49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

February 17, 2009
Singletary the mighty Oz, but York behind curtain

Last night's "State of the Franchise" event was held at the San Mateo Performing Arts center and was very much a performance. It featured props, a stage, balloons and video. And it had a star - Mike Singletary -- who brought the house down with a couple of memorable lines. When asked by an audience member when the 49ers would stop settling for moral victories, Singletary paused for several pregnant seconds. "I know you don't know me real well," he finally said. "I'm not a moral victory guy." The crowd roared. When asked if the defense will stop giving offenses plenty of cushion in the passing game, Singletary said his 49ers would play physical. "Physical with an 'F'," Singletary stressed. The crowd went nuts.

But if Singletary was the headliner of this production, the director was Jed York. The 27-year-old owner was the first of the four speakers, and he received polite applause from the partisan crowd. But the whole idea of a "State of the Franchise" event - the first-ever in San Francisco -- smacked of York, who has not been afraid to upset the status quo since becoming the de facto owner of the team.

York certainly has more panache than his father, and there's a refreshing frankness in what he says. Some of it is the typical promises to return to glory, such as York's now familiar refrain that the 2008 finale was the last time the 49ers' season ends in December.

Other quotes were more telling. When York was singing the praises of general manager Scot McCloughan, he recalled the time during the 2007 draft that McCloughan advocated -- strenuously -- for the player the team ultimately chose first, linebacker Patrick Willis. Some in the organization thought Willis was too small; others were worried about an injury he suffered at Ole Miss. York said McCloughan won him over "When Scot stands up on the table and fights against the defensive-oriented head coach and says, 'This is going to be our draft pick.'" There is plenty of meaning in that exchange from two years ago. Willis is now perhaps the team's most talented player, McCloughan is now the general manager and Mike Nolan - the defensive-oriented head coach - is no longer with the team.

York also sent a few political messages. Whereas the 49ers have been focused solely on a Santa Clara stadium in recent years, on Monday York spoke about Santa Clara while also prominently mentioning possible sites at Hunter's Point and Candlestick Point. He also chided the powers that be at San Francisco City Hall: "I haven't heard from Mayor Newsom in close to two years," York said last night. "There's got to be an open dialogue between the 49ers and the city of San Francisco." Yo Gavin, pick up the phone and dial 408.562.4949. Ask for Jed ... If a new stadium comes from this matchmaking, all I ask in return is that I get my own private restroom.

Now the big, big news ... new (actually old) unis. CEO Andy Dolich titillated the crowd last night by telling it, "don't be surprised if you see championship colors back in the future." I'm under the impression that "the future" is 2010, but both the team and the league are being coy about the subject. Maybe there's going to be a big reveal this summer ...

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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