In the last week, Jed York and Paraag Marathe crisscrossed the country picking the minds of impressive talent evaluators with a multitude of backgrounds.
The time has come for the 49ers’ top football people to make the most important football decision.
To make sure he selects the right head coaching candidate, York needs to pull the trigger on his next GM, and soon. Let Eliot Wolf or Louis Riddick accompany you in the room to select the next head coach. Show the world the 49ers are a new, united football operation.
What’s preventing the Packers from offering Wolf a lucrative extension and clause in his contract that will name him the GM-in-waiting once 63-year-old Ted Thompson leaves? What if Riddick has a conversation with someone who advises him against working with York and he backs out last minute? Stranger things have happened in the NFL.
These are factors totally out of York’s control, which is why he needs to seize this situation now. Time is of the essence.
Hiring either Wolf or Riddick would be perceived as a home run for a franchise ESPN ranked dead last in sports, No. 122. While there are a handful of other candidates (hint, hint: Seattle’s Trent Kirchner), missing out on either Wolf or Riddick would be a bad look for the 49ers. Especially after Kansas City’s Chris Ballard was blocked from interviewing and New England’s Nick Caserio declined an anticipated request.
Both Wolf and Riddick are appealing candidates on paper, and both offer distinctively different traits in how they would lead the San Francisco 49ers.
Wolf brings a clearcut football philosophy with him: Draft and develop. The Packers are opposed to patching holes on their roster through free agency. The Green Bay scouting department works hand-in-hand with the coaching staff — not exactly a commonplace in the NFL — but it’s been an effective workflow for the Packers. Wolf’s 49ers won’t be wasting draft picks in the fourth-round on players with ACL injuries. In fact, those fourth round picks will likely be starting their rookie season.
Riddick is considered the riskier choice since he’s been out of the scouting game since his arrival at ESPN in 2013. But word on the street is that he’ll be able to deliver Josh McDaniels, who is widely believed to be the best head coaching candidate on the market. Riddick will also bring two characteristics the 49ers desperately lacked with Trent Baalke: Strong communication skills and someone who will be willing to tell Jed York “No.”
Here’s Riddick on Daniel Snyder’s erratic owner behavior in 2013, via ESPN.com’s John Keim.
“You have to respect how the game has to be managed from the ground level, not from the board room and be cognizant of the power and authority the head coach deserves and needs,” Riddick said. “If it’s just about, ‘I’ll do what I do because I have a right to do it,’ then don’t be mad when the results are what they are. This is a long-winded way of saying you have to make some adjustments, otherwise you’ll face this over and over.”
Several NFL pundits — Herm Edwards, Mike Nolan, Steve Young — have urged York to hire the general manager before the head coach. Nolan, in particular, carries credence. Marathe, York and his father John decided to hire Nolan before GM Scot McCloughan, and gave Nolan final say of the roster.
“Hire the general manager first for this simple reason: It’s always players first — always” Nolan said. “It might even be first through 10. Players first. Because great players make a coach look like a hero. But it’s not the other way around. A great coach sometimes, if you don’t have the right guys on the field, you can be as good as you want — it’s hard to get a win on Sundays.”
The reason York has received so much criticism locally, is that he thinks he’s not involved in football operations. Jed! You are making the most important football decision, and you’re having candidates like Wolf and Riddick break down their football philosophies for you. The 49ers are in your hands.
Thanks in large part to York’s tremendous relationships with national reporters, the 49ers job has a national perception of being coveted. The GM/head coach reboot is attractive. There are football people who want to put their stamp on the 49ers.
So the CEO needs to strike while the iron is hot. Whip out your checkbook, Jed.