The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their 2014 season with a win over the Arizona Cardinals, and Jim Harbaugh's post-game press conference saw him wax nostalgic about his four years in the Bay Area. It is worth noting Harbaugh would not confirm Michigan was his next stop, although that is the general consensus.
Tim Kawakami tried to get him to give it away by asking him if he would miss the NFL. In response, Harbaugh said "Is the NFL going somewhere?", and quickly changed the subject. I still expect him to head to Michigan, but he might give the son of one of his mentors one last crack:
I expect Mark Davis and Jim Harbaugh to have a one-on-one conversation on Monday. Getcha popcorn ready.— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) December 29, 2014
I don't expect much to come of this, but it would be kind of funny if things went haywire in the journey to his next stop. It would really be fitting.
But that aside, whatever your thoughts on Harbaugh, it is the end of a wild era in 49ers history. I think Trent Baalke deserves a certain measure of credit for putting together a lot of the talent, but I also think Harbaugh's leadership skills were critical to the development of this team. He was a leader of men, and while it would appear that will wear some folks down, the highs were really high. He got people to buy in, and the team went places rarely accomplished in the NFL.
And for that, we thank Coach Harbaugh. Thanks to user Joe Wilka for posting the video above. It might be a little overboard in certain respects, but I think it is fitting in certain respects.
S Craig Dahl gave you the ball he intercepted and you carried that off the field. What does that gesture mean to you?
"It just meant a lot. Much appreciated. Just the way I feel about these players, these coaches, this staff, this organization. Been the time of my life. Been a lot of great memories, great moments."
Do you expect to be the next coach at Michigan?
"There will be announcements made concerning those things. I want to really focus and concentrate on how much I appreciate you too, appreciate the fans, media, the people that I mentioned in terms of our football team. Great allies, great friends and people I'm going to be friends with forever. That's the way I feel about them. The things that were accomplished here were very, very good."
You had a discussion with CEO Jed York before the game. Was that just to say goodbye? What was that conversation generally about?
"That was a pregame talk. Personal, really."
Is there a sadness after four years of being here and doing the things you did? On this day, does it feel, is it a sad moment for you?
"I don't know how to say it. I maybe don't have the words for it. I'll say it this way: as I've said along, you work at the pleasure of the organization. It's been a tremendous four years. And it's been a pleasure to work and serve for this organization, for these players, for this football team. I feel great about what we've accomplished. Feel great about the friendships that were made, the relationships that were made. That's what a team is - a set of relationships. I feel good."
You've said recently your number one priority as a head coach is to win football games. You did a lot of that in four years. Do you leave here feeling, like, short of the Lombardi Trophy, that you accomplished everything you could have?
"I thought we accomplished great things. Tremendous football. So many people to thank for that. So many people worked so hard to construct where this football team is. Feel great to be a part of it. Feel it's been signature years in my life and I have much gratitude for everyone involved."
So from what you're saying, did you coach your last game as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers today?
"There's going to be statements made. I know that the organization has a statement that they want to release, so I will defer to that."
Can you share at all what you told the team about what will happen?
"Yeah, just how much I appreciate them, just how much I love them."
Do you know about anything that will happen or did you address that part of it?
"We addressed. We addressed."
Will you be here tomorrow for your weekly news conference?
"We'll see, we'll see. We'll think about that [laughter]."
I was thinking of being here. And it would be nice if you were here.
"Let's get together. Let's do that. That would be fantastic."
Do you leave on good terms with Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke?
"Yes. Yes. As I said, everybody. As I described it, this has been the time of my life. That song, "Had the Time of My Life." I did [laughter]. I really did. I had a lot of fun. It's the relationships that were made along the way. That's what a team is. And I appreciate the fans, the people of the Bay Area, the 49er Faithful. All the good times that we've had. The other, the relationships that we've had. I think it's been really good and fantastic. Players, coaches, staff, friends for life."
Is this your choice to move on or is this their choice?
"As I said, you work at the pleasure of the organization. That's what we all do."
Was this your ideal way for RB Frank Gore to finish out this -- ?
"Thank you. Yes, let's talk about Frank Gore. Wow. Again, I'm not going to have the words for it but what an unwavering competitor. Frank Gore will have another year of football next year there's no question about that. Tremendous season, tremendous character and football player. There is a football heaven that's awaiting Frank Gore and so many of our players: [DT] Justin Smith, [QB] Colin Kaepernick, [FB] Bruce Miller, there's so many of them. [WR] Michael Crabtree, [WR] Anquan Boldin, [S] Antoine Bethea, [CB] Chris Culliver. What a great game for Chris Culliver today, too. So many of them. Whether the relationship was four years or just a couple weeks, I was incredibly close to this team. I'll forever appreciate that. And forever proud. Forever proud to have been a part of this, been a part of this football team."
