An open Letter to Jed York, President/Owner of the SF 49ers

October 22, 2015

Dear Jed York –

I wanted to touch base with you.  I don’t think you responded to the two or three tweets I sent you recently and that’s ok.  I really didn’t expect to hear from you.  For context, let me introduce myself.  I’m a recent bandwagon jumper to the 49ers Faithful, having pledged my allegiance in 1980- a mere 35 years ago.  I’m a bay area native, working professional and Cal graduate.  I know that pales next to your Finance and History degree from Notre Dame, but it is who I am.  But then I might have a MBA in Finance, so perhaps we can communicate productively. In no way am I pretending to be a football expert, just an impassioned fan with good general football and business knowledge.  I know I don’t know everything.  But I also know I know much more than nothing.

I was touched last year by a few of your comments to the media.  One was about “winning with class” and the other was about “holding you accountable” for winning championships.  Those are great thoughts and I wished every owner of beloved sports teams held themselves to such high standards.

As a professional manager for nearly 30 years, I especially like your directive for the team to win with class.  I took that to mean the entire organization should really step up their game.  I have always held fast to the management principle when my team succeeds, the success is the teams and when we fail, it is my role to be blamed and accept the burden associated with it.

Since the team has performed poorly this year, it strikes me as odd that you have be absent in the media.  Perhaps I’m not reading the right papers or watching the right networks.  Locally and nationally, you are a ghost.  Perhaps in the Trinity of you, Baalke and Tomsula you are playing the Holy Ghost.  Interesting, but highly ineffective and not at all classy.  But then, that’s just my opinion.

It is a stark contrast to last year when you basically blamed Jim Harbaugh in the media for pretty much everything.  I think only his Khakis were spared.  You let everyone in the world know he was gone and made sure it was unambiguous, without ever saying it.  You didn’t take the blame, you even tried to pass off his leaving as “a mutual decision”.  For the record as a manger I was appalled.  As a fan I was dismayed. But I knew it was comedy gold.  Honestly, you were writing the script for Donald Trump and Ben Carson.  Jed York, Trendsetter.  Consider putting it on your business card.

So, classy is really misnomer, a gentle misdirection for the masses.  I get it, you studied history and, like PT Barnum, know there is a sucker born every minute.  So let’s discuss your love of history.  I don’t know much about the History program at the Golden Dome, but I am pretty sure you are familiar with the quote:

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
George Santayana

As I recall, there was a football team with great success.  They had won super bowls with 2 different coaches. When the second coach retired, they brought in a young brash college coach who was having some success.  He even went to the playoffs and won some games.  But the new owner, a man from outside football, didn’t like the coach in the spotlight – or so it was said.  Perhaps he didn’t get along with the coach.  It didn’t matter, the owner fired the coach.

One of the things I know about sports is that when you actively fire a coach or manager, your goal is to bring in someone better.  This owner didn’t.  He didn’t even pretend to.  He brought in someone he liked and whose name hae some cache in the collge game. The beloved football team circled the drain for 10 years.  It got so bad that even coaches and coordinators turned down employment with the team, forcing the team to hire whoever might take the job.

Surely you realize I’m talking about the 49ers and your beloved father. We all love our fathers, but most of us try not to repeat their mistakes.  In fact I go out of my way to point out my mistakes to my children so they don’t make the ones I’ve already learned from.

So, taking the axiom that one coach is removed for a better one (or one that achieves betters results), I have to ask, WHY THE FUCK DID YOU FIRE HARBAUGH TO HIRE TOMSULA?  Let’s be honest, Tomsula is a great line coach, I sense he is a great man with some leadership qualities.  He’s also over his head as the head coach, unless he’s just pretending to be out of his depth in press conferences.  I can only assume you decided that this coach would be more fun over coffee and drinks.  Perhaps he was be so happy to have the promotion that he wouldn’t make you justify odd decisions.  Good leaders want people who challenge them, people who achieve.  Dictators and fools want yes men.

