Posted February 24, 2014

Multiple reports indicate tension between Jim Harbaugh and 49ers front office

NFC West, San Francisco 49ers
Jim Harbaugh (left) and Trent Baalke have had an interesting professional relationship.

Jim Harbaugh (left) and Trent Baalke have had an interesting professional relationship. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

The news last week that the Cleveland Browns tried to acquire San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh via trade certainly set off a lot of fire alarms at the scouting combine and throughout the NFL. But if you’ve kept up on the recent history between Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that another team saw a possible opportunity to swoop in and take a coach who’s led his team to the last three NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl.

It’s no surprise to anyone who’s interacted with him that Harbaugh’s personality can be grating at times. He’s a great coach, and a proven winner wherever he’s been, but he does tend to do things his own way (which is both good and bad), and reports of tension between Harbaugh and Baalke have been out there for the last few months. In December, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News detailed a relationship that occasionally leaked into the public eye, when Harbaugh would tout specific players to the media as future 49ers, and then, for whatever reason, the team (i.e., Baalke) would not pull the trigger.

As Kawakami noted, no one thing really popped up and alerted anyone to a serious rift, but when you get two alpha dogs in a room as Harbaugh and Baalke are, there will be sparks, and they won’t always be good. Harbaugh has always had to cede control of personnel to Baalke, and after two sub-par drafts in a row (San Francisco’s 2012 draft hasn’t produced a single functional starter, and 2013 brought only safety Eric Reid), one wonders if Harbaugh is a bit agitated at the lack of new talent coming in the room. In today’s NFL, recovering from two such drafts is very hard to do, especially with the core of your talent base getting up there in age.

On Monday, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that the divide between the two men has grown so great, San Francisco’s higher-ups (meaning CEO Jed York) may have to choose between the two.

The men are barely speaking, I’m told, and almost all communication is through email. Harbaugh also has a strained relationship with team president Paraag Marathe, sources said, and he has clashed with many within the organization. It could prove untenable. If anything, the impression I got this week was that the situation there is actually much worse than how it has been portrayed in the media, and helps explain the delay in giving a new deal to the coach, who has two years left on a contract he has outperformed.

NFL.com and former Sports Illustrated writer Mike Silver, who’s been connected in the Bay Area for eons, added Sunday that while those in charge view Harbaugh’s achievements as remarkable, they’re not necessarily going to bend in the face of any pressure when it comes to locking him up with a new long-term contract.

“We didn’t do that when we hired him in the first place, either,” one top Niners official reminded me on Saturday, referring to the team’s refusal to raise its offer to Harbaugh in the face of a late push (and reportedly sweeter deal) from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. “Why would we run scared?”

Simply put, the Niners’ brass believes that Baalke has assembled a talented team and is likely to continue making smart roster decisions — and that Harbaugh is hardly the only person who could coach this team to a championship.

York has said that there was no truth to the rumors that the Browns were close to a trade for Harbaugh — the idea was floated from the Cleveland side, possibly when the team called to express interest in offensive coordinator Greg Roman. We do know that the Browns didn’t even submit Harbaugh’s name to the league in the latter stages of a head coaching search that ended with the hire of former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

But that’s the Browns, a team with all kinds of front office turmoil, and no obvious clear direction. If the word about tension between Harbaugh and Baalke is true, one wonders if a more together team might swoop in and make that deal a reality further down the road.

92 comments
Vermonator
Vermonator

Silva and Kawakami are sensationalists at best, their writing is so poor that they need to be. If you live in the bay area and regularly read their blogs, they are always looking for controversy, because their skills alone as journalists are lacking. Silva isn't even a constant in the bay area, only an occasional guest on NFL network. Only just recently, after  the 49ers success, has Silva even showed an interest in covering the 49ers. And don't get me started with the "sky is falling" Kawakami reports, he's been doing this for years. According to him the team is leaving for LA and will never build a new stadium, bla, bla, bla. In fact, Kawakami has been wrong on almost everything he's written about, I mean everything. I'm amazed they still have jobs, to be honest. I'm sure there is a little tension, and there should be... There was also friction between Eddie and Walsh, and we all know how that turned out. This all about not winning the big one, once Harbaugh does, it's falling in love all over again. 

adthomas1982
adthomas1982

This could the Tony Dungy effect, let him go and get a Chuckie to win the title.  It happens all the time, he could be just good enough to get them there but another voice might get them over the hump.  What arrogance by upper management. At least Coach and GM are not commenting.

