Steve Young is fed up. Based on what he said on KNBR yesterday, the 49ers’ 1-12 record and perpetually sinking level of play finally led him to voice all of the anger he’s been holding toward everyone: the Yorks, Trent Baalke, Chip Kelly, even Trent Dilfer.
His anger is shared by thousands. And it doesn’t mean a damn thing, as far as the 49ers are concerned. The saddest thing about Young’s diatribe is that he knows the 49ers don’t care.
“In the NFL, you don’t have to win to make money,” Young said. “The greatest growth equity value teams are not necessarily the winners. In fact, if you think about the 49ers in the last 15 years since the Yorks owned the team, you’re talking about equity values that went from — I’m just rough now — $200 million in 2000 to well over maybe $2 billion. It’s like 10 times or more. It’s like Silicon Valley. That’s one of the great success stories of any tech business anywhere.
“That’s (the Yorks’) A-game. Their equity value in the team is their A-game, it’s what drives them. It’s what drives most of the owners. It’s what matters. It’s what they think about. It’s what they talk about. And the B-game, is whether we win some games. It’s not that you don’t want to, or you don’t really want to, or it’s not really important. It’s just not the A-game. And so when it’s not the A-game, that’s the biggest issue with the NFL, is that success doesn’t track to success on the field. So you’re not held accountable.
“So no matter what we decide to do here, and my opinion is when you’re 1-12 or 1-13 or if we end up 1-15, to me by definition, everybody out to the parking lot. Every living thing out to the parking lot. And nobody gets back in unless you can prove you’re part of the solution. I mean everybody. That’s a tough thing to do because you might have to start over in all kinds of ways.”
He came close to echoing what I wrote after they lost to the Bears in what can only be considered the worst loss in recent franchise history (until their collapse a week later against the Jets). At the risk of being repetitive … they don’t care. They don’t care about the sport or challenging themselves in ways that make them question their own brilliance from a business perspective.
They. Don’t. Care.
They don’t care about your airplane banners, your boycotts (they already have your money), or the team’s history. They don’t care about finding a true franchise quarterback and creating an environment in which that person could thrive.
They don’t care about what Steve Young thinks. They don’t care about you. And forget about the Yorks coming to their senses. They’re robots. It’s too far gone. Billionairism is a glorified sickness, much like addiction. Sure, you can have a lot of fun along the way, but once in the clutches of the disease, most are powerless to expand their visions past the accumulation of what makes their pleasure centers buzz. For billionaires, it’s money and power, power and money.
Much like our politicians, football owners lure people in with vague promises of what they think is missing from their lives (in this case, euphoria and togetherness) while gladly inhaling their fans’ money and local regions’ resources (gifted land, subsidies and tax breaks).
The Bay Area, where NFL nepotism runs amok
Mark Davis is no better. He’s unable and unwilling to produce the only viable solution in Oakland — a privately-financed stadium. So he’s one of the richest beggars around, with both hands out asking for land and gorgeous digs while simultaneously maintaining his current ownership percentage.
49ers fans in San Francisco and the North Bay got hosed. Raiders fans in Oakland and 49ers fans in Santa Clara are currently getting hosed in different ways. No one is happy except the Yorks. Except perhaps the NFL as a collection of owners, because they all know they’ll reap the benefits of a robust Bay Area economy in multiple ways over the next several decades as long as they keep an open mind. (Provided the NFL doesn’t suffer a massive decline due to over-saturation, concerns over player safety, collectively bargained rules that encourage teams to constantly churn their rosters and rely heavily on inexperienced players, or the changing tastes of the populace.)
The NFL may force the Raiders to stay in Oakland. A city that can’t seem to lock down a police chief, is currently suffering through one of the worst fire-related calamities in this nation’s history, and is dealing with a number of civic problems infinitely more important than how many luxury suites the Raiders can sell to corporate execs, may bend over backwards to keep the team now that it’s finally good again. But, if the Raiders leave, I have a crazy (read: totally insane with no chance whatsoever of happening) dream for the disaffected NFL fans (like yours truly) that look at the current picture and see nothing that makes sense.
The Dream, plus a Franchise Constitution (I told you this was crazy)
Let the Raiders move to Vegas. Let the 49ers flounder in suburbia, playing in front of sparse crowds at their hastily-constructed office park. And wait for the inevitable: an expansion team that represents the entire region. Well, other than the South Bay. We’re talking about San Francisco, Oakland, the greater East Bay, the Northern Peninsula and the North Bay. Millions upon millions that, if the Raiders leave, will either feel abandoned (by Mark Davis) or shat upon (by the Yorks). This is a region that in a few years could be starving for a professional football franchise worth rooting for.
Who would own this team? Glad you asked! How about a decorated syndicate composed of former NFL players headed by Ronnie Lott and also including Young and Brent Jones. I know, I know, this is loony stuff. As long as we’ve let reality escape into the vapors, let’s invite Jerry Rice and Harris Barton. Tim Brown. Marcus Allen. Again, no chance whatsoever of happening. Can you imagine the egos at play, and how difficult it would be for anyone’s vision to rise clearly above the fray? So let’s add Eddie Debartolo as a senior advisor, just for kicks. And they’ll create and adhere to a franchise constitution! Let’s get super wacky.
- First Amendment: The team will always spend at least 90% of its available salary cap room, each season.
- Second Amendment: No Personal Seat Licenses or public funds of any kind. All stadium investment comes from ownership and corporate interests. Fans pay for season tickets, parking and concessions. That’s it.
- Third Amendment: No suite tower in the new stadium, which will be constructed no farther than 10 miles away from either Oakland or San Francisco.
- Fourth Amendment: Announcers must tell the truth, always. No more shills like Ted Robinson, Tim Ryan, or anyone of their ilk. Rooting for the team to succeed is natural. Trying to curry favor with certain members of the franchise who aren’t carrying their weight will be met with termination.
- Fifth Amendment: Unless the team’s quarterback was named to the Pro Bowl the previous season, a signal-caller must be drafted in one of the first three rounds in the ensuing draft.
I’ll leave the other amendments to those who know more about building a top organization than I ever could. All I know is the 49ers screwed up a good thing with a multitude of missteps, and the Raiders are the NFL’s vagabonds, with wandering eyes always. The region I described earlier, a diverse, wealthy place that has been taken for granted for too long, deserves so much better.
It won’t get it, of course.
If the Raiders do leave, the best the greater OAK/SF area can hope for is a relocated team, with equally crappy owners, moving to San Francisco — and that’s if the City ever gets serious about an Olympics bid AND the NFL decides enough is enough and they need a Super Bowl venue that isn’t an hour-plus away from where everyone wants to party.
But as 2016 draws to its awful close, I sit and watch the rain, imagining a time when there will be light. It’s better than hoping Raiders ownership will do what’s right for Oakland, and/or 49ers ownership one day proves they aren’t profit-bots, laughing at all of us from their glass tower adjacent to the Demon, Drop Zone and Grizzly.