Big Mistake: Why the 49ers will end up paying for letting Jim Harbaugh go

01/16/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

44 wins. 19 losses. 1 tie. That was the San Francisco 49ers record in the four seasons Jim Harbaugh coached them. 3 appearances in the NFC Championship and one trip to the Super Bowl happened in those 4 seasons as well. 46 wins. 82 losses. That's the 49ers record over the 8 seasons before Harbaugh arrived. No playoff appearances from 2003 through 2010. Yet two years after leading the team to it's first Super Bowl appearance since 1995, Jim Harbaugh is out as coach of the 49ers.
It's a pretty well known fact that in professional sports, the position of head coach for most franchises is a revolving door. Some places seem to change every year (I'm looking at you Cleveland) because of perennial losing on the field. But Jim Harbaugh moving on from the 49ers has nothing to do with on field results.
It seems the biggest problem in San Francisco was that Harbaugh didn't see eye to eye with and couldn't get along with GM Trent Baalke and CEO Jed York. Most reports have stated that Baalke and York had total control over player personnel decisions and that Harbaugh had very little authority in that area and that he wanted more. It's been reported that Harbaugh felt like he couldn't control what his players were doing off the field, and there was a great divide between Harbaugh and the front office on how to handle players who had gotten in trouble with the law. But the relationship between Harbaugh, Baalke, and York really soured when the news came out last February that the team actually considered trading Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns. Wait, what's that? A team trading the coach? I didn't think such a thing could even happen anymore.

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So who is Trent Baalke first of all? Prior to being GM of the 49ers, he was a scout for the New York Jets and Washington Redskins from 1998 through 2004. Two teams that haven't exactly set the world on fire in the last decade as far as football success goes. He was hired as a scout by San Francisco in 2005 and worked his way to VP of Player Personnel before being hired as GM, ironically, so he could lure Harbaugh away from Stanford. And what about Jed York? Well he's 34 years old. His uncle, Edward DeBartolo used to own the 49ers. And his parents, who currently own the team, appointed him to the position of CEO. Prior to that appointment he had experience doing absolutely nothing that would justify him being an executive of a professional sports team. It's also been mentioned by some media outlets that cover the 49ers that York and Baalke "leaked" a lot of what was going on regarding the deteriorating relationship between them and Harbaugh to the media, to further undermine the coach. York also took to Twitter after the 49ers loss on Thanksgiving to Seattle to "apologize" to their fan base for the teams performance.
There are and have been some NFL owners who can't keep out of the teams business, and in turn, harmed their team by doing so. The late Al Davis tops the list. Jerry Jones would make that list. So would Daniel Snyder. But I doubt any of them would stoop to that level to make their coach look bad and start rumors that he's losing the team BEFORE the season starts when that team is considered a potential Super Bowl team. Who does that? Not to mention that even after it was obvious that Harbaugh and team would be parting ways, and even with the 49ers eliminated from playoff contention, the team that supposedly "quit" on their head coach, played hard the final two weeks of the season when they could have (and if they quit on their coach would have) mailed it in.
Here's what it comes down to now. Jim Harbaugh has moved on to coach his alma mater at the University of Michigan. The odds are pretty good that he'll be successful there because whether you like him or not, Jim Harbaugh has won wherever he has coached at. The 49ers have promoted Jim Tomsula to take Harbaugh's spot. And don't get me wrong, I wish nothing but the best to happen for Tomsula, we're from the same hometown. Plus he's paid his dues and earned the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. But it seems to me he's walking into a disaster. How much pressure will be on Tomsula to be successful right away? Despite his experience, he has never been an NFL head coach. But the expectations will be way more than what any rookie coach should have to face. What if the 49ers start slow next season? What if they miss the playoffs? What if they finish worse than they did this season with Harbaugh? What happens when the fan base realizes that management made a mess of what was again becoming a great franchise?
Because what York and Baalke need to realize is that the 49ers really aren't that good. Their core players are fading (Frank Gore and Vernon Davis). Their once vaunted defense is getting older and doesn't look as intimidating as it once did. Their future cornerstones (Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree) just might not be as good as some thought they were. So what happens if the 49ers fall apart next season?
Maybe Mike Singletary can come back and teach Tomsula how to drop his pants at half time when his team is laying an egg on the field? Good luck 49ers, you're going to need it.

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