Perhaps It’s Time for the 49ers to Move on from Jim Harbaugh

Dec 2, 2014 at 4:56 PM


Jim Harbaugh is a builder.

Every offseason Harbaugh makes a pilgrimage to Peru where among other things he helps build homes for those less fortunate.

This isn't all that different from what Harbaugh does in his day job as a head football coach. Whether the location has been the University of San Diego, Stanford University or now the San Francisco 49ers, Harbaugh has been a builder, but instead of building homes Harbaugh has build football teams.

And those football teams have won.

For all the winning that Harbaugh has done at each stop there has been a similar theme, none of his previous stops has been all that sad to see him go. This is a byproduct of Harbaugh's personality, he grinds on those around him to the point that they no longer want to deal with him.

The 49ers went into this season with numerous reports of internal strife between the coach and various members of the front office coming out of Santa Clara. As the season has progressed those reports have not died down, instead they have grown stronger. Jed York's now infamous tweet in the waning moments of the loss to Seattle on Thursday night the most recent catalyst.

It's beginning to look as though Harbaugh will not be back to coach the 49ers next season, and a common phrase heard among those who follow the 49ers has been, "guess they don't care about winning."

It makes sense to say that, only one NFL coach has won more games than Harbaugh since 2011, however those who say that are missing two prime examples of teams who have done just what may happen with the 49ers.

I'll start with the simple example, Stanford. After Harbaugh left for San Francisco he was replaced by former assistant David Shaw. In his first three seasons on the Farm, Shaw led the Cardinal to three straight BCS bowl games including back to back Pac 12 championships for the first time since 1970 and 1971.

Harbaugh had built the program up and Shaw was able to keep it going.

The second example, and the one that I see as most similar to what is happening with the 49ers, took place across the bay.

After reaching the playoffs only one time in 17 seasons the Golden State Warriors hired Mark Jackson as their head coach in 2011. After failing to reach the playoffs again in Jackson's first season, a strike shortened year, the Warriors reached the Western Conference playoffs in after the 2012-2013 season. Not only did they make the playoffs, but the Jackson led Warriors upset the Denver Nuggets in round one, before falling to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round.

The next season was met with increased expectations. Many felt that the Warriors were in position to improve on the success from the season before. That never really materialized as the team won only four more game during the regular season and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

Throughout the season there were signs of discord between the front office and Jackson, with Jackson removing two of his coaches during the season, one of whom was a favorite of the front office. The term used by many to describe the atmosphere around the Warriors was dysfunctional.

As word began to leak out that the Warriors would probably be moving on from Jackson at the end of the season unless they went deep into the playoffs many who follow the team said, "guess they don't care about winning."

Sound familiar?

A funny thing has happened though. With a new man at the helm in Steve Kerr, whose head coaching experience in the NBA consisted of working with the Warriors summer league team, the Warriors are off to the best start in franchise history with a record of 14-2.

Gone is the internal fighting. Gone is the dysfunction. And they are winning like crazy.

Perhaps it's time for the 49ers to move on from Jim Harbaugh.

Sometimes change makes you better.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