AazobaYuzuki
AazobaYuzuki

Fire the GM now, he's useless with the draft ...

PeterRamos
PeterRamos

WHY IS THIS SAME LAME ARTICLE RECIRCULATING EVERY OTHER DAY. ONLY THING THAT CHANGES @ 49erswebzone IS THE HEADLINE. JOKE.

Gs1
Gs1

Of course Harbaugh needs to be paid like a Super Bowl coach. He took a perennial losing team and from season one he was beating Super Bowl Coaches. Harbaugh has won every where he's gone. In three short years he has a winning record versus the following Super Bowl winning coaches: Bill Bellichik, Pete Caroll, Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton, and Mike McCarthy.

He didn't have the luxury of having 4 seasons like Caroll to bring in "his guys". He took what he had and willed them to win from the get go. I don't blame him for wanting more of a say so he can ALSO bring in "his guys" to get over the top and win a Super Bowl. The 49ers have been one top receiver/return guy from winning the Super Bowl 3 years in a row. That's on Baalke, the head personnel guy, not on Harbaugh. If someone needs to go it's Baalke.

airmjbsanders
airmjbsanders

I've been a Niner fan since the early 90s.  JiHarbaugh is the 2nd best coach in the league behind Bellicheck IMO.  If anyone doubts that coachin makes a difference in the NFL, look at the Niners under Singletary & Nolan.  Those teams had a lot of the same players (ASmith, JSmith, Gore, Willis, etc.), but maxed out at 7-8 Ws.  If one has to go, it better be Baalke.  I think it's much harder to find a great motivator & teacher than it is to find a great talent evaluator -- which JiHarbuagh is pretty good at too, btw.

ScottBennett
ScottBennett

Wel then maybe Trent should be looking elsewhere. We finally have a good coach, keep him. 

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

Cleveland is looking pretty good right now.......


As per usual, this is the sort of news that sells and gets the fans energized. That being said, as a Packer fan, It's good to see the 49's suffer like they do in Dallas. As a stock holder in Green Bay, at least I have a small voice in what goes on. 

bcrd500
bcrd500

Baalke has been GM of the 49ers since 2008 and pre-Harbaugh, 2008-10) compiled a 21-27 record. If all of his years with the 49ers are included (2005-10) the record gets much worst 37-59.


Harbaugh showed up in 2011 and has won 36 games in three years, which is one short of the 49er win total for 2006-10. Coaches are like quarterbacks and when a team gets one that can win, everybody else is less important than anyone in the organization. Considering the lackluster drafts of the past two years, the 49ers cannot go wrong by replacing Baalke and giving control of player personnel to Harbaugh. 


In three years, Harbaugh has taken the 49ers to three NFL conference games and one Super Bowl while the previous six years produced one break-even season and five losing seasons. If the 49ers fire or run Harbaugh off, there is little doubt it will be years before the team returns to the playoffs.

pirate
pirate

Yes, please. As a Seahawk fan I can't wait for S.F. to get rid of Harbaugh. Anyone who thinks a coach doesn't make a difference just needs to look back to Singletary.

PackersFanNumeroUno
PackersFanNumeroUno

Yes fire Harbaugh he's a bum. (& then I hope we fire McCarthy and hire Jimbo). 

beau.elliott
beau.elliott

I find it funny about relationships.  Everyone always wants to claim that success came from one source.  Or even failure for that matter.  The simple solution is that it was a combination of the abilities of the GM and the head coach along with a group of individuals (i.e. players) believing in the vision laid out by the two men.  That's why some teams have tons of talent and are not successful, and also why some teams with little talent overachieve.  


