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Harbaugh, Baalke deny existence of a power struggle

Baalke Getty Images

The best way for the 49ers to turn the page on an offseason of turmoil would be to sign coach Jim Harbaugh to a long-term contract that still gives G.M. Trent Baalke final say over personnel.

The far cheaper and easier approach would be to make it clear to both Harbaugh and Baalke that it’s in their mutual best interests to publicly declare that everything is fine.  And that nothing was ever wrong.

It looks like the latter has happened.

To get the message out, the 49ers have again turned to the umbrella of Sports Illustrated.  Previously, Harbaugh went on the record to dispel the notion that he’s money and/or power hungry with Michael Rosenberg of SI.com.  This time, both Harbaugh and Baalke welcomed Peter King’s microsite into the building for separate discussions with Baalke, Harbaugh, team president Paraag Marathe, and CEO Jed York.

Greg Bedard of The MMQB.com, who acknowledges that “sources” previously had told him “that Harbaugh has a tendency to grate on people and that the 49ers wouldn’t be too disappointed if Harbaugh ended up taking another opportunity somewhere else down the line,” explains that he acquired the sense that the organization has a strong desire to “push through” and win the Super Bowl, and that he “never sensed any strain between Harbaugh and Baalke.”

(In all fairness, it’s a little harder to sense strain when not meeting with them at the same time.)

We’ll defer to Bedard’s article for the somewhat predictable quotes from both Harbaugh and Baalke about their relationship and interactions. While reading the quotes, keep in mind that these are the same guys who once insisted that they weren’t pursuing Peyton Manning two years ago, but merely evaluating him.

A tendency to say the right things at the right times doesn’t make the failure to tell the unvarnished truth in these settings wrong.  Success in football is premised in many ways on deception of the opposition.  The military mindset that permeates the process easily spills over to any and all comments about strategy, planning, and even internal relationships.

It’s not a lie, some would suggest, if it serves the greater effort of pursuing championships.

Every NFL team will from time to time say things other than the truth in order to serve the greater effort of pursuing championships.  In this specific case, the turmoil surrounding Harbaugh and Baalke became so intense that it ultimately was critical for the team and for the individuals involved to bury the hatchet so deep that, publicly, the appearance will be that there was never even a hatchet at all.

As one source with knowledge of the dynamics in the front office explained it to PFT, “They were told to play well in the sandbox together and that they realize that for their own futures that they have to.  Trent is much more relenting than Harbaugh.  If it works then it is because Trent compromised more, because Harbaugh won’t.”

Whether Harbaugh is with the 49ers or another team and/or whether Baalke is with the 49ers or another team, neither man benefits from a lingering perception that he can’t get along with colleagues.  That perception became so strong in recent months it doesn’t matter what the reality is.

So all they can do now — albeit a little too late — is try to change the perception.

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24 Responses to “Harbaugh, Baalke deny existence of a power struggle”
  1. seahawkfanfrom1970s says: Apr 25, 2014 7:25 PM

    Smoke; therefore, fire!

  2. maiphatdong says: Apr 25, 2014 7:28 PM

    he should just make some bibi babkas and forget anything ever happened

  3. thestrategyexpert says: Apr 25, 2014 7:35 PM

    If push comes to shove then I think the 49ers should keep Baalke over Harbaugh. Even if you didn’t want him as the GM and gave him a demotion to fill a subordinate role I just think he has more potential use for his services than Harbaugh does. This team needs to get a high level coach that can get the most out of the players on and off the field and he’s not a very strong positive influence in those areas and he’s dreadful as a sideline game manager. And if Baalke is stripped of his power then he can be an asset instead of a liability.

  4. russellwilsonatemyhomework says: Apr 25, 2014 7:37 PM

    Niners will go 10-6 this year. Harbaugh will be back in college ball or coaching the Cowboys next year.

  5. nevernudetobias says: Apr 25, 2014 7:44 PM

    The 49ers have an incredibly talented roster. Top 3 in the NFC. But they aren’t going to the Super Bowl and here’s why: Distractions. I’m not being a hater but the reality is when a coach and front office quarrel, a QB is being investigated for misconduct (we can pretty much all agree that nothing will come of it but it’s still out there) a linebacker is getting detained at LAX for being a knucklehead and the backup RB is publicly looking for a trade, what it amounts to is a lack of focus in the locker room. Even the most talented teams, which the 9ers certainly are, need cohesion. Winning solves everything, but when there is a crack in the foundation, it’s difficult to succeed when it counts.

