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.