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Baalke, Harbaugh tension is real, despite wins

HarbaughBaalke Getty Images

In the same week the 49ers prepare to say farewell to their long-time home of Candlestick Park, plenty of time and attention has been devoted to the possibility of bidding adieu to the man who has been their coach for only three years.

While the franchise wouldn’t stop him from leaving for Texas or any other college job, the time has come for a contract extension, and an impasse regarding money or other terms could result in an eventual exit — perhaps as soon as next year.

The 49ers don’t believe Harbaugh plans to make a play for more power, but a league source tells PFT that the tension between Harbaugh and G.M. Trent Baalke is real.  Indeed, the source says that the article from Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News that shines a light on the situation actually understates the degree of friction between Harbaugh and Baalke.

The friction has occurred despite the fact that the team has been consistently successful since both men arrived in early 2011, with a pair of division titles, two NFC title games, and a Super Bowl appearance.  A third straight playoff berth is on the immediate horizon, and the team seems to be peaking at the right time.

Of course, winning early creates pressure to keep winning.  Which only adds to the tension, especially during uncharacteristic losing skids.  Publicly and privately, the team disputes that the relationship between the two men is unhealthy or even unusual.

In that sense, the 49ers are right. Jim Harbaugh isn’t the only NFL coach who is so driven to win that things can get a little tense when winning isn’t happening; indeed, he’s likely not the only NFL coach named Harbaugh with that sort of competitive temperament.

Still, it’s likely that tales of friction between Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh didn’t emerge this week by accident.  With contract talks between the 49ers and Harbaugh looming, it’s appropriate to wonder whether someone deliberately leaked that information.

The obvious culprit would be Harbaugh’s camp.  It’s also possible that the 49ers wanted to pull the curtain back in the hopes of possibly shaming Harbaugh into toning it down a bit once he inks a new long-term commitment with the team.

The 49ers believe a long-term commitment is inevitable.  Harbaugh has said he absolutely wants to stay.  Regardless of how it all works out, the hiccups that have emerged in recent days suggest that a frank, candid conversation or two will be needed in order to lay the right foundation for a future working relationship between Harbaugh and Baalke.

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43 Responses to “Baalke, Harbaugh tension is real, despite wins”
  1. bucrightoff says: Dec 21, 2013 1:02 PM

    Harbaugh has the emotional maturity of a 12 year old, so no shocker here.

  2. pacificnw7722 says: Dec 21, 2013 1:07 PM

    I think Harbaugh suffers from Schizophrenia…….

  3. thestrategyexpert says: Dec 21, 2013 1:12 PM

    I would just like to know everything that Baalke thought about Alex Smith as well as Harbaugh and who was really driving the decisions that relate to him and to Kaep. Something is very much not right, and at least one of these guys is the reason why.

  4. abninf says: Dec 21, 2013 1:19 PM

    The entire article is meaningless without the name of the “league source”.

  5. southpaw79 says: Dec 21, 2013 1:19 PM

    Everyone inside and outside of this team that is putting their name behind their words (besides the media that gets hits for stirring up trouble ) is saying that there is nothing wrong here. Then there are these magical un-named sources that will tell you anything your story needs to move forward.

  6. jayniner says: Dec 21, 2013 1:20 PM

    So, because there are no other stories to report on about the 49ers, other than the fact that they’re playing as a solid cohesive unit, kicking ass, and winning games, the sports media elects to create drama out of nothing in order to produce a story and keep your staff busy…..don’t they do that on TMZ?

    Harbaugh, Baalke and every other sports media outlet are reporting that there is no conflict…..you may want to think before you publish….

  7. badmoonrison says: Dec 21, 2013 1:29 PM

    You’ve got to be crazy if you think they’re getting rid of Harbaugh. And please stop using the “league source” tactic and the “unnamed sources” tactic. Its just plain sleazy reporting.

  8. nfloracle says: Dec 21, 2013 1:34 PM

    Looks like plenty of “forked tongue” speaking to me on all sides.

  9. seatownballers says: Dec 21, 2013 1:35 PM

    HArd nosed, old school, coach. Has turned that organization around. But acts like a psychopath on the sidelines.

