With everything at stake, it seemed like Jed did everything wrong.
Clearly, his GM search was a sham. He'd vowed to leave no stone unturned; the problem was, he didn't have time. And this was because, despite his vow that the GM would choose the coach, he already had a coach in mind, a coach who wouldn't wait. Even in his limited search, he'd come across some heavyweights. But Jed had stuck with the yawn-inducing Trent Baalke, whose chief apparent qualification was that he wouldn't rock the boat, no matter how much it was stuck in the mud.
Immediately, Jed was besieged with WTFs. Needless to say, the pursuit of the coach was driving the process. So the logical thing would've been to hire the coach, and then let HIM choose his own GM. Instead, Jed rushed the "search" for the GM first, hired one from the office next door, and told him to go for the preordained coach.
What WASN'T weird, though, was the choice of the coach. Indeed, Jim Harbaugh offered the best of both worlds. On the one hand, he was a massive fish, the hottest coaching prospect in years. His collegiate success was miraculous; despite Stanford's rigorous academic restraints, he created a national power out of virtually nothing. And though plenty of hot college coaches had reached the pros and failed spectacularly, Harbaugh's NFL pedigree seemed to guarantee success.
On the other hand, he was the perfect coach to restore the Niners' glorious name. We were captivated by the image of a dying Bill Walsh tapping Harbaugh as his last-ever protégé; melodramatic, of course, but not too far away from the truth. Throw in Harbaugh's devotion to our beloved West Coast Offense, and the poetry of the fact that he would come to the Niners from Stanford like Walsh did, and we simply started swooning.
So Jed was right in his choice of a coach. But once he got the coach in a room, it seemed like he did everything wrong.
Pete Carroll had set the market rate: $6.5 million and personnel power. This might not have been quite a REASONABLE rate--money aside, the list of coaches who've killed themselves as their own GMs is long and growing--but it was the market rate. Harbaugh couldn't insist on more, but he had no reason to settle for less.
Yet Jed and Baalke offered less, WAY less: $5 million, and NO personnel power. Not even control of the 53-man, which they'd given their LAST coach, a total buffoon. And this wasn't their FIRST offer, which they'd gradually increase as necessary. This was their LAST offer; and without a deal, they let the hottest coaching prospect in years walk away and into the night.
Look, I'm not saying that Jed and Baalke should've thrown themselves at Harbaugh's feet. But they needed to realize the stakes. As much as we loved Plan A, that's how much we hated Plan B; the notion of Josh McDaniels--if, as rumored, he was the plan--was completely insane. For many of us, losing Harbaugh might well have meant the end. Yet Jed and Baalke let him go, without having offered the market rate.
They were either boldly courageous or recklessly stupid. The next few days would determine which.
It was NOT a good week for sports reporting. Inflating every half-baked speculation into hard news, the blogosphere declared that Harbaugh would go with the Niners on Wednesday, the Dolphins on Thursday, and Stanford on Friday, all with equal certainty. Yet Jed and Baalke didn't panic; apparently, they knew something that no one else did. Something that made their offer okay, and something that made us love Harbaugh still more.
As the coach himself put it: "I wanted to be here as much or more than they wanted me." Or, as I'll put it: despite any questions of money, power, or front-office heft, Harbaugh wanted to be a Niner, as plainly and simply as that.
He reminded us that ours is "one of the legendary franchises in all of football." He spoke earnestly of his reverence for Walsh. And without mincing words, he left no doubt: "We will install the West Coast Offense in San Francisco, the birthplace of the West Coast Offense."
I swear to you. I nearly wet my pants.
See, the worst part of these last eight years WASN'T losing game after game. It was losing the identity that had made us great, the identity that had made us special. Watching it spread throughout the league, while we just cluelessly pissed it away. Until the low of the last regime, when a certain coach just ripped it to shreds.
For many of us, this was Jed's last chance to save it. And with smarts, guts, or luck--or some combination of all the above--he did.
Yet, impressively, he didn't bask in the oohs and ahhs. Despite having plenty of reason to gloat, he'd already focused on what lies ahead. "I want to make sure that people understand that this is a very happy day, but our work didn't end today. It just begins today." And he didn't seek apologies from those of us who'd doubted him or Baalke; on the contrary, he understood that the doubts would continue. "I'm 29 years old, Trent's a first-time general manager. People are going to have questions. And we haven't done anything yet."
