With the 49ers mathematically eliminated from postseason contention and the final two games of the season essentially meaningless, the franchise can begin making decisions about 2015.
It can, but it won’t.
In a Monday appearance on 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, 49ers G.M. Trent Baalke said that a decision on the status of coach Jim Harbaugh won’t be made until the team has concluded its 2014 schedule.
“When the season ends, decisions are going to be made,” Baalke said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “And that’s when that conversation is going to take place. Jim and I sat here this morning and we basically talked about just that, and we talked about what we needed to do from a roster standpoint to get ready to play Saturday.
“And that’s really the focus. The focus is on getting ourselves prepared to win a football game. And although there may not be as much at stake, and some people wonder why you’re putting that much effort into it, [it’s] because we’re professionals and we’re very prideful in what we do. And we want to go out and win a football game. And the only way you can do that is get complete focus on it.”
Harbaugh apparently is so focused on winning the next game that he doesn’t realize he and Baalke met on Monday to discuss that decisions won’t be made until after the season. Harbaugh reiterated to reporters on Monday afternoon that he’s “always available” to talk to the owner and G.M. and that no meetings are planned.
While that technically may be truthful since he wasn’t asked whether a meeting already had occurred, the complexity of potentially trading Harbaugh requires things to happen discreetly, behind the scenes. As explained last week, the Rooney Rule complicates the ability of the 49ers to trade Harbaugh’s rights to another team. Before a new team can trade for Harbaugh, that team must interview at least one minority candidate for the job.
Also complicating a potential trade is that Harbaugh must be on board with the move. Although former NFL G.M. Bill Polian declared during a Monday appearance on ESPN that the 49ers can trade Harbaugh without his consent, that’s not how it works. The 49ers and the new team would work out compensation that would change hands if the new team works out a deal with Harbaugh.
Officially, nothing can happen until the season ends. Unofficially, the 49ers need to know which team(s) Harbaugh would be willing to coach, whether those teams are interested in trading for Harbaugh, and whether Harbaugh would balk at the compensation, since the more his new team gives up to get him, the less Harbaugh will have to help build a winner in whichever team inherits the guy who’ll be sewing a couple of new logos onto his black shirt, black hat, tan pleated pants ensemble.