For these vacancies, those doing the hiring might drive you nuts
The 49ers’ Blind Squirrel Tour continues. You know the old saying: Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.
And maybe the 49ers will find a quality nut, despite the widespread trepidation over their search process and their hiring history.
The problem is they need two quality nuts. A head-coach nut and a general-manager nut (and I’m not being pejorative; that description fits most men who fill those positions in the NFL).
The 49ers’ search has been far-flung, crisscrossing the country to interview head-coach and general-manager candidates. Simultaneous and multifaceted, one can’t be sure if it’s thorough or hysterical. There will be more interviews next week. Some of the candidates might not be
available until Feb. 6, the day after the Super Bowl.
The trepidation comes because the people doing the hiring are the same ones who have done the previous hirings. Who seemed, even just a few months ago, to not have learned from their mistakes. And so there’s little reason to believe Jed York and Paraag Marathe suddenly have been hit over the head with the wisdom stick.
Even the leaks coming out of the search aren’t trustworthy. They are almost surely coming directly from York, so when someone “killed it” in an interview or hit a home run, what can we believe? That those candidates made York and Marathe feel good about themselves?
And don’t those constant leaks turn off candidates who would prefer that business is conducted professionally, instead of by a young CEO who seems needy for the allemalls giance of some national reporters?
What we’ve learned since York’s awkward third-time-is-not-a-charm news conference Jan. 2 is that, though he hinted he would tap into the 49ers’ illustrious past for guidance and input, he sure doesn’t seem to be doing that.
As Steve Young said in an interview on KNBR last week, “When Eddie (DeBartolo) lost the team, there was tremendous acrimony between the parties. And so the past — the 49ers’ past — is gingerly embraced.” The Hall of Famers and other greats of the past also know that York hasn’t followed his uncle’s advice, so they are loath to offer theirs.
To me, that’s one of the saddest parts of the past two decades: the wasted resource of the 49ers’ greatness. Here in the Bay Area, we like to conserve our natural resources, and what the 49ers have done with their legacy is tantamount to building strip in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. All that wisdom, all that experience, all those ties to Bill Walsh — gone to waste.
The one time York and Marathe got it right was in 2011, when the team had appeared to bottom out (Ha! Fooled everyone! Rock bottom was a few years in the future). There was an obvious candidate about 15 miles up the freeway, who was the front-runner from start to finish in the search. There weren’t other serious candidates; a few men, including Jim Tomsula and Hue Jackson, were interviewed. The fact that York continues to take credit for the Jim Harbaugh hire as though he unearthed some diamond in the rough is slightly absurd.
Informed opinions peg the leading candidates to be New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as head coach and Louis Riddick as general manager.
There are pluses and minuses to both.
McDaniels was a failure in Denver, both as a head coach and in his personnel decisions. But a lot of coaches fail their first time and have it more figured out by the second time around: men such as McDaniels’ boss in New England, Bill Belichick, and like the Raiders’ Jack Del Rio. McDaniels reportedly has a prickly personality and was groomed under the Belichick cloak of secrecy. That means he probably has the ability to say both “No” and “Hell, no” to York and Marathe and also fight against the culture of leaks. McDaniels is almost 41, so he’s older than York (unlike Washington’s Sean McVay, whom the 49ers interviewed but whom the Rams hired Thursday).
On the flip side, he’s not bringing Tom Brady with him, he drafted Tim Tebow, he was a failure in Denver and he has a reputation as being a difficult person whom players couldn’t stand.
Riddick is articulate and smart, and would make a good front man for a team that desperately needs one. In that way, he appears to be the antiTrent Baalke. Riddick is 47, so again, he’s older than York, which is a good thing.
Negatives: Riddick has been in the ESPN studio for four years. If he was a super-hot candidate, he already would have been hired. How much experience does he have? His former boss, Vinny Cerrato, went on the radio Wednesday to say that Riddick wasn’t a decision-maker and also noted that he, Riddick’s former employer, hasn’t been contacted as a reference. Which makes you wonder if the 49ers are doing their due diligence.
If, as most expect, the Patriots make it to another Super Bowl, McDaniels has a long time to think about the 49ers’ job, its sad history and whether it’s an organization to which he wants to tie his reputation (second chances can be good, but third chances are rare). Are he and Riddick a package deal? And what does that mean? Are we going to have another discussion over who has “the trigger,” as we did with Mike Nolan almost a decade ago?
Next week, the 49ers will interview more candidates including former Raiders head coach Tom Cable, who punched an assistant coach and has been accused of domestic violence. This is a messy process. There are a lot of questions. The Blind Squirrel Tour marches on.
Jed York is younger than head-coaching candidate Josh McDaniels and GM candidate Louis Riddick — and that could be a point in their favor.