Niners Hunt Nearly Over … We Hope!

All indications are that the Niners top brass have narrowed the head coaching search down to one person … Kyle Shanahan.  Shanahan is the is the son of former Boncos head coach Mike Shanahan.   Kyle is the successful offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons and has been in the NFL since 2004 working his way up from offensive quality control coordinator under John Gruden.

A perk that goes with this job is that Kyle Shanahan will also have a large say in who the Niners hire as GM.  There seems to be only four GM canadates left in the running with the strong favorites coming from Green Bay front office.

The hold up on an official announcement is the fact that the Packers and Falcons are playing Sunday in the NFC Championship game and personnel cannot be hired until their respective team has finished its season.  In this case the head coach or GM position may not be finalized until after the Super Bowl.

Will this new dynamic duo revitalize the 49ers and instill a winning culture.  Only time will tell but it is clear that ownership dries a winning culture and its likely that the coach and GM will have complete control of the football operation and the resources to attract quality players.

The first order of business will be for each to hire a staff and then to begin the evaluation process of the current players, free agent and potential draft choices.  Its likely some players will not be back in 2017.  Its also likely that some of the front office will be let go in order to bring in people who are more invested in the head coach and GM’s new philosophy and culture.

What will be interesting is to watch what the level of support upper management to the changes gives  Shanahan and his GM as they bring changers to the 49ers organization.  As Jim Harbaugh found winning isn’t everything to the 49ers ownership group they also desire a certain level of community and social involvement and cooperation.


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“Championship Culture” is what York seeks

Oh really, Jed?  Isn’t that what you had with Jim Harbaugh?

Let’s review what a “Championship Culture” looks like:

  1. Focus on the main issue that generates success.
  2.  Always be on the lookout for new ideas.  If you don’t capitalize on new techniques, your opponent will.
  3. Collect data and let the data help you make decisions.
  4. Make sure the incentives you give your players line up with the goals you wish to achieve.
  5. Anticipate resistance when attempting to change the way things are done.  Be willing to address the “locker room lawyers” immediately.
  6. Your organization must be constantly improving.
  7. Be transparent about your decisions.  Let your team know why decisions were made.
  8. Create a sense of pride and appreciation for hard work.
  9. Be comfortable with conflict and competition.
  10. Create an environment where teammates can monitor the progress of each other and encourage  each other.

Well Jed these are Jim Harbaugh’s keys to success from the Leadership Case Studies series, “Strategies of Jim Harbaugh:  How the University of Michigan Head Football Coach Changes the Culture to Immediately Increase Performance”.   Sound familiar Jed?  As pointed out in the case study these are the same processes and techniques used by Jim Harbaugh to establish  championship cultures at University of San Diego, Stanford University, the San Francisco 49ers and now the University of Michigan.

Culture change isn’t easy and it can and will likely rub some people the wrong way.  When Bill Walsh was hired by the 49ers, nearly 40 years ago, he also instituted an organization- wide culture change process and reorganization.  Those executives, coaches and players that didn’t or wouldn’t get on board either left the organization on their own or were immediately fired by Bill.  Bill wasn’t necessarily popular with existing staff and players but he had the 100% support of his boss, Eddie Debartolo.  Mr. D was burning inside to bring a championship to San Francisco and knew what it took!

Yes Jim Harbaugh rubbed a lot of people the wrong way because, among other things, he wanted to totally focus on winning football not stadium opening ceremonies,  glad handing corporate sponsors, talking to the media and, most obviously, kissing management’s ass (that included you, Paraag Marathe or Trent Baalke).  His attitude and  culture processes certainly offended you, your family, Paraag and Trent.  No doubt if Bill Walsh was alive he would have endorsed and supported Jim in his efforts to build that championship culture in the 49ers’ organization.  In fact Bill Walsh, before he passed away, interviewed and hired Jim  to transform Stanford’s losing football program into a nationally ranked program.