Well, THAT'S not true, Jed. You HAVE done something, something big.
The Niners were dead. Oh, sure, there were coaches and players in red and gold, but they weren't the Niners. They were merely imposters, chasing after the ghosts of the past, and slipping ever farther behind.
No one knows if Harbaugh will win. As you said, there's work to do, and it starts today. But don't lose sight of what you've done.
Win or lose, you HAVE done something, something big.
You've brought the Niners back to life.
Date: June 4, 2011 at 4:57 PM
Comment: You're the one with the brains here. I'm watching for your posts.
Date: January 25, 2011 at 11:12 AM
Comment: Hi Jeff, I'm lukewarm on the Baa(aaaaaa)lke hire (you nailed it, Jed's search was as extensive as the next office over), but pretty excited about the Harbaugh hire. I am a little concerned over the fact that he is taking a large part of his Stanford staff with him. Greg Roman, it appears, has never been a coordinator at the pro level; Vic Fangio was a defensive coordinator, but never stuck around anywhere for very long; everyone else he's hired as assistants and position coaches are guys I've never heard of. Do you think this lack of experience/success at the coordinator positions at the pro level could hurt him? Are my concerns unfounded?
By: lydell d 49boya
Date: January 16, 2011 at 7:30 PM
Comment: MAN...very well done, u really made us as the FAITHFUL see that there is still a great chance of gettin back to the RED n GOLD glory days of old but we are the NEW. thank you...
Date: January 15, 2011 at 5:10 AM
Comment: thank you, this made my day! GO NINERS!!!!!
Date: January 14, 2011 at 7:13 AM
Comment: Jeff, Great article. Some don't like your critiques of this team but I always felt your writing has been sincere and focused. Although I'm a realist as a fan, even I wore the rose-colored glasses from time to time (until week 1 of this year that is). I began a new job in June so I haven't been able to write during this season but I plan on posting some pieces very soon regarding our newfound life as a team. Harbaugh has much to prove at this level but for once in the last ten years, the 49ers made a bold, needed move. Sure, they didn't seem to have a Plan B (which is typical with this organization) but at least Plan A actually came through. Great job and keep an eye out for my forthcoming commentary.
Date: January 14, 2011 at 4:34 AM
Comment: Well I was getting a little irritated with the article until I realized you were taking us back thru the emotion of the whole experience. Nice job and yes I was one of those that almost shed tears over this. It has been a long painful experience the last decade, but I see a lot brighter future.
Date: January 13, 2011 at 7:39 PM
Comment: Gotta love upstate!! been putting in extra hours, lots, wanna put 30% down on my first home, maybe some direct tv to watch the 9ers from the comfort of home haha! but glad to be back. Thanks as always for your awesome insight Jeff! I'm so far behind on my 9er news, I'm 27 and for 20 years i keep up daily, so it's been a weird month not checking every day. I still like the idea of Mcnabb cuz i think Reid moved him bcuz of kolb/vick, and i think Shanahan is just over the hill and has lost a step in coaching. I refuse to believe that Mcnabb can't run a two minute offense and grossman is a better QB. i don't know what they are doing down there. I'm finally gonna sit and start reading up on the draft. The problem with Kolb/Mcnabb/really anyone else is the CBA or lack thereof is screwing us. Also what do you think will happen with the O coord? does Mike Johnson have a shot? i wld assume not bcuz of his spread background. who does that leave? finally i'm intrigued as to your preference for the 4-3. Personally i don't care, just run one that works. But i know a lot of ppl like the 3-4 bcuz of the elements of surprise and the creativity aspect.
By: Niner Faithful
Date: January 10, 2011 at 6:16 PM
Comment: Dan, I apologize, the Sing comparison was a low blow. And since I have read and understand your comment completely, I know for sure you are not Mike Singletary. And I welcome any more comments you have as long as I'm sure you are not Mike Singletary. OK, Mike? LOL. Just playing with ya Dan.
Date: January 10, 2011 at 5:07 PM
Comment: To Niner Faithful: I fell off the Singletary bandwagon after the 1st game this season realizing the utter lack of preparation and adjustments Singletary offered the team. I would never compare Jeff to R.L. for the simple fact that I respect Jeff as a writer just not as a critic. I think he lays it on thick. It's not a big deal, I just get tired of listening to the tone of fans when things aren't going our way. No one seems to have the attitude of winners, they just want to whine and complain in my opinion. I don't want to sound like I'm just trolling the blog, I'm waiting for it to get interesting. I think with Sing gone and Harbaugh in, Jeff will find his 49er groove and give us some good things to think about. I'm just hoping. If not I guess I will just go read elsewhere. I should give him some slack for the past since Sing never gave much variety to talk about therefore Jeff couldn't vary his writing about the 49ers much. I would have just rather read him talk about the positives of the players more than the negatives of the coach.
