Jed York learns valuable lesson

Jed York learns valuable lesson
February 24, 2014, 10:30 am
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York wasted a perfectly good lie because he thought brevity was more important than getting in front of a budding organizational mess.
Ray Ratto

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The Jim Harbaugh/Jim Haslam BFFs Forever story has run its course . . . we think . . . for a moment anyway . . . except for one thing. Nothing is ever over with Jim Harbaugh.

And maybe a couple of others.

The contract negotiations will drag on awhile longer, and we suspect at some point Harbaugh, being the gambler he is, may just say, “Okay, we’ll wait this year, see how far we go, and then I want the works.” This is dangerous business, because nothing is more fired than a coach in the last year of his deal, but Harbaugh lives on the edge, and finds a way as often as not to put his supervisors and colleagues on it with him.

But there is also the matter of John Edward York, a.k.a. Jed, who got caught in something of a whopper when Haslam, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, essentially exposed his initial denial as a lie. York slapped the Pro Football Talk story that linked Harbaugh to the Browns, dismissing it with those three little words: “Report isn’t true.”

He has since had to backtrack after Haslam described the discussions as “an opportunity there, and it didn’t materialize.”

[MAIOCCO: York: 49ers had 'no interest' in trading Harbaugh]

Whatever the hell that means.

But this isn’t about examining whatever menageries dance inside Haslam’s head, but York’s cavalier dismissal of, and misunderstanding about, the real backstory that has recast his operation – namely, that he, Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke get along like firemen and arsonists.

Even if their relationships are strained but workable (and that seems to be the operative phrase for now), the matter of Harbaugh’s contract, and more importantly the organization’s willingness to stomach him, will now color everything the 49ers do or say from here until Harbaugh either gets that new deal, or that going-away fruit basket.

And York wasted a perfectly good lie because he thought brevity was more important than getting in front of a budding organizational mess.

[RATTO: Trade report reveals strained interplay in 49ers front office]

By denying the PFT story so cavalierly in the beginning, he essentially trusted two noted loose cannons, Haslam and Harbaugh, to maintain radio silence on it. Harbaugh, he could control. Haslam he couldn’t, and his cover was blown inside of 36 hours.

Now he has had to backtrack through Peter King of The MMQB, saying: “The Browns reached out to me, and we had no interest in pursuing it.”

That’s different than the fun-filled blanket denial he originally Tweet-blurted, and it calls into question his veracity on the subject from here on out, when it didn’t have to be so jeopardized.

You see, as a wise old general manager once told me, “You should spend lies like money.” In other words, lies are part of any executive’s brief case, but the truth is usually a better first option. Moreover, said executive should use them for necessities rather than frivolities, and never in a situation where they can be quickly dismantled.

York essentially thought he would be out of the woods on what may very well have been a routine tale of leverage suppression, but by opting for the riskier strategy of playing the lie card when the truth may have served him just as well, his word is no longer as platinum as it used to be.

Put another way, had he merely said what he told King, he’d have come off better than he does here. Even if he’d added out of simple charity to the journalistic community, “They asked, but they don’t have anything that matches the coach we have so we dismissed it,” he’d have been fine. And if he actually did entertain it for even a minute, he could have even gotten away with something like, “It was going to take a whole lot more draft choices plus Josh Gordon for us to even think about it, and even then we still like our guy more.” Or, in a worst-case scenario, “We asked Jim if he was interested in leaving, he wasn’t, and we said no before it even got to an offer stage.”

The issue of the contract would still be there, because the relationship of the YorBaalkBaugh troika is clearly a wobbly one and will remain so even after any deal is struck, but at least York could stand on his rep as the honest guy who just wants to do right by the franchise.

This way, he wasted a perfectly good fib he might have needed later – maybe when the final swords-and-shields confrontation with Harbaugh has to be had. Lying is not a good thing (and now most adults will be allowed a few minutes for a healthy guffaw at the very notion), but sometimes it is required, and when it is, it should only be seamless and incontrovertible. This was neither, for the reasons we have already explained, plus one other.

Twitter isn’t the best vehicle for a well-crafted lie.

So Jed has learned a lesson, and it is one that every fifth-grade teacher in America can pass on to his or her students. When the matter is important enough, it is better to have the skill of typing with ten fingers than two thumbs.

In other words, even in a 140-character world, sometimes only well-crafted paragraphs will do.

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