Sad but true: The 49ers soon will hire their eighth head coach since 2002.
And the number of New England Patriots head coaches during the same span: One.
How can the 49ers whiff that many times? How can a franchise that put five Lombardi trophies in its case steer so far astray? Who could have turned something so good into a pile of rubble?
Congratulations to John and Jed York and the rest of the suits in the 49ers front office. They win the prize. For their next trick, they’ll tag a Picasso.
We should have known what was coming when John York fired Steve Mariucci about five minutes after the 49ers won an NFC West title and a thrilling wild-card game. That’s how the slide started and, except for a three-year moment of bliss under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have become an NFL punch line.
Jed York, the current owner, has continued where his father left off. When it comes to matters of football, he’s a dangerous executive. Why? Because he thinks he knows something about football and, in fact, he knows nothing. Worse, he doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know.
“I own this football team,” he insisted. “You don’t dismiss owners.”
Question: Can we tell him to sit in the corner for the next five years?
The 49ers’ problem is split into painful halves: York and the 49ers’ refusal to hire experienced football personnel in their front office.
They don’t need numbers guys. They’ve got one in executive Paraag Marathe, though he also thinks he can make football decisions. Too many other suits have cast attention away from what counts – the team on the field and the fans buying all those seat licenses and halftime beer.
York must lock himself in his office and allow people wise in the ways of the NFL to rebuild that lifeless roster. Because he’s shown us, more than once, the job is beyond his talent level.
York showed no remorse during his third annual fire-the-coach news conference this week during which he confirmed the firing of coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke. He also maintained that he’ll make the final decision on their successors. To all the 49ers faithful, that’s downright scary.
Since the 49ers and Harbaugh “mutually parted,” the 49ers are 7-25 and a you-must-be-kidding 5-11 at Levi’s Stadium. Meanwhile, Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines have won 20 games. We can figure out who’s laughing and who has egg dripping down his cheek.
Remember when York compared the 49ers’ promotion of Jim Tomsula – the in-over-his-head defensive-line coach – to the Golden State Warriors’ hiring of Steve Kerr? Let’s laugh together before we cry.
Are the 49ers helpless under York leadership, you ask? Not necessarily. Even a hacker will catch one or two a round and send them down the fairway. It’s possible to walk into a good hire such as Harbaugh, who brought in a first-rate staff. A decent head coach and GM could stop the bleeding and offer a modicum of hope.
My guess is Stanford’s David Shaw, the third potential 49ers savior from Stanford, could have this job if he wanted it. He has sustained Harbaugh’s fundamental makeover on the Farm. Few teams push around the Cardinal. That would be fun to see, for a change, with the 49ers.
Another thing: Pitman High School grad Colin Kaepernick probably has played his last game in 49er red. He had his contract restructured last fall and it gives him a chance to depart. His QB rating in the last game against the Seahawks was 122. He showed just enough, even with precious little talent around him, to attract a new suitor. Both he and the 49ers require a fresh start.
Problem is, the 49ers need more than a good QB, coach and general manager. They need to realize they’re off course. York is not a dummy. The 49ers built a privately financed stadium in California, which was the closest thing to a David Copperfield-type illusion. The 49ers’ problem is not Levi’s. It’s the sad team playing in it and the people running it.
Until York is willing to change, the 49ers are doomed.