Link to my Jed York column. Text below:
This is about Jed York and Trent Baalke, but first a comment on Jed. You might even call it praise. And if you’re down on Jed, bear with me.
He held his annual postseason news conference Monday in the crowded 49ers auditorium. He started by delivering a speech he had memorized. His voice trembled. Or is “quavered” the right word? He had dry mouth.
No criticism intended by pointing out those details. They showed this news conference was serious, mattered greatly to him. He had something at stake.
He sure did. His credibility. His standing in our community. His honor.
In his speech and the answers he gave later — he talked half an hour — he apologized for posting silly tweets, for being emotional about the team in public, for being unprofessional, for treating the media like an enemy, for acting immature.
He admitted to me that hiring Jim Tomsula was a mistake. Hardly a radical conclusion, but a step forward for him. In the past he took no responsibility for anything, although he said he did. He did not apologize to me for “mutually parting ways” with Jim Harbaugh, said he didn’t want to look back. It must pain him to look back. But it’s clear he screwed that one up. Clear to us. Surely clear to him.
He acted with contrition and humility. He expressed disappointment in this season and disappointment in himself. He acted the right way. He acted like the man he needs to become.
Where did this new grown-up behavior come from?
Don’t know. Have two ideas. Just hunches. Again, bear with me.
Hunch No. 1: He grew up all on his own. Hey, I assume his behavior was sincere and genuine. Let’s give him that. So, yes, maybe he grew up through suffering. Everyone does, you and I and everyone. No one escapes suffering. Jed has suffered publicly and privately and maybe he has grown. And maybe he showed that on Monday.
Hunch No. 2: Someone read him the riot act. This “someone” could be his parents, John York or Denise DeBartolo York, or both. If so, good for them. Maybe they said he’s embarrassed them, made a mess of the franchise, parted ways with a good coach, hired an incompetent coach, acted childishly and unprofessionally and turned off fans so much they fly banners putting him down.
No one wants to be a banner victim.
Maybe Mom and Dad told Jed he needs to do a better job or they will reassign him to a lesser role. Take the team away from him. Maybe Mom and Dad said they’ll pay off Tomsula’s remaining $10.5 million, but no more of that. Wasteful. Careless. This is Jed’s last chance. He needs to get his act together or he’s relegated to Paraag Marathe Land.
Either way, Jed seemed to get the point. He gave everything in his news conference he needed to give. You still may dislike him. Your prerogative. One news conference does not make the man. He has a lot to prove.
Which leads to Baalke. Jed reaffirmed his support of Baalke with certain changes I’ll get to in a moment. Baalke was not there on the stage — a change from last year’s postseason news conference. I’m told Baalke spoke later in the press room, kind of an anteroom down a side hallway. I was gone by then. But Baalke did not get equal billing in the big room. Baalke a lounge act.
Jed said Baalke has built championship rosters in the past. Jed believes Baalke can do that again. Jed is almost surely wrong. Misguided. But I can’t see the future. Maybe Baalke will surprise. That would be one hell of a surprise.
Jed made it obvious Baalke has to produce. Needs to put up fast. Make a good team. Give the new coach a superior roster. Or else. That’s how I heard Jed.
There was one other thing.
Someone asked if Baalke would have total control over personnel after the new coach arrives. In the past, this was not an issue. Baalke guarded the roster like a miser guarding money. Baalke owned the roster. Owned it even when Harbaugh was coach. Harbaugh’s attitude, as far as we know, was, “Trent gets the players. I coach them.”
Clear division of labor.
Here’s what Jed said about Baalke and the new coach and roster control: “I think it’s got to be something that those two work together on. It’s very clear you can’t have one person have 100 percent say and not have input from the other. You need to make sure that there’s a great relationship between your head coach and your general manager and they need to sit down and figure out, ‘How do we evaluate the roster together and how do we make sure that we continue to improve this team.’”
Translation: Baalke and the new coach have to figure out power sharing on their own. Have to find a way to discuss the roster and make compromises. Have to work and play well together. I am not sure Baalke is good at working and playing well with a coach. I wonder if he undermines coaches. Either way, Baalke already has lost power. Lost control of his domain.
Say the Niners hire Sean Payton. I’m not saying they’ll hire Sean Payton. I don’t know squat about Sean Payton. But say they hire him. Payton won’t move to Santa Clara as second banana to Baalke. Payton won a Super Bowl and Baalke has won no Super Bowl with the Niners. Payton will want his say. So, Baalke, will have to back off with Payton and probably with anyone else.
Big change for Baalke. Exactly what he’s earned. And if he doesn’t cooperate and if he doesn’t produce, he gets the Tomsula Treatment. The ax.
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.