49ers Ownership and Best/Worst Rankings

In yesterday's Golden Nuggets, tanos135 posted a link to the SI.com article pointing to John and Denise Debartolo York as one of the five worst NFL owners.  The short list included Mike Brown of the Bengals, Dan Snyder of the Redskins, William Clay Ford of the Lions and Al Davis.  In the brief discussion about the York's, the article said:

Niners fans long for the days of Eddie DeBartolo, who was once the envy of the NFL and produced five Super Bowl champions. Following his part in a riverboat-corruption scandal, DeBartolo's sister wrested control of the proud franchise in 2000 and handed the reigns to her husband, John York. Since then the 49ers have become one of the biggest train wrecks in the NFL. Many believe York's curt style is the reason the city of San Francisco isn't willing to work with the team to provide a new stadium within city limits, which is forcing the Niners to look south to Santa Clara County.

I received a press release about this article the other day that included the criteria for the rankings.  They were:

  • Team's success or failure on the field.
  • Willingness to spend money to improve the team.
  • Stability and capabilities of the front office and management.
  • Amenities at the team's venue.
  • Club's culture and interactivity with fans.

In assessing those criteria, nobody will question the success/failure on the field.  Much of the bottoming out was due to the salary cap problems created by Eddie DeBartolo and Carmen Policy.  Throw in being stuck with a bad QB draft and I suppose excuses can be made.  Nonetheless, they're stuck with a relatively poor product on the field.

The willingness to spend money is not an issue at this point.  Maybe they're not signing the guys you want, but the last three years they've shown a willingness to open up the checkbook for talented players.

The stability and capabilities of the front office and management?  Well some folks here have made it abundantly clear that they think the football operations department is a joke.  Personally I think as with most front offices there are good parts and bad parts.  Nonetheless if you look beyond the football ops department, they've brought in some talented folks to the rest of the team including Andy Dolich as COO and the recently named Mike Redlick as VP of Business Development.  I'm thinking SI was not talking about those non-football ops positions, but I think they're integral parts of any sports franchise.

We all know people have problems with Candlestick Park, but before moving past this one, I will say they've done what they can with a less than stellar stadium.  The bigger issue is the last one about the club's culture and interactivity with the fans.  The article was looking at owners through 2008.  Beginning last season we started to see Jed York step forward as the face of the franchise.  Since that time, it seems like the franchise has done more in developing the image of the team, most notably with the new uniforms.  Obviously one could just consider it window-dressing, but there definitely seems to be a different feel in the air.

So, I'm curious what people think of the rankings.  This is kind of like our other discussions on the "state of the franchise," but I'd like it to be considered in the context of these rankings.  Personally, I think the Yorks have improved as owners over the course of their tenure, even before pushing Jed forward as the face of the franchise.

The problem in any discussion of 49ers ownership is that given the franchise's history, anybody is going to face an uphill battle when being compared to Eddie DeBartolo.  His tenure saw a franchise achieve as much as any franchise could under one owner.  One plus to having that comparison is that it should drive somebody to be even better, but it's still a tough comparison nonetheless.

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