Over the past two months, 49ers fans have heaped enormous amounts of praise on Jim Harbaugh. We have also seen a good deal of praise for GM Trent Baalke who has quietly put together a fantastic body of work for Executive of the Year. There are numerous members of the coaching staff and the front office that deserve praise, but naturally the face of the coaching staff and the face of the football operations staff get the most praise.
One man who has flown under the radar amidst all this success is 49ers President and CEO Jed York. A year after famously proclaiming amidst an early season losing streak that the 49ers would still win the NFC West, he has been fairly quiet. He has left the football decisions to the football operations staff and he has instead re-focused his attention on getting a new stadium built in Santa Clara.
Before we could even begin to preach patience for the 49ers free agency plan, patience began when the 49ers decided to promote Trent Baalke to the GM position. There was quite a bit of rancor about the move, but it has worked out thus far. During the Jim Harbaugh courtship, there were several times when it felt like Jed York was going to let the big one off the hook. In spite of all the concern, the team got a deal done with Coach Harbaugh.
Dan Arkush of Pro Football Weekly put together an article earlier today discussing how Jed York deserves significant credit for the 49ers early success (thanks to Tim___ for posting the link). His three biggest moves over the last year have been promoting Trent Baalke, hiring Jim Harbaugh, and staying out of the way when it comes to football moves.
York has never been one to inject himself in as an Al Davis or Jerry Jones sort of executive. Nonetheless, he developed a plan for getting the 49ers back to the NFL elite and he has shown patience as the team has taken steps to rejoin the elite on a consistent basis. If we were to criticize him during the team's struggles, he deserves just as much praise now that the team is suddenly relevant again.
The 49ers remain under York ownership, but John and Denise York have long since handed over the on-field product to Jed. They remain committed to much of the charitable side as well as the ownership issues related to the NFL, but Jed is now the face of the franchise (as far as ownership is concerned).
Entering this calendar year, there were two significant issues that would help shape Jed's legacy with the team: 1) Returning the team to relevance, and 2) Getting the team a new stadium. The 49ers have suffered through almost a decade of being a league doormat and one could argue achieving number one would help the team accomplish number two.
At this point, the team has returned to success. It remains to be seen how long this success will last, but the team is moving in the right direction on the field. Off the field, the team has made great strides in getting a stadium built. Over the past three years, they have accomplished more than they did in the decade prior. There are still significant issues to be addressed, but as with the on-field success, the team is moving in the right direction.
As we enjoy the current level of success on the field, it is important that we not ignore the man behind the curtain who has committed to bringing the 49ers back to the top.