Saying that cohesion between the 49ers’ front office and coaching staff is his top priority, CEO Jed York on Monday began his search for leaders of both staffs and indicated why the union between former general manager Trent Baalke and ex-coach Chip Kelly didn’t work.
“I think the most important thing is having the head coach and the general manager working together, battling for each other and being on the same page. That’s paramount,” said York, who fired Baalke and Kelly. “I’ve certainly seen that in my time. That’s my focus and that’s my goal to make sure those two are together, they’re working on the same page and they know that they have the opportunity to build this thing the right way together.”
Added York: “It can’t be that, ‘I have (control of) the 53-man roster and you need to go back to your office.’ ”
York said when he hired Kelly last January, he hoped the coach’s acumen on offense would mesh with Baalke’s preference for defensive players.
“But the marriage didn’t work,” York said. “I should have probably seen it.”
In recent years, the 49ers’ flow chart has featured a strong general manager who had final say on the 53-man roster and governed the coach. York indicated he was open to a new arrangement but that communication was the key.
That suggested the 49ers are looking at a package deal, and many NFL observers felt San Francisco was zeroing in on two New England Patriots staffers: offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and director of player personnel Nick Caserio. The 49ers are scheduled to interview McDaniels this weekend and have requested an interview with Caserio.
Other possible coach-general manager combinations include Seattle offensive-line coach Tom Cable and Trent Kirchner or Scott Fitterer, the Seahawks’ co-directors of player personnel.
York said he wanted a coach and general manager who were “accountable” to each other. He mentioned that word several times during his news conference, and the players echoed it later in the locker room.
“I wouldn’t say there was a lack of professionalism,” quarterback Christian Ponder said. “I think there were a few guys who probably could have spent a little more time in the playbook. There were a lot of mental errors throughout the year that made it tough on us. You’d like some of the older guys to step up and kind of hold guys accountable. I think that will be a a big key going forward – accountability with the players.”
Ponder, who is due to be a free agent in March, said he planned to meet with York later in the day.
Offensive lineman Zane Beadles, one of the few free agents the 49ers signed in 2016, also cited accountability when asked about assignment errors that seemed to plague the team throughout its 2-14 season.
“It’s definitely young guys,” Beadles said. “Guys that haven’t played a lot of football make more mistakes – that’s just the bottom line. The accountability part just brings those guys along quicker.”
The 49ers had nearly $40 million in salary cap space in 2016, and York said all of it will roll over to 2017. They also will have 10 draft picks in 2017, including the No. 2 overall selection.
“We’re going to have the opportunity with a lot of draft picks,” York said. “We’re going to have the opportunity with a lot of salary cap room. There are some pieces here. I don’t think there are enough pieces here, but there are some pieces we can build with.”
Something that won’t change is York, who has hired four head coaches since 2008, making the final call. He said he will consult outsiders – his uncle, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, is the only one he cited – and he and his longtime lieutenant, Paraag Marathe, will conduct the interviews.
“Ultimately,” York said, “the decision will rest with me.”