Jim Harbaugh: Split not mutual

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Saturday, February 14, 2015

The mutual breakup between the San Francisco 49ers and Jim Harbaugh wasn't so mutual after all, at least not according to the team's former coach.

Harbaugh said Friday on "The TK Show," a San Jose Mercury News podcast, that the end of his tenure with the 49ers came at their behest.

"I was told I wouldn't be the coach anymore," Harbaugh said. "And then ... you can call it 'mutual,' I mean, I wasn't going to put the 49ers in the position to have a coach that they didn't want anymore.

"But that's the truth of it. I didn't leave the 49ers. I felt like the 49er hierarchy left me."

To Harbaugh's recollection, the Niners informed him that he wouldn't be coming back on the Monday after the team's Dec. 14 loss at Seattle. Instead of leaving then, Harbaugh said he wanted to coach the final two games out of a desire to finish what he started.

As it turned out, Harbaugh finished the season, ending an 8-8 season with a 20-17 win against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 28. After that game, the Niners issued a statement declaring they had mutually agreed to part ways with Harbaugh.

"Jim and I have come to the conclusion that it is in our mutual best interest to move in different directions," San Francisco owner Jed York said in the statement. "We thank Jim for bringing a tremendous competitive nature and a great passion for the game to the 49ers. He and his staff restored a winning culture that has been the standard for our franchise throughout its history. Their commitment and hard work resulted in a period of success that should be looked back on proudly by our organization and our fans. We wish Jim and his family all the best."

According to Harbaugh, the final weeks in San Francisco were a bit awkward as rumors swirled that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula would be his eventual replacement.

"I wasn't reading anything that was on the Internet, I was really focused on doing my job, but definitely walk down the halls and people look away or they look at you and you know something's going on," Harbaugh said on the podcast.

The Niners ended up hiring Tomsula on Jan. 14, more than two weeks after Harbaugh accepted the head-coaching job at the University of Michigan, where he played in college.

Despite rumored interest from other NFL teams, including the nearby Oakland Raiders, Harbaugh also said he never had much interest in other jobs.

"I really didn't look at any other situation," Harbaugh said. "I didn't do a pros and cons list or anything. It was just a decision I made from the heart and that was it.

"I was going to go to Michigan."

Including the playoffs, Harbaugh was 49-22-1 in four seasons leading the 49ers.

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