By: Niner Faithful
Date: January 10, 2011 at 1:35 PM
Comment: Dan be honest with me, you're Mike Singletary aren't you? I have thought about it and there is no one that makes less sense than you. With the exception of Dingleberries. Everyone that reads Jeff's columns on a regular basis can empathize with his anger with the Niners this yr. What I don't understand is, if you don't like it, why do you read the columns every week? I don't like Rush Limbaugh, I think he is a fat ba$tard. So I don't listen to his show, I don't call his show, I ignore him. He's not important to me. So pull up your pants Mike (Dan) and stop yelling at me with your head between your legs. Your head won't fit in there, buddy.
By: Dallas Niner Fan
Date: January 10, 2011 at 9:17 AM
Comment: I am also elated by the Harbaugh hire. You have to give Niner management credit where credit is due. I also never dreamed that they were going to pull it off. About a new Niner QB. As far as a veteran coming in as a bridge. How about Jeff Garcia? I think he still has a couple of years left, he knows the WCO and I think he would be a good mentor for a rookie QB. We could get him cheap. What do you think about bringing Garcia back?
Date: January 10, 2011 at 8:46 AM
Comment: I agree, great article, the 49ers are back from the dead because no matter what happens next we have a coach in place who knows who we are, the great San Francisco 49ers. I have been hating our offense ever since Steve Mariucci left and took the West Coast offense with him. Watching us lose games to the packers, eagles and vikings beating us to death with our own stick. The WCO returns to its home when we need it most, our offense is filled with playmakers but we had no structure or system to get our playmakers the ball. I watched the Orange Bowl and saw first-hand how the innovative and effective Stanford offense moved the ball up and down the field at will. The fact that Jim Harbaugh's version of the WCO uses the TE a lot only adds to the excitement. The 49ers just happen to have the best TE (V. Davis) in the league not to mention D. Walker who is a very effective pass catching TE as well. All Andrew Luck's TDs were thrown to TE's in the Orange Bowl. I also like the fact that he uses a power running game well, T. Gerhart was a heisman trophy candidate on Harbaugh's watch. The 49ers have Frank Gore and good backup A. Dixon led the preseason in rushing. Lastly we need a QB, what do you think of Cam Newton @ 7th?
By: Terry B.
Date: January 10, 2011 at 7:04 AM
Comment: Dan writes: "Or maybe we can define smear as spreading crap all over something." So, by Dan's own definition, Mike Singletary smeared the 49ers. Dan, did it ever occur to you that the reason people are so relentlessly negative about Singletary is that he was so relentlessly awful?
Date: January 9, 2011 at 9:11 PM
Comment: To Terry B. My greatest fan: But that's not what he said! He distinctly said 'to blathe' and as we all know 'to blathe' means to bluff! Ah, and you were probably playing cards, and he cheated! I know you can enjoy a good movie quote at least. Thanks for all the fan mail. Maybe you'd like to schmear something on a good bagel instead. Or maybe we can define smear as spreading crap all over something. Or, who cares if you look up words in the dictionary because you can't understand plain language. Let me tell you in plain language, you are wrong. You can understand that, right? I don't care how bad of a coach Singletary has been portrayed or how unsuccessful he might have been, and I'm not going to defend him. The fact is nobody I have heard or read anywhere has launched as negative a campaign as Jeff has. To his credit(?) he was also one of the earlier critics, but definitely the harshest. I don't care if you like the term I used. Hope you enjoy the nice movie quote, a token of my appreciation for all the attention you give me.
By: Darrell G
Date: January 9, 2011 at 5:44 PM
Comment: Jeff, You were right about Singletary, I stand humbly corrected. He was out of his league, despite any roster prefs we might have, I think we can both agree that no matter who got the call, they were set up to fail with the caveman, no-adjustment mentality. That being said, I think too many have sold Baalke short, he DID have a nice draft this year and has all indications of what the 'chise needs for a GM and as we both established earlier, Jed DOES have Eddie's passion and seems to be putting the steps in place. I am cautiously encouraged at this point.
