San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York addressed the media Monday morning, and I would say he did better this year than a year ago. This means almost nothing for purposes of this team turning back into a Super Bowl contender, but it is at least a positive step for a franchise that turned into a joke this season. Here is the full transcript of his press conference.
The team's actions in the coming days, weeks, and months will tell us a lot more about the state of the franchise than anything York could say during his press conference. He could have announced plans to bring in another football mind to pair with Trent Baalke, he could have announced he was stepping down, but otherwise, it was a reasonably decent performance more often than not. It was far from perfect, but all things considered, it wasn't too bad.
There were questions about why Trent Baalke did not appear with York. Baalke is leading the coach search, and is a major voice in the 49ers organization. Although he has struggled with some of his decisions the last couple years, Baalke remains seemingly the most powerful person behind Jed York.
In reality, this press conference was never about the coaching search. Obviously York was going to get questions about it, and he did provide some insight into what the team wanted in a coach (leadership, clear strategic vision). However, this press conference was mostly about York's attempt to fall on the sword for the franchise failings of the past year. York basically went out there to attempt to admit his mistakes and take his medicine.
York was quick to admit some of his mistakes of the recent past. He talked about taking things too personally at times, particularly criticism by the media and fans. He referenced the various tweets over the last couple years, and how he needs to avoid being such a distraction. It remains to be seen how well that will work out, but it will be something to track on social media. Thankfully he never used the word accountable (or any version of the word).
He did still side-step some questions about former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. York was asked if he regretted parting ways with Jim Harbaugh. He used the question to acknowledge that Jim Harbaugh is a good coach, and that he is not surprised Harbaugh is finding success with Michigan. He tried instead to focus on the future rather than dealing with Harbaugh stuff, or the failings of Jim Tomsula.
He also continued to deny that people at the 49ers were responsible for the leaks, saying, "If I find people that are leaking information, they are not going to be a part of this team." I would like to think that is true, but at times that is exceedingly difficult with the dumpster fire we have observed over the last two years. But at this point, it seems to safe to say York is going to "deny till he dies."
Eddie DeBartolo mention
York said he spoke with his uncle Monday morning. There had been some reports that their relationship was not as strong as in recent years. However, York seemed to indicate Eddie remains an advisor for him. He said the call involved plenty of expletives from DeBartolo, so hopefully he was there to make sure and tell his nephew what's what.
If York actually uses his uncle as a sounding board in this coaching search process, maybe some good things will come of all this. Of course, as Tim Kawakami mentioned, over the last year and a half, York seems to generally reference DeBartolo when things are not looking good. We'll get more DeBartolo references with the Hall of Fame vote, but the point being that at times it feels like York is using his uncle as a shield when things are tough. As Jed himself said, Eddie is the greatest owner in the history of professional sports. If someone does not take full advantage of that kind of resource, they deserve to fail. But there is a difference between taking advantage of the resource, and using it as a shield when things are not going well.
What does it all mean?
Until we see actions in the coming days, weeks, and months, it does not mean a whole lot of much. He deserves credit for showing some semblance of humility in the wake of mounting criticism. Plenty of it was self-inflicted, but checking his ego to some extent was at least one positive step for a man who has borne the brunt of much of the criticism over the last 12 months.
Whether he did in fact actually learn lessons is another question entirely. The coach search and the build to the 2016 season will be the start of figuring out just what he has actually learned from his failings over the last year. He has not earned the benefit of the doubt at this point, but I am curious to see what the coming weeks and months bring. It comes primarily from the basic hope of most fans that this franchise gets turned around in the very near future.