Well Jed you screwed up when you took Trent Baalke’s side in the Harbaugh power struggle because Trent is gone and the 49ers are now one of the worst teams in the NFL.  To paraphrase Col. Nathan R. Jessup from the movie A Few Good Men, “Jed, you can’t handle the truth!”  Now what is needed is a complete culture transformation throughout the 49ers organization but not just on the football field, locker room and football front offices.   The culture change is most needed in the business executive offices.   You and your business leadership team need to embrace the culture change or you will continue to hire and fire GMs and coaches as well as lose football games, fans and, ultimately, revenue.



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Jed York and Paraag Marathe … who are there guys?

The 49ers brain trust of Jed York and Chief Strategy Officer Paraag Marathe are scouring the NFL landscape seeking a dynamic duo (a new GM and head coach) to lead the 49ers back to championship form.  Jed has said that he is keen on two things from the new duo, bringing a winning culture to the organization and having a symbolic relationship between the two people.

But what qualifies Jed and Paraag to hire qualified people to run the 49ers front office and the football team?   Other than the fact that both have been associated with the 49ers for over 15 years nothing in their background tells us they have the football knowledge to correctly decipher whether the candidates they are interviewing have the vision, knowledge, experience  and maturity to be successful in the two top jobs in the NFL.

Looking back Jed’s father, John York, lead a search for a new GM and head coach about 16 years ago after firing the them following a 2-14 season.  After an exhaustive search John York, with the help of Paraag, hired Mike Nolan.  Mike had the appropriate NFL experience and background to be a head coach and presumably dazzled John and Paraag in the interview process with his vision and knowledge.  But a little research and football knowledge would have lead John and Paraag to not hire Nolan due to his weaknesses in a prior role as defensive coordinator in Washington and Baltimore.

Once again the 49ers under the York family, with Paraag as their trusted sidekick, are attempting to hire a new GM and head coach yet their intimate knowledge of football personnel evaluation and coaching is still weak.  Instead they will fall back on how the people interviewed, did they feel “comfortable” with these guys and did the candidates display a greater level of football knowledge than them (not very hard).

The obvious fix to cure the York/Marathe football knowledge deficiency would be to hire a football consultant such as Steve Young or Bill Billick, both knowledgable about the 49ers, to help them select the best duo to lead the 49ers back to championship caliber.  Moreover it would give Jed a measure of comfort and clearance if such a duo is ultimately is not as successful as hoped.

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Jed Drops the Ax

Two hours after the final gun it became official Jed York and the 49ers are done with Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly.  According to Baalke he received word of his firing on the Friday prior to the Seahawks game.  In true Baalke sleeze fashion he leaked and then outright told the media he was fired and implied that Kelly going to be canned as well.

Chip Kelly’s fate, it is now known, was tied to Baalke since the time he as hired last January.  And Kelly like a good soldier goose stepped to Baalke’s every move, no matter how much he disagreed.  Kelly didn’t know his fate nor did he know that Trent was undermining him even after he (Baalke) was fired on Friday.  But that is Trent, always looking out for himself and using the head coach as his personal scapegoat.

This not to say Chip Kelly shouldn’t have been fired.  In fact Kelly should not have been hired after the lack of progressive results in Philadelphia and the fact that he was not able to adjust his offensive philosophy to be better suited the NFL style and rules.  But in all likelihood Baalke hired Chip as a hedge if the 2016 season went bad so he argue to Jed that Chip’s the problem not him.  In this instance Jed said in the press conference that Trent did not live up to the goals he set for him early last year.  In other words Jed finally realized that Trent has no eye for talent and that he undermines the coach and the football performance with bad personal decisions, lack of communication and his back-stabbing leaks to the press.

Yet Chip given what he had to work with still under-performed expectations by any measure.  His 2-14 record was worse that Jim Tomula’s 2015 record with just about the same roster if not lightly ungraded on offense.  In addition Chip should have made some major adjustments at mid-season and at least tried Christian Ponder at QB when it was obvious that Colin Kaepernick was performing well enough to win games.

