I took a little longer than I would have liked to tackle the latest stories sweeping the Bay Area. No, not the meteoric rise of Omar Samhan’s vocal cords, but Scot McCloughan’s exit and the Warriors officially going on sale. Part of the reason for the delay was there wasn’t much to go on. Nobody knew why McCloughan was leaving (or more accurately, the ones who knew weren’t talking), and even though Cohan publicly waving the white flag brought many cheers, we’re still in limbo until Larry Ellison comes along and officially replaces Baron Davis as the new muse for the guys at Fear the Beard.
While we all impatiently wait for Cohan to GTFO of town, a new Cohan seems to be taking form in Santa Clara: Jed York. It may not be fair, but Jed York, by the combined means of genetic code and nepotism, is carrying on the legacy of his father. This should scare us all for three reasons:
1. Jed’s father, by any measure, has been a terrible owner.
2. Jed is not an entrepreneur. The money he has to work with is his parents’. So while he may talk big, he still has the same bankroll the 49ers have had for the last decade, something that doesn’t look likely to change until they can get a stadium built.
3. Jed is not the new public face of the 49ers because he’s taking the team in a new direction. He’s the public face of the 49ers because his father might be even worse at public speaking than he is at owning an NFL franchise.
So Jed, you are an extension of your father. Might not be fair, but neither is getting the keys to an NFL franchise before you reach your 30’s. Them’s the breaks.
It’s not all Jed’s fault that instead of 49er fans reliving the days that Jed’s uncle Eddie Debartolo owned the team, the name “York” has quietly become synonymous with the name “Cohan.” But it has, and this week’s “mutual” parting of ways with McCloughan is just the latest of many reasons why. Let’s do some comparisons, shall we?
Cohan: Team record: 444-644 (.408 winning percentage)
York: Team record: 68-92 (.425 winning percentage)
Cohan: Only two winning seasons in 15-year tenure came in back-to-back seasons (2007-08), followed by a complete dismantling of the team with no backup plan.
York: Only two winning seasons in 10-year tenure came in back-to-back seasons (2001-02), followed by the firing of Steve Mariucci with no backup plan.
Cohan: Moments of borderline-insane spending (Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, Adonal Foyle, Corey Maggette, Andris Biedrins, Jason Caffey), along with moments of miserly penny-pinching (the $10M J-Rich trade exception going unused, the Harrington-Crawford-Belinelli-Jackson trades, not signing Baron Davis, etc.).
York: Moments of borderline-insane spending (Nate Clements, Jonas Jennings), along with moments of miserly penny-pinching (one of the cheapest GM/Coach combos in the league for years, not signing any impact free agents other than a backup QB while raising ticket prices this off-season, rumors early on that the Yorks were counting things like water bottles and belt buckles early on to combat wasteful spending).
Cohan: Cut ties with a relatively popular general manager who seemed to be doing at least a halfway decent job (Chris Mullin), for reasons never fully explained.
York: Cut ties with a relatively popular general manager (OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but bear with me) who seemed to be doing at least a halfway decent job, for reasons never fully explained.
Cohan: Instead of replacing Mullin with an established GM, installed Larry Riley, by all accounts a Don Nelson stooge who has little power beyond the occasional D-League signing.
York: Instead of replacing McCloughan with an established GM (or at least announcing that new designated-drafter Trent Baalke is the interim GM), Jed made the unfortunate announcement that the 49ers may not hire a GM (insert “WTF” here).
Cohan: Tossed most of the front office power in the lap of Robert Rowell, who knows as much about constructing a good NBA team as your standard Project Runway contestant.
I could go on and on with this. The thing is, even a blind squirrel eats nuts when they fall out of a tree and hit him in the dome (or something). Cohan lucked into the “We Believe” team due to no actual effort of his own, just a couple trade gambles by Mullin that paid off handsomely. They were a team on the cusp of contention, foiled only by the ego of Rowell and the tight-fistedness of Cohan. The Yorks were in an enviable position going into this off-season: best defensive player in the league in Patrick Willis, nine picks in the draft and a group of fairly talented offensive players who haven’t hit the downside of their careers yet.
Instead, York bumbles and fumbles his way through the McCloughan thing (which I first thought arose due to one of two things: a disagreement with Mike Singletary over some stupid crap like whether or not to draft Tim Tebow OR an obvious alcohol/drug problem that the organization could ignore no longer … now I’m inclined to agree with those who figure he got in an affair with someone at the office, or a coworker’s significant other, thereby causing his divorce AND making it impossible to keep him around — we’ll definitely find out if this is true at some point), putting not just the draft in shaky hands, but the entire future of the team.
Great NFL teams are built on strong, unwavering plans from strong front offices. Now the Yorks have shown they’re no better at fostering a strong front office than they were before Jed became the mouthpiece. Jed’s had his high points — he’s been extremely accessible compared to any other owner in the area, including a legendary drunk call he made to Damon Bruce’s postgame show after the Monday night win over the Cardinals. But after Matt Maiocco broke the McCloughan story, Jed turned silent. Sure, it’s a legal issue, and we really can’t complain too much about not knowing the juicy details of McCloughan’s discretions … but much more unsettling was the lack of certainty about the team itself. 49ers fans have been naively calling for the team to pony up and buy an old friend like Mike Shanahan or Mike Holmgren to be the uber-GM for years. Now we all know that this is the kind of thing that will never, EVER happen.
I’m not saying the Yorks are as slimy as Cohan and his PR plants. As far as we know, anyway. But just like the Warriors under Cohan, the 49ers have proved time and again with the Yorks in charge that their main concern is to maximize the investment. Period. Create a team just exciting enough to turn a profit. Forget championship aspirations. Save money where you can in ways that aren’t obvious to the casual fan. And as long as the Yorks are running the show, the only hope 49ers fans have is that Denise Debartolo York runs into some hefty tax evasion charges and has to sell the team. Her son isn’t the savior we all hoped for. Like the rest of the Yorks, Jed is just another Cohan.