  6. 4thqtrsaint says: Apr 25, 2014 7:45 PM

    I imagine anyone that knows Harbaugh hates him. But its not like they’re going to admit anything.

  7. ronfai says: Apr 25, 2014 7:48 PM

    I don’t understand the pressure to sign Harbaugh to an extension so quickly. Carrol and Fox just got extensions because they were in the last year – did Seattle not signing Carrol before approaching his final season mean they don’t respect him?
    I think this was all fueled by Kawakami who’s a bay area local beat writer who hates bay area sports more than a Seattle fan – he’s always stirring things up and he’s largely responsible for the perception of an offseason thats spiraling out of control. If you take a step back and look – everything is fine. Breathe people.

  8. wwenfl1974 says: Apr 25, 2014 7:57 PM

    I am a life long 49er fan I do hope that the 2 men can some how get along and do what is the right thing for the team I know they both Love right now.

  9. nomoreseasontix says: Apr 25, 2014 8:42 PM

    I could completely see Hairbow as hard to get along with.

    I don’t even know him and we don’t get along.

  10. filthymcnasty1 says: Apr 25, 2014 9:02 PM

    Yikes.

    He looked more comfortable with Jim Schwartz.

  11. cakesw says: Apr 25, 2014 9:17 PM

    Wonder what is in the water over there ?

    San Francisco and Oakland are constantly trying to out-dysfunction one another.

  12. thegreatgabbert says: Apr 25, 2014 9:52 PM

    They ask that you respect their privacy. Like Tattoo and Ashes up the coast.

  13. raiderapologist says: Apr 25, 2014 10:11 PM

    The Niners already tried to trade the coach. To Cleveland. GM wins.

  14. joey49er says: Apr 25, 2014 10:19 PM

    Niners are the best

  15. joenash72 says: Apr 26, 2014 1:02 AM

    As a Seahawk fan, I hope Harbaugh is in SF for a long time to come :-)

  16. 49erstim says: Apr 26, 2014 3:52 AM

    Are we STILL harping on the Peyton Manning thing? For the love of everything sacred. Of course they were trying to save face. That is what these teams do. NFL Football has turned into politics. Back door maneuvering, power struggles, wire-tapping (couldn’t resist), etc. Nobody cares about PM anymore. I said it then and I’ll say it now. PM cannot get you a SB. “But 49erstim, he already did get a SB win. I remember hearing about it because I’m not a real fan and don’t WATCH football.”. Good point fair reader. Go back and actually watch the Colts playoff games that year. PM was abysmal. That defense and Adam Vinatieri saved him and got Indy a title. “The house that Peyton built”… lol. He is a great Regular season QB. That is all.

  17. slowboater1 says: Apr 26, 2014 6:28 AM

    “deny existence of power struggle”… To decode this is easy. “We’ll try and get along until we can’t anymore”.

  18. flaccodelic says: Apr 26, 2014 6:48 AM

    Baalke was great on Perfect Strangers.

  19. iamdinguskhan says: Apr 26, 2014 8:14 AM

    10-6 and that’s bad!!!?? All of us NFC east teams would die to have a team do that or better on a consistent basis

  20. jvibottomline says: Apr 26, 2014 8:48 AM

    They are fine, winners, not going anywhere.

  21. jackdaniels1 says: Apr 26, 2014 8:51 AM

    Jimmy knows best!

  22. Pittsburgh Steelers says: Apr 26, 2014 9:40 AM

    Did you expect them to say otherwise?

  23. higheriqthanyou says: Apr 26, 2014 10:16 AM

    Let’s face it, Harbaugh is all about Harbaugh.

    Period.

    That not only get’s old, it will be nitro when the team starts losing.

    Should be fun to watch.

  24. dwhcic says: Apr 26, 2014 11:36 AM

    I think this thing is blown out of proportion. The players seem to really like Harbaugh, and they always play well for him. That’s all that really matters.

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