39 Comments

  • Craig
    I think most fans are worried that history will repeat itself if Harbaugh is let go. (Me too) But we have to remember Mariucci had a lot of talent during his time with the Niners. One year after he left, Garcia, TO and Hearst were all gone. Julien Peterson also got hurt. A lot more than just a coaching change brought on that decade of sucking. And Mooch went to Det and won 15 games in 3 years. Still I don't want to see them suck like that again...ever.
    Dec 6, 2014 at 7:52 AM
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  • Jack
    Okay, Jack, I can agree the offense need some help. It's obvious G.R. is still running last year's plays. But the offensive line hasn't had the time to build the chemistry they've had in the past. Injuries have taken a hard toll on the line. Our starting offensive line have yet to start any sufficient time to give Kap or the RB any time or holes . We need someone who is creative enough work with the talent we have. Obviously G.R. doesn't. Come on Jack, let's be reasonable, not emotional.
    Dec 4, 2014 at 1:45 PM
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    Response: I'm not being emotional at all. With all the turmoil that is reported from those with sources on the inside a change may do some good. A fresh start if you will. Regarding the offense, my comment below to undercenter was more about how this would be spun by York. If you've read any of my other pieces recently you'll notice that I put the onus on the execution of the players and not the coaches. Great name by the way.
  • undercenter
    Leaving personalities out of it is there any football reasons why Harbaugh should be released?
    Dec 3, 2014 at 9:08 PM
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    Response: Harbaugh is an offensive coach and his offense is offensive.
  • mike
    Harbaughs big mistake was believing that he could develop Kaepernick into a franchise quarterback. It was a reasonable assumption given Harbaughs past success with quarterbacks, but it doesn't look like it's going pan out. If Kaepernick were a top 5 quarterback this team would be a strong favorite to win the NFC. Unfortunately Kaepernick is the unmentionable Achilles heel on this team. He's talented, but has too many bad habits to win consistently at this high level. I don't think he's going to improve much. Inconsistency seems to be the norm for his type of quarterback.
    Dec 3, 2014 at 8:13 PM
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  • Jerry
    I really don't think this article makes a lot of sense. Shaw won with Harbaughs players and system. Kerr had only coached 16 games and now he is annointed? I just can't believe York is so stupid that he is going to let a personality conflict make a really stupid decision. If he is then all is lost anyway. There is a reason that people with skill, passion and drive can be irritable. Good managers allow these people lots of room and enjoy the benefits. Football is supposed to be a meritocracy.
    Dec 3, 2014 at 3:47 PM
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  • Mike
    Looks like JackHammer did a 180 when it comes to looking at Kaepernick. What happened Jack? An endless amount of hate mail?
    Dec 3, 2014 at 1:51 PM
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    Response: Not sure how you would come to the conclusion that I've done a 180 on Kaepernick
  • Mike S
    The GS Warriors are a bad example. Even though Kerr had NO prior NBA HC/Coaching experience (same with MJ) he's proving he's a better teacher & ALMOST OR PROBABLY MORE IMPORTANT IS HE'S PUT TOGETHER A TOP NOTCH #1 & #2 RIGHT HAND MEN (Senior Off & Def Assistant in Gentry & Adams) AS WELL AS A SOLID STAFF WHO CAN TEACH THE GAME. This is Harbaugh's strength as well & what I believe will hurt us the most if/when he leaves. Singletary's Staff was garbage & he didn't know who to bring in esp Offensively. He took the leftovers who said "yes" to his offer of a job opening. Jackson with the Warriors didn't have any Offensive strategy & couldn't work with his Assistants. I totally agree Harbaugh is a builder & vagabond & everyone knows of his personality wearing all around him down hence him having "a shelf life." Warriors a bad example is my main point because Kerr & his HIGHLY EXPERIENCED Lieutenants ARE A VAST IMPROVEMENT over Jackson & his total package. Kerr just didn't maintain what he built. He overhauled the Offense, the O & D mindset (developing & giving more roles to star players ie. Bogut & Curry), & has a better VISION of how he wants his team to be.
    Dec 3, 2014 at 10:26 AM
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    Response: You don't think the 49ers offense is in need of some overhauling?
  • Dallas Niner Fan
    Hey Jack, You made a mistake on the title of this article. You meant: "Perhaps Its Time for the 49ers to move on from Jed York"
    Dec 3, 2014 at 8:29 AM
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  • Elkus
    can't you write about something new and that makes sense? How about games in front of us? what the team can do to get better? This Jim Harbaugh leaving story is OLD, TIRING and most likely will not happen. MOVE ON ALREADY!
    Dec 3, 2014 at 8:04 AM
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  • hightop
    Sometimes change makes you better and yet sometimes it does not.Examples can be indicated for both sides of that equation. Kudos to those in this group who call for caution at the idea of letting go Coach Harbaugh,an idea that is rather popular in the midst of this difficult season.There is another year on Coach Harbaugh's contract perhaps we should should show prudence and allow this year and the next to unfold before we circle Frankenstein's castle with our torches.As an aside Jack I am really enjoying your entries here thanks!
