Nice to run into 49er CEO Jed York walking along Second Ave in NYC today. Here for some NFL meetings.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) September 19, 2013
It’s hard to determine what Sports Illustrated football columnist Peter King likes more: Starbucks, craft beer, writing about Starbucks and craft beer, or Jed York.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Friday that the Browns “nearly pulled off a trade” for boffo 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. That put the combine on its ear, and set off a flurry of denials and non-denial denials. Cleveland officials wouldn’t deny the story, lending it added credence, and then, on Sunday, owner Jimmy Haslam told USA Today, “There was an opportunity there, and it didn’t materialize.” Harbaugh denied the story, and the Niners organization mostly kept quiet except for a tweet from CEO Jed York Friday night denying the story.
That was until Sunday night, when York told me he would not rehash the entire story but did say: “The Browns reached out to me, and we had no interest in pursuing it.”
That confirms this story was more than the Browns spitballing an impossible dream, as the Harbaugh quotes and early Niners denial would make it seem. But as I first heard Friday night, I don’t believe terms were discussed back and forth between the Browns and Niners. I believe that, as York said, the 49ers decided not to engage the Browns on any substantive negotiations for Harbaugh.
King ranks York as the 30th most influential on his top-100 list.
It’s sort of a big year for the CEO of the San Francisco 49ers. For Super Bowl 50, the league chose the palatial and very green Levi’s Stadium, York’s progressive pride and joy in Santa Clara. The league is making quite a spectacle of it too. It’s Super Bowl 50. The owner of the Super Bowl host team is always a big newsmaker in that season, and the size of this year’s game makes that even more evident. The 35-year-old York could be on top of the world by the time of the Big Game, or he could be a punching bag for his rabid fan base. That’s because York made the biggest coaching move of the NFL off-season: He let Jim Harbaugh go and hired the inexperienced Jim Tomsula to replace him. By the end of Harbaugh’s rein, he and York were not getting along. At all. Harbaugh thought the front office (York or GM Trent Baalke, or both) were campaigning against him. York—though he has been careful to say nothing too critical of Harbaugh—obviously thought the coach was divisive and corrosive to a team-first organization. But over the next few years, York will be judged on the decision to shed Harbaugh and to hire Tomsula.
Quietly, a message got sent Sunday. I found it very interesting Sunday that 49ers CEO Jed York—who has a chance to be a smart future steward of the game—retweeted an Adam Schefter message about Patriots president Jonathan Kraft saying it might be time to reconsider how player discipline is handled by the NFL. This stemmed from Kraft telling The Sports Hub radio station in Boston on Friday, “I think the world has changed and the complexity of some of the situations—things that I don’t think we ever thought we would be dealing with, we’re dealing with … There probably needs to be a rethinking so that the league office and the commissioner aren’t put in a spotlight in a way that detracts from the league’s image and the game.” York and the younger Kraft are two of the most respected leaders of tomorrow the league has. Interesting that they, like many league followers, seem to want Roger Goodell out of the unending quicksand of problem cases.
King has a habit of cozying up to powerful NFL execs. Not coincidentally, he is also “long seen by critics as a mouthpiece for the league,” according to Awful Announcing (and just about anyone else who paid attention to how he handled the Ray Rice story).
Maybe York was being truthful when he told King the 49ers had “no interest” in pursuing a Harbaugh trade with the Browns. Maybe he really is the 30th most influential person in the NFL, even though there’s no way to quantify such things. Maybe York and Kraft really are “two of the most respected leaders of tomorrow the league has.” Maybe none of this means anything, and York is just someone who’s impressed King with his intelligence in the few times they’ve interacted. Maybe I’m the only one who’s fascinated by the different ways York is portrayed by national and local reporters.