while he’s out terrorizing people in greater Portlandia

Dragonsflames
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Dragonsflames

BASportsGuy Just as bad in a shorter amount of time. The hope is that if Jed is gone, they hire a football mind that knows what to do.

elvesandplums
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elvesandplums

BASportsGuy hey LowellCohn

LarryBeilABC7
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LarryBeilABC7

BASportsGuy there’s no defending Jed for product on field or handling of Harbaugh but team is making $$$ at Levi’s so Denise may be happy

Bleed_Red_Gold
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Bleed_Red_Gold

BASportsGuy The Yorks as a group is what caused you know what to hit the fan. They are non-football folk with absolutely Zero Football IQ.

BASportsGuy
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BASportsGuy

elvesandplums LowellCohn For the record, I thought Lowell’s column was hilarious. Doubly so when Lisa DeBartolo tweeted it.

SoCal49ersFan
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SoCal49ersFan

BASportsGuy Mom is.

elvesandplums
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elvesandplums

BASportsGuy LowellCohn damn, son. She really RT it, son? Lololol

BASportsGuy
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BASportsGuy

SoCal49ersFan Are you saving me a click on my own story? Lol

neilwilsonvoice
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neilwilsonvoice

BASportsGuy I did. wink I’ve always believed it starts at the top. Let’s hope a really rich guy makes an offer the Yorks can’t refuse.

grimreefer14
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grimreefer14

BASportsGuy it’s a cheapskate thing and it started with John in 2003. Forced players to buy own water after gutting roster and mooch.

LevoSkeet
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LevoSkeet

BASportsGuy agree with most of that, but leave lowell alone, that dude’s embarrassed himself enough this year

RealAmitRaman
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RealAmitRaman

BASportsGuy when we say Jed. We mean his parents too

RealAmitRaman
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RealAmitRaman

LarryBeilABC7 BASportsGuy they’d make more if they were winning.

PhillipPhipps
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PhillipPhipps

BASportsGuy Spot on! York’s only care about making money. Winning football doesn’t matter to them as long as the cash keeps flowing in

Great_AZCatsby
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Great_AZCatsby

BASportsGuy Great balanced and measured analysis. As Col Kurtz once said, Jed is just an errand boy sent by grocery clerks (Denise/John)

coredump
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coredump

Dragonsflames BASportsGuy  Dr. John arguably did worse, since he actively dismantled a somewhat successful franchise and kept it in the dumper for years.  Terry Donahue was no prize during that incarnation of niners management, much like Baalke today.

Lil Jed simply inherited the dumpster fire and perpetuated the family tradition of dysfunction. Now you could argue that lil Jed briefly rose above his legacy for a brief time with the Harbaugh hiring, but in that case he basically later repeated what his dad did.
I.e. York the Younger doesn’t even get marks for originality.

coredump
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coredump
Can’t disagree with the thesis, after all, Mommy & Dr. John gave lil Jed this toy to play with. By the same token, Eddie has to share some blame for letting his team fall to the York side of the family in the first place. But your article was more about the state of things than assessing blame, and you’re right:  it boils down to the team being poor as long as the Yorks are rich, and making the decisions. The most that could be hoped for is management somehow succeeds in spite of the Yorks’ ownership, but since lil… Read more »
coredump
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coredump

BASportsGuy Dragonsflames  Do you think it’s “some” say or “all”?  I.e. is lil Jed an actual puppet? Or is he allowed to make some decisions on his own?
I have no idea how the York family dysfunction is arbitrated, but my guess/assumption has been that lil Jed gets to make decisions that don’t involve money, but when it comes to the family fortune, his folks control his allowance.

datakuan
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datakuan

Jed is a natural politician! He already lies ( hold me accountable) has no clue about what he’s talking about ( took a chance of greatness with jimmy t) and is greedy . ( what mediocre team still keeps 45 million dollars under the cap instead of getting players) all he need now is to learn how to buy votes to stay in office. But he can learn that he’s n the fly, heck bat area people voted for Leland Yee who had already withdrawn from the race and was sitting in federal jail awaiting trial)

GrahamHill1234
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GrahamHill1234

BASportsGuy What about Paraag he may weald undue influence via poor analytics interpretation. Too many suits playing at coaching

amosmac28
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amosmac28

Uhm… sports are cyclical. So how do you explain the Patriots run the last 10 to 15 years? Its called drafting a good QB to stay competitive… which we have been inept to do because Baalke is a moron!

Beaver
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Beaver

The Niners bought their roster at TJ Maxx.

TSL
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TSL

Jeb York, a man who is consumed with political correctness, so much political correctness that is oozes out of his ears.
So much political correctness that he suffers from paralysis from analysis.
In the end, he is unable to make any sort of decision. The expression, a dithering fool comes to mind.

707AllDay
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707AllDay
I don’t think people get it.. Jed and his family aren’t just cheap (45 mil in cap space), they are tanking. Jed admitted as much in his Tomsula exit speech. Why? Because you don’t get back to glory with mid to late round picks, especially without a franchise QB. By no means am I in support of the Yorks, but successful business people think in terms of decades, not year to year.. especially when there are no real consequences for failure in this artificial environment. You fail? No, you don’t lose your business, you get rewarded with great draft picks… Read more »
mnm
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mnm

acheney747 BASportsGuy The empty seats are bought and paid for, so why should they care if they aren’t used. They got their money.

MikeClark7
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MikeClark7

I don’t know the Yorks, but I see the 49ers are not what they used to be. Why were the 49ers a success in the 80″s? Eddie hired Bill Walsh who hired John MvVay.   Jed hired Harbaugh and they became winners. . Get the pattern? It was Bill Walsh & Jim Harbauigh who made winners. Owners are overated because in the NFL all teams are  make money thanks to collective TV money. . We need a great coach and the Yorks need to sit back and count their money. Chip Kelly isn’t it.

JohnnieMendo
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JohnnieMendo

In any long love affair gone off the rails, one reaches a tipping point. A point where you suddenly realize that you would be better off just moving on. After 28 years as a season ticket holder, I reached that tipping point when Kapaernick interjected politics into the game and then started. I find myself rooting against him and the Niners. After this season is over, I am selling my SBL, throwing away my Niner gear, and find something else to do on Sundays.

Beaver
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Beaver

JobsForYou Your aunty got that Jaguar so she could drive me around.

chickenfried234
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chickenfried234

JohnnieMendo to who?” I am selling my SBL,”

Bizmarquez
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Denise, Thank you for being the owner of the 49ers. We respect you, and all that you have done over the years. Respectfully, please bring Eddie back to oversee the day-to-day operations of the team. Jed is not cutting it. This isn’t personal, just business. Jed as a huge problem. His track record is not very good, and he does not relate to the fans, at all. As much is we all want to give him the benefit of the doubt, it’s just not working. As long as he is calling the shots, the Niners will always be a mediocre… Read more »
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[&#8230 ;] Tom Cable was interviewed by Denise York for an hour via phone. This kind of thing is exactly why I&#8217 ;ve called for her to receive some of the same scrutiny Jed faces. [&#8230 ;]

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