Perhaps you and Jim Harbaugh didn’t get along.  I hear he is tough to work with.  Now I know you have limited experience outside of the family business so as a manager in public companies, let me share something I have learned over the years – some very high performers are tough to get along with.  Sure, as a manager you can fire people, often for made up reasons.  But even if they are assholes, morale takes a hit when you get rid of your best performer because you don’t like him or he has a difficult personality.  People can see it; it isn’t something you need a silver spoon to notice.

Of course Harbaugh may not be high performance employee in your book.  There may be issues we, as the public don’t see.  But aside from theft (which would be on you anyway for allowing it to happen) or sexual harassment (which we can’t know about), it is pretty hard to envision a scenario where you don’t qualify Jim and his staff as high performers.  They took Singletary’s god awful team and took them within 2 fumbles of the Super Bowl. Then to the Super Bowl one miscue from winning (the timeout, nto the pass).  And then to the brink again.  That was his first three years.  I believe that is the definition of high performance for a head coach.  Then you undermined him for a year and it fell apart.  No, we the public didn’t miss that.

I’m not a fan of your dad.  He ruined the team in my mind and I’m not alone.  I gave you credit when you hired Harbaugh.  I was dismayed at how you handled last year when decided you needed more fun at work, not the stress that a high strung, over achieving, results driven star coach.  You are the owner, and that is your call.  Are your coffee breaks better? Do you sleep well at night? I hope so.

That’s all the past and now, here we are.  I understand you lost Vic Fangio because you told him he had to report to Tomsula, his previous charge.  I don’t think that’s working out too well.  I watched your team take a lead over the hapless New York Giants and basically hand the game back to them with their porous defense.  I was actually at the game last week and watched the beleaguered Ravens hand the game to the 49ers and then watched as the Ravens drove the field TWICE(!) easier than it is for me to drive through a McDonald’s.  There were dropped passes or else the team would be 1-5.  Not that 2-4 is much to talk about.

But let’s talk about the defense.  Have you noticed the 49ers are last in passing defense and next to last in total defense?  Yep.  The 49ers are 31st in total defense.  And that Fangio fellow you encouraged to leave is coaching the Bears.  His Chicago Bears team is 6th.  Smart move in not retaining him either.  What about Harbaugh.  Looks like he’s turning the Michigan program around.  I know it is not Notre Dame, but what is?  Nope, he wasn’t a fluke with Stanford or your team.

I guess we should talk about accountability.  Please don’t mention players retiring.  I believe you should have planned for it.

Anthony Davis’ performance had been slipping since his concussion.  Did you really expect him to perform as he had years ago?

Willis, much beloved, has been hurt and while you hope he got healthy and played as he had in the past, were you so naive to just go on hope?

We all saw Cowboy (Justin Smith) was probably going to retire, so that wasn’t unexpected.  Clearly, Chris

Borland caught you by surprise.  As a casual observer, do you think your mismanagement of the team helped him decide that his health was a higher priority to him than it was to you?  It’s the sort of pattern as a manager I am trained to see.  What inside linebacker did we draft this year?

And then there is our boy Aldon Smith.  Clearly, you knew there was a chance he’d do something silly and you would have to cut your loss.  Sadly, it doesn’t look like you planned for that eventuality.  Here’s a thing to consider – bad apples with lots of illegal guns, don’t generally become boy scouts overnight.  Don’t believe me, consider Greg Hardy.  There’s a guy who is contrite and showing the world how he can change.  Yes, that was sarcasm.

Now that I have addressed some of what you haven’t done, let’s look at what you have.  The team gets kudos for Torey Smith and Jarryd Hayne, even if it is only for marketing down under.  I’m pretty sure that’s it for the positives.  There might be some negatives.

I understand that Baalke is the GM, but let’s be honest you asked me to hold you accountable. I bet you signed off on at least a few of these.

The right side of the line.  I’m not sure they’d fare well in the SEC.  You can’t be proud.

