We saw this coming. Now it has come.
I’m not going to blame or point fingers as to why the 49ers failed this season and all this unraveled. There is blame to be put on both the front office and Harbaugh himself. I don’t even know how much influence the players had in the season-long struggle. But both were unable to resolve their issues and now we’re here.
But even with Harbaugh leaving, the 49ers should be thankful for what he did. Three straight winning seasons, all with trips to the NFC title game. The team’s first Super Bowl appearance in 20 years and great fan interest rejuvenated after nearly a decade of futility.
Does one bad season diminish his accomplishments? Of course not. But this bad season is the reason why this four-year era is over. There was a clear discord between Harbaugh and the front office. Despite three years of great success, it ended up being a battle of power and this is where most problems in the NFL originate. When the two most important sides don’t see eye to eye, then the foundation becomes shaky.
The 49ers took a risk when they hired Jim Harbaugh in January 2011. He had never been a head coach in the NFL but had a great college track record with some experience as an assistant. Being a former player himself, he had all the credentials to be a great coach. And in his first three years, he took a team of misused players and made them winners. But not the ultimate winner.
The first season was a surprise and they almost made it to the Super Bowl. The following year, they made it but lost. Then last season, they lost to their rivals in the NFC title game. Three years of almost. Entering this fourth season, the feeling was Super Bowl or bust. When it got to the point where the team wasn’t truly firing on all cylinders, it started to become apparent that maybe the team had peaked. All their talent now wasn’t going to get them to where they want. The season was going to be a failure.
In their first year at the new stadium, the worst has happened. No playoffs. Too many injuries. Offense regressed. No coach for the future. Plenty of disaster. And with the stadium hosting the Super Bowl the next year, the dream of the 49ers playing that game takes a huge hit. The future is so uncertain now. And when it becomes time to sort it out, it will get messy.
But in the meantime, I would like to look back at some of Harbaugh’s great accomplishments.
Aside from the on-field success, Harbaugh was quite a character with the media.
From his “The Team, The Team, The Team” to his “Getting 1% better,” he was always a mystery to me. But because he was winning, I just brushed it off. Winners can do whatever they want. And he brought a winning culture back to the team. Nobody had it better than them, right?
I never had a problem with him. Even though I was only there for his rookie season, I still felt that he was smarter than all of us and that we just didn’t understand his intelligence. And maybe we still don’t.
What we did understand was he gave the team new life. He gave the franchise new hope. Unfortunately, the front office and the coach just ended up butting heads and it was just time to go their separate ways. Could it have been salvaged? Maybe. But it was for the best that after all that has happened, it’s time to start fresh again.
Jim Harbaugh accomplished a lot but ends on a sour note. But in the big picture, he did good. It was just not meant to be a happy ending. Did you really expect it to be?
I was at Harbaugh’s first game as the coach of the 49ers and now I will be attending his last. What a wild four-year ride for this team. Thanks, Jim, for all the winning and the craziness.
I bet they’re manufacturing black sweaters and black caps with a big yellow “M” on them now in Ann Arbor. What else would he wear there anyway?