Sometimes things just click.  Then egos come in which is what you're seeing here.  It happens everywhere, and not just sports.  People want to claim success as theirs and theirs alone.  When in fact everyone contributes.

Marty2
Marty2

" . . . but he does tend to do things his own way."  As opposed to what?  This doesn't tell us anything about Harbaugh - the same could be said about every coach.  That's sort of one of the traits of almost any leader.  If they mean to say he is abbrasive and arrogant - say so.

utahfriday
utahfriday

It's not just Baalke that believes JH is dispensable. The whole front office is convinced that "they" have been the reason, not JH, for the teams recent success. This whole mess is going to come crashing down, JH will leave and the Niners will be stuck at .500 for several years, talent or not. Talent alone will not get it done, just look at the "dream team" Eagles.

grizzlypete
grizzlypete

Fire Baalke before he has ten straight bad drafts and the Niners are 0-16.

winningtouch
winningtouch

Harbaugh is one thing: passionate about winning. That competitive edge translates into being stubborn, feisty, and aloof. But there's one clear byproduct -- the dude knows how to win. On every level he's taken mediocre programs and turned them into winners... Univ. of San Diego, Stanford, and now the Niners. No NFC coach has taken his team to three consecutive Conference Championships since 1970. Take back a lost fumble, and two poor throws, and it's conceivable the Niners would have won three Super Bowls in a row.


That said, his passion is tough for "ordinary" people to handle on the daily. Yes, perhaps it is grating. Maybe even Harbaugh knows his desire to win can be overboard which is why he's never been with a team longer than four years.


As a Dallas fan lamented on this board earlier, I'd much rather be stuck watching winning football than listen to a GM or owner wax horse shine for years on end....

Dick.Gozinya
Dick.Gozinya

Harbaugh is a genuine JERKOFF.....He was even like this when he was at D-II University of San Diego; if you knew how he treated some of those kids you'd hate him too.....

rob777
rob777

As a long suffering Cowboys fan... I hate the 49ers.Period.

That said - the reason I envy the 49ers is their coach - the kind who gets things done, and a proven winner to boot. I can remember the last time we had a proven winner in Dallas as coach that had a conflict with the owner... he (the owner) announced that any of "500 coaches could win with that team"... and then fired a hall of fame coach named Jimmy Johnson. Yes, 90s Cowboys, Jerry Jones (reincarnated Al Davis) and Barry Switzer. We threw away at least 1 more Super Bowl trophy with those fools and are stuck with the owner and his clone son forever. Look to Dallas for a good lesson - a great coach is the rarest and most valuable commodity - fire the jackazz "Alpha Male" GM - with a great coach and good system, you will easily find a better GM. Otherwise, you can join us in Dallas - salivating over the smooth talking, decades running mediocrity specialized circus known as the Cowboys. As much as I hate the 49ers.... I wouldn't wish such a disease on anyone..

blairg
blairg

Are the egos of York and Baalke so great that they think they are responsible for the niners success?  This part of the story speaks volumes:

"Simply put, the Niners’ brass believes that Baalke has assembled a talented team and is likely to continue making smart roster decisions — and that Harbaugh is hardly the only person who could coach this team to a championship".

  How ridiculous....especially when you take into consideration several points:

The team stunk before JH got there....with Baalke and York in charge.

Baalke is in charge of the drafts, and the 2012 draft was a catastrophe.

JH has been to 3 NFC Championships in a row, and with a couple of good throws could have been the Super Bowl champ - twice.

JH insisted they draft Kaepernik, and has helped make him what he is today - one of the top QB's in the league.

Who would coach?  Tomsula, Nolan, Singletary?  they would become just another .500 team.

Without Harbaugh's winning record, Jeddy's billion dollar stadium would not have been built.  

