Oops! I wrote this article earlier today but had to go to a couple of meetings before getting the chance to proof read it. I just now got back on the site to proof and post this ... BUT saw Steve Busichio's post on the same subject. Obviously there's not much interest in this topic ... Steve's post has only generated over 250 replies since he posted it early this afternoon. I dare say that my viewpoint is ... different.
First a little background ... on me. I the last 25 years of my 37-year business career I was the CFO, COO or CEO of several companies. Much of my "project work" during that period involved major negotiations, including the buying and selling of subsidiaries and/or divisions. I tell you this, not to toot my own horn, but to suggest that I may have a somewhat different perspective on this whole Harbaugh / Front Office clash than others do. While, as a Niners Nut, I like to try to think like the HC or GM, my natural inclination is to put myself in Jed York's position ... the guy who has to make the final decision. Accordingly, here's how I see it.
1. Harbaugh and Baalke (and Marathe) were never destined to be best buddies ... ever! They're both highly-competitive, ego-driven alpha dogs and want their own way. The good news is that they will each do whatever they possibly can do to make the Niners (and thus themselves) a winner ... and we all win with that. The bad news is that, having completely different personalities and backgrounds, they will never see eye-to-eye as to the best way to get there. That's just the way it is.
2. Thus, it is just not possible, in the grand scheme of things over the long haul, that these two guys are going to get along ... eventually one of the two will have to go, voluntarily or otherwise. Once again, that's just the way it is.
3. So what is it that Harbaugh really wants? To be the defacto Czar? Having the power of the GM (Baalke), the negotiator (Marathe), and the head coach, all rolled into one? I don't think so. Why? Harbaugh loves coaching. He doesn't want to spend a ton of time reviewing tape of potential 5th-round draft prospects ... as Baalke must. Nor does he want to negotiate player contracts ... that's not in his best interest in his relationship with players ... he would lose the "us" (coach and player) versus "them" (the front office) position in dealing with players. No ... I think that Harbaugh wants three things:
- Like Belichick or Reid, to have the final say on all personnel matters ... which specific prospects are drafted or free agents signed.
- To be the highest paid HC in the NFL ... it's simply an ego thing.
- To have more authority and compensation than his brother ... you know, brotherly love.
4. So ... if I'm in Jed's chair, do I give Harbaugh more say over personnel selections? Absolutely not! Why not? Because if I do, I will lose two of the very best guys in the NFL at doing their respective jobs ... Baalke as GM and Marathe as the numbers wizard. They are, in fact, more difficult to replace than a head coach. But does that mean that we have to take a huge step down in HC capability if we opt to keep the FO and replace the HC? I don't think so. I could go down a list of a number of possibilities both internally (Tomsula) and externally (David Shaw, Jon Gruden), but that's irrelevant right now.
5. So what the hell do I do? First, let's recognize that Harbaugh will NOT be the Niners' HC for an extended (pun intended) period. Therefore, my best option is to maximize the ROI that results from his eventual departure. Clearly whatever Cleveland offered in a trade for Harbaugh wasn't anywhere close to the compensation that Tampa gave Oakland for Jon Gruden or, as I think it was Barnwell who said, it was "laughable."
6. Where do we go from here? Although I'm guessing that most of you won't like it, here's my strategy. Clearly NOW is not the right time to pursue any kind of a trade for Harbaugh ... the cat is out of the bag and any attempt to talk trade now simply weakens the Niners position and lowers Harbaugh's trade value. So what do I do? Nothing. I may have extension discussions with Harbaugh/Dunn but I do NOT extend Harbaugh. The reality is that things wouldn't get any better with a pay raise simply because that still doesn't give Harbaugh the final say over personnel ... it just costs me more money. Will that piss Harbaugh off? Sure. But does it mean that he won't try just as hard to win the Super Bowl next January? If you believe that, you don't know or understand Harbaugh ... it's in his very best interest to do the best possible job this season that he can and his ego wouldn't allow him to do less anyway. (Parenthetically, this strategy will also piss off David Dunn no end ... so he starts making noises about a potential trade with other teams in order to get his guy, and himself, a better deal. Am I unhappy about this? Absolutely not ... it simply helps me pre-sell the demand for JH.)
7. We wait to see which teams are most desperate to replace their head coach after the 2014 season. Dallas? Miami? Since there is precedent (the Gruden trade) and a market, somebody (maybe even several somebodies) will make a trade-for-Harbaugh gesture ... we simply wait to see how much we can get in return. If it's not enough we can always re-initiate extension discussions at that time. Meanwhile, between now and then, be thinking about who might be the best potentially available candidate to replace Harbaugh as Niners' HC.