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Officially on Harbaugh Watch?

Brandon Graham
Sep 24, 2014 at 9:34 AM

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Jim Harbaugh is the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Brady Hoke is still the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

David Shaw has not left his current position as head coach of the Stanford Cardinal.

These are facts (surprise!), and no matter what you hear or read this week those truths will not change. Well I can't guarantee the second one will last long as Big Blue wanted to give away tickets with the purchase of a Diet Sprite.

"Harbaugh Watch" got an earlier than expected start, when San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami posted his thoughts on the matter late yesterday. Kawakami has mused on the topic at various times this past summer, but all too often it felt like mere fodder to get us all through the off-season. Yesterday's piece however gave off a stronger sense of urgency on the matter. Was it a well-sourced, albeit ill-timed, column to further shed light on the looming dysfunctional future of the team? Or rather an opportune time to speculate, given the desert-sized wound recently inflicted on a fan base?

Me thinks the latter.

Tim Kawakami is a columnist. He's paid to be polarizing.

His job isn't to give fans practice notes or injury reports, but rather to project his sense on the state of team affairs and offer opinion on how he sees this team, on and off the field.

All that being said, yesterday's post was a transparent putout for page views.

The piece offers nothing more than a heavy serving of "if" and "could." I think most of us are capable of playing armchair owner or GM, but the reality is that this team has those positions filled. Jed York hasn't offered much publicly in this early season, but to suggest he has expectations of someone other than Harbaugh patrolling the 49ers sideline in 2015 and beyond feels…like a reach.

Some fans may be in disarray over the way the team lost games the last two weeks. I get that. I also understand the notion that coaching, or lack-there-of, played a critical culprit in these contests.

But the belief that this team could do better than the currently assembled staff is short-sided. The "LET HARBAUGH WALK" and/or "FIRE ROMAN" banners are neat mantras for message board diatribes, but not actual strategies for taking this team to the next level (the final one).

Kawakami argues that Harbaugh will not head into the 2015 season without a new deal in place. This thinking is based on how many coaches and players conduct themselves in similar situations; he has no proof that this is how Harbaugh will operate.

Jim Harbaugh has built an annual contender. Built is defined as putting together a strong NFL-level coaching staff, winning divisions, earning a wild card birth when a division title isn't available, victories in the playoffs and perhaps above all else, cultivating a level of expectation. Ironically, that may be why some wonder if his time has expired.

David Shaw seems to be a pretty good coach. Can he come in, assemble a staff, win 13 games and a Super Bowl next year? Doubtful.

The reality is that despite any perceived dysfunction amongst ownership/front office with Jim Harbaugh, it seems unlikely that they separate anytime soon. It's fun to throw out splashy names like Kevin Sumlin or Josh McDaniels (Really Tim?) as potential successors, but that suggests a degree of arrogance that, at the moment of Week Four of the regular season, feels even beyond Jed York & Co.

Yesterday's story was not an indictment of Harbaugh's ability to lead or the merit of his coaching ability. On the contrary, Kawakami recognizes that Harbaugh is somewhat irreplaceable. I don't take issue with much of his logic.

I just can't stand that two early season losses dictated this type of rational. It's a seed like this that plants a story of this magnitude on a national scale and that's when it gains traction and feels real (even if it isn't).

I certainly am not trying to attack Tim Kawakami. I am a regular reader of his work and constantly find myself entertained by his ability to go toe-to-toe with the twitter mafia.

This latest column, however, reeked of the knee-jerk variety. I believe fans have enough on their plate, as they try to scheme for a better pass rush and a commitment to running the football in the second half.

