JIM HARBAUGH’S FINAL PRESSER AS 49ERS COACH
How did we get here ? Four years ago the San Francisco 49ers were looking for a dynamic, confident proven leader who could mold the talented pieces into a thriving team. They found it. Jim Harbaugh had turned around the University of San Diego and Stanford. Now he was going to return the 49ers to football glory. He did, leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl and two conference championship games. This year doesn’t count. This year lies at the feet of the Niners entitled owner Jed York.
Like a boil on a leg left untreated, York let personality clashes in his very own front office fester. He let it fester to the point where no longer could that boil be lanced. Instead he is having to cut off the leg. He thinks it will save the host, but instead, he is taking its’ heart and soul.
We have arrived at this point of decision because York refused to address this personality clash head-on. Instead of acting like his uncle, Eddie D, he sat back like a silver-spoon fed rich kid and hoped it would work itself out. Jed York will never be mistaken for his more popular and infamous uncle who was the guardian of the franchise during their glory years. Instead the “Little General” has run this hallowed franchise into an abyss. Who are the 49ers going to hire that is better than Jim Harbaugh ? This franchise is not in an abyss yet. You don’t actually you know you are in an abyss until you finally stop sinking. The 49ers are still falling. When you hear the “thud” you will know they have hit bottom.
When Harbaugh was asked in the post-game presser whose decision it was that he was leaving the team, he responded with, “I serve at the pleasure of ownership.” That is clear. York and his minions didn’t want him back. Unless Vince Lombardi is walking through that door, the 49ers will be hard pressed to find a better leader.
The 49ers recent run of success had everything to do with the player’s belief in their coach. When those players sensed Harbaugh’s influence was waning, they could see the writing on the wall. The 49ers weren’t a bad football team this year, but they lacked that “edge” that made them a Harbaugh team. Those players could feel this coming all along. As soon as little-boy Jed let that boil fester, the players knew.
Eddie DeBartolo would not have allowed this to happen. He would have brought Harbaugh and General Manager Trent Baalke into a room. Eddie would sit at the head of the table. He would utter three words, “FIGURE IT OUT.” He would not have allowed the future of his head coach to be played out in the media. Eddie would have been front and center behind the scenes to make sure it didn’t get to this point.
We are going to hear a lot of excuses in Monday mornings press conference. York and Baalke will be meeting with the media and spinning this move. They will say this is a “mutual decision” and that “Jim and the organization” were on the same page with this decision. Don’t believe it. It’s a half-truth. Harbaugh expected and deserved a contract extension and raise with what he had accomplished with the 49ers. None was forth-coming. He felt marginalized, and when Harbaugh learned Baalke had York’s ear and Jim didn’t, that was it. That was all Harbaugh needed to know. He knew where he stood.
For 49ers fans this is bittersweet. This was a tremendous run of success and fun team to follow. Even though they didn’t win the big one under Harbaugh, and boy were they close, you felt eventually they would win it under him. Now the problems of the 49ers roster no longer belong to Harbaugh. He won’t have to worry about an over-paid quarterback who didn’t throw a 4th-quarter touchdown all year. He won’t have to worry about an aging defense that clearly lost a step and has several pieces to replace. He won’t have to worry about whether the institution of Frank Gore is resigned. Harbaugh probably has an even tougher task now in returning Big Blue Michigan to glory. He may need more than a 6-year contract to make that happen.
49ers fans were regaled with the familiar Harbaugh locker-room phrase “Who’s got it better than us?” To which all of his enthusiastic players would scream “NOOOOOOOBODY.” Today, I ask, “Who has it better than the 49ers?” I can hear the football landscape preening, “roughly 15 franchises Baca, roughly 15 franchises.”