Saturday evening, word got out that Jim Harbaugh had agreed to become the next head coach at the University of Michigan. The rumors had been floating around for some time, but Anthony Davis effectively confirmed he was leaving, and CSN Bay Area's Dave Feldman (and close Harbaugh friend) reported it was a done deal.
That made Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals very surreal. Everybody knew the coach would be leaving, so the game and the post-game reactions provided a chance for a lot of reflection on the the whirlwind that was Jim Harbaugh. The San Francisco 49ers locker room featured plenty of comments about Harbaugh. The 49ers PR staff sent along these transcriptions. They usually do not include every single comment for the non-Harbaugh, Kap transcripts, but there was plenty said about Harbaugh.
Does Harbaugh leaving make you wonder what's next for you? He's been such a big part of your career.
"He has been a huge part, but I'm playing football regardless. I'm the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers until they tell me different. So, I'm going to keep trucking on. Be looking forward to finding out who they're going to bring in and what we're going to be working on. But, as far as me, I'm going to continue to work."
The past couple weeks, you've mentioned that just the idea of Jim Harbaugh not being here next year was something that you had a hard time wrapping your mind around. Did you get a chance to talk to management or ownership to kind of find out why or are you curious why he's not here?
"That's not my job position. That's not in my job description. I'm here to play football. I love coach Harbaugh, I support him, but this isn't my place to make that decision or comment on that."
How emotional was that last meeting with Harbaugh? Just talking to you guys in that locker room after this game.
"I think it was huge. A lot of us have been with coach Harbaugh since he's been here. And the players that were here before him saw how he turned things around and turned this organization back into a winning one. It's tough to let that go, but at the same time, we have to keep moving forward as players because our careers keep going on."
How did coach Harbaugh help you develop as a player or as a person over the last few years?
"He's done numerous things for me, not only as a quarterback, but as a person. I think he's not only a great coach, but a great person and that's what he preaches to the team. Go out, give everything you have to your team, but make sure you're taking care of your family and you're taking care of your teammates and those are the things that are important."
Since you took over as quarterback, Jim was always supportive and positive about you when answering questions from us, unfailingly. Behind the scenes, how did he treat you?
"We have a great relationship. He's going to tell you if you're doing something wrong, if you need to adjust something or change something. He's going to let you know. I think that's where the respect came between us was yes, we have a great relationship, but you're still my coach and I still need you and you still need to point out what I'm doing wrong and make sure I'm still improving."
As CSN Bay Area reporter Matt Maiocco mentioned, no matter what we've asked Harbaugh about you, and sometimes our questions have been pointed, said, ‘Hey, look at the stats, he didn't have a real good game,' he's never been critical of you. Maybe he said, ‘Colin didn't have his best game.' What has that meant to you? The fact that he hasn't come close to ever throwing you under the bus.
"It's huge when you have support of a coach like that. It gives me confidence to go out and put everything on the line. It might not be my best game or it might be my best game, but he's going to support me regardless. To have that confidence when you step on the field that your coach is behind you and your team