The San Francisco 49ers are into the Super Bowl after turning a 4-12 record into 13-3 and playing strongly through the playoffs. Jed York has been a background figure, and it may be one of the unsung reasons why the 49ers have made it.
The path to the Super Bowl has not been an easy one for the San Francisco 49ers. Several years of mediocrity and frustration changed into one of hope when head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch were brought in, but it took several years of hard work to get this far.
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Lynch and Shanahan have pretty much molded a team that seemed rooted to the cellar for the foreseeable future into a versatile powerhouse that can win any way it needs. After relying on the arm of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to get them through injuries to the offensive line and defense for half of the season, the team has resumed its regularly scheduled gameplan of punching teams in the mouth both on offense and defense.
But let’s rewind to back before the Lynch/Shanahan era. Back to when the 49ers faithful were at optimal unrest and had turned their wrath onto CEO Jed York.
Some people may remember this famous gem of an interview.
"I own this football team. You don’t dismiss owners."
Some things can set fire to a situation. This was akin to using a flamethrower.
Fans were disgruntled in a manner not seen in quite some time.
It was a pretty hot inferno even before that at that time. Banners were being flown over games, while Levi’s Stadium was looking like an expensive bust game after game.
York was a meddler. He famously sided with former general manager Trent Baalke over former head coach Jim Harbaugh, which fractured a relationship that had sent San Francisco to a Super Bowl and ended up with Harbaugh leaving.
Shortly thereafter, Baalke similarly headed to the unemployment line.
Despite this, it may oddly have worked out in the long run. Harbaugh has underwhelmed at the University of Michigan, while the best forgotten regimes of Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly convinced York that a change was needed.
York hit the reset button and gave Lynch and Shanahan matching six-year deals. He promised to take a back seat, and to his credit, he has undoubtedly kept to his word, not once getting involved or standing in the way of progress.
The result is: A franchise that had looked set for perpetual nothingness under his tenure, is now on the cusp of a championship and perhaps a potential dynasty.
We’ve all seen horrible owners handicap their teams over the years. Marge Schott with the Cincinnati Reds, Donald Sterling with the Los Angeles Clippers, James Dolan with New York (Knicks or Rangers, depending on what sport you prefer), and Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins are just a few of the examples.
I researched their ownership prior to writing this. I strongly recommend everyone research it themselves. The stories you would read are unbelievable.
Jed York, representing the York-DeBartolo ownership, was very much on his way to joining them, but unlike so many meddling owners before him in professional sports, he actually did something amazing.
The attitude that he knows best has given way to a more humble and appreciative man who has watched the team return to the big game.
Jed York has done very little since giving the keys to the franchise to the duo of Lynch and Shanahan. Doing so may be one of the most underappreciated reasons why the 49ers are in Super Bowl LIV.