Ratto: Advice to 49ers -- act fast or lose

January 7, 2011, 3:39 am
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Jan. 6, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

On a day when Jim Harbaugh both was and was not the nextcoach of the Miami Dolphins (ahh, the beauty of sources who arentclose enough or forthright enough to be reliable), the 49ers endedlooking like, well, rubes.And once that is the perception, the realities that follow tend tobring shellshock, and leave the inexperienced abuse-magnet turtled andmoaning in the corner of the room.Jed York, this is starting to look more and more like your fate.How do we know this? Because between telegraphing his ardor forHarbaugh, sending in an offer that is by all accounts much lower thanthe high bid to date, and undermining his general manager search byadvertising one thing while settling for something else altogether, hereinforced the notion that he is still overmatched and has nobody athis disposal to shorten the odds.
Nothing has been decided yet, mind you, and the 49ersarent out of it until theyre out of it. Miami Dolphins owner SteveRoss left his eight million calling cards (give or take) and headedback to Florida, where it is now being reported that the Dolphins aregoing to retain Tony Sparano. Stanford threw more money at Harbaughthan the 49er deal is worth, and Denver has not yet been heard from butis expected to begin its sales pitch shortly.RELATED: Reports say Harbaugh not going to Miami
But Harbaugh, a natural-born binge gambler when it comes to betting onhis career, must surely suspect that the wooing portion of the romanceis coming to an end.There is a point, not very far from this, where he will price himselfout of the market just by being too overtly mercenary. He is trying todo the trigonometry of powercontrolsuccess, and he has to come up withthe answer that satisfy him soon, or risk being perceived even by billionairedivas as a mega-diva, unworthy of the effort.But with so many irons still heating (Denver? Stanford? Miami, after asham Rooney Rule interview?), it is hard to project where Harbaughsfuture lay.
MAIOCCO: 49ers focus on Harbaugh, then what?
Ultimately, Harbaugh will land when he lands, and thatll be the end ofthat. But this much is known: barring an extraordinary rally by men whohave mostly looked overwhelmed throughout the process, the 49ers havebeen exposed yet again as pikers, led by a man who still wants to becredited rather than one who wants to succeed.This hire required greater skill than York exhibited. Harbaugh is, forgood or ill, the flavor of the week, and his value needed to be sussedout quickly by someone who understood the nature of the competition.The Dolphins would come with money, glitz and a measure of control. TheBroncos would come with money, John Elway and slightly more control.Stanford didnt seem to be a player, then decided with Andrew Luck onboard to dive in, coming with Luck, continuity and the Stanford cocoon.Next to all this, the 49ers had . . . what? A 29-year-old owner whowants to be a combination of his uncle and George Halas, a power vacuumbelow him (Trent Baalke, for good or ill, was hired to be an adjunct tothe coach), and no quarterback at all.Oh, and geography, which means nothing to the modern hyperamibitious coach.In other words, the 49ers needed to win the Harbaugh sweepstakes with aquick and overwhelming strike, and instead advertised how badly theywanted him without proving it to him. Now there are others in play,with more money, more tugs on his emotions, and more Andrew Luck.This is why you hire the general manager whos been around and knowsthe league terrain. This is why you let him run the football operationwithout interference. This is why you move aside and let the expertsexpertify.But no, Jed wanted this to be his big score. Putting his reputation inthe middle of the table next to the insufficient pile of chips, he endsup looking weaker. Even if he does get Harbaugh, it wont be perceivedquite the same way. Jed got played because he wanted too much to be aplayer, and he got played because he didnt bring enough jack withwhich to play.
RATTO: 49ers boss Jed York ... the big kidder
Lesson learned? We doubt it. Hey, there may not even be a lesson to belearned if Harbaugh gets a dramatically better offer from San Franciscoand decides that the 49ers were his bliss after all.But this wont look like Jed York knew what he was doing, no matter how it breaks down. And that was his real plan all along.What's on your mind? Email Ray and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.