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Niners’ York turning San Francisco scourge

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The Sports Xchange

A quarter-century ago, the World Series in the Bay Area was interrupted by an earthquake. Now, as we prepare to head to the Bay Area for Super Bowl 50 in three months, an earthquake of another kind is taking place among the area’s two NFL franchises.

The Oakland Raiders, who had a better record than their cross-Bay rival San Francisco 49ers just once in the last decade, are no longer second citizens. They are clearly better than the 49ers, and it’s no accident.

Why?

Well, we can talk all we want about quarterbacks and pass rushers and offensive linemen and cornerbacks and even coaches (and we will talk about that in a moment), but in the NFL, the most important position on any team is this one: The owner.

And while no one ever will confuse Raiders’ boss Mark Davis, the son of Al, with ownership titans like Dan Rooney or the late Wellington Mara, he has it all over Jed York, the bossman of the 49ers, simply because Mark has learned the first rule of management: You don’t know what you don’t know.

Al kept the Raiders in the wilderness for years after their successes through the early ’90s until his brilliant football mind failed to keep up with changes in the game and he allowed his ego to dictate too many of his moves, like running off coach Jon Gruden.

Mark knew he didn’t have a brilliant football mind, so he hired a general manager, something Al would not do, and got out of the way. Reggie McKenzie, the GM since 2012, made a slow start but appears to have hit a home run with the drafting of quarterback Derek Carr, wideout Amari Cooper and other key pieces, and the Raiders look like a team not only capable of making a serious playoff run this year, but building on that effort for years to come with a growing team.

Compare that with what has happened across the Bay, where coach Jim Harbaugh ended nearly a decade of futility for the 49ers with three straight trips to the NFC championship game, one of which resulted in a Super Bowl appearance.

But that was not good enough for York, who chafed at Harbaugh’s demands on him, then took to twitter to undercut his coach with an apologetic tweet following a Thanksgiving night loss to Seattle last year. And just like that, Harbaugh, with a year left on his 49ers contract, was coaching at the University of Michigan.

Now, that might have been fine if York had someone better in mind to replace Harbaugh, but that someone would have been hard to find. Of course, he could have learned from his father, John York, who fired Steve Mariucci after six years and four playoff appearances with a nearly 60 percent victory record — and with absolutely no one in mind to replace him.

After Mariucci, the 49ers went eight years without a winning record before hiring Harbaugh. Now the coach is Jim Tomsula, whose main credentials for the job seemed to be that he was available, he didn’t require moving expenses, and he worked cheap. The franchise once known for its offense has failed to gain 200 yards in four of the last six games and is 32nd — dead last — in the league on offense. The 49ers have scored a league-low 10 touchdowns in eight games.

They have a 2-6 record and can start making their plans for next year which, if they have any sense, will include another new coach.

Meanwhile, the Raiders are 4-3 with a winning record in November and, as of today, own the No. 1 wildcard playoff spot in the AFC.

Further, while both teams have young quarterbacks who were drafted in the second round, only the Raiders are poised to move forward with their QB.

Oakland’s Carr, who threw four touchdown passes in Sunday’s impressive victory over the Jets, has a passer rating of 105.7, a completion percentage of 65.5 and a touchdown-interception ratio of 15-to-3. And he is just in his second year.

The 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick has these numbers: 78.8 rating, 59.3 completion percentage, 6-to-5 TD-INT ratio. He’s in his fifth year, has been going steadily downhill since his Super Bowl season in 2012, and this week was benched and replaced by Blaine Gabbert, who has a 5-22 record as an NFL starter.

Which QB would you rather have? And which team do you think has the brighter future? Those are the easy questions. The hard question is what the 49ers can do to dig out of this hole they created for themselves.

–Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than four decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.


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