York moves to forefront as face of franchise

Looking almost managerial in a sharp suit, Jed York was the first person to step to the podium Tuesday, the first person to speak at the news conference to introduce Mike Singletary as the 49ers' new head coach at team headquarters. An indication that the time has arrived for the 27-year-old to step up as the team's central-figure owner's representative? Well, yes, you could definitely say that.

York almost looked like the man running the show as the event began with him front and center delivering into the microphone, "Good afternoon, everybody."

It was almost as though this was York's coming out party as the new face of the franchise, at least from the ownership side. While his father John was at the microphone to fire Dennis Erickson and Terry Donahue in early 2005, and then again three years later to announce a slight re-structuring that promoted Scot McCloughan to his new position as the team's general manager in January, Jed York was on the sidelines as his father ran the family business.

This time, with the team addressing the media for the first time since the abrupt firing of Mike Nolan late Monday, John York was nowhere to be seen. As McCloughan put it, "John was not in the building," Monday when McCloughan and Jed York were giving Nolan the news he was about to become unemployed.

Jed's in charge now. And it's a development that has gradually been taking place since Jed York emerged as part of the small group that interviewed candidates along with his father to replace Erickson in early 2005.

Working on the East Coast after graduating from Notre Dame and studying abroad in 2002, York eventually relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area years ago and began working in the team's front office. In San Francisco's 2008 media guide, he's listed as Vice President of Strategic Planning/Owner.

But in the one-page Singletary biography handed out Tuesday, the eldest son of John York and his wife Denise DeBartolo York simply was referred to as "Owner Jed York." The sheet contained a comment from Jed York about Singletary but had no mention of his parents.

York was smooth and poised during his opening statement to begin the conference, looking as though this is something he will be good at.

He did not read from a prepared statement. He looked the crowded conference room straight in the eye, and he didn't miss a beat with his delivery.

"The San Francisco 49ers have a tradition of winning," York said. "Every decision that we make is aimed at reestablishing that culture of winning, and I promise that I won't rest until we reestablish a championship culture."

With a straightforward approach and without any preening, York went on to talk about it not being an easy decision to make because of the relationship he had developed with Nolan, and then he thanked the team's former coach. "Mike made this place better," York said. "He made me better."

But, York continued, "Unfortunately, that didn't translate into victories. We need to reestablish our championship culture, and we need a coach that has the intensity to match that championship-caliber culture that we're looking for. I'm very excited to see what Mike can do, and bring out the passion and intensity in our football players."

York then took a seat and let McCloughan and Singletary run the rest of the show. But inquiring minds ultimately wanted to talk with York as much as with the other two men at the front of the room. York deferred questions until after the conference was over.

When that time finally came, he was sprayed with quick jabs from several different angles.

Was the Nolan firing/Singletary hiring York's decision or McCloughan's decision?

York didn't hesitate.

"This was an organizational decision," he responded. "Scot's our general manager. It was Scot's decision that the team is not functioning, and obviously it doesn't take a genius to say that you're not winning games – you've got a four-game losing streak. Scot decided it was time. Scot brought it to ownership. We discussed it, and we decided that we needed to move forward."

When asked what was wrong with the team, York was able to get specific, unlike his new coach before him who was difficult to pin down on details.

York talked about the 49ers relinquishing a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia on Oct. 12, when the Eagles scored 23 unanswered points in the final 12 minutes to take a 40-26 victory. He talked about the 49ers doing "everything to beat ourselves" in losses to the New England Patriots and New York Giants.

"We're not getting out-played," York said. "We're getting ‘out-intensitied.' I don't think that's a word, but I'm going to use it anyway. That's what we need, and that's what Mike Singletary's going to bring.

"We have talent; there's no doubt we have talent. We've got Pro Bowlers on both sides of the ball, actually all three phases of the ball. What we're lacking right now is that killer instinct, that finishing ability."

Obviously, York has been paying attention. And that's what a good owner does. And that's an active role York now is taking with the team. He's no longer the owner's son. He's the acting owner.

As York was fielding his final questions, SFI asked him if his presence is an indication York now is stepping to the forefront of the team's decision making from this point forward.

Again, he needed no time to formulate a thoughtful response.

"I'm part of the ownership group, and I'll continue to be a part of the ownership group," York said. "I'll continue to be a face of the ownership group, but that doesn't mean that my mother and father are not part of this. They are part of this decision, and they have their full support behind Mike Singletary, and behind Scot, and making sure that this is right."

One thing was pretty clear Tuesday: In his debut as the face of the team's ownership group, Jed York got it right.

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