  10. iammrbinky says: Dec 21, 2013 1:37 PM

    If Harbaugh were to leave the likely destination would be Michigan if it was to open. That would be the only college job that he would consider leaving the NFL for. That said, I doubt the 49ers would be foolish enough to let him walk away.

  11. jibberator says: Dec 21, 2013 1:37 PM

    Seems to me like all of this “tension” is merely fabricated by media outlets trying to create a story out of nothing. This isn’t the offseason, you can come up with better news than this.

  12. thesportgenius says: Dec 21, 2013 1:41 PM

    I’d be more concerned if there wasn’t any tension between two Alpha Dogs. You don’t want some boot licker yes man as your HC and team leader. Just ask Cowboy fans.

  13. niner13 says: Dec 21, 2013 1:44 PM

    Harbaugh’s middle name is “tension,” with a small “t.” I wouldn’t have it any other way. “Creative tension” keeps everyone on his toes.

  14. superyooper says: Dec 21, 2013 1:46 PM

    Obviously “unnamed source” is in a perfect marriage, never has disagreements with anyone and probably saw Harbaalke talking loudly while plunging toilets. Just like a local beat writer to stir some jive turkey gobble gobble when nothing is wrong…what, Jim hasn’t given you guys anything to write about lately? SMH

  15. jshawaii22 says: Dec 21, 2013 1:48 PM

    say what you want, 49er fans, but Tim Kawakami has had the inside scoop on the team for years, and he is one of the trusted bay area sources.

    I tent to lean to believing this started over the QB’s, too.

    It sure didn’t come from Pete Carroll or Richard Sherman…

    js

  16. meatcarroll says: Dec 21, 2013 1:48 PM

    Jim Harbaugh = Petulant, whiny douchecanoe who was arrested for DUI (seriously, go look it up.)

  17. redandgoldhitman52 says: Dec 21, 2013 1:49 PM

    ” baalke, harbaugh tension is real”

    every gm and coach in the nfl have “tension” regarding big decisions.
    stop it with the bs stories. baalke, harbaugh are going nowhere, and will continue having success with the 49ers. deal with it.

  18. arwiv says: Dec 21, 2013 1:55 PM

    In this league, your window of opportunity closes very quickly (unless youre the patriots). I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this niners team never gets to the top of the mountain….I seriously think that their time to get there was 2011 and 2012…..and they missed it.

    The seahawks are great, the cardinals are pretty good, and thanks to the RG3 trade, the rams are going to be a monster in 2 years. Yup…..I think the niners ship has sailed.

  19. braceyourselffor12 says: Dec 21, 2013 2:03 PM

    So rather than report on something legitimate such as Manninghams disappearance in contribution since Crabtree returned, you instead push this unsubstantiated drivel?

    Oh and Meatcarroll, Old Pete the Cheat fled USC and left his players out to dry in order to avoid punishment from the NCAA (look it up troll).

  20. ripster65 says: Dec 21, 2013 2:04 PM

    abninf says:
    Dec 21, 2013 1:19 PM

    The entire article is meaningless without the name of the “league source”.
    ————————–
    Sometimes a “source” ceases to be a source once his identity is revealed. Those who once confided in him no longer will. I know, I know…it bugs the hell out of me too but if I tell you something confidential and you blab about it AND give them my name, you’re cut off.

  21. decon49 says: Dec 21, 2013 2:14 PM

    meatcarroll says:Dec 21, 2013 1:48 PM

    Jim Harbaugh = Petulant, whiny douchecanoe who was arrested for DUI (seriously, go look it up.)

    Cause ole’ cheat carroll didnt didnt bail on usc once the ncaa was dropping he hammer on them? and i thought dallas fans were annoying

  22. vicnocal says: Dec 21, 2013 2:27 PM

    THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.

  23. 64post says: Dec 21, 2013 2:29 PM

    The Haters on here wish Harbaugh would leave SF. Not happening. If he does? Jed York will go after David Shaw because Stanford has been a stepping stone for coaches going into the NFL, see Bill Walsh, Jim Harbaugh

  24. disp2 says: Dec 21, 2013 2:33 PM

    A “league source” told me if there isn’t tension between a GM and head coach then one of them is obviously rolling over to the other and isn’t doing their job.

