The San Francisco 49ers have gone from championship contender to laughingstock in one of the shortest spans in NFL history. Now at 1-12 on the season, the 49ers are in the midst of the worst performance in franchise history.
This has led to speculation that both general manager Trent Baalke and CEO Jed York could be without jobs once the 2016 season finally draws to a conclusion.
But according to Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, none of this really matters. He places most of the blame for the 49ers’ struggles on the team’s owners, John York and Denise DeBartolo York. In doing so, Young concludes that wins don’t mean much to them as long as their making that cold-hard cash.
“In the NFL, you don’t have to win to make money,” Young said, via KNBR.com. “The greatest growth equity value teams are not necessarily the winners. In fact, if you think about the 49ers in the last 15 years since the Yorks owned the team, you’re talking about equity values that went from — I’m just rough now — $200 million in 2000 to well over maybe $2 billion. It’s like 10 times or more. It’s like Silicon Valley. That’s one of the great success story of any tech business anywhere.
That’s surely a broad statement to make. And he’s not necessarily pointing out the 49ers as the only example here. But Young isn’t wrong in drawing the conclusion that wins don’t mean much when it comes to team value.
Earlier this year, Forbes estimated that the 49ers were worth a cool $3 billion. That makes them the fourth-most valuable franchise in the NFL. Compare that to 2008, and the 49ers were worth $865 million. A number that represented the third-lowest figure in the NFL.
For Young, this is all correlated.
“That’s (the York’s) A game. Their equity value in the team is their A game, it’s what drives them. It’s what drives most of the owners. It’s what matters. It’s what they think about. It’s what they talk about. And the B game, is whether we win some games. It’s not that you don’t want to, or you don’t really want to, or it’s not really important. It’s just not the A game. And so when it’s not the A game, that’s the biggest issue with the NFL, is that success doesn’t track to success on the field. So you’re not held accountable.”
The former 49ers quarterback then went on to indicated that everyone within the 49ers organization should be held accountable for the team’s struggles. That means the two older York’s as well as their son.
Unfortunately, it does look like John and Denise will be more involved in the day-to-day operations, especially if they strip their son of his CEO powers. That’s proven to be a failure in the past and would just be the team making the same mistake.
This has led to fans in Northern California and around the entire NFL world to believe that a change in ownership is needed. But with $3 billion in value and the team’s financial prospects growing, this seems highly unlikely. Such is the nature of the beast in an NFL world where finances play a larger role than on-field success.
According to Young, that’s the biggest issue with the 49ers today.