On the rise: York has SF moving in right direction
FOXsports columnist Adam Schein has released his annual rankings of NFL organizations, placing the 49ers at No. 24 among the league’s 32 teams. Since the Niners were tied with six teams for the league’s 20th-best record last year at 6-10, that sounds about where they belong. But Schein’s criteria goes beyond what happens on the field, and here we analyze how he rates key elements of the franchise.
The intriguing aspect of these rankings is they are not actual “power rankings” of where the organizations rate by the performance of their teams between the white lines. Schein grades each franchise in six categories that seemingly add up to be an accurate representation of an organization from top to bottom.
The six categories rated are owner, quarterback, head coach, front office, coaching staff and intangibles, which include facilities, fan support and public relations. Each franchise is graded in those categories from 1 to 10.
When it all shakes out, the best teams on the field also turn out to be the best organizations. Not surprisingly, the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers top the rankings this year with a final grade of 56 out of a possible 60. The Packers replace the New England Patriots, who were rated the NFL’s No. 1 organization in these rankings in both 2009 and 2010.
Schein gives the 49ers a final score of 28, better than just eight other teams. Despite that low standing, he indicates San Francisco is an organization on the rise with his comment: “It appears that the Niners have cleared redevelopment hurdles in preparation of their move to Santa Clara in 2015. And not a moment too soon. Jim Harbaugh, Jed York and Bob Lange are major upgrades for head coach, owner and PR director in recent years. The Niners have done a nice job this year with social media. Mike Singletary was a train wreck, more punchline than coach, and Harbaugh will live up to the hype.”
Here, we take a closer look at each of the six categories to see how spot-on Schein really is with his ratings and perception of the 49ers.
Analysis: Tough to argue with a middling mark here for the York family, which is actually a compliment considering how the franchise has endured and performed since they assumed control of it near the end of the 20th century. Schein obviously sees the potential, youthful energy and dedication of Jed York, who now is running the day-to-day operation while papa John and mama Denise sign the checks and offer their advice and takes on the big decisions. Jed actually gets a mark that’s higher or equal to eight other owners whose organizations are ranked above the 49ers. This is an accurate rating that suggests 49ers ownership now has a solid foundation and room to grow.
Analysis: For those of you who believe Alex Smith is still the answer, here’s what some other reputable observers around the country think. Only one other NFL team received as low a mark in this category. Even the woeful Carolina Panthers – who had the NFL’s worst record last year while starting an overmatched rookie quarterback, then selected another quarterback with the No. 1 pick in the draft this year because of it – had a higher rating at quarterback. In reality, this rating actually seems a little low, since Smith isn’t terrible and still could turn into something, and the Niners now have a promising young prospect to develop at the position in athletic rookie Colin Kaepernick. But when you rattle off some of the other names that have started for the Niners at this all-important position since Smith was selected with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft – Tim Rattay, Cody Pickett, Ken Dorsey, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, J.T. O’Sullivan and Troy Smith – you can pretty much agree the 49ers have been a disaster at establishing themselves at the most consequential individual position in professional team sports.
Head Coach: 6
Analysis: That’s a lot of respect for a franchise that is turning to a first-time NFL head coach who is coming from the college ranks. It’s also a lot of respect for Jim Harbaugh, who probably deserves it considering what he has accomplished so far since joining the coaching ranks. Harbaugh’s performance ultimately will have an impact on each of these six ratings, none more so of course than this one. Considering the 49ers have jumped from Dennis Erickson to Mike Nolan to Mike Singletary – all losers with the team – before landing Harbaugh, their new coach is what’s considered an immediate upgrade.
Front office: 4
Analysis: There’s little question that new general manager Trent Baalke is a keen personnel evaluator, but his new position entails much more and he is unproven in the role. The same can be said about San Francisco’s front office in general, which has undergone a lot of change – “housecleaning” wouldn’t be too strong a word to use here – the last few years, including the recent dismissal of executive vice president of football administration Lal Heneghan. A NFL franchise needs a focused, organized and experienced front office to succeed. The 49ers are rated right where they should be here until they prove they can do better.
Coaching staff: 7
Analysis: San Francisco’s highest mark among these ratings seems a bit confusing in relation to the others the 49ers received, particularly since the organization essentially wiped the slate clean when Harbaugh was hired, retaining only three members of previous coach Mike Singletary’s staff of assistants. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing. Those three each are solid position coaches, and a closer look at the staff assembled by Harbaugh shows three coordinators who have been around the block in the NFL, with two having notable success at that level in their positions. There’s also a nice mix of youth on the staff, so this rating is about right on potential alone.
Analysis: This category obviously covers a lot of ground and a lot of uncertain factors. Considering the turmoil, dysfunction, constant change and sorry results that have characterized the franchise much of the past decade, you would think the 49ers are lacking in the area of intangibles. A middling mark here seems to indicate the Niners are on the rise in several areas mentioned by Schein that complete an organization. With a fresh and promising new head coach, a new stadium on the horizon and a roster that finally is stocked with enough talent to win, that would seem to be an accurate perception.