  25. 4evrnyt says: Dec 21, 2013 2:46 PM

    Kawakami covers the Raiders and is not a 49ers beat reporter, enough said.

  26. fdugrad says: Dec 21, 2013 2:56 PM

    Wait…Tension with Gentleman Jim? Seems a rather far-fetched concept. Coach H. seems like such a calm, measured, reasonable soul, don’t you think?!

  27. gocaps8 says: Dec 21, 2013 3:05 PM

    The Skins sure could use Baalke. Whaddya say Danny? Two firsts and a second?

  28. msclemons67 says: Dec 21, 2013 3:20 PM

    Once again Kawakami bleats rumors from his rectal orifice. Nothing new here. It’s a pity Herrera didn’t land a more destructive blow on Tim years ago.

    Is Kawakami Japanese for “jive turkey”?

  29. realfootballfan says: Dec 21, 2013 3:35 PM

    Why would they be great friends, they didn’t know each other that well before Harbaugh took the job. Furthermore, Baalke isn’t that great at his job, so if it’s an either/or situation, 49ers brass ought to be smart enough to realize that Scott McCloughan built the better part of the core of that team, not Baalke who has misses like AJ Jenkins under his belt.

  30. goldrush36 says: Dec 21, 2013 3:54 PM

    When are you guys gonna learn that Kawakami is a joke and a complete hack? The only writer worse is Cohn. Ya notice Barrows and Maiocco who are widely considered the go to guys aren’t writing this rubbish? It’s for a reason, and it’s the same reason that the Matt’s getter much better intel. NOBODY likes Lowell, Grant, or Tim.

  31. ravenswhat says: Dec 21, 2013 3:56 PM

    This guy is awesome.

  32. linemanguy74 says: Dec 21, 2013 4:06 PM

    Don’t let the door hit you in the a– on the way out

  33. sonoco says: Dec 21, 2013 4:19 PM

    Yeah meat . . . Harbaugh got popped for a DUI . . . 8 years and two jobs ago in San Diego. Everybody knows this.

  34. dirtysouthniner says: Dec 21, 2013 4:33 PM

    I think fans of other teams look at harbaugh on the sidelines an assume he acts that way all day lol.

  35. hess97 says: Dec 21, 2013 4:34 PM

    Fantastic, unbiased reporting as usual ……hahaaaa. yea right.

  36. jr4real says: Dec 21, 2013 5:35 PM

    I am by no means a Harbaugh fan or 9er fan but they would have to be insane to let him go. This franchise stunk for years before he arrived. Get rid of Baalke if there is tension. GMs can be replaced easier than a good coach. I agree Jon is a pia but if you have him as your coach you’re going to love him.

  37. Dogsweat says: Dec 21, 2013 5:38 PM

    49er losses: Seattle, Indy, Carolina, New Orleans

    All playoff bound teams.

    49er wins: Titans, Jags, Texans, Redskins, Packers, Rams, Seahawks, Cardinals, Bucs.

    1 playoff bound team.

    Yea there kicking some rectum against High draft picking teams.

    And then to the Genius who is going to post a banner mocking the Seahawks in Seattle if these two meet in the Northwest.

    Last time the 49ers played Seattle in Quest, I think they scored 3 points. With adding this banner as a insult and really pissing off the fans and players, they will probably never get in the end zone. That is if they make it that far.

    Kaep’s gimmicks are coming to a end, and the Chiefs with Alex Smith will probably go farther than the 49ers.

    Enjoy beating your chest about the below average teams you have conquered.

  38. Dogsweat says: Dec 21, 2013 5:39 PM

    ****beating***

  39. hess97 says: Dec 21, 2013 6:14 PM

    haterade.

  40. ravensfranzy says: Dec 21, 2013 6:14 PM

    Jim would be a good fit in Detroit

  41. doublebro says: Dec 21, 2013 6:46 PM

    As much as Harbaugh cries about calls on the field, it’s not surprising he would whine about his GM.

  42. beastmode5150 says: Dec 21, 2013 11:19 PM

    Go hawks.

  43. winninaintsinnin says: Dec 22, 2013 5:10 PM

    Harbaugh gone – so is SF.

    funny

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