By: Terry B.
Date: January 9, 2011 at 10:55 AM
Comment: Dan, I continue to believe that you use a different dictionary than the rest of civilization. Can you please explain how Jeff smeared Singletary? According to my dictionary (Webster's), smear means slander, and slander requires a false statement. Can you please enlighten us on what falsehoods Jeff uttered about Singletary?
Date: January 9, 2011 at 8:25 AM
Comment: Hey Jeff, happy new year to you. Trust me I'm as happy as the next guy if not more about the recent turn of events in 9er land. I would even say I'm more optimistic than most about Baalke. Maybe because I'm so soured by that BUFFOON, btw I'm perfectly fine with it after what he did to our franchise, Sing. I feel like Baalke wants to move toward quicker players and he seems willing to work hand in hand with Harbaugh. so that's all good. However, and i don't wanna be negative ned here for lack of a better term, but i feel lost in all this is we finally got a key to our car... but still no engine. i feel like i haven't read one thing that comments on the fact we have no one at the most important position in sports. (btw how great is it to have a coach that actually realizes that.) does nate davis get a shot? i wldnt think so. You commented on a guy Josh Johnson? My thoughts would be McNabb as a bridge to a younger guy!! McNabb ran the WCO for what 10 years, seems like a decent fit. I don't think I'm sold on V Young. My point is that's still a big ?, I wld be interested in your thoughts... oh yeah, admittedly asking a lot, thoughts on our D. we are built for the 3-4, wat does Harbaugh prefer?
Date: January 9, 2011 at 6:56 AM
Comment: For all the bricks thrown Jed's way the past couple of years, it was good...no great, to see him shield them off, stick to his guns and get the hottest head coaching prospect in years. He took flak for hiring Baalke...whose calm demeanor is sometimes mistaken for ineptitude. Again, Jed stuck to his guns...he hired the man he felt in his heart would be the right GM to lead his team forward. At the press conference and question and answer session afterward, Harbaugh himself gave Baalke the credit for driving the long meeting they had on Wednesday. The new coach felt Jed and Trent were clear in their vision for the 49ers and he wanted to be part of it. It's really that simple...what's not is all the peaks and valleys Jed and Trent had to overcome to get Harbaugh signed. They both deserve a ton of credit for getting it done...when interviewed on ESPN shortly after the signing, Steve Young was asked for his impression. He basically said the Niners scored a bullseye...and went on to say that before he died, Bill Walsh told him Harbaugh would become the next great Niners coach. Wow...Jed and Trent had just hit a grand-slam. Good for them and great for the 49ers. Well done.
Date: January 9, 2011 at 6:20 AM
Comment: Yes, it damned near brought tears to my eyes. Not because I eat and drink and smoke football, not because I am obsessed with the 49ers or the WCO or Bill Walsh, and not because I don't have a life. This was bigger than football. This was a last-second saving of something far more profound than football. Creativity, ingenuity and the spirit of the human mind had been under a sabotage for the past eight years. Bill Walsh was the Michelangelo of pro football who created a Sistine Chapel of football called the San Francisco 49ers. A couple of Neanderthals named Nolan and Singletary wanted to paint this chapel in black and white. They damned near got away with it. Jed, the Jedi, had the vision to recognize what the retards were doing, and with smarts, guts and a pinch of luck, restored sanity.
Date: January 8, 2011 at 11:02 PM
Comment: Nice job, jeff! You gave credit where credit was due! Even YOU did something big.
Date: January 8, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Comment: Finally, something to feel good about. There's a lot to be done, more than any of us would like to admit. But now we have hope. And a real football coach. As opposed to a real buffoon.
Date: January 8, 2011 at 9:44 PM
Comment: I'm so happy for you Jeff, you got just what you wanted. I have to say I'll miss your relentless smearing of poor coach Singletary, but maybe you'll write something good now. I had no idea your birthday was January 7th. Happy Birthday Jeff. I have to say Jed was sure gracious considering all the crap you talk about him. I'm as happy as can be with his choice. I know it's possible Harbaugh doesn't deliver everything we hope he will, but I sure like the guy. I liked Singletary too though, so I guess time will tell. Bring on the quarterback.
Date: January 8, 2011 at 8:39 PM
Comment: Nice piece. You're usually such a cynic that I don't read your stuff. I'm glad to see you can appreciate a rare victory for the team.