    Dec 3, 2014 at 7:38 AM
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  • vince lee
    Harbaugh brought the 49ers back from worsening to first. Balke has done mediocre with draft picks. Harbaugh has made do with them and have had major success. Inexperienced Jed York is making all the wrong moves and listening to the wrong people. Harbaugh made 49ers a winner from day1 and he helped build Levi stadium, so what happens to one of the most successful coaches in NFL history and is sitting on a 7-5 record... well I hope Jed York is going to make the right decision. If he fires Harbaugh and the next coach doesn't do well then there s gonna be lots of anger towards theYorks. It's crazy there are coaches who have been with same team who have had consistently good years and will have a bad year but management had kept them because they are winners. Also, the team is 7-5 with all the injuries which is a testament of the ability of the coach to motivate. How many teams can do that?
    Dec 3, 2014 at 1:53 AM
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  • Bluemonday
    Everyone should stop and read "steel" comment. We should twitter this comment to the "Silver spoon" Jed York. He gave him a lot of respect for be able to build the new stadium. And remember this Jed "be careful what you wish for"
    Dec 2, 2014 at 10:58 PM
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  • MartyOne
    speculation, speculation, speculation. sigh....
    Dec 2, 2014 at 10:44 PM
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  • Paul A.
    Jack. On the money. Sometimes better for every one to just move on.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 10:35 PM
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  • Pierce
    Well, being a good team was nice while it lasted.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 10:35 PM
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    Response: Hold on. There's still at least 4 games left.
  • doc_brown_
    Harbaugh has represented the 49ers with class. He's demonstrated the ability to subdue his passion for the betterment of the team and I think he will make additional "tweaks" to his approach. Again, all in an effort to win, Period! He has a great feel for modern football and I believe he will continue to improve as a coach. It would be a shame if he left. I think we've been too easy on Baalke. Hyde is a fine player, but we've had a need at WR for quite some time and THIS was the year to draft one...and we took Ellington (also a fine player, but you know what I mean). There is also that whole 2012 thing. Owner is young/rich/douchy/vastlyinexperienced all mixed into one. I'm wondering if Harbaugh has told the 49ers that he and Roman are a package deal. If it's possible to keep Harbaugh and ditch Roman, I'm all in!
    Dec 2, 2014 at 10:13 PM
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    Response: Hey Doc, How about we fire up that DeLorean and set the destination to May 8, 2014?
  • Ninerfanatic
    I'm sorry, but after the Mariucci debacle, what you suggest seems like an unnecessary gamble. Some personalities are hard to deal with, but track records are hard to deny. Track records like winning average over .700, three NFC CG's, and Super Bowl appearance. Though it would be nice to have reincarnations of Walsh and Montana, it is not going to happen. And much good has happened with Harbaugh and Kaep. Just as someone said, this is not a team that is 1-11 and on the verge of next year's first pick. This is a team having a down year yet still in playoff contention. Need I say, spoiled fan base?
    Dec 2, 2014 at 10:10 PM
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  • PNAP
    Awful examples. What was Stanford's record this year? Golden State Warriors after a few games? This is the reason why Jim Harbaugh has to go? Any true 49er fan knows that Jim Harbaugh this the main reason why this team is where its at. He's been underpaid for years and this is the BS he gets from a spoiled brat of an owner... a lame tweet. The York Family has ruined this franchise and Jed has no clue what it takes to be successful.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 9:43 PM
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  • Adam
    Perhaps ur an effin idiot
    Dec 2, 2014 at 9:22 PM
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    Response: Thank you for reading.
  • steele
    I can't believe all you people with short term memory loss. Has everyone forgotten Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, and Dennis Erickson? Guys like Harbaugh don't grow on trees, how quickly we've forgotten the days of total ineptitude and watching everybody else in the playoffs! Don't fire Harbaugh, give him a contract extension 3 NFC Championship games in 3 years and a Superbowl appearance. He's a hell of a lot better than Erickson, Nolan and Singletary!!! Remember Steve Mariucci? He was a winning coach with a great record and we fired him and we got a decade of impotence because of it! So what if Harbaugh is a pain in the ass, we don't have to deal with him. On top of which Kaepernick is his guy, if we cut Harbaugh loose are we gonna find another coach who can coach Kaepernick up? No were gonna get some new coach who wants his guy and has to turn the roster over, no thanks! Keep Harbaugh at least one more year and let him have another year with Kaepernick! Everyone else who wants Harbaugh gone be careful what you wish for, you might just get it!!! Nolan, Singletary, and Erickson 2.0 anyone???
    Dec 2, 2014 at 8:49 PM
