Here is a link to my Tuesday column in which Jed York talks Jim Harbaugh. The full text runs below:
Let’s see if we understand this. At his lollapalooza post-Jim-Harbaugh news conference, Jed York said he parted ways with Jim Harbaugh over “philosophical differences.”
Jed: I love Plato. He’s the man.
Harbaugh: Plato’s an overrated bum.
Jed: I don’t want you to coach my team, anymore.
Harbaugh: Did I say something wrong?
There was more. One reporter asked Jed what he’s looking for in the next coach. “A teacher,” Jed shot back.
Someone followed up, asked Jed if Harbaugh isn’t so hot at teaching. Jed said Harbaugh is good at teaching quarterbacks.
Fascinating answer. It seemed to imply Harbaugh is position-specific, doesn’t know much beyond quarterbacks — is a dud, say, at tight ends or punters. It also seemed to imply Harbaugh is not good at teaching his assistant coaches. Bill Walsh, whom Jed referenced several times, was great at teaching most offensive positions and at schooling his coaches.
Is Jed correct in his assessment of Harbaugh’s teaching limitations? I have no idea.
Jed kept using the word “class.” He said the 49ers have class and win with class, but let their class quotient drop. You had to read between the lines to know what he meant. He meant, I think, Harbaugh insisted on playing guys under suspicion or under clouds. This would apply to Aldon Smith before rehab and it might pertain to Ray McDonald the first time around. In other words, off-field issues figured in Harbaugh leaving. He had no class. And Jed may be right.
Of course, Jed showed no class of his own when he leaked information about Harbaugh to the national press starting before the season. He denied being the leaker in the news conference, but I wonder if he was being straightforward. And Jed showed no class when he tweeted an apology to fans after the Thanksgiving night loss to Seattle. It was a direct slap at Harbaugh, the assistant coaches and players. Jed and I spoke about the tweet at the news conference and we still disagree about whether the tweet was classy or classless. But, Jed came down off the stage to shake my hand after the conference, and that was a classy gesture.
Jed may have a million good reasons for disengaging himself from Harbaugh, who was almost surely overbearing and hard to take on a daily basis. Plus, it’s Jed’s team. He can hire the guy he wants.
One thing though: Jed said it was “a mutual decision” for Harbaugh to take a hike. I just don’t believe that. I think Jed pushed Harbaugh to the end of the high diving board, and then Harbaugh jumped. That’s how mutual it was.
And I’ll tell you this. Trent Baalke, also at the news conference, will lead the search process for the new coach, which will take a few weeks. In the release explaining why he parted with Harbaugh, Jed wrote: “We are now squarely focused on finding the next head coach of the 49ers and I am very confident in Trent’s ability to lead that process. With the great leaders and talented players we have in our locker room, we are ready to move into the next chapter of our team’s history.”
Well, it’s not clear how talented the players are — there’s creeping age in that locker room. Baalke said the team is not rebuilding. He said it’s merely reloading. Excuse me, but it sure seems to be rebuilding. No running back. So-so quarterback. One good wide receiver. An invisible tight end. Great defensive tackle who’s 35 and may retire. Great linebacker coming back from a mangled leg which may mean he’s not so great anymore. That’s a load of reloading.
And let’s pause over Baalke as talent expert. Baalke now is the top honcho on the football side of things. His alter ego Harbaugh got expunged. Although Jed will participate in interviews for prospective coaches, he probably knows as little about X’s and O’s as I do. Baalke will be the main guide to Jed on the final decision.
I see Baalke as an ego guy. Hardworking, for sure. But an ego guy. Feels uncomfortable with another big-ego guy like Harbaugh disagreeing with him or vying for power.
That could mean Baalke will not hire anybody who has a spine. Baalke might not want an opinionated or strong-minded personality as coach, which probably rules out any sitting head coach in college or the NFL. We’re probably talking some coordinator or other — a man comfortable taking orders.
I maintain that head coaches are more important than general managers. You can find good personnel guys all over the place. Great coaches are rare. Great coaches are often borderline personalities. See Harbaugh.
Jed clearly stated his standard on Monday. “It’s up to us to make sure we compete for and win Super Bowls. That’s our only goal. We don’t raise division championship banners. We don’t raise NFC championship banners. We raise Super Bowl banners. And whenever we don’t deliver that, I hope that you will hold me directly responsible and accountable for it. And we look forward to getting this thing back on track.”
It’s hard to hold Jed responsible. He owns the team and no one’s going to fire him.
But he definitely delineated a standard: Super Bowl winner. The new coach, whoever he is, may have the class of Audrey Hepburn, may have the teaching ability of Aristotle, may agree with Jed on the key philosophical issues of our time, and may burn to win a Super Bowl as badly as Bill Walsh.
But will he be better than Harbaugh? Will he win more games? Will he get to the NFC championship game his first three seasons?
Who is he, Jed?
Who you gonna get?
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