Over the course of this season, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has received numerous questions about his future. Whenever a rumor pops up, he gets a question at his next press conference. We don't actually get much in the way of insight as he generally refuses to discuss his future.
Harbaugh's recent line has been "I only talk about the job that I have." It is a perfectly reasonable response, but obviously it invites some measure of snark and speculation. He is not providing a no, and so that opens the door for speculation that he is just avoiding the question. It's a shame it leads to this, but it is not remotely surprising.
On Thursday, Jim Harbaugh had the following exchange with the media:
Have you been offered a contract by the University of Michigan?
"As you know, l only talk about the job that I have. We've been together a long time and it's a long-standing policy."
I have to ask you. Trent mentioned that you and he talked briefly this week to say that you would sit down and talk after the season is over. Was that something that you asked for or how did that agreement become that you would talk at the end of the season?
"As you know, Trent and I have discussions every day."
You've said in the offseason that your intention was to coach out this contract. Is that still your intention?
"Yeah. I've said that I'm going to finish this until the end. My focus is the same as the players' focus, same as the coaches' focus, the focus on the practice field, the focus in meetings, by our players, by our coaches and by me. That is our focus - this football game against the San Diego Chargers and playing well to win it. That's where our energy and focus is."
That last line got some people feeling at least a little optimistic that Harbaugh would return for the final season of his contract. While nothing can be ruled out with regard to Jim Harbaugh's future, I think this comment just reflects something I have believed for some time. People say he is a BS artist, and some have said he just plain lies. In fact, I look at Harbaugh as a guy who in the moment he says something thoroughly believes what he says. Things can change in a heart-beat, but when Harbaugh says something, he honestly believes it.
I don't think "I'm going to finish this until the end" has to mean the end of 2015. It means he will coach this until it is over with. Nothing more, nothing less. Maybe that turns into a semantics argument, but he will be here until he is no longer here. That does not make things any easier for any of us to figure out, but it is just one way you can choose to interpret what Jim Harbaugh says on a regular basis.