Many league and media insiders believe that, if the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh don’t work out a long-term extension this offseason, Harbaugh could be gone after the 2014 campaign ends.
Harbaugh isn’t among those who believe that.
“Zero opportunity or chance of that in my mind,” Harbaugh told Michael Rosenberg of SI.com regarding the possibility that he’ll leave during the final two years of his five-year contract.
“I see all these reports about how I want to be the highest-paid coach in football,” Harbaugh said. “They presume I covet some kind of extension. I have never said to anybody that I want to be the highest-paid coach in football. I have never said that to anybody — my wife, my brother, my dad. I make plenty of money.
“The other one is that I want more power. I have never said that, nor do I want any more power than I have. I coach the team. I’ve told my owner I don’t want any more power. I want to coach the team. And I’ve never told anybody else otherwise.”
Of course, what Harbaugh has said and how he has behaved are two different things. If the widespread reports of tension between Harbaugh and G.M. Trent Baalke regarding personnel issues are accurate, Harbaugh’s role in that tension necessarily conveys that he’d prefer to have his way more often. More power would allow that to happen.
As to Harbaugh’s salary, it’s a given that he wants a raise. A significant one. No one has reported he wants to be the highest-paid coach; Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area recently reported that Harbaugh wants to be paid like a Super Bowl-winning coach. Some believe Harbaugh wants to increase his pay from $5 million per year to $6.5 million per year, which definitely would not make him the highest-paid coach in the NFL.
Actually, it wouldn’t even make him the highest-paid coach in his immediate family.
In assessing Harbaugh’s words, let’s also keep in mind the fact that football coaches don’t always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Success in football often flows from successfully deceiving the opponent, and many coaches extend on-field ruses like the zone blitz and the play-action pass to other strategic issues that directly or indirectly relate, no matter how tenuously, to overall football interests.
For example, Harbaugh insisted two years ago that the 49ers weren’t pursuing Peyton Manning but merely “evaluating” him, in an obvious effort to bolster the confidence of former starting quarterback Alex Smith. Then, after reports emerged of the near trade to Cleveland, Harbaugh drew a line in the far side of the sandbox, claiming he “know[s] nothing” about the possiblity, a day before Browns owner Jimmy Haslam admitted there was an “opportunity” to acquire Harbaugh and 49ers CEO Jed York conceded that the Browns had made an inquiry.
While the truth regarding the extent of the talks isn’t known and could the subject of differing perceptions by the teams involved, the idea that Harbaugh knew absolutely nothing about the situation doesn’t seem credible. Which makes it hard to put complete and total faith in anything else he says on the subject of whether he’ll remain the coach of the team for any specific period of time.
It’s not in Harbaugh’s or the team’s football interests for him to say now anything that would suggest he won’t be there for the next two years. So he’ll say there’s no chance that he’ll be leaving, for the same reasons former Dolphins coach Nick Saban once declared that he’s not going to be the Alabama coach.