Here is a link to my Tuesday column about Jim Harbaugh vs. Jed York. The full text runs below:
Jed York, the owner who never speaks except when it’s the wrong time to speak — or tweet — has a chance to do the right thing. He can do the right thing today. Doing the right thing would enhance his status as a football owner, endear him to fans and might cleanse his soul. Jed needs to speak up.
First the background to Jed’s latest chance to do the right thing.
Last weekend was a big time for 49ers news. On TV and in newspapers and blog sites across America, media people speculated about the status of Jim Harbaugh who, as far as I know, is still the 49ers coach.
The media people said there are “reports” Harbaugh, who has one year left on his contract, could get traded to the Raiders or the Jets or he could go back to college after this season. Reports said the 49ers already explored trading Harbaugh to the Browns before this season. Reports said Harbaugh could keep his job if he wins the final four games.
Excuse me, but that’s a lot of reports. I wonder where these reports come from. My guess is Jed. I believe Jed is the source of all sources when it comes to the Niners.
Paraag Marathe is no source. Believe me. Trent Baalke may be a source — I mean what do we really know about Baalke? But if he’s the source, he has Jed’s blessing. If Baalke doesn’t have Jed’s blessing and Baalke is running his mouth, Jed should shut him down. If Jed wants to.
My money is on Jed. I think he can’t help himself from flapping his gums.
At Monday’s news conference, journalists asked Harbaugh questions about his job status which seems shaky. It was a tense, uncomfortable news conference. Jed set up Harbaugh for the unpleasantness.
Some questions Harbaugh had to address:
Has he talked to Jed since Jed apologized for the 49ers’ loss to the Seahawks on a tweet? Harbaugh: “To me, that’s not significant.”
Does he think his future is in question: Harbaugh: “I don’t worry about my future. I haven’t participated in any of that speculation. I think I have a recessive gene for worrying about my own future.”
Has the talk about his job status made the team play worse? Harbaugh: “I’m not going to speculate. It’s our job to move on without excuse, without apology.”
That last sentence about no apology was classic Harbaugh. It was a dig at Jed for apologizing on Twitter and it meant Jed’s apology was in bad taste.
Has Harbaugh spoken to Jed about his employment status? Harbaugh: “No, not in the last week.”
Does he want to coach the Niners next season? Harbaugh: “What I want is to attack this week and get it right.”
Notice, Harbaugh did not say he wants to be back.
One question and answer particularly struck me. Could he characterize his relationship with Jed? Harbaugh: “I wonder, do you really want my answer or are you just asking for your own pleasure? I kind of think some of these questions are for your own pleasure.”
Bad answer. Low blow. No one in that room — I couldn’t be there — asked tough questions for pleasure. It makes journalists tense to ask tough questions and put someone on the spot. But it’s a journalist’s job to ask about the main issue. And Harbaugh’s status is the main sports issue in Northern California.
I understand why he went on the attack. He’s under immense pressure, Jed-created pressure. An NFL coach, a coach with a winning record this season and in his 49ers’ tenure, should not have to answer job questions during the season. It is hard enough to prepare for the upcoming game, even if the opponent is the Raiders. Ask the Kansas City Chiefs about the Raiders.
I’ll go further. It is hard to be a football coach, much harder than managing a baseball club. NFL teams play 16 regular-season games and each is a do-or-die event. Coaches and assistant coaches often sleep at the facility, or they are in their offices at 6 a.m., sleep-deprived and nervous and, now after a loss and with rumors flying, worried about their futures and families.
It’s tough enough for Harbaugh to get his team ready, to oversee the game plan, to coach up his disappointing quarterback, to appear cheerful and confident to the players. And now he has to fend off trade rumors about himself? That’s quite a burden.
Jed needs to make things right. He has every opportunity to make things right. He should speak in public.
Jed, you know how to speak, right? It involves exercising your vocal cords and tongue, and allowing breath and sound to come out your blower. You can go public and address Harbaugh’s status so Harbaugh no longer has to address it himself.
Here’s what Jed can say, and he can take his pick.
Option No.1: “I don’t know where all these reports come from, certainly not from me. Jim Harbaugh is our coach and I’m happy with Jim. He knows that. After this season, we will discuss his contract status, which has one year remaining. I am hopeful of extending him beyond the one year.”
Option No.2: “Jim and I have discussed his contract status. He understands we are tabling discussions until after this season when we will reevaluate. I make no promises one way or another. Let’s see how the team does. If we decide not to extend Jim, we will come to an amicable parting.”
Option No.3: “I’ve told Jim I am unhappy with the team’s performance. Trent gave him a talented roster, but the results aren’t there. If the team does not make the playoffs, I will take a serious look at whether to continue Jim’s employment. He knows our standards are the highest and he has been well-compensated for his efforts.”
Any of these options, even No. 3, would be better than what I believe Jed is doing now — fighting a guerrilla war behind his coach’s back, using the media as his soldiers, using Twitter as his propaganda vehicle, chipping away at Harbaugh, the assistant coaches and the team.
It was disturbing to watch Harbaugh trying to answer — or avoid answering — hard, personal, necessary questions at Monday’s presser. Harbaugh was the victim of what Jed started.
Jed needs to do the right thing, needs to clarify Harbaugh’s status or stop floating rumors. He needs to do it now.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.