Date: January 8, 2011 at 7:50 PM
Comment: Well Jeff, can't say I enjoyed your sarcasm for the comparison I made of GMs in your last article. I get you felt the need to try and prove some sort of point you were trying to make. But sometimes the guy who shows he's hungry to make a name for himself and seems determined to change a franchise around, can be your guy. Baalke seems to have that desire. No way Harbaugh signs on if he doesn't feel Baalke's got it. Sure Trent will still have to prove himself, but he's off to a good start.
By: Lucky Phil
Date: January 8, 2011 at 7:43 PM
Comment: This might be the first time I give Jed credit for anything. He realized that Harbaugh was probably the only guy that could win back the fans. The winning football at Stanford was witnessed by everyone in the bay area. And to do this by recruiting from a pool that included only 5% of H.S. football prospects was incredible. Jed knew we needed this guy, knew he couldn't get this guy without a GM closing the deal. He knew Baalke had a relationship with Harbaugh and made him GM. I'm going to speak up for Baalke as GM in fact last yr. and now official GM, he's got us back on the right track. I love the long term deals for V. Davis and Willis. I love more the non-deals for Goldson, Franklin and Lawson. None of those guys made a difference this year and i would show them the door. We need new CB's, depth at WR, a new QB (gabbert or kaepernick) and Bulger to bridge the gap. West Coast back at SF should be fun to see, looking forward to seeing what Harbaugh brings. It's going to take 3-5 yrs., the talent on this team is overrated, but great HC's build perennial SB contenders, Harbaugh could be that guy.
By: Chris P.
Date: January 8, 2011 at 7:40 PM
Comment: Jeff, you are the biggest hater. It shouldn't surprise me though seeing how you're a sportswriter and most in your profession are haters with zero athletic skill and talent. There is no reason to continue to take pot shots at Mike Singletary. To call him a total buffoon shows no class. The man has dedicated the last few years of his life to this franchise and although the results weren't what we all hoped and expected them to be, it doesn't give you the right to be an idiot. Everything you write is garbage because all you do is hate on people and then I finally see an article by you that I thought was positive and I read that BS on Singletary. Fact is, you've never run an NFL team or coached one and you never will. So don't act like you know what it takes to run one when in reality you have no clue. You just think you do. Leave Sing alone. Bye hater.
Date: January 8, 2011 at 6:48 PM
Comment: Now that most people are really happy about the Harbaugh hire we can start thinking about a quarterback. Name that I keep seeing with Harbaugh other then Luck is a kid named Josh Johnson, backup QB at Tampa Bay. From my understanding Harbaugh coached him down at San Diego and his senior year was pretty impressive. The thing I am thinking, he knows Harbaugh and might be a decent fit at least as a number 2 QB. With maybe a short preseason and with little time to prepare, Josh just might be what he/we need to get the WCO on track. Jeff maybe you can enlighten us on this guy?
Date: January 8, 2011 at 4:13 PM
Comment: What gives, Jeff? After being the sole voice of realism in the 49er blogosphere for so long, now you're giving in and drinking the York kool-aid? The fact that Harbaugh was willing to work with this front office means he either has full control of personnel (not necessarily a bad thing, but remember what happened the last time we went that route) and Baalke is the puppet we all suspected or the man simply isn't the genius everyone thinks he is. McDaniels may be a klutz, but he knows what a winning organization looks like and he knew to avoid our front office like the plague (the fact that a guy who couldn't beat us last year after even videotaping our practices was our plan B is all I need to know about Jed). Don't get me wrong, I like Harbaugh, but once again we're asking a coach to build a skyscraper on what is still a very cracked foundation.
Date: January 8, 2011 at 3:22 PM
Comment: Jeff, Less than a week ago you were predicting gloom and doom if Jed appointed Baalke as GM. You stated that "the fun would end quickly if Baalke's the one." Looks like you were wrong on Baalke and underestimated young Jedi. So, do you prefer your crow served medium or well done?
Date: January 8, 2011 at 2:53 PM
Comment: Albeit negative at times, and who can blame you after 8 years of dysfunction in our once-dominant organization, I love your writing style and can't agree with u more on this one. Hopefully, as Jed said, this is only the start...and that start will lead to something special once again.
Date: January 8, 2011 at 2:44 PM
Comment: Jeff your columns get better and better. Keep up the good work!