On second thought, perhaps Jim should be looking over his shoulder.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Dallas Niner Fan
    If the Niners get rid of Harbaugh it would be a hugh mistake. Remember when Jerry Jones fired Jimmy Johnson? That worked out well didn't it? They could of won more super bowls.
    Sep 25, 2014 at 6:25 AM
  • Craig
    I don't think you could ever do Kawakami's job. 1. You're not polarizing 2. You're too logical. Nice article.
    Sep 24, 2014 at 5:15 PM
  • Imtiaz taj
    dont believe a word kawakami says, he has been trying to embarrass Harbaugh ever since last summer he got embarrassed in a press conference. His tone changed immediately after that incident. Harbaugh is not going anywhere. And the fan who want him out are the same fans who can never be happy with anything and want change for change sake. Harbaugh has done an amazing job, ant team playing post season games three years on a row gets hurt and tired and have a down time. We will bounce back, we will still win 10 games this season and there are teams out there who would gladly take 8-8 season, we, the Niners fans are spoiled.
    Sep 24, 2014 at 5:07 PM
  • DavidWGibson
    I disagree with you, Brandon. Jim Harbaugh didn't build anything... He inherited a Super Bowl caliber team and failed to win it. The drafts in Harbaugh's regime have been underwhelming, to say the least... We're drafting injured players instead of actually building depth behind our aging starters. Class within this organization has plummeted, and even the coach throws temper tantrums on the sideline. The trade to Cleveland was a "rumor," but there has got to be some truth to it for it to even make the news. How do you know we can't do better?
    Sep 24, 2014 at 2:55 PM
    Response: Interesting point, but I think you're being extremely generous calling this team Super Bowl caliber prior to his arrival. They finished the previous season 6-10 and had not had a winning season since 2002. We can argue over the merit of talent on the roster, but it would be a disservice to suggest Jim and his staff were not a massive reason for the recent success. You don't get within a fumble of reaching the Super Bowl a year after winning six games by accident. Trent Baalke, not Harbaugh, controls the draft. I agree with you that since Baalke has taken over as GM in 2011, our drafts as a whole have been disappointing. As for the unknown, it's just that. David Shaw or Kevin Sumlin could be good, great even. However, I'm a fan of the proven commodity and Harbaugh has proven to be just that.
  • GrizzlyAdams
    I tend to believe the opposite of what TK writes.
    Sep 24, 2014 at 2:47 PM
  • Jon
    The correct email for complaints about Tim Kawakami is below... [email protected]
    Sep 24, 2014 at 2:33 PM
  • Jon
    Just an FYI if you would like to tell the San Jose Merc how you feel about Tim Kawakami I found this link... https://www.subscriberconcierge.com/sanjose/feedback.aspx Here is what I wrote. I hope they are reading this stuff Your Sports columnist Tim Kawakami is a horrid writer with no agenda other than to be divisive. His columns on the 49ers are poisonous speculation for no good purpose and read like sour grapes. Does the merc believe Kawakamis "controversial" writing is actually good for ratings? If so, I beg to differ. Bay Area Sports Fans do not want to read about Kawakamis ideas about how the 49er front office will implode next offseason when we are only 3 games into this season! Please get rid of him!
    Sep 24, 2014 at 1:48 PM
  • Jon
    I understand that the merc might believe that stirring people up might be good for ratings, but I really don't think the vast majority of niner fans are interested in hearing his idiotic speculation about how the franchise might implode, and I would like to get that message out to the merc. These are actually great years for the niners, if you are actually a fan. Who wants to go back to drama and coaching searches and lean years with sub-par leadership like Singletary and Nolan? Not the fans. It's fine to break down our current difficulties on the field, or to talk about the actual leadership of Kaep and Harbaugh, but inflaming speculation on what happen in the off season is just poison right now
    Sep 24, 2014 at 1:38 PM
    Response: I agree whole-heartedly! I do think that there is also an old-school audience who perhaps does not follow the team as closely as some of the more dedicated fans that have an appetite for this type of content as well.
  • Niner
    If Harbaugh again finishes near the bottom in pass offense he's gone. Maybe miami will take him, but " overpowering the opponent , asserting your will" nonsense of nolan sing and Harbaugh gets negated against good teams. Bill Walsh proved he could win with smart football over the " tough" bears, Lt and Giants, ny sack exchange, vikings, Ryan's philly team. Seattle is the smallest team in the league. Without wilson, who cared about lynch? Harbaugh needs to change and get with the pro game ( last team to win a sb with best running game .old Cowboys with emitt smith) we lost to the Giants his first year because we couldn't get a first down in the second half. We now have 3 points in the second half in 3 straight games. How is that good coaching? Let's get beville fron seattle. Makes them weaker, makes us stronger, and he comes from the walsh, holmgren , reid coaching tree plus he worked with farve and wilson!
    Sep 24, 2014 at 11:32 AM
  • Jon
    Please, attack Tim Kawakami. He is an awful columnist with no agenda other than to be divisive. He want to see the niners fail. His dream would be the niners losing their remaining games followed by a huge dramatic front office explosion. Not sure why niner fans are subjected to his neurotic columns. Not sure why he even has a job.
    Sep 24, 2014 at 11:17 AM
    Response: Just for that reason. He (and the Merc) know that strong, albeit unpopular, takes cause reaction. Personally, I don't think he truly has any animosity against the franchise, but he does seem to revel in stirring the pot. I do think that he enjoys his own press clippings and even being "hated" as he assumes it maintains his relevancy. Not unlike Skip Bayless. Thanks for taking the time to check out my piece though. Cheers
  • Tom
    I can't believe you are responding to a Tim Kawakami piece? That guy is the biggest gassbag joke of a journalist without ANY credibility. He rode the Harbaugh/Baalke rift story for months demanding it was all true, and focused on "unnamed" sources saying harbaugh was losing the locker room after that. Now he says its not about if he is going to leave the 9ers, but how to make the timing right. How can you respond to that trash?
    Sep 24, 2014 at 10:56 AM
    Response: Yeah the "unnamed source" was laughable this past off-season. I wanted to counter this particular post as it just felt way to early (even for him) to put out into the universe. Sites like PFT and the talking heads at the sports networks take this bait and spin it to the masses. Tim Kawakami consistently brings up the alleged rift between Harbaugh and management w/o any really evidence.
  • joe
    The fact is Harbaugh will not be the coach of the 49ers after the 2014 season. Jed York purposely put off giving Harbaugh a new contract until after the season. Sources inside the 49er organization have told ESPN that the 49er's will pay off Harbaugh's last year part of his contract in 2015 and let him go. He is not liked within the 49er organization and Baalke has told York that if Harbaugh stays beyond the 2014 season he will resign. The new coach for the 49ers will be Brad Sealy their special teams coach.
    Sep 24, 2014 at 10:46 AM
  • JustTheWest
    Based off the title of this post I was thinking "ugh another one of these" but bravo for the counter argument.
    Sep 24, 2014 at 10:16 AM
    Response: Ha, I probably would have thought the same thing. Thanks for taking the time to check it out though.
  • Shawn12
    This is what Kawakami lives for. And I laughed pretty hard when he listed Josh McDaniels as a possible replacement!
    Sep 24, 2014 at 10:11 AM
  • R Walsh
    Well said...
    Sep 24, 2014 at 10:10 AM
  • Sean Jordan
    THANK YOU! I've been waiting for a post like this. Kawakami's witch-hunt to alarm 49ers fans with Harbaugh doomsday information is the definition of "hack" writing. This crusade of Kawakami's is unreadable. And to top it off, when fans like us call foul on him he cries wolf by acting like a martyr. Annoying is an understatement.
    Sep 24, 2014 at 10:02 AM

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