Will 49ers Experience a Change in Culture Like Warriors Did?


In less than a year, the San Francisco 49ers have gone from being one of the elite teams in the NFL to being one of the most controversial, confusing teams in the league. Behind a new head coach, can the 49ers return to being a successful team in 2015?

Regardless of the sport, a team’s success can be predicated upon the culture surrounding the team. The word “culture” has been used often when discussing the Golden State Warriors‘ recent rise in the ranks from being one of the worst teams in the NBA to the 2015 NBA champions.

When the Warriors hired Mark Jackson as head coach back in 2011, he spoke about how he wanted to change the culture of the team. The Warriors made a statement by firing Coach Jackson prior to the 2014-15 NBA season, and they ultimately hired a head coach with no coaching experience in Steve Kerr. Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber had promised “bold moves” when they bought the team back in 2010, and they delivered with this hire. This was another sign of a deep culture change throughout the organization.

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The 49ers are hoping to follow suit. They are following a similar system to the Warriors’ model of rebuilding and shifting the culture, and they started this by mutually parting ways with head coach Jim Harbaugh and hiring Jim Tomsula.

Harbaugh was a somewhat controversial figure and was either loved or hated by fans, but his firing was even more controversial, as he had led the 49ers to much success in his tenure and truly represented the 49ers’ first wave of a culture change.

The 49ers are now set to embark on what they hope will be another step towards positive change in the culture, which is much-needed for a team that had an extremely disappointing and drama-filled 2014 season and an organization that has been surrounded by controversy for the past year.

49ers CEO Jed York discussed with Emily Kaplan of the MMQB the 49ers’ coaching change and the similarities between that and the Warriors’ turnaround.

"“Culture is huge. That’s the difference between a championship-caliber team and a championship team,” York told Emily Kaplan of the MMQB. “You look at the Golden State Warriors. They were the dumbest team in the NBA for letting Mark Jackson go, who won the most games in the franchise’s history. How could you be so dumb? They bring in Steve Kerr, who has been around the game for a long period of time but has never coached before. Kerr changes the culture, comes in with a different perspective, and look what happens.”"

York is correct that there are some parallels between the Warriors’ decision to fire Jackson with the 49ers’ decision to part ways with Harbaugh. However, the Warriors were in a much better place than the 49ers were in when this decision was made.

The Warriors were a playoff team at the time Jackson was fired, and they had a solid core group of players in place to lead the team to more success. The 49ers are coming off an 8-8 season that seemed much worse than the 8-8 record indicates. In addition, they are not considered a playoff team heading into the 2015 season, given their disappointing offseason and the fact that they lost several key players to free agency or retirement.

The 49ers might be going through a shift in culture, but they are much further behind the Warriors in the process. They were closer before they parted ways with Harbaugh, and even though we don’t currently know how successful Tomsula will be as a head coach, the team is currently working its way back to relevancy.

Change is a process, and we’ll see if the 49ers can follow the Warriors’ model of overcoming dysfunction by ultimately changing the mindset and the culture surrounding the team.

Next: Who Will the 49ers' Number Three Receiver?

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