The San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh will be parting ways 48 hours after their game against the playoff bound Arizona Cardinals comes to an end. Harabaugh’s departure will bring to an end one of the best four year periods in franchise history, despite a lack of Super Bowl championship, and one of the best coaching rivalries in sports.
San Francisco’s 2014 season has been an unmitigated disaster. The 49ers have suffered an insane amount of injuries, and suspensions, that would cripple most team’s on-field production…especially an aging roster that hasn’t completely recovered from the butchered 2012 draft. Despite all of the injuries, on-field, and off-field issues that the team has experienced this season, it appears that they haven’t stopped playing to win; that they haven’t stopped playing for each other; and that they haven’t stopped playing for their coach.
Harbaugh has been one of the more divisive coaches in the modern NFL. Not because of his on-field performance, but because of his antics and actions on the sideline. His antics often involve bellowing at officials, clearly demonstrating to officials how they got the call wrong, and confronting his players as they came back to the bench. This has led to him being called unprofessional, an idiot, a d-bag, and many other not-so-creative terms by opposing fan bases. But it doesn’t change the fact that all he has done in San Francisco is win.
While the Harbaugh era in San Francisco is ending with a whimper, it initially started with bang. He took over a team that finished the 2010 season with a 6-10 record, and led them to a 13-3 record — along with the No. 1 seed in the NFC — in his first season. The 49ers defense jumped from being ranked as the 15th best in 2010, to the to third in 2011 according to DVOA. And the offense jumped from 24th to 11th, even with Alex Smith leading the offense.
The improvements on both sides of the ball continued from 2011 to 2012, and from 2012 to 2013. As Harbaugh took the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship games, and one Super Bowl appearance, during his first three years in charge in San Francisco. But the Niners’ aging roster, plus bad luck in ’14, has led to the team’s worst season under Harbaugh, and now the franchise finally has a reason to part ways with him.
While the origin of the rift between Harbaugh, owner Jed York, and general manager Trent Baalke isn’t really known, there is speculation that it began following an inability to negotiate a contract extension following the 2013-14 NFL season.
According to York, he approached Harbaugh about a contract extension but the head coach said that it was too early to talk about an extension with two years left on his current deal.
“When we talked about a deal, Jim very clearly said, ‘I don’t want to do a deal too early because as a leader of the team, I don’t want to set that precedent.’” – CSN Bay Area
The rift widen as the 49ers struggled out of the gate at the start of the season. Eventually it got to the point where it became obvious that Harbaugh was not going to be the head man in 2015.
It’s an incredibly short sited decision to get rid of the head coach that ended eight years of awful football, because of a personal disagreement between the two men. The 49ers have an aging roster, and there needs to be a personal overhaul if the franchise is going to remain relevant. But getting rid of the head coach that led the team’s turnaround is a poor decision that is going to cost the Niners in the long run.