No more of that social media stuff for Jed York. And no more mealy-mouthing it when it comes to dropping the pill. He reached back into family and showed he knows how to take a guy out quick and clean.
“Jimmy T,” as York called his ex-coach with the last name of Tomsula, was first to feel the fast move of the maturing ruthlessness of the San Francisco 49er CEO. York went medieval on Jimmy T, who barely showered after Sunday’s season-finale win over the Rams before he got word of the boss’ tomahawk chop. It was nothing like last year, when York said the dismissal of then-coach Jim Harbaugh was a “mutual” decision. It took Harbaugh to tell the world he’d been fired and that there was nothing mutual about it. This year, there was no doubt about it. Tomsula had to go, and York sent him away – with pace, as they say in soccer.
A lot of people in 49ersland think the guy who really needs to go is York. They’ve let him know it on Twitter, in the signs they hold up in the stadium, in the messages they’ve paraded behind airplanes flying over Levi’s Stadium.
At his press conference Monday at Levi’s Stadium to answer for the removal of Tomusla, York talked about lineage and legacy, of a family marked by titans of his two preceding generations. His grandfather, Edward J. DeBartolo, founded a massive construction company in Youngstown, Ohio. Then came York’s uncle, Eddie Jr., the former 49er owner whose teams won five Super Bowls before he got in trouble with the feds and had to give the team up. And Jed’s mother, Marie DeBartolo York, owner and president of hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins the year they won their first Stanley Cup. She is now the owner and co-chair of the Northern California’s beloved 49ers franchise, whose keys she handed to her son in 2008.
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They all “engrained” him with a “championship caliber mentality,” York said, and passed on to him the ways of their worlds.
He quoted from one of his grandfather’s favorite gospels, the Book of Vince Lombardi, from which he paraphrased to say that even if perfection cannot be attained, that in its pursuit, “we can catch excellence.” And he moved on to the word of his uncle, who offered advice and admonition in a 5:15 a.m. text on Monday.
“I don’t think there’s anybody better to help me as a mentor, as somebody who’s been there, somebody who’s done it, than my uncle,” York said. “And we talked for a long time this morning, and I know if I need direction, if I need guidance, if I need somebody for help, I’ve got a person who I think is the best owner in the history of sports that’s on my team.”
Uncle Eddie’s communiqué came with some heat.
“I’ll leave the profanities out,” York said.
As for the message, the elder told the younger: “Even if you have a bad season, don’t settle,” according to York. Don’t tweak a 5-11 season into a 9-7, the uncle told the nephew. Break cleanly from what didn’t work. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Push toward “the ultimate goal.”
Of course, the world changes with each generation. Looking at the decision-making models of his own, millenial age, York said organizations now demand “a collective approach.” Things are different now than when his uncle took over the 49ers a few years post-Watergate. The laws of Darwin, as well as those of Lombardi, also apply to football, and in the words of York, “You need to adapt as the world adapts.”
York, whose birthday is not a matter of public record but who is believed to be 35 or 36, found himself as having adapted to the wild world of Twitter, the electro-paper of record for his generation. He found it a good way to feel the pulse of the fans, even if it hurt. But he got in trouble with it last year when he tweet-ripped Harbaugh’s 49ers during their Thanksgiving loss to Seattle. Now he says he needs to adapt out of it.
“Those things aren’t helpful for the team, as much as I’d like to share how I feel about the team,” he said. “It’s not helpful for our club or me to talk about how I feel when we win, how I feel when we lose. It’s ultimately a distraction. It’s hard enough to win football games in the National Football League. It’s harder when you have somebody that tweets something that is a distraction to the club, and I can’t do that.”
In apologizing for the mistakes of this season’s 5-11 record, York admitted to taking things too personally when it came time for the fans to blast him for the failed season, for letting Harbaugh go. But he did not admit to making a mistake in last year’s separation from the coach who now has Michigan ready to roll in a big fashion. He refused to look backward, no matter what Harbaugh said in his own cryptic tweet Monday that may or may not have been directed at York: “Do not be deceived. You will reap what you sow.”
“We can’t unchange decisions that have been made,” York said.
So now we know that in a year’s time, York remembers how to fire a coach. We’ll find out soon enough whether he knows how to hire one who might last.