Reggie “made of glass” Bush.  The Lions didn’t want him.  Why did we?  Because he was cheap?  You still overpaid.  Honestly, between keeping Aldon Smith and signing Bush, you should have kept Smith.  Signing Bush made you look silly and cheap.  By the way, who is our back up now that Hyde is hurt?  Oh, that’s right History and Finance, not Strategic Planning.  My mistake.

Jerome Simpson?  Well there is stellar citizen if there ever was one.  You cut McDonald (rightfully so), Smith, but not Brooks or Miller.  I’m guessing Simpson is gone next year too.

Remember when Singletary motivated Vernon Davis and he grew up and peformed?  What happened?  Has Tomsula had the opposite effect?  And Vance McDonald looks like a bust.  Yes he caught a nice pass last week.  He drops 3-5 of those for each he catches.

When was the last time we developed a Wide Receiver?  Yes, you are right, that was Terrell Owens in 96.  20 years is a long time.  Patton and Ellington look good on paper, just not in the game  White? Doesn’t seem to play.  Do you want to throw Robert Johnson or AJ Jenkins into the discussion?  I didn’t think so.

You promoted Geep Chryst from QB Coach to Offensive Coordinator.  Did you not see Kaepernick regress last year?  We did.  What would his personal coach do better with the offense when he wasn’t much help to his QB?  I guess I just don’t get fuzzy logic.  Maybe several other coaches turned you down. Rumor has it that Adam Gase did.  If so, he was smart.  Let’s not play the loyalty card.  Laughing at that would hurt.

I think the team’s best off season move was Shareece Wright.  He had a large hand in the win last week.  If only because you threw away a million dollars to learn his glaring weaknesses.

Darnell Dockett?  Nope.  Let’s call it welfare for an over the hill player.

And then I remember your degree in Finance.  What is that 3 million dollars given away?  Well, at $50 per parking spot, you make that up in a few games.  And while I agree that you have every right to make money and that probably more people than I realize get a piece of the take, don’t you think $50 to park is a bit excessive?  You can park in the financial district of SF for less.  You are accountable for this too, right?  $30 might be high but fair, but $50 feels like financial rape.  I guess you think it doesn’t matter to the sheep that comes to feed your coffers.

To recap my thoughts today –

  1. You undermined your coach last year, contributing to a subpar record then said the organization needed to be classy.  I believe this is called irony
  2. You fired a good, but annoying coach, to replace him with an inferior leader because you like him.  When he goes in a few years, do you really think you’ll be able to attract top talent?
  3. You took the same actions as your father, which had the team circling the drain for 10 years
  4. You were ill prepared for injuries and turnover of players
  5. You may have actually contributed to the retirement of players how might not trust you (No sir, it is not a stretch)
  6. You hired inferior supporting coaches, with records of mediocrity and failure.  You won’t blame Baalke or Tomsula for this will you?
  7. You made no significant off season player signings, bringing in 3 players of note – two are gone and one isn’t playing because you ignored his history and threw away millions, but still charge $50 to park at the game.
  8. You have put an inferior product on the field; capable of winning when the opposition decides to give the game way, but not otherwise to this point.
  9. You have provided no real help to your franchise quarterback.  And yes we all see that the team friendly contract he signed will allow you to cut him at your pleasure.  And when he gets a real coach and supporting cast he’ll be a solid NFL QB.
  10. You want to be held accountable.  Done.  What are you going to do?

You know what the worst thing is?  I haven’t even watched the Seahawk game tonight.  I’m still a fan of the team, as Seinfeld pointed out we are now fans of laundry.  But I think I’ll watch Cal play UCLA tonight instead.

Make me a fan. Do something.  Fix things.  Be leader.  Consider stopping to be a ghost.  Or worse a spoiled kid playing with the toy mommy gave you. If not, in less than 5 years you’ll compare unfavorably to the image of Al Davis after Gruden.  Ponder that for a bit.