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  • MJ
    I am tired of these articles and all the other articles about Harbaugh leaving. Between Harbaugh and general manager Baalke, Baalke needs to go. Jim Harbaugh is worth more than anything we can get in a trade for him, he is a GOOD COACH we sucked before he came here and will return to mediocrity if he leaves. The real reason the team is struggling the season is not because of coaching, it's because of ownership and front office creating drama and thinking it will not affect the players or product on the field. All Jed York has to do is say we want Harbaugh back and we want to extend him but we are focusing on the season. It would kill all the rumors. Instead, he only says we are focusing on the season. The 49ers front office is destroying the Super Bowl aspirations for 2014, they hurt the team for the season even began.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 8:28 PM
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  • Scooter_McG
    "Think about it this way Ricardo, Trent Baalke has only hired one head coach. That was Harbaugh." Bingo. Something I have said previously. Many don't like to give Baalke any credit for this as they believe it was a no brainer, but end of the day Baalke has a good track record when it comes to hiring head coaches. Not saying he will find someone as good, but its fear borne from the post Mariucci era that has people assuming the next hire will be rubbish.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 8:08 PM
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  • Edd
    Every great Head Coach I have ever seen has a revolving door of coordinators, because a great Head Coach picks, trains, and grooms his successors. Harbaugh instead has a "family" of coaches, and he will succeed or fail with his family. This is not the hallmark of a great coach, and it is no surprise that other NFL teams are not actively seeking Roman, Fangio, Tomsula et al. This is not a healthy NFL coaching staff.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:48 PM
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  • Phil C.
    Did you read my comments earlier in the week. It's like we're having a major mind-meld. People act like Harbaugh's the only good coach out there and if the Niners move on from him, they'll go back to losing. I say,"How do you know?" The Warriors example is the exact example I've given. You could also throw the Giants in there; they moved on from Dusty Baker over a decade ago, and even though they struggled for several season with Felipe Alou and the first couple of seasons under Bruce Bochy, now their guts have paid off with 3 rings in 5 seasons. Someone else commented in another write-up that fans shouldn't put their faith in one guy (Harbaugh) but a franchise, and similar to Jed York's uncle, Eddie DeBartolo, while he got off to a rough start (remember how Eddie D had Joe Thomas running the team for two nightmarish seasons?), he figured it out and hired Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Steve Mariucci afterward. Maybe Jed's starting to figure things out.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:48 PM
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  • lulucaliente
    You need to call it like it is. This is a monumental failure for the Yorks, who frankly maybe we should call this Mariucci redux. Head coaches are not pleasant. Anybody who manages talented and creative people know that frictions will develop. Its the executives job to create the environment that lets talent and creativity processes work, not vice versa. Jed is a 35 year old billionaire who was given a football team for his birthday. His ineptness, and inexperience, and yes his petulant spoiled trust fund baby personality is on the media stage front and center. Pete Carroll was right I cant imagine Paul Allen or any other owner poisoning their own well they way the Yorks have.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:34 PM
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  • J BUCK 49er
    I know this has nothing to do with this article. But why haven't I read anything regarding the complete disrespect for the 49er midfield logo on Thanksgiving night. I find it difficult to understand, why and how this was allowed to happen.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:27 PM
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  • ricardo
    You might be correct Jack but I am afraid that our FO won't be able to find a replacement like Kerr and Shaw. You look around the league, teams are always looking for that competent coach.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:23 PM
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    Response: Think about it this way Riccardo, Trent Baalke has only hired one head coach. That was Harbaugh.
  • zachameen
    Two major mistakes Harbaugh made after becoming a HC of 49ers. 1- Greg Roman and 2- Kaepernick. The 49ers can fix this problem instead of feeding rumors to Dion sanders about their own HC.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:22 PM
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    Response: Roman is nothing more than a piece in Jim Harbaugh's offense.
  • Razoreater
    York/Baalke already knew everything about Jim The Builder, yet they hired him and he built their new stadium through winning. Contingency renovation plans should have already been in place, and as much as I like Mr. Tomsula, I don't believe he is the contractor they should be looking towards. Mr. Malzahn or Mr. Morris have the offensive architecture that could enhance the structural edifice Coach Harbaugh created....
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:06 PM
