Here is a link to my Sunday column about Jed York. The full text runs below:
Jed York is not an impressive man.
The way Jed handles the 49ers’ crises is unimpressive to the max. We have seen plenty of evidence. In fairness, he may be impressive to his wife and parents at Christmas dinners, at Thanksgiving, at birthday parties. He may be a master around the piñata.
Jed’s latest non-action is a monster of non-action. It involves Ray McDonald’s arrest for domestic violence. Don’t worry. I’m not about to reopen that argument — should McDonald play? The focus here is Jed the awful leader.
When things go bad, Jed goes silent. You imagine him locked in his office, telling his administrative assistant, “Hold all my calls in 2014.” You imagine him hiding under his desk. You imagine him unable to get out of bed — Jed lying there in his pajamas listening to a continuous loop of Sonny and Cher’s greatest hits. You imagine him playing video games while Santa Clara burns. You just go on imagining.
He didn’t utter a single syllable a few weeks ago during the Grass Crisis, allowed coach Jim Harbaugh to answer media questions on grass management, as if Harbaugh was a farmer in training. It was grossly unfair to Harbaugh, to put a coach in that position. But that time it was only grass. The reputation of the Niners — and Jed’s reputation — didn’t live or die with grass.
This one is different. You know that. It’s a legal issue and it’s a moral issue and it’s about the 49ers’ brand in the NFL and among the populace — the regular slobs like you and me.
When McDonald got arrested, Jed did the usual — for him. He did the lockjaw act. He didn’t say anything in a moment that required leadership, guidance, insight. It sure required something as opposed to nothing. Jed is a master of the nothing. Not hearing from him all week, you might have concluded he doesn’t really exist. He is a hologram.
He loused up Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke in the McDonald Affair. Loused them up big time. Because Jed created a sound vacuum, they had to fill it. There were Baalke and Harbaugh talking uncomfortably about due process. Those two said “due process” about a million times. It’s unclear if they understood the full meaning of due process. They were like exhausted swimmers a mile from shore desperately holding onto a floating log. The log, for them, was the phrase “due process.”
A coach and a GM never should enter the due-process discussion. That is up to the CEO — Jed — after he consulted his attorneys and his advisers. That’s his job. That’s what he’s there for.
The due-process discussion devolved to the absurd a few days ago when Harbaugh, under assault by the media to explain what was going on with McDonald, answered a reporter’s question:
Q: If he plays on Sunday, would that mean that you or someone in the organization had found some information throughout the week that gives you confidence that he is innocent?
Harbaugh: Again, I’m going to reiterate that this is a legal matter. There is a principle at stake. You seem to keep questioning that. You have a lot of follow-up questions on a very fundamental principle that could indeed require patience. But I see a lot of polls. Should this, should this or should not, or this or that. I see a lot of polls. We could have an informal poll right now. Raise your hand if you are not in favor of due process. (No reporters raised their hands.) Not one hand.”
It was like a high school class. Raise your hand if you’re not in favor of due process. It was like a TV show: The Constitution for Dummies.
But it was grossly unfair of Jed to put Harbaugh in that ridiculous position, to make Harbaugh look inept and silly. Harbaugh should have been talking about Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys offense. Not due process.
Jed should have talked. Jed should have made his way to the spanking new auditorium — I wish you could see it — and answered the hard questions and made his case as to why or why not McDonald would play. But Jed chose silence. He always chooses silence.
Silence is dangerous.
When a person is silent, everyone feels free to interpret the silence. Among the possible reasons Jed kept silent during the McDonald Affair are these:
He doesn’t care what happened early Sunday morning to McDonald’s pregnant fiancée.
Jed is afraid to talk about this publicly.
Jed has fear of public speaking, period.
Jed doesn’t think he has to act.
Jed doesn’t know how to act.
Jed is afraid to act.
Jed doesn’t see a problem. “What’s the big deal?”
Jed is unenlightened about women’s issues.
Jed doesn’t care about women’s issues.
Jed has contempt for public opinion.
Jed surrounded himself with crummy advisers.
Jed cares only about winning.
Jed has no leadership skills.
Jed lucked into his job.
Jed has no moral core.
Please understand I am not saying anything in this list is true. I am saying Jed’s silence invites infinite interpretations. He invites us to fill in the blanks. Real leaders take charge of the blanks, fill them in eagerly. Jed didn’t do that. Jed never does that.
If Jed doesn’t feel comfortable as CEO of the 49ers, he should give the job to someone else.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.