 My suggestion: Sign Harbaugh to a new 5 year deal for $40Million....or whatever he wants.  If in fact these 2 have issues, then fire Baalke and bring in someone who does what JH tells him to do.  Tell York to take Mom and Dad's money and keep his mouth shut.  If he lets Harbaugh go, this team may fall apart, and the fans may turn against him.  Maybe the rich (the only ones who can afford to go to the games) may ignore the games when they go back to being a below .500 team, which is what they were before JH was hired.  I suggest he give Eddie D a call and find out how to be an owner.  Maybe Jed's ego is just too big.

   This whole thing is sad.


Mike Ridenhour
Mike Ridenhour

This is all a Richard Sherman plot!   ;)


When the truth comes out we will find that Sherman and the Seahawks are somehow involved in trying to create to discord in Niner land.  

Frotoon
Frotoon

Attack the messengers, eh?

Mech
Mech

@airmjbsanders Who just got outcoached and outplayed as well as out-interviewed and outclassed at the NFC championship game by Pete Carroll ! Whiner dolts.

Zeshan
Zeshan

@bcrd500  Agreed. As a 'Hawks fan, I hate me some Harbaugh. But fair's fair. He's an amazing coach that immediately brings a ton to the table. Can't say that about Baalke.

WilliamCross
WilliamCross

Really? He's still tied with Singletary in the championship department. But hey, you're a seahawk fan, you just need to concern yourself with whether or not 1 trophy requires a trophy case.

big55ed
big55ed

@Marty2 His brother does the same thing, and ends up costing us games.

FranklinMint
FranklinMint

@winningtouch  "No NFC coach has taken his team to three consecutive Conference Championships since 1970. "


Andy Reid and the 2001-2004 Eagles would like to have a word with you on that.

Mech
Mech

@winningtouch Woody Hayes had the same affliction,,,later in life he changed.

fabio.fantone
fabio.fantone

@rob777 I'm with you in the long suffering dept, and you hit every nail on the head.

MikeKing
MikeKing

@blairg  Well we at Packer land went through something similar like this with Mike Holmgren.  The Packers would not let him have full control and he left for Seattle.  Twenty years later Holmgren is still not a very good personnel guy but a good coach. Careful for what you wish for as good as coach as JH might be, he has some pretty spectacular players on his team and they came from some where.  Good coaches don't mean good GMs.  

Gs1
Gs1

@Mech @airmjbsandersOutcoached? Harbaugh has a winning record against Caroll and beat the Hawks in their own house in th NFC Championship. Refs completely blowing blatant calls not withstanding. LOL. Outcoached? Put down the bong for a sec and get a clue.

airmjbsanders
airmjbsanders

@Mech @airmjbsandersAh a Seacocks fan -- aka someone who doesn't know football!!!  I thought Pete was a good coach back when he was with the Jets & Pats.  But I just can't ignore how many of his players up there have been caught usin PEDs!  It looks like Pete brought that SC 'secret sauce' up the coast w/ him to SEA...

Mech
Mech

@WilliamCross Since the seahawks joined the NFC west they have won the title 6 times ,,,, how many times have the Niners won it in that space ,,,,,,,,,, 2 !!!

pirate
pirate

@WilliamCross How many NFC titles did Singletary win? How many times did he make the NFC title game? How many times did his team win the division? Did he ever even top .500?


Hey, I know this is the Hawks' first NFL championship in team history. I've watched every Super Bowl since the day it started and this is the first time a team I considered MY team has won it. So excuse me, but I'm enjoying the hell out of it. 

Phroggo
Phroggo

The greatest success you ever had in Packerland came when Vince Lombardi was coach AND general manager. York should can the guy who blew the last couple drafts.

Mech
Mech

@Gs1 @Mech@airmjbsandersI guess you are living in lala land where you won that game and Kaepernick didn't throw that interception. Its sad when fans get so into their own team that reality escapes them. YOU LOST BUNKY !!!!!!

Mech
Mech

@airmjbsanders @Mech Oh maybe you forgot about Larry Grant from last year suspended for PEDS or Clark Haggans maybe you are forgetting the center of the universe when it comes to PEDS use Barry Bonds,,, where is he from.  Maybe the air down there is so feminine you need peds just get back to normal.