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    Response: I agree with you on Tomsula. Jim the Builder helped Jed build his new palace.
  • Zach Ameen
    Jim Harbaugh is a hack of a coach and we the fans know that he can win At least 5 super Bowls in next 10 years. Baalke and company is only good in picking good defensive players through drafts but have no clue about drafting good offensive players. Greg Roman and Kaepernick can not win a super Bowl with 49ers. Greg Roman's offense is too simple and too slow while Kaepernick is a one read, error prone, too mechanical of a below average QB who is well suited for as a second stringer. If 49ers want to let someone go , than they start from Baalke and Greg Roman now or vanish in a fog for next 15 years.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:04 PM
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    Response: You realize that Harbaugh is the one who chose Kaepernick don't you?
  • Niner
    Seattle apparently is not only laughing at the 49ers but the yorks as well. ( it's ok they must be used to it by now) they fired mooch and brought in guys on the cheap like erickson, and sing. Instead of getting McCarthy and Rodgers they pickup nowin nolan. Harbaugh is a tool, but he wins. The thought of another Tomsula d coach makes me want to barf. Maybe jed should watch the 5 super bowl wins we had with less probowlers than we have now. We won with pass offense, something the Ravens Green Bay Kansas city etc.. Are using. What Bill walsh created here. With a decent offense we could win it all , but they're doing the mooch thing all over again. Ownership changes elevated the Giants warriors, seattle etc... If the yorks truly cared about football they would sell the team back to Eddie d!
    Dec 2, 2014 at 6:37 PM
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    Response: You've actually made a heck of an argument as to why a new coach may be a good thing.
  • tn
    Why would jim have to leave? Have any of you people seen what he is capable of? He has lead them to play offs every year he has coached and super bowls. Look at all the rookies were drafted this season and how he coached them all of you dont think before you say something about a great coach best coaching that the niners have had in years.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 6:21 PM
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  • Lisa
    All this outside noise and rumor is bordering on ridiculous. You would think the team is 1 - 11 or something. This team is in playoff contention. Get over it.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 6:10 PM
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  • Monsterniner
    Please take Kaepernick with you Jim because we don´t need a QB than can´t read a defense, can´t play from the pocket and can´t hit receivers in stride. After all, Kaepernick is Harbaugh´s experiment and to be able to run a real NFL offense we need a real QB. Oh and we don´t need a QB than makes the same mistakes over and over because I´m tired of seeing Sherman laughing at us.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 5:52 PM
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  • NinerG94
    If Harbaugh is so hard to work with then why has Fangio been with him for so long. Roman has never complained. In fact I've yet to hear anyone say a word about not being able to work with coach Harbaugh.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 5:45 PM
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  • Xavierd3
    My question is who replaces him? The object is to make the team better correct? Who makes the team better than Jim has? This seems to be more about egos than football.....
    Dec 2, 2014 at 5:42 PM
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  • REB4
    Just go watch Draft Day and see what a good coach with a history of success has to put up with when dealing with a first time arrogant GM with his own agenda, not drafting players that the coach needs for his system, and trading making decisions without consulting him. These owners already have a history of running off a play-off coach because he refused to kiss their feet. And what did we get after that? EIGHT YEARS of unwatchable football. We're going to get more of the same after Harbaugh leaves.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 5:32 PM
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  • JR
    That may be true. He did build something with the tools and parts that he had, but the next big question is who can come in here and help the 49ers get better. Stanford had David Shaw already waiting for his shot as did the Warriors with Kerr (through the Warriors summer league team). My concern is, if the niners do cut ties with Jim, 1. who goes with him? Fangio? Roman? Though the later could go with Jim. and 2. who will come in and replace him? Sure as they say the grass may or may not be greener on the other side, but could the niners' front office pick the coach that will lead the team like Shaw or Kerr? Or will we end up with another Erickson, Nolan, Singletary...
    Dec 2, 2014 at 5:11 PM
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    Response: The Warriors didn't have Kerr waiting in the wings. They hired him away from TV. He coached the summer league team after already being named head coach. That was his version of an NFL OTA's.
  • Scooter_McG
    Far better put than I could have said, but my sentiments exactly. Great article Jack.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 5:05 PM
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    Response: Thanks Scooter

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