As you have no doubt heard by now, Jim Harbaugh has thrown his last tantrum as coach of the 49ers. Word is he's going back to school, headed to the University of Michigan to coach its football team.
The 49ers have already been taking some criticism for Harbaugh's departure since it was announced after the 49ers' win Sunday, and that includes questioning that bordered on hostile from local sports media at a press conference this afternoon given by 49ers CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke.
The presser shed little light on what ultimately caused the breach with Harbaugh, which York repeatedly said was "mutual." When it was suggested that fans were mystified as to why someone with Harbaugh's success would be let go after one bad year, the execs said they did not want to get into specific differences with the coach, but suggested they were unbridgeable. York and Baalke both said they would now look for a coach who would be a "teacher," in the mold of former 49ers coach Bill Walsh, and that they did not yet have a short list.
York said he was receiving a lot of vitriolic tweets for the decision to let Harbaugh go, and that he could understand why fans were upset.
When accused of letting Harbaugh take all the heat for the many off-field legal problems that 49ers players had this year, Baalke said Harbaugh's functioning as the sole "voice of the team" was by design, even though all decisions were made collectively.
"That won't change with the next head coach," York said.
York did say it was his decision to play Ray McDonald after the defensive end came under investigation for felony domestic abuse. That decision was criticized by some columnists, but did not result in any legal charges against the player. McDonald was let go by the team this month after the San Jose Police Department said it was investigating him for a separate incident, involving an alleged sexual assault.
York said several times during the press conference that the 49ers did not conduct themselves with an acceptable "level of class" this year. He said the entire management team, including Harbaugh, was responsible for that.
Baalke said his relationship with Harbaugh, which has been written about as contentious, was "very misrepresented in the media." He said "it wasn't like that day to day." He said he had little success in dispelling the misconception: "The louder we talked, the less it was heard."
When asked if defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would be given consideration for the head coaching job, Baalke said "it wouldn't be fair to name any names."
The Niners are taking some hits in print and on the Web as well. Below are some of the reactions to Harbaugh's you're-fired-I-quit departure. Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News actually wrote that he thinks Baalke and York were behind the news stories earlier this season revealing that Harbaugh was in trouble with the team. York denied yesterday that he was the source of the leaks.
(W)hen Harbaugh was talking to a few of us in the locker room, he said he was proud that he never resorted to the "off-the-record battle."
That began early this season with a series of leaks about his wobbly employment status and continued throughout the season.
And he said he'd like me to investigate that and write a column revealing the names of the leakers; but I told him we both already probably knew.
I'll say it here: I believe York and Baalke were the primary sources for the off-the-record disclosures that undercut Harbaugh's tenure.
Whether it was York and Baalke directly or indirectly, the 49ers front office set Harbaugh up on a tee this season, and Sunday was the anticlimax. Full story
The 49ers need to move on from the turbulent and, until this past season, wildly successful Harbaugh era, yet need as much continuity as possible to reclaim said success.
Moving on from the combative Harbaugh, who was far from the only heavy in the Silicon Valley soap opera, the 49ers in general -- and general manager Trent Baalke and CEO Jed York in particular -- need peace as they search for sustained success in their new $1.2 billion football palace in Levi’s Stadium. Sure, you could say it’s the house that Harbaugh built, but it’s one from which many stalwart 49ers players might quickly depart. ...
This much is sure, though: The Niners will have a hard time finding someone like Harbaugh, who led the team out of mediocrity and back to the playoffs while becoming the face of the franchise. Full story
(T)his long goodbye didn't have to happen except for front office prioritizing and coachly posturing that had gone on for more than a year without any serious attempts at reconciliation. It started with the contract that never happened and escalated from there to the point where it wasn't really about anything at all except Spy Vs. Spy.
It became what football organizations dread saying: a non-football decision. The team put out a press release calling it "a mutual decision," but none of these things ever are. Someone wins and someone else loses, and Harbaugh clearly lost, even though he got a whopping raise in defeat. His choice of Michigan is going back to the future for both parties, but York's decision to move on past him is one as well. Even if Harbaugh's replacement is not defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as expected, York, who was criticized with increasing fervor over the last year and change and reacted by making himself unavailable to local media as his father John did during his largely unhappy tenure in the big chair. ...
(T)his is a monumental tactical error in all eyes but his. Full story
The 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh, after four tumultuous but highly successful seasons, were divorcing. The press release sounded amicable enough (SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS AND JIM HARBAUGH MUTUALLY AGREE TO PART WAYS, was the headline), but don’t they always?
“This year was doomed from the start,” said the 49er smart guy. “It’s the classic example of, ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ This organization was totally tight the first year or so Jim was here, but lately, especially this year, it was always, ‘Sources say this, sources say that.’ You cannot run a successful organization with one side of the building leaking stuff to hurt the other side of the building. And it never stopped.” Full story
It cannot be stressed enough how unusual this move is for Harbaugh. It has basically never been done before in the modern history of the NFL. No highly successful coach has ever bolted the NFL for college. Ever. ...
How did this end? How did one of the most successful coaches in the NFL end up basically fired?
People close to Harbaugh portray him as increasingly becoming disgusted—that was the word used by several team sources—with the 49ers front office.
This takes some careful explaining, and some of it is nuanced, but based on interviews with several sources close to Harbaugh, his departure from the 49ers came down to three main things:
1) His love of Michigan. Self-explanatory.
2) The behavior of his players. Several 49ers players became national news for alleged crimes, some of them ugly. One source explained that Harbaugh came to believe the behavior problem among players in the NFL is "almost impossible to fix." I've also been told—but still have been unable to totally flesh it out—there was a great divide between Harbaugh and the front office on how to handle players in trouble with the law. Harbaugh believes that in college he'd have more control over those issues.
3)He wanted total control.