The parting of Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers wasn’t quite as mutual as it was advertised at the time, according to one of the principals involved.
“I was told I wouldn’t be the coach anymore,” Harbaugh told the San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami in a half-hour podcast Friday. “You can call it mutual. I mean, I wasn’t going to put the 49ers in a position to have a coach they didn’t want any more. ... That’s the truth of it – I didn’t leave the 49ers. I felt like the 49er hierarchy left me.”
The full interview can be heard here.
Harbaugh said the news was delivered to him Dec. 15, one day after the 49ers lost to the Seahawks. Two weeks later, minutes after the 49ers won their finale against the Arizona Cardinals, the team sent out a news release saying the sides had “mutually agreed to part ways” and that Harbaugh was free to pursue his next coaching job “without any constraints.”
Harbaugh had another year left on his contract.
Despite being told he would no longer be the 49ers’ head coach, Harbaugh said he wanted to finish the season.
“I have very fond memories of it,” he said. “And I’m not going to trash something I was a part of. And the memories that I have – the wins, the championships, the titles – those may be forgotten as time goes on, but I am never going to forget the players, the loyal coaches, the memories that I have of being a member of the San Francisco 49ers team.”
In that last sentence, Harbaugh seemed to stress the word “loyal.” Two other coaches who were on Harbaugh’s staff have said they believe Jim Tomsula, who succeeded Harbaugh, was undermining the coach during the 2014 season and acting as an informant to CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke. Those assistants have requested anonymity.
Tomsula was Harbaugh’s defensive-line coach for four seasons. He was one of three coaches – Tom Rathman and Mike Solari are the others – who are holdovers from Harbaugh’s staff.
Asked by Kawakami if he felt Tomsula was campaigning for his job while he still had it, Harbaugh said, “That’s a good question for him, better him than for me.”
Was it awkward to hear Tomsula’s name as a possible replacement?
Said Harbaugh: “There was definitely a point where you walk down the halls – and, you know, I wasn’t reading a lot of the things, I wasn’t reading anything that was on the Internet, I was doing my job – but you definitely walk down the halls and people look away or they look at you and you know something’s going on. That’s really the extent of the analysis I have on it. Better question for others.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.