Was this a tough season for you overall, though, just given everything you had to deal with?
"We battled. We battles. The team battled from beginning to the end. That's what you do. You start something, you finish it. I felt like all of our guys, I feel like this way: You do your best. If you do something, people may look at it as not good enough, but you do your best. If your best isn't appreciated, then you do your best anyway. And I think that's what our football team did this year."
Do you think you were appreciated this year?
"Yes. I have so much gratitude because of so many things that's given. The respect that the players have always shown. The way they've always given it their very best. That's all you can ask. And you know, I've said it many times, it's a joy to coach this team."
When was your last Gatorade shower before this? Do you remember? Was it Atlanta? You don't remember? Green Bay?
Do you think you're going to miss the NFL? You talk about the great players you've coached. Are you going to miss the NFL in any way?
"Is the NFL going somewhere? [Laughter] But Frank Gore. Back to Frank Gore [laughter]. What a performance. I think the thing that's really burning in my mind right now is that run along the sidelines straining to stay in bounds. Everything he had. Every ounce of football energy. That's him. That's who he is. He's a known agent and trusted friend."
Do you expect to or hope to be coaching alongside of your current assistant coaches next year?
"I don't know what the paths are right now in regard to that. Assistant coaches, our staff, I can't thank them enough. You talk about the work that people do and the effort that they give and the relationships that are made, it's strong, strong friendships and strong allies."
How important was it to go out with the win today? You and former 49ers head coach George Seifert are the only 49er coaches to never have a losing season.
"It felt great to win. Feel good about ourselves. The thing is, I count them up. I count up these wins and that's 49 wins and that seems appropriate. That seems pretty darn good."
How do you think this organization stands moving into the future? How do you leave it?
"It's one of the elite, premier franchises in the NFL. Proud to have been a part of it."
What will be the most memorable moment of your career with the 49ers?
"That's a great question. There's so many. I just keep thinking of the relationships. Keep thinking of the friendships. I'll be forever proud to call these men friends."
What would you like to put in the 49ers museum to represent the four years you were here? What would you like to have in there for the public see?
"I haven't thought of that. Do you have an idea?"
Going into the season, realistically, did you have an inkling this was going to be your last season with the 49ers?
"No. As you know, all the focus was on achieving our goals, winning the next game. All the focus was at all times on that."
WR Anquan Boldin has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. How much of a value has he been for you since you've been here?
"There's probably a football hell, but I really believe there's a football heaven and that's where a guy like Anquan Boldin is going. Tremendous, tremendous person and football player. Just great to see another stalwart performance from Anquan Boldin. Forever proud to even know him. Forever proud to have coached him, to have been on the same team with a man like Anquan Boldin."
Do you have any regrets about your time here?
"Not that I can think of, no. Feel good."
Did you have a chance to say goodbye to the players in the locker room or will that be done tomorrow? How are you going to handle that?
"We had a good discussion in the locker room. Again, feel like I'm going to be friends for life with anybody that wants to be because I truly love this team."
You once said that playing for a Lombardi Trophy, Super Bowl title, is the ultimate prize. You don't have that yet. How do you reconcile that in your mind? Is it that still out there for you to do? For Jim Harbaugh to do, to accomplish?
"We played for it. And that's the way we looked at it every time we took the field. Been a tremendous thrill. One of the great thrills of my life. Be forever proud of what we accomplished."
How has this organization changed you, helped you grow?
"Been a lot of growth. When you talk about the people that are in our organization, on our team, players you're showered with, coaches you're showered with so many attributes, so many things that are right and good, whether it's work ethic or leadership. It's an example. It serves as an example. Daily, you're showered with it. I know I've grown immensely."
You talk about all the good things here, so why is this ending? Why?
"I think I addressed that earlier. Let's talk to the players."
Why did it end 8-8 this year than a better record, in your opinion? What happened?
"Like I said, everybody gave it their very best. And I appreciate that, and respect that and will be forever proud to have been associated with these men and their best."
What's the most important thing you're looking for in your next job?
"I think we've covered as much ground as we can cover right now, but I appreciate you, appreciate you all and our friendship."