In possibly the most infuriating head coach change, the San Francisco 49ers and Jim Harbaugh mutually agreed to part ways. In other words, he wasn’t being brought back and he had another job that paid more. In this case, a whopping 6-year, $48 million contract. That would put Harbaugh at a huge $8 million per year and likely making less than only Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and Andy Reid.1
After floundering in the middle and bottom of NFL rankings for the mid- and late-2000’s, San Francisco GM Trent Baalke hired Stanford’s head coach, Jim Harbaugh. The jaw clenching totalitarian immediately turned a 6-10 team into a 13-3 team that lost in the Conference Finals. The offense jumped that year to the area that it would stay in for most of Harbaugh’s tenure, ranking 11th in points and 26th in yards.
The team took its most important jump on the defensive side of the football. Finishing with such a discrepancy in yards and points shows that the offense was taking advantage of turnovers from the defense, which holds up in the stats. After ranking 15th in turnovers in 2010, Harbaugh’s squad jumped to the top of the list in 2011, helping Alex Smith to a career saving season.
The rub lies in 2014, where the 49ers, with such high expectations, finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. It’s much easier to deal with a coach when you’re winning 11-13 games per season, but when you finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs, the warts begin to show for the GM. Reportedly, Harbaugh rubbed management the wrong way. Though Deadspin is sometimes fairly tongue-in-cheek, they broke this issue down well.
In the end, a 44-19 overall record for Harbaugh, got him about as much appreciation and leeway as a toxic barrel. Harbaugh may be excited to get back to the college ranks where his iron fist ways may be more readily accepted. He’ll certainly enjoy the pay increase and the ability to return a team like Michigan to its former glory.
The 49ers are standing on the edge of a cliff and a strong wind is rolling in. They need to find a quality head coach to replace Harbaugh because the expectations aren’t going to plummet for them just because Harbaugh is gone.
But possibly more than each of those as well ↩