The bottom-line is there was no leadership on the field or upstairs.  You have two men unsuited for the task at hand and who were fighting with each other for control.  In the end they both lost and now its up to Jed to begin righting the ship.  Jed’s record in this area is poor at best so far.

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And Then There Was One

The Niners take on the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday, January 1, 2017.   It’s been a long frustrating season for the Faithful as this seems like the worst 49ers team ever.  In addition the ongoing owner-front office turmoil continues into its 15th year since the York family took over the 49ers from Eddie D in 2000. Since the ownership transition there has been a carrousel of coaches and front office personnel running the 49ers with mostly poor results.

Now as the 2016 season comes to close there are questions as to who will survive the next blood letting.  The media is writing that Trent Baalke, due to his poor drafts and roster mismanagement, will certain be relieved of his job very soon. Chip Kelly’s fate will depend on who becomes GM and if that person is given card blanche to reshape the football operation.  If a new GM has such authority then Kelly must convince that person that he has the ability to improve the on-field performance with better roster thanks to smart draft choices and impactful free agent signings.

With regard to this Sunday’s game Seattle has something to gain by beating the Niners namely a #2 slot in the NFC side of the the Super Bowl tournament.  Whereas the Niners are playing for pride with a depleted roster.  However there isn’t much pride in going 2-14 versus 3-13 really.  There may be a few Niners showcasing their skills for the opportunity to sign a new contract or to be an attractive a free agent signing on another team.

However by 4:30 PM on Sunday the 2016 debacle will be over for the Niners and their fans thank goodness and the 2107 season starts on January 2 with the potential that some changes will take place on the field and in the front office.

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Niners Sweep LA!

The Niners went for a two point conversion late in the game Saturday to beat the floundering LA Rams 22-21.  Kaepernick lead the team with two forth quarter drives running in the game winning 2 points to complete the sweep.  The Niners defense contributed by holding the Rams to 7 points in the second half including a last minute interception to preserve the win.  This outcome was in contrast to the last several games when the Niners collapsed in the second half.

Kaepernick threw for 253 yards completing 28 out of 38 passes in his best game of the 2016 season.  On the other hand Jared Goff threw for only 78 yards going 11 for 24.  In addition the Niners defense shutdown the Rams running game holding them to 99 yards.

Ironically the Browns also won this Saturday beating the other SoCal team the San Diego (maybe soon to be LA) Chargers 20-17.  The Niners win cost them a potential first draft pick in the 2017 draft but frankly being the first or second pick doesn’t really matter as there is no one “got to have” player in the upcoming draft.

Does this win mean much going into the off-season?  Probably not for Trent Baalke as his fate has already been decided by Jed York although its unclear whether that means he stays or goes.  Whereas Chip Kelly’s fate is more a matter of whether or not a new GM is hired and whether that person has the latitude to fire Kelly to bring his coach.  My guess is Baalke will get the boot and Kelly will get another year to produce more wins and with a significantly improved roster.

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Three of the Next Five Games are Winnable

December is the soft part of the 49ers 2015 schedule as they face the Bears, Jets and Rams in the coming weeks.  Those three teams are as weak as the 49ers and in some cases maybe weaker.  All three head coaches are on the hot seat and likely will be fired baring some kind of miracle.

But that doesn’t mean the 49ers will win any of those games it just means there is a chance.  With any luck the 49ers will win one or two of those games.  But it seems especially important to beat the Bears this Sunday as thy seem the weakest of the three with many key players hurt.

Will can strong finish for the 49ers enhance the chances of Trent Baalke or others in the organization from not getting fired?  Under the best scenario a 4-12 finish will not be viewed by the media or fans as a turning point.  But on the other hand Jed York may be reluctant to drain the swamp in Santa Clara because he himself does not know what to do and lacks confidence to undertake the process necessary to rebuild the organization.

Unfortunately the only thing a 4-12 or 3-13 will accomplish is move the Niners down in the draft order which may be perceived internally as alright as it takes some pressure off the GM, who ever that is, in the draft.

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