Two top executives with the San Francisco 49ers today met privately with members of the team to discuss the departure of former head coach Jim Harbaugh and revealed that a successor could be chosen within the next several weeks.
49ers CEO Jed York said he knew fans were disappointed about Sunday’s announcement of Harbaugh’s departure from the team, which made the playoffs three times since Harbaugh left Stanford University to become the 49ers’ head coach in 2011.
“I certainly understand why people feel like they’re upset,” York said at a news conference at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara a day after the 49ers team completed its first season since moving from San Francisco in 2013. “I get it.”
The conclusion that Harbaugh and the 49ers should part ways “was a mutual decision,” he said.
“Jim and I have had conversations since he’s been here. In the last probably two to three weeks we’ve talked about it. We’ve talked about different scenarios, different opportunities and ultimately we just came to the conclusion that it was best for us to go in different directions,” York said.
As 49ers head coach, the 51-year-old Harbaugh had an overall record of 49-22-1 and 5-3 in postseason games, winning two NFC West titles, reaching the NFC Championship game in three consecutive seasons and the Super Bowl in 2013, which the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-31.
The 49ers finished the 2014 season at 8-8 without making the playoffs for the first time since Harbaugh joined the team but won his final game on Sunday, 20-17 against the Arizona Cardinals, which made this year’s playoffs as a wild card team.
York and 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said they met in private with team players and coaches at Levi’s today to brief them about Harbaugh’s exit and the search for a new head coach.
Baalke said a small group of 49ers employees would be involved in the hunt for a new coach within the next several weeks and that the search itself would last seven to 10 days.
Baalke, who sat beside York at the news conference, offered “a huge thank you” to Harbaugh, saying that “we accomplished a lot of good things” during his tenure.
Despite the 49ers’ mediocre season this year and losing a head coach who averaged 12 wins a year, Baalke said that 2015 would not be a rebuilding season for the squad.
“This isn’t a rebuild situation,” Baalke said. “This is a reload situation. (We’ve) got a lot of confidence in this team, the players in that locker room and we’re going to need to make some adjustments. We realize that.”
Baalke said that team management this season had “philosophical differences,” without stating what those were, “and for whatever reason, we weren’t able to pull this thing together, and now it’s time to move on.”
The 49ers have had to replace some successful head coaches over the years, including Harbaugh, he said.
“Are we confident that we can replace him? You always go into that with that strategy,” Baalke said. “There’s a lot of good football coaches out there. what we need to do is go out and find a coach that can come in here now and lead this football team.”
He complained in general terms that the news media had “misrepresented” his relationship with Harbaugh as contentious.
“It wasn’t like that day to day,” he said. “And I think Jim has come out and said that.”
Baalke said he took responsibility for not helping to control the off-field behavior of some 49ers players who faced legal problems this season, such as defensive end Ray McDonald who not charged in an alleged domestic violence dispute but was dismissed from the team by Baalke this month after a woman accused him of sexual assault.
York recalled his displeasure about the 49ers’ loss at home on Thanksgiving Day to the Seattle Seahawks, which he announced on Twitter after the game, but he said today he did not mean to blame Harbaugh.
York wished Harbaugh the best and that he would “remember his time here very, very fondly.”
But he said that team’s “only goal” is to win Super Bowls.
“We don’t raise division championship banners. We don’t raise NFC championship banners. We raise Super Bowl banners,” York said. “And whenever we don’t deliver that, I hope that you will hold me directly responsible and accountable for it.”
“We look forward to getting this thing back on track and getting you guys exactly what you deserve,” York said.
Baalke agreed that the team’s purpose is to win Super Bowls, adding that since Harbaugh joined the team, “we got very close on numerous times. Jim was a huge part of that.”
York said he wanted a head coach who is “a good teacher,” citing as an example the late 49ers head coach Bill Walsh.
York, who noted that Harbaugh had two years left on his contract with the 49ers, said that it “wasn’t us saying ‘Jim you’re fired, you’re not here anymore.’ This wasn’t Jim saying, ‘I don’t want to be there, I’m leaving,’ it was a discussion that took place over a decent amount of time to figure out what’s best for everybody involved.”
The talks he had with Harbaugh about the coach’s future were private and “it was the right decision for both parties at the time,” he said.
Jeff Burbank, Bay City News