After the 49ers' issues with Jim Harbaugh became common knowledge when it was reported that San Francisco and Cleveland discussed a trade for the coach, one of the themes has been that Harbaugh is difficult to deal with.
He and GM Trent Baalke don't always get along. He wants to be paid like a top coach and isn't happy San Francisco won't do that for him. And now Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that some 49ers players are sick of Harbaugh too.
"One source with inside knowledge of the team says that Harbaugh's act has worn thin in the locker room, particularly among some key 'face of the 49ers' type players," Killion wrote.
High-strung football coach rubs people the wrong way ... stop the presses.
This has been a theme since the beginning of football. It's not a big surprise. It might be a problem for the 49ers only if they let it be (and they already are in the process of that). If they decide the comfort of the players and front office is more important than winning, Harbaugh will eventually move on. Plenty of coaches get along with players. Norv Turner would fit that role marvelously.
But first, let's consider a few things. San Francisco was a nightmare before Harbaugh arrived. Harbaugh came in and the 49ers instantly became one of the best teams in the NFL. Harbaugh is 36-11-1 the last three years and has gone to the NFC title game each season, with one Super Bowl appearance. He has put together that record, which is phenomenal in the parity-driven NFL, changing quarterbacks about halfway through. Any list of best NFL coaches has Harbaugh very high on it, or it's worthless. He has been tremendous. The 49ers hit a grand slam when they hired him.
Again, there's a lot of coaches out there who would be much nicer to deal with. Folks who probably wouldn't care about a contract renegotiation like Harbaugh does. Guys who would be more polite in press conference and not create any waves. Would they win like Harbaugh? Of course not. San Francisco would take a significant dip without Harbaugh. But hey, you wouldn't have to worry about a guy who is perceived as being difficult to work with. And that's what's important, right?
The 49ers have created a mess by not giving Harbaugh the extension he wants. That is the root of this problem, not Harbaugh being high strung. A lot of successful coaches (Sean Payton? Bill Belichick?) are high strung and not always easy to deal with. That's part of the reason they're successful. And their organizations keep them happy, which is smart. That's just understanding their value. The 49ers are strangely not giving Harbaugh the lucrative extension he deserves, all because they won't pay him as a Super Bowl-winning coach before he wins a Super Bowl. That's just dumb.
What do the 49ers value? Winning, you'd think. Harbaugh has done a tremendous job restoring the 49ers as a top franchise in the NFL. Or is it more important to have a nice-guy head coach who gets along with everyone?
Well, there's plenty of the latter out there. The 49ers might have the chance to hire one soon. It would be interesting to see how that would work out for them.
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