SBD/Issue 81/Franchises

49ers Make Big Splash By Signing Hot Coaching Prospect Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh Cited Jed York's Vision For 49ers
As A Reason He Signed With Franchise

After signing Stanford Univ. coach Jim Harbaugh to a five-year, $25M deal Friday, "suddenly the 49ers are serious," and Jed York is a "real team president," according to a front-page piece by Scott Ostler of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The 49ers "attracted, pursued and hired the hottest coach on the market." Harbaugh is "way too smart to leave a great situation like he had at Stanford unless he has faith in" York and GM Trent Baalke. Until the 49ers signed Harbaugh Friday, the "conventional wisdom was that York had erred by promoting Baalke ... instead of hiring a seasoned GM." But York and Baalke "must have flashed some brilliant salesmanship, charm, sincerity and football knowledge" to lure Harbaugh (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/8). In San Jose, Mark Purdy wrote, "As of now, Jed York is no longer a kid. ... Not after he ended a week of speculation and wild Internet piranha feeding by pulling off the one thing that many people were wondering if York could accomplish: He hired Jim Harbaugh, the hottest coaching commodity in football." York "definitely grasps why some 49ers fans were skeptical" about whether he could sign Harbaugh. York: "It was obviously a stressful week. ... 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. It's time to get to work." York also "deferred credit." York: "Trent is the guy I hired, and Trent was the guy who hired Jim." Purdy noted York still "played an important role in the lengthy meeting with Harbaugh" on Wednesday. Baalke "did 90 percent of the 49ers' talking during the interview." York "sat in on the whole discussion -- and spoke up only when talking about the big picture." Harbaugh: "Jed talked about his vision. It was productive. ... That sealed the deal." York admitted that he "leaned on his uncle, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., for guidance during the process" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/8).

HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING: In S.F., David White noted Baalke "not only landed the No. 1 coach on his hiring wish list Friday, but he did it while maintaining all the personnel power vested in him when 49ers President Jed York handed him the keys to the football side of the franchise three days earlier." Baalke: "It was important for me to be able to make those decisions. Somebody has to be responsible for making the final decisions." Baalke is the "one with control over the 53-man roster written into his contract, not Harbaugh," and he "has more power than his predecessor, Scot McCloughan." But he "backed away from any attention Friday by emphasizing that all decisions are made by way of collaboration." He is "big on feedback and consensus building, and small on schmoozing and socializing." Baalke "had no problem with York sitting in on his six-hour job interview with Harbaugh" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/8).'s Matt Maiocco noted Harbaugh "never asked for control of 49ers' personnel decisions." Baalke said of Harbaugh, "Philosophically, we're very much the same -- offensively and defensively. The type of players he's looking for are the same type of players I'm looking for. And if there's a decision that one of us don't agree on, the way I've always operated in the past is if we can't come to a consensus on that player, we move on" (, 1/7).

STRUCTURE NEEDED: The SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS' Purdy wrote it "will be important" for the 49ers and Baalke "to create structure around Harbaugh." The coach "has a loopy bent," and he "had a reputation at Stanford for being abrupt and demanding with athletic department employees" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/9). KCO-AM Sports Dir Rich Walcoff said Baalke "will do the grunt work, he'll do the leg work and come to Jim and say, 'Here's what I think. What do you think?" Walcoff: "I think there's ... maybe a deference that Baalke will show to Harbaugh, because ultimately you want to make this guy happy." But the S.F. Examiner's Glenn Dickey said he did not believe that Baalke would be first in command with Harbaugh answering to him. Dickey: "You have to put up the appearance the General Manager's in charge ... but I just don't believe Jim Harbaugh is going to step back and say, 'Okay, you pick the 53 guys I'm going to have'" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 1/7).

PR WIN: ESPN L.A. Managing Editor Eric Neel said hiring Harbaugh is a "win for the Niners." Neel: "They declared their intentions, to not get the guy would have been a hit from a morale standpoint, a PR standpoint and 'where do they go now' standpoint." Harbaugh at one point was rumored to be considering the Dolphins' coaching job, and ESPN's Jim Rome said, "Frisco is a better option than Miami. Not that the 49ers don’t have an issue or two of their own, but they're not the dysfunctional outfit that the Dolphins are" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 1/7).

SKIRTING THE ROONEY RULE? In S.F., Zennie Abraham wrote the 49ers talking to Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and ESPN Radio 101.1 St. Louis Rams analyst Tony Softli for head coach and GM positions, respectively, "then picking the people they really wanted in Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke looks like tokenism." Abraham: "Using blacks as token candidates is just plain sad. I think the Rooney Rule needs to be improved. I'm not sure it's taken seriously by some teams" (, 1/8).

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