Jim Harbaugh viewed as a “combustible commodity”

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While the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh have denied that there was a deal in place for him to go to Cleveland, the reality is that he and the team are involved in a complicated relationship.

And that didn’t just develop recently.

As reactions come in to Mike Florio’s report yesterday that a trade was agreed to with the Browns before Harbaugh decided to stay, more evidence is coming to light of the delicate balance the 49ers are trying to maintain.

In a lengthy and detailed look at the background between the team and the coach, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News paints a picture of Harbaugh as high-maintenance.

Harbaugh is described as “a combustible commodity who has 49ers HQ very unsettled most days and now he’s coming up on a contract extension that he really thought he deserved last year, so things are a little pent-up between coach and management.”

Kawakami paints a picture of the internal push-pull between General Manager Trent Baalke and Harbaugh, one which includes some drama but a good result for the organization.

The wins have come, but it seems that Harbaugh’s high-strung personality has worn some people out as well.

Any collection of high-achievers who are driven to win will inevitably create an atmosphere that includes some tension. But it seems that within the 49ers organization, that tension has built to a point that a future without Harbaugh has been considered.

And perhaps welcomed.

117 responses to “Jim Harbaugh viewed as a “combustible commodity”

  1. Guys, the issue here has never been about the 49ers being unwilling to pay Jim Harbaugh. They’re not a cheap franchise and never have been (see Jed York trying to desperately lure Pete Carroll with the big bucks during the prime of USC’s run).

    The impasse is because Jim is refusing to budge on his outlandish demand that he be paid on a tier commensurate with Super Bowl winning coaches such as Pete Carroll, John Harbaugh, Sean Payton, and Bill Belichick. Except, unlike those guys, Jim hasn’t actually, you know, WON the Super Bowl.

    Their brass is correct about determining that, although he’s a fairly competent coach, most of the stars on that team were inherited; Willis, J. Smith, Staley, Gore, V. Davis, Bowman, etc. were excellent long before he got there. Just because Singletary was uniquely terrible doesn’t mean Harbaugh is an elite coach. Or did you all think Jim Caldwell was the next Vince Lombardi because the Colts went 14-2 and made the Super Bowl in his first season as a head coach?

    To the Santa Clara fans in denial about this, remember that Bill Parcells left the Patriots after losing the Super Bowl due to organizational differences too.

  2. it seems the niners’ meteoric rise may have already peaked at the expense of the seahawks. their window may have already closed due to kaepernick’s 4th quarter implosion in nfc champ gm.

    last 3 yrs — nfc champ gm loss, SB loss, nfc champ gm loss. i suspect they don’t win nfc west and/or get past seatt in playoffs for the next couple yrs.

  3. This whole flap between Harbaugh and management reminds me of Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones. Johnson was a high strung, intense, hands-on, and brilliant coach who taught men how to win football games. I imagine he was also hard to deal with because he knew what he wanted to win and he didn’t want bean counters telling him how to coach. I suspect Harbaugh falls into a similar category.

    We all know what happened when Jones let Johnson go, and I suspect the same thing will occur if the 49ers are dumb enough to not make Harbaugh happy with a new contract.

    Speaking of contracts, offer the man a top tier head coach wage with an incentive that aligns his money with other SuperBowl winning coaches.

    I’d rather have a hard-to-manage slightly crazed winner like Johnson or Harbaugh than a yes man who makes front office life easy while producing one and done play-off seasons every few years.

  4. Who’s more important? The coach that’s leads his team to victory, or pencil pushers in the office? Clear the office out, call the temp service for replacements, and keep on winnig.

  5. It’s coming 49er fans, so deny all you want and pretend that everything is just peachy. I’d be surprised if he’s not gone at the end of this upcoming year unless they win the Super Bowl. He’s an intense person, so you take the good with the bad, and the bad is that he’s only going to coach your team for about 5 years despite being very very good at his job. Think the modern day version of Parcells because for all the jokes about Bellichick being overbearing, I don’t get that same sense about him like I do about Jim and the Parcells of the world. They’re just cut from a different cloth and burn out regularly, then move on.

  6. 49ers must think head coaches that win grow on trees. Who cares if he “whines” or rubbed some people the wrong way.

  7. I am not Harbaugh’s biggest fan – mostly due to his antics on the sidelines and how he complains constantly. But he took over a team in despair, and has got them to three NFC title games and a Super Bowl. Does SF HQ want to go back to Mike Singletary? The man deserves an extension.

