The San Francisco 49ers have been floundering of late, and that has plenty of people hoping the York family sell the team. Some demand Eddie DeBartolo be brought back in, others just want anybody but the Yorks. And now, there is a mainstream media article that has broached the subject.
Early Tuesday evening, Scott Ostler put together a column titled "Are the 49ers headed for the auction block?" The column talks about how badly things have gone, and then suggests there are a couple opportunities available to clean this up. Ostler described it as "using logic and conjecture to connect some dots" about what might happen next.
You can read the whole thing for all the details, but the short version is that Ostler sees "two realistic scenarios" for Denise York. The first is a massive restructuring of the team that includes a new team president (he suggests Mike Holmgren), with Jed York moved out of day-to-day operations. The second is that she sells the 49ers, with Oracle chairman Larry Ellison mentioned as a possibility.
While it is possible Ostler has some sources that offered up some background or off-the-record comments, this reads more like a writer just playing with some ideas. Pro Football Talk referred to it as "speculation", and that might be a generous read on it. If Larry Ellison (not the first time his name has been mentioned) made a Godfather offer to the Yorks, then maybe a sale might happen. But right now, a Godfather offer would probably have to be at least $3 billion.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Clippers each sold for $2 billion, while the Buffalo Bills went for $1.1 billion in the last NFL sale. The 49ers have a brand new stadium that will be a cash cow for years to come. There are certainly concerns about fan apathy following this year's awful performance, and I think that is a bit of a wild card in all this. But given that the 49ers turned things around following the atrocious Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary stretch, I am inclined to think the Yorks think this thing can turn around as well.
That brings us to Ostler's first scenario:
A complete restructuring of the team. The family probably would like to retain the current structure for one more season, to give the current people, including head coach Jim Tomsula, a chance to fix what's broken. But if the spiral continues â and Sunday's brutal loss didn't help â you blow it all up after this season.
The Yorks could bring in a new president to run the show, an outsider or maybe Marathe. Baalke goes, replaced by a new head of football ops (think: Mike Holmgren), who hires a new GM. Jed moves out of the day-to-day operations and into a side role, or into his own business.
There is one thing about this that I find particularly confusing. I get that Mike Holmgren has extensive 49ers history, and is a Bay Area guy. And it sounds like he would like to be involved with the 49ers. But, I don't recall him being a particularly great personnel guy. He "stepped down" as Seahawks general manager, while remaining coach, and was forced into retirement when the Cleveland Browns changed ownership.
I suppose the counter to all this is that he was trying to be head coach and GM in Seattle, which is never easy, and the Browns are an abysmal place to try and do anything. Maybe he could figure something out different at this point in his life than back then. I am skeptical about that, but who really knows. I could see value in finding a football-specific guy, but at this point I am not entirely sure who that would be.
That being said, the idea of a restructuring does make some sense, particularly in light of Paraag Marathe's move within the organization. Ostler suggests one possibility is that this could give Marathe the space necessary to handle the sale of the team. Again, I just can't see a sale happening when it's such an easy opportunity to have fairly regular cash flow. I still can't quite fully understand the Marathe move, so I could very well be wrong on all this. Whatever the case, I just don't see a sale happening.