Every member of the 49ers owns a personalized blue work shirt. One could almost picture Jim Harbaugh wearing his when he spoke with Sports Illustrated’s Mike Rosenberg about his contract and the 49ers’ organizational structure.
Harbaugh said there’s “zero opportunity or chance” he’ll leave the 49ers before his five-year contract expires after the 2015 season. He said a lot more in a really interesting story that should lessen the teeth-clenching amongst the fan base to a certain degree.
“I see all these reports about how I want to be the highest-paid coach in football,” Harbaugh said. “They presume I covet some kind of extension. I have never said to anybody that I want to be the highest-paid coach in football. I have never said that to anybody — my wife, my brother, my dad. I make plenty of money.”
“I don’t do five times as much work as any other coach on the staff. I get paid extremely well. Jed York has always been square dealing with me. I don’t think about that as an issue … I’ve seen it written like fact: ‘Harbaugh wants to be the highest paid coach in football’, or ‘desperately covets a new contract’. For the record: I make plenty of money. I mean, plenty of money.’”
On the belief that he wants more say over personnel
“The other one is that I want more power. I have never said that, nor do I want any more power than I have. I coach the team. I’ve told my owner I don’t want any more power. I want to coach the team. And I’ve never told anybody else otherwise.”
On rumors that he doesn’t communicate with Trent Baalke
“We’re both demanding and we want to be accountable for ourselves, for each other,” Harbaugh said. “If you haven’t had a brother, you probably don’t understand the relationship between the GM and the head coach. We’re partners on the same team. I have great respect for him. He works extremely hard at it and is very good at it. We are all part of a team. I believe in the structure we have. I don’t want to change anything that we do in that regard.”
As for reports that Baalke and Harbaugh barely communicate, Harbaugh said “we talk daily, hourly.” (He was actually in a meeting with Baalke and others before we talked.)
He also talked about how his assistants are compensated
“I have never been a guy that wants to get extensions,” he says. “If the guy at the top is getting extensions every year or two, it sends everybody else to the water cooler. The reason is, in any kind of budget, you have so much money for coaches. At some point it comes down to a pool of money for the coaches. When I started out, I was making $5 million. You run back for an extension, it shrinks the pool.”
In our conversation, Harbaugh did lobby for more money — but not for himself. He said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio deserves a raise as part of an extension.
“He has not had a raise since he’s been here. Focus on that.”
“It doesn’t benefit anybody to do it publicly. I’m making this exception in talking to you right now and saying I’m not trying to get more money for myself. But I make plenty of money. I have plenty of security. If we have the highest-paid assistant coaches in football, the best coaches in football, I strive for that. Guilty as charged there.”
“Honestly I just heard about (the Harbaugh rumors) yesterday. I really don’t watch SportsCenter, I don’t read sports news. At this time of the year, people grab at whatever. Football season is not here so they’ll take whatever they can and run with it, and a lot of it is far fetched, has nothing to do with football and the team.
“When I heard about it, I kind of laughed. I don’t think anybody in the locker room has an issue with Coach Harbaugh. The way our locker room is built, it’s an open-door policy, and if anyone has a concern or wants to voice an opinion, they’re more than welcome to. There’ve been times we’ve voiced our concerns as players, and Coach Harbaugh has taken into consideration how we felt.
“I don’t think there’s any rift between players and coaches, particularly coach Harbaugh. He has good rapport with all the guys I know of. There’s no gripes in the locker room when it comes to Coach Harbaugh. He wants to win and everybody in the locker room wants to do the same. We’re usually on same page and if not, we have it where we can talk to him and he can talk to us.”
Taking off our red and gold glasses for a second … clearly it’s in the best interests of both Harbaugh and Boldin to make the comments they did today.
Harbaugh isn’t quitting, and there’s nothing to indicate that the 49ers have been actively shopping him to other teams. And if he’s going to coach the team next year, it can’t hurt to explain to the world (most of all, his coaching staff and players) that he’s still about the team, the team, the team.
Boldin just got paid, so it would’ve come off a little strange if he said, “Yeah, I’ve heard guys complaining about Harbaugh. Especially the faces of our franchise, those guys have had it up to here with him.” But after a year covering Boldin, I feel comfortable stating that he doesn’t seem like someone who concerns himself with BS’ing people. He also doesn’t seem like a guy that Harbaugh really needs to say anything to, other than, “Good job, Q.”
As with everything, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Some players probably aren’t huge fans of Harbaugh (which hardly makes the 49ers unique), and Harbaugh is probably a little more worried about his own financial compensation than he’s letting on. Or his agent is, at least.
But this idea that the 49ers are on the verge of falling apart, or that the situation in Santa Clara is laced with more tension than one would find in Miami, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Dallas combined, is going way too far. Even if Harbaugh or his players are upset, they’re still going to compete. Even if the 49ers are tired of dealing with Harbaugh, they’re still going to put together the best team possible in hopes of achieving something they haven’t in 20 years.