It’s not easy to say who’s a worse owner, Al Davis or John York. One thing we can say for sure, neither one is hot.
Let’s take this systematically. On the face of things, Davis is worse. Many consider him the worst owner in the NFL and look at the Raiders as the joke of the league. I am not here to dispute that view. Davis, according to conventional wisdom, is the worst kind of meddler. In spite of what he says, people think he involves himself in everything and allows his head coach zero autonomy. In addition, he’s become a little weird and the players know that, and no really good coach would coach for him because things are so nutty at the Raiders. A real mark against Davis is that he couldn’t coexist with Jon Gruden, the last good coach he had. He only can work with men who won’t stand up to him, and when someone stands up — Lane Kiffin is an example — Davis drives him out.
This is not a good recommendation for Davis. I will add one thing, though. He got the Raiders to the Super Bowl after the 2002 season. That is something. That’s a rather big something.
Now onto York. His critics are as appalled by him as Davis critics are appalled by Davis. I get tons of emails telling me the Niners never will turn things around until York sells. Lots of people hope he sells to a consortium involving Steve Young. A reader wrote this to me just today. “York’s stewardship has been abysmal: no stadium, no good stadium plan, bad coaching, bad administration at the top. Unfortunate for a team with so much tradition.”
I would add that York has been no better at hiring a head coach than Davis.
Well, you get the point. The 49ers are a lost cause as long as York and his bunch run the show. This puts the 49ers pretty much on a par with the Raiders — two lost causes.
The only difference between Davis and York, as far as I can tell, is that Davis meddles more, inserts himself into the day-to-day workings of the organization. At one time, it helped when Davis got involved. That’s not the case these days. So maybe York has it over Davis by his decision to stay away. Maybe.
I leave you with this insight. A few years ago I told Bill Walsh over the phone I had dinner at a restaurant in SF with John York. I said I liked the guy. Bill was quiet a moment. He cleared his throat. I waited for what was coming. “I’m sure he enjoyed your conversation at dinner,” he told me. “But you wouldn’t want to work for him.”