  8. Geeze, that’s stepping out on a limb, there. Have they never seen Harbaugh’s non-stop juvenile act on the sidelines of every single game?

    How can any ref take him or any concerns he might have seriously when he screams in their face after every single play?

  9. Yeah bring back Mike Singletary … OMG … 49ers were not only irrelevant, but a complete joke before Jim Harbaugh … who cares if he clashes with small people with big egos like John York !!!

  10. I believe that Jim Harbaugh is a top tier Coach and really would be surprised if the 49r’s do not extend his contract. I hope so. Respect is deserved for his ability to get his team to be very competitive and likely the SB winner this year, if not for the Seahawks.

    Results over the past three years shows his worth and the future with him looks bright. Not sure what the Ownership is thinking but they would be making a huge mistake if they let him go or let this negativity build any bigger.

  11. Harbaugh is an excellent coach. Many teams would love to have him as their head coach.However, he isn’t going anywhere.

  12. Hairbow has been a hot property the last couple of years after having success with a loaded roster he didn’t build.
    The biggest piece he’s most responsible for is also the biggest question mark. Kaepernick.
    It’ll be fun to watch the NFL at large come to the realization that he’s mostly an attention seeking headcase, not so much a great coach.
    That fall is coming sooner than later.

  13. The guy has been to Super Bowl and the title game last 2 years with a young QB and great defense.

    What would Rex Ryan be saying about that record right now?

    He has a chip on his shoulder and is a little weird. Players are buying what he’s selling and that’s all that matters.

  14. How can a trade have been agreed to when the league INSTITUED A RULE FORBIDDING DRAFT PICKS FOR COACHES after the Gruden/Oakland deal?

    This makes ZERO sense and reeks of a blatant lie by the owner of this website.

  15. They didn’t get the wins! They had a great team and a slew of draft picks and they failed miserably to leverage that up in an efficient way for either the short or long term! And Harbaugh was a sloppy coach this season again, he made lots of mistakes. This team has failed while arguably working with more of a good position to potentially create dominance than any other team had to work with!

    These guys are both doing a TERRIBLE job!!!!

  16. Jim Harbaugh is NOT Jimmy Johnson. Johnson won MULTIPLE Super Bowls. Jim’s chief accomplishment is losing one with a loaded team he inherited. Great, so he’s Jim Caldwell, Ken Whisenhunt, etc.

  17. It’s against the rules to run onto the field to scream at the refs during a playoff game. Your actions and temperament is pushing Boldin away.

  18. His middle name is “NITRO.” There is a difference between intense and crazy. Bellicheck, Coughlin and Jimmy Johnson are the former, Jimmy H. is the latter. It must be a nightmare attempting to work in an adult, cooperative collegial manner with him.. This wears down everyone in the entire organization and eventually even talent and unique abilities can’t compensate for the disruptions caused by such a personality.

  19. A lot of jealous people posting in this thread. Harbaugh has his fiery style of coaching and he is very successful, his 49ers team never stops competing and his winning percentage speaks for itself. A deal will get done and Jim will continue winning games.

  20. Tough to find real, qualified NFL head coaches. Just ask every team who had an opening this year. Every one of them would have had Crazy Jim #1 on their list.

  21. Don’t get me wrong, brother Jim is a darn good coach. The guy is just too much sometimes, yes even for that job/profession.

    Plus between Harbaugh, Kap and Crabtree you got more wine than all the grapes in Cali could produce.



    PAY THE MAN!!!

  23. Hilarious.

    As I stated before, Harbaugh must be a real A-hole for the 49ers trying to dump him.

    Now I’m proven right.

    The best part is it will all hurt the 49ers whether he goes and they try to find a new coach or whether he stays and they become more and more dysfunctional.


  24. San Francisco 49ers record the past 10 years
    Before Harbough
    2003 7-9
    2004 2-14
    2005 4-13
    2006 7-9
    2007 5-11
    2008 7-9
    2009 8-8
    2010 6-10
    With Harbough
    2011 13-3
    2012 11-4-1
    2013 12-4

    I’ve seen too many people on here that try to downgrade the job Harbaugh has done because he inherited “talented” players and I hope printing out these records show how utterly silly that notion is. What Harbough inherited was a team that didn’t win a single playoff game since 2003, never had a record above .500 since 2003 and the season before he came was 6-10. He then promptly lead them to three straight conference championships and a super bowl appearance. All that supposed talent before Harbaugh showed up and not once finishing above .500?

  25. Winning cures all.

    Problem is – what happens when you lose?

    The diva, screaming and tantrums are tolerated, methinks, by 49ers brass – as long as little Jimmy keeps winning games.

    If San Fran could make a deal with the devil and guarantee that they would be top of the NFC heap for the next five years – if they paid Harbaugh like a SB winning coach (and took all the baggage that comes with him)…I think they’d do that deal in a heartbeat.

    But if you start losing and you are locked into Screaming Mimi for five years – and this guy is leading your franchise…ouch!

    HOWEVER…high strung screamers usually have a short shelf life. After awhile, everyone begins to tune them out. It’s the quiet, calm, level headed ones that have longevity.

    I think this is what SF is weighing up…

    He is Screech’s cousin for crying out loud.
    He is gonna bolt if he is not given total control.

  27. “Any collection of high-achievers who are driven to win will inevitably create an atmosphere that includes some tension. ”

    Any? I can think of one “collection” off the top of my head that seems to be high achievers year in and year out without this kind of drama.

  28. This story sounds quite similar to Marty Schottenheimer and AJ Smith in San Diego.

    Outspoken hardnosed coach who didn’t mesh with the GM.

    9 times out of 10 ownership sides with management over the coach. 10 times out of 10 it makes for a complete disaster of a move.

    If 49’ers don’t take care of Harbaugh with what he’s done for their franchise, the effect will ripple through the 49’ers for the next 10 years as no good coach will want to sign with a team that gets zero support from ownership.

  29. Also, I love all the “he didn’t build the team” nonsense. Coaches don’t draft players, you nitwits. Everyone knows Scott McCloughan built the core of that team, and he got run out of town, too. How are those drafts looking since? Don’t include the Bowman year because he was fired in March weeks before that draft, so I’m pretty sure he had already set their board when he was fired. Rather, think AJ Jenkins. There were reports that some pencil pushers next to the owner’s son got him pushed out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t what’s going on this time, too.

  30. I see a Harbaugh-Luck reunion in our future. Would harbaugh punt on 4th and 1, down 21 points with 10 minutes minutes left in his season? Not a chance, he’s not a quitter.

  31. It seems like there’s a source on the 49ers staff who also has ties to the Browns. Perhaps that person has his eye on advancing to the 49ers vacant Head Coaching position.

    Of course that person would probably have to have a history of disloyalty to his former Head Coach.

    By the way – did anyone see the news that former Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini is now coaching TE for the 49ers?

  32. It’s interesting that this is now all a problem right before he talks extension. He wasn’t “combustible” when he had them on the cusp of a ring the last 3 years? No shadier business than the football business.

  33. Should make for an interesting 2014 season. If the 49ers put together more than 2 losses in a row, out come the long knives.

    Harbaugh can’t survive this with anything short of a Superbowl win and that’s not going to happen. He does remind me of Jimmy Johnson in one sense, he took over a very talented team and has yet to deliver like Johnson did.

  34. 1) For those who don’t know, this is what Tim Kawakami does for a living – he stokes air.

    2) Harbaugh isn’t leaving – he doesn’t want to and SF won’t let him.

    3) The Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams are coming, Seattle. In case you forgot its a 4-team division, not 1.

    4) Its honestly sad how vile some Seahawks fans are – ya’ll won the SB, go enjoy it… and enjoy Robinson Cano and Kevin Durant…eh, never mind.

  35. I’d take Harbaugh over 25 other coaches in the NFL. A little nutty or not, the man is the ultimate competitor and expects the same from those around him.

  36. The 49ers brass are in a tough position.

    The fans love him here and he has reinvigorated the franchise. However, are they prepared to reward him for that or for he almost did?

    They sign him to a five year extension he will be intolerable to the front office win or lose.

    It’s a marriage that will end on divorce. The question is when.

  37. Of course FANS don’t care that he is intense or hard to deal with, because they don’t interact with him practically every day. The GM and others in the organization do–and people will tolerate a hothead, even a successful one, for only so long. That’s surely the issue.

  38. Sorry realfootballfan, McCloughan doesn’t get the credit for the 2010 draft. Baalke helped set up that board too and he’s the one who maneuvered around the board to get the guys HE wanted, including Davis and Iupati

  39. Pete Carrol built a superbowl winning team, Harbaugh was given everything and he still has not got it done. Carrol 1, harbaugh 0.

  40. Q: What’s the #1 rule to follow when your opponent is imploding?

    A: Simply step out of the way…

    (Insert sound of Seattle, St. Louis and Arizona munching popcorn…)

  41. Harbaugh has done an excellent job with that franchise, but a franchise without the type of brass to manage strong personalities. York should bring Eddie back to run the organization and manage the personalities of front office and coach.

  42. The highlight of this article is 61 people thumbs upping a post that declares Mike Zimmer and the #1 coach in the NFL

  43. Keep telling yourself that sonoco . McCloughan showed up in Seattle as their college director, and they’re just pulling studs out of thin air in the 4th rounds onward in the draft, while the 49ers are drafting AJ Jenkins with their first round pick. Also, I dont think much maneuvering needed to be done for Davis and Iupati in 2010 when they had those two draft picks from deals McCloughan made before he got ousted because some of Jedds boddues in upper management didn’t like him. You can’t say on one hand Harbaugh walked into a very talented team, which I do agree with as I said that for years as the Singletary and Nolin messes played out, and then try to say Baalke is largely responsible for picking most of the players who make up it’s core. I think he’s done a nice job, but I think anyone would agree McCloughan is better and built the guts of what has been winning in SF the last 3 years.

  44. This is so funny to me!

    Three years in a row as one of the two best teams in the NFC and a team willing to give up an entire draft and all the haters come out
    (Including Florio) to take their shots…

    This is what football… And worse, our country is coming to. Push anyone down you can to draw people to your site or make yourself feel better. Are there any other coaches that have accomplished so much in three years?

  45. Harbaugh will not be unemployed long if the 49ers let him walk. NFL owners have big egos but winning strokes their egos enough that they will put up with a winning coach with a difficult personality.

    How did dumping Jimmy Johnson work out for the egomaniac in Dallas after he pretended he and Switzer were responsible for winning a title?

    Belichick and the Harbaughs are winners no mater what fools say about them.

  46. This is surreal. SF gave us the hardest to win game we had all year, in the Conference Game. So here it is, a month later and people are talking about the Niners imploding! Is everybody suddenly smoking some Dust laden weed? Get back to Earth people. Harbaugh isn’t going anywhere, and the cheapo khakis will be prowling the Niners sidelines in the Fall. Oh, and Ragnarok will not occur before midnight.

  47. I think this issue is strictly about pay and there seems to be a disagreement as to how much, for how long, and when. Isn’t this the typical dance all coaches do with the owners?

    Somehow this story has morphed into an ad hominem attack on Harbaugh’s personality. He’s a winning coach and I think York is an intelligent owner.

    Seems like someone in Cleveland let the cat out of the bag. It’s obvious the 49ers would rather not have their dirty laundry out in public.

  48. @backdapack

    Your right!! He’s won nothing….. Yet. But since he’s been coaching the Packers have not beaten SF.

  49. If you want to complain about his complaining……whine about his brother….he is ten times as bad….his facial expressions and whining wears very thin with those watching his circus…….

  50. All the man does is win football games…no matter what level he coaches. I’m guessing there are between 25-28 NFL teams that would take him in a heartbeat! Hate-on haters!

  51. meatcarroll says: Feb 22, 2014 1:36 PM

    “Guys, the issue here has never been about the 49ers being unwilling to pay Jim Harbaugh. They’re not a cheap franchise and never have been (see Jed York trying to desperately lure Pete Carroll with the big bucks during the prime of USC’s run).

    The impasse is because Jim is refusing to budge on his outlandish demand that he be paid on a tier commensurate with Super Bowl winning coaches such as Pete Carroll, John Harbaugh, Sean Payton, and Bill Belichick. Except, unlike those guys, Jim hasn’t actually, you know, WON the Super Bowl.”

    So in other word is IS all about money.


  52. Let’s be clear. Harbaugh inherited a really talented roster that Baalke built. Look at their best players and nearly all of them were drafted before Harbaugh got there. And look at their drafts since, especially the last two where, so far, none have become starters. Add to this the free agent busts. What’s changed from good drafting to poor? Harbaugh’s presence.

    To be honest, as a Browns fan, I’m not sure I would have been all that keen on Harbaugh and assuming full control which is what he would have demanded. He may be a very good x’s and o’s coach, but his personnel moves have been poor. We had this about 10 years ago with Butch Davis. A good coach who did poorly with his personnel moves and his ego refused to see this.

    Good luck, Niner fans. That dynasty rebirth may have been premature. Maybe that 6th title is not as close as you thought. Carroll certainly has stolen the division and the SB title out from under you.

  53. Hey Burt1913

    Ya real downward spiral. Two inches from another Super Bowl performance. Again, rated right below Seattle at 11.5’wins next year. You must be Raider Trash!

  54. who really cares if the coach isn’t a sweet guy. whatever he’s doing has gotten results.same for the GM,the players seem to like him,so yeah,he’s on the refs the whole game,coaches do that,or he’s a jerk to other coaches.that’s actually funny.same people that say football is a “man’s game” are mad that a coach is a jerk and not glad handing everyone.

  55. That’s Singletary’s defense Jimmy is riding on, you know the one that got them to the playoffs, because Tattoo boy was concerned with Twitter Gossip and pleasing his Master Dr. Dre.

    Super Bowl Trophies are what counts, not “Atta Boy” trophies, see Marv Levy.

  56. Sounds a little like Bill Cowher in his Pittsburgh days. Cowher obviously was a successful coach . He was much like Harnaugh
    abrasive, argumentative and confrontational . If history is a guide
    this is usually a winning recipe with many coaches. The Rooneys
    talked their G.M. Tom Donahoe from going to Seattle telling Donahoe
    he had a home for life if he stayed in Pittsburgh. He was gone two years later.
    A look at Parcells and many other successful coaches….they always win
    the battles for control. If I’m a gambler I would put all my money on
    Harbaugh winning all battles for control of the 49 ‘ ers.

  57. Harbaugh is a winner. Niners need to sack up and pay him because aside from some tough callscin championship games, SF has provencto be the cream of the crop the last three seasons.

  58. LOL!!! About time the rest of the world saw what I’ve been saying all along…Jimmy Harbaugh is a brat!

    He talks a great game, but when things don’t go his way, he throws a temper-tantrum, and it costs them the game. when he did it in Seattle last time around, I told the room…”that’s it…Seattle just won! Lo’ and Behold…they did!”
    Jimmy is NOT the coach that he thinks he is…he’s not the coach his brother is…and he SURE isn’t the coach that Pete Carroll is!

    The article is correct…he doesn’t deserve Super Bowl winning coach’s money. Hell…he doesn’t even deserve Super Bowl losing coach’s money, since he went to the Super Bowl with team drafted by a previous coach! The further he gets along in this team, the more of those players that leave, the worse he does!

    When he was a player, Ditka even said that if he would talk (whine) less and play more, he’d have more success! Nothing has changed.
    He’d probably make a good positions coach, but head coach? No…he is not mature enough….and probably never will be!

    As for the guy that posted the 5 best coaches in the NFL up there…you left out Pete Carroll…who WON the Super Bowl this year with a team that was the 2nd youngest to do so, with an average age BELOW 25, and with multiple starters who were NOT even drafted! Jimmy Harbaugh does NOT belong on that list. He wouldn’t even make the top 10.

    And for another who for some reason compared him to Jimmy Johnson…you forgot that Johnson won Super Bowls…Harbaugh can’t win a free cup of coffee!

  59. If the 49ers were so good before Harbaugh why didn’t Mike Singletary and his direct line to God win more football games?

  60. I hope he stays in San Fran. He and Carroll are the Yin and Yang of nfl coaching. Polar opposites, each great in his own way. And because of the differences, they clearly annoy the heck out each other. Mr Smile vs Mr Frown. Makes for great theater, and great football.

  61. So why does Pete Carroll get Belichick like money before he ever won a Super Bowl?

    Chip Kelly get Belichick like $$ before he gets into the League.

    Hell, Jeff Fisher has head coach for over 20 years and he STILL hasn’t won a Super Bowl or been back in 15 years…. Why does Fisher deserve $6 Million a year?

    Harbaugh has the best record over the past 3 years and won more game from 2011 to 2013…than the 49ers won from 2004 to 2010.

    The man wins. From turning 1-11 University of San Diego around to making Stanford a top 5 team for the first time EVER. Something even the great John Elway could never acheive at Stanford.

    His worst record was 11 wins and a NFC Title loss on 2 muffed fumbles by the Punt Returner.

    Trent Baalke has been there 10 years…you think he is the only reason for success? Maybe Baalke can pay half the $$ and hire Mike Singleary or Mike Nolan again….let’s see how that works out again.

    If you wouldn’t take Jim Harbaugh on your team AND pay him…you are either sour grapes OR you have no idea what you are talking about.

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