Ratto: Firing exposes 49ers' broken chain of command


Ratto: Firing exposes 49ers' broken chain of command

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com
Jed York will credit himself with being decisive and bold in firing Mike Singletary. He will say all the right things about Singletarys role in saving the franchise from creeping Nolanism, and thank Singletary for doing what he was capable of doing while he was capable of doing it.And then he will forget that the thing that most keeps the 49ers from being the best 49ers they can be is not the coach who got fired, but the fact that it was Jed who fired him, rather than the general manager who has the full and unfettered run of the football department.NEWS: 49ers fire head coach Mike Singletary
Singletary has been psychoanalyzed into a thin gray paste almost from the day he was hired. He was the motivator, the man with one hand in the glorious past and a child-frightening glare into the future, the man who believed in all the old verities of football when NFL Films were actually films.But this is not that football, and his persistent inability to show a second gear doomed him. And in a results-based world like the NFL, one can only conclude that it was richly merited. The last memory of him arguing with Troy Smith, and Smith having the temerity to argue back is the perfect summation of his 40 games. No more motivation, no more inspiration, no more This is what worked in the good old days and it must work now.The what comes next part, though, is all about Jed ending the Boy King portion of his regime and distancing himself from the day-to-day fretting about the coach. That Jed fired Singletary speaks not to The buck stops here, but to Theres nobody else to do this. It is the streamlined table of organization at its worst.RELATED: 49ers release statement from Jed York
While all the speculation of the next few weeks or months will surround the next coach, the million-pound elephant is at the other side of the desk, and it always has been.Singletary was a band-aid to get peoples minds off Mike Nolan, the new face of the franchise. But Singletarys job in a nutshell was to develop a new face of the franchise from the playing ranks, and he couldnt do it. Or, in some cases, wouldnt do it. He lurched between the humble supplicant and the omnipotent lawgiver, the stony-faced leader and the frantic delegator, and like most of his football decisions, nobody was ever quite sure what Singletary would be on the job at any given time.None of that would have been countenanced by an experienced general manager. A coach can be many things, but not all at the same time, and the general manager would have seen to it that Singletary picked a lane and stayed in it.
NEWS: York says 49ers will hire GM
But there was no such help for him, so he led with his face week in and week out, defenseless against a team that needed steady tactical leadership. Yes, he became a figure of fun, but he was as much victim as perpetrator, and if York doesnt see that, he will make the same mistake again, and the 49ers will extend their eight-year streak of laughable irrelevance into double digits.He has been told this before, many times, by smarter football people than any you will read here or anywhere else. And perhaps he sees this as the biggest impediment to succeeding where his father could not, and already considers that Job One. If so, good on him.If not, Mike Singletarys sacrifice, if youll pardon the quasi-religious allegory, will have been in vain. Singletary served by showing the organization its most persistent and serious flaw the brains behind the face of the franchise. If Jed York repairs that, he owes Singletary a debt that even the last two years of his contract cannot repay.And if he doesnt, hes no smarter than he was the day his dad kicked him upstairs to run the team the old man could no longer enjoy. Its really no more complicated than that, unless Jed wants it to be. And lets face it, nobody gets to be the Boy King forever. At some point, he becomes just another adult, and adults are graded not on potential but on results.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.