The San Francisco 49ers organization has had to deal with a lot of buzz in recent weeks concerning possible dissension between Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke.
At times like these, I can’t help but think about the Married with Children theme song. “Love and marriage…go together like a horse and carriage.” It seems as if Harbaugh’s relationship with the 49ers has soured to the point of, well, Al Bundy wanting to walk out on Peg for Marcy. How else could we possibly explain all the rumors floating out there that the 49ers had a conversation with the Cleveland Browns to send Harbaugh their way.
For Harbaugh, it would have been quite the move. Kind of like going from Hawaii to Siberia, but I digress. This “news” floored an unsuspecting football world earlier in February and seemed to come with the connotation that the 49ers-Harbaugh relationship or marriage, as some would call it, wasn’t going too well. Reports have painted a picture that isn’t too pretty for the 49ers as they move into their new digs in Santa Clara.
Let’s break it down and see what to make of the recent news, shall we?
What We Know
There is definitely friction in the 49ers front office. When you get two hard-headed individuals and put them in the front office or player personnel department together, this is bound to happen. While Baalke has control over personnel and roster decisions, Harbaugh has control over the 53-man roster and the active game day roster.
It’s sure to get a bit heated at times.
The two haven’t agreed on every draft pick, either. San Francisco wanted to trade up for Eric Reid last April and it took a last-ditch effort from Harbaugh in the war room to make this happen. He also wanted former Stanford fullback Owen Marecic back in the 2011 NFL Draft before San Francisco settled on Kendall Hunter, who was one of Baalke’s favorite running backs in the draft class. It’s never been a seamless process in San Francisco’s front office and it won’t be as long as these two are still around.
Anyone and Everyone is Available
The idea that any coach or player in professional sports is untouchable is the biggest piece of misinformation one could get. If Cleveland went to San Francisco and offered multiple first-round picks as well as Josh Gordon, the 49ers would be dumb not to listen. On that note, the likes of Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and even Calvin Johnson could probably be had for the right price. Fortunately for the continuity of the league the price for these figures would be way too high for their team to make a deal.
The same could pretty much be said for Harbaugh. Unless things really get out of hand at 4949 Centennial Blvd. in Santa Clara, the 49ers aren’t going to trade Jim Harbaugh barring some type of super deal.
Harbaugh Could be Coaching Somewhere Else in 2014
This is pure conjecture on my part. But there does, however, come a breaking point in every volatile situation that it becomes apparent two sides just can’t coexist with one another. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports seems to indicate that things might be heating up in San Francisco’s front office.
The men [Harbaugh and Baalke] are barely speaking, I’m told, and almost all communication is through email. Harbaugh also has a strained relationship with team president Paraag Marathe, sources said, and he has clashed with many within the organization.
Outside of the fact that you want your general manager and head coach on speaking terms, especially with the draft season in full swing, there is something really important to take out of this. San Francisco promoted Marathe to president last month. If the Yorks were of the understanding that Harbaugh had a “strained relationship” with Marathe, it could be seen as a kick to the face by Harbaugh himself. That’s when it’s possible that this situation blew up in San Francisco.
Either way, this is all conjecture on my part, just attempting to read the tea leaves.
Now that the “stuff” has hit the fan, the media is going to cling to everything in an attempt to make news stick as it relates to this situation. For his part, York isn’t having any of this. Upon hearing about rumors that his trip to Miami this upcoming weekend was a disguise for a larger trip by San Francisco’s brass, possibly to talk to the Miami Dolphins about Harbaugh, York fired back.
Oh, the power of Twitter. The young executive went on record to tell the masses that his power players in the front office did not accompany him to Miami. The simple fact that he had to do this speaks volumes about how personal he’s taken this entire situation. And for good measure.
There is nothing substantial out there indicating that San Francisco is actively shopping Harbaugh to other clubs. First, every head coaching vacancy has been filled. Second, free agency is just two weeks away from opening. Finally, nothing big has changed in the Niners organization over the past few months. It’s a volatile situation between two strong-minded individuals who have had a tremendous amount of success in their short time with the 49ers.
This doesn’t mean that something won’t go down in the next week, month or year.
Poor choice of words when the story was first reported
Pro Football Talk started it and other outlets have followed suit. Mike Florio has been known to attempt to stir up the dogs with his reports from time to time. This one was no different.
Sources: Browns nearly traded with 49ers for Jim Harbaugh http://t.co/Omg12Odz4N
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) out his own sources.
Sorry Mr. Florio, but that’s not exactly how it works. Later in the whole debacle, Pro Football Talk even went as far to write an article attacking NFL Media, as he calls it, for being in bed with the league, per Pro Football Talk.
We’ve recently addressed the minefield through which the employees of NFL Media are tippy-toeing when attempting on one hand to gain legitimacy through displaying independence and on the other hand to remain, you know, employees of NFL Media.
One thing here. Florio seems to forget that he was the voice of the league during the lockout, continually going to bat for Roger Goodell and Co. against the NFLPA and DeMaurice Smith. But I digress.
Having a conversation with another team about something is clearly different than actually talking about the parameters of a deal, let alone coming close to finalizing a trade. Indicating that Cleveland called up the 49ers about Harbaugh and talks didn’t go far isn’t nearly as sexy of a headline as what Pro Football Talk put out there a week ago today. Sure people will click on it, but it won’t be the talk of the league. It most definitely won’t draw a response from 49ers’ owner Jed York, who has been outspoken about this entire situation.