In the wake of the San Francisco 49ers’ 19-3 loss to NFC West rival Seattle on Thanksgiving night, owner Jed York tweeted an apology on behalf of the team and said, “This performance is not acceptable.”
If that didn’t make head coach Jim Harbaugh uncomfortable enough, there was a tweet from Cassie Baalke, daughter of general manager Trent Baalke, that expressed her displeasure with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Harbaugh’s right-hand assistant: “Greg Roman can take a hike. The 49ers don’t want you no more.”
She soon deleted that comment, replacing it with this: “Everyone’s entitled to an opinion. Sorry mine doesn’t favor or agree with yours.”
The assumption is that Cassie Baalke’s opinion is based on what her father says in private, in addition to many other reports that he does not like Harbaugh, and very vice versa.
One of Forty Niner Nation’s most wired-in members is Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, who’s among those publicly stating that Harbaugh will not be the head coach next season, even though he’s coached the team to three consecutive berths in the National Football Conference championship game.
But since the latter part of last season there have been reports of Harbaugh’s pending split with Baalke. On the record, nobody has said anything about Harbaugh resenting Baalke’s authority and wanting more control of personnel. But sources close to Harbaugh tell of him thinking Baalke leaked stories of players not liking the coach.
At his Monday news conference, Harbaugh insisted, “I don’t worry about my future.”
Indeed, why should he? His contract has another year to run, at $5 million per. And if the 49ers elect not to extend and a parting occurs, the University of Michigan, which this week fired its head coach, Brady Hoke, surely would offer Harbaugh a raise to coach his alma mater.
It’s more probable Harbaugh, who came within seconds and inches of a Super Bowl victory two seasons ago, will stay in the NFL. Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis seems willing to give him all the power and money he wants to jump across the bay.
If he’s as egotistical and glory-seeking as his critics say, he may put himself up for auction in New York, where both the Giants and Jets probably would welcome him with open arms and vaults.
One thing that is clear is that Harbaugh has become a distraction for his team, which is 7-5 and trailing in the playoff race. The fact that he did not wear his usual 49ers cap at Monday’s news conference was interpreted as a comment on upper management. Harbaugh added to the tension by accusing the media of attacking him “for your own pleasure.”
Actually, the criticism of Harbaugh has been rather mild, the most serious being that he’s too willing to overlook misbehavior by his players and that he complains too much about what refs or opposing coaches are doing and saying.
He’s annoying, but nobody is saying he’s not a very good coach. When it comes to organizing a staff and preparing a football team to compete, Harbaugh is a first-rate coach. His should be one of the last seats to be hot. But it may be that he has created most of the heat himself, and that this is how he wants it.