Monday, October 27, 2008

Are NFL Owners Stupid or Just Delusionally Arrogant?

Oh, it is a sad thing to be a football fan in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The 49ers are bad and the Oakland Raiders may be worse. Or they may be better. Who can tell? Furthermore, who cares? They're both putrid; does it really matter who smells worse? The important thing is that both teams' games are unwatchable, which exacerbates the problem since theirs are the only games we get.

Thank you National Football League for your excellent rules for televising games.

The great matchups are blacked out on a weekly basis to bring us eight scintillating quarters of the home teams bumbling, stumbling, and fumbling to the next humiliating defeat.

It's particularly bad being a Niner fan, even a casual one. This was the franchise from the early 1980s through most of the 1990s. It's unbelievable how quickly and how far it has fallen with John York and Denise DeBartolo York at the helm. Consider this:

The Niners won the National Football Conference West in 1983, '84, '86-'90, '92-'95, '97, and 2002.

They won the NFC title in '84, '88, '89, and '94. They took the Super Bowl each time.

In the 20 seasons between '83 and 2002, the Niners finished with 10 or more wins 18 times.

Then the Yorks entered the scene courtesy of Eddie DeBartolo's dirty dealings. Eddie D was exiled for the 1998 season and the Terrible Twosome literally took control for good before the 2000 campaign. For five years between '98 and '02, the franchise was able to coast on the momentum and fumes of Steve Young backed by talent amassed under previous management. But even those years showed signs of trouble.

That trouble quickly materialized and turned to outright disaster when Twinkle-Dee and Twinkle-Dum had to stock the larder:

1998: 12-4
1999: 4-12 (Young's last year)
2000: 6-10
2001: 12-4
2002: 10-6 (last winning season)
2003: 7-9
2004: 2-14
2005: 4-12
2006: 7-9
2007: 5-11

San Francisco last made the playoffs in 2002. The Yorks were so thrilled with the amazing comeback to beat the New York Giants and subsequent loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers that they fired Steve Mariucci. They replaced him with the most obvious choice...Dennis Erickson?

Gave him a five-year contract.

Followed that up by hiring Mike Nolan as a first-time head coach and threw him the general manager duties for good measure.

The draft has yielded an almost barren crop if not for Patrick Willis and Frank Gore. The public openly mocks the franchise for its handling of the Mike Nolan firing (this after York claimed to have learned his lesson after butchering the firing of Erickson). The DeBartolo-Yorks have made foul decision after foul decision and driven a once-proud professional franchise straight into the ground.

Now, they're starting to dig.

But the truly staggering thing is this tandem is hardly the only example of NFL ownership with a lengthy history of abject failure - Detroit, Cincinnati, Arizona, Oakland, etc. You could expand the group to include other sports, but I'll spares those the rod.

These people have financial empires worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They have to possess the slightest modicum of awareness and intelligence, right? Even if they didn't build the empire, they haven't lost it (yet). That's gotta take a little competence.

And it doesn't take more than that to step back. To see the big picture. To see the horrible morass in which they've "led" their respective franchises.

So the obvious question is, why don't they fix them? Why do they keep making the same mistakes year after year after year after year?

Hey, it's not my team. It's not my money. I'm not getting paid for this. I have no reason to really examine the situation. And, to be honest, I haven't. You don't need to look very closely to see how miserably they have failed. I have to assume they've done at least this much.

And, still, nothing changes except the names. Why?

The only answers I can accept are stupidity or arrogance manifested as stubbornness, which borders on delusion (possibly literal insanity in Al Davis' case).

Not good news for us Niner fans or any other similarly suffering fanbase. I mean, how do you fix THAT problem?

Only thing I can think of is to cross your fingers and hope for special talent. Talent that succeeds no matter the adversity.

Because, with ownership like that, it's gonna face quite a bit.

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