The joint press release said “mutual parting.” But it sure looks like former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh doesn’t truly see it that way.
Harbaugh recently explained his return to Michigan to Michael Rosenberg of SI.com. The article from Rosenberg, with whom Harbaugh has gone on the record at least twice this year, says this about the divorce: “[Harbaugh] leaves a situation in San Francisco that got needlessly ugly, with the owner, Jed York, ultimately forcing him out.”
There’s no quote attributing that sentiment to Harbaugh, but it’s written as if it’s factual by a guy who interviewed Harbaugh extensively. Rosenberg then mentions that he floated a theory to Harbaugh about the unnamed source from the 49ers who spread tidbits that reflected poorly on the coach: “When you are painted as something you’re not, you want to go where people know who you are.”
“There is probably something there,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh’s words come nearly 10 months after word leaked of the Browns nearly trading for Harbaugh, and Harbaugh insisting unequivocally to Rosenberg that Harbaugh would finish his five-year commitment to the 49ers.
“Zero opportunity or chance of that in my mind,” Harbaugh said regarding the possibility of leaving the 49ers before the end of the 2015 season. (He may need to recalibrate his “zero opportunity or chance” meter.)
Rosenberg also has written a column sharply critical of York for his handling of Harbaugh. Reading the various items together, it’s obvious that Rosenberg has become Harbaugh’s hand-picked ally for the effort to get the coach’s version of the truth to the public.
The coach’s version is that he didn’t want more money or power, that he worked at the will and pleasure of the organization, and apparently that the owner eventually forced Harbaugh to leave. The team’s version is that both sides wanted to part ways, that differences of football philosophy emerged, that the team wants to “win with class,” and/or that there were reasons that are private and personal that the team has agreed not to disclose — even though someone with the team was leaking more than garden hose that had been run over by a lawnmower.
The truth surely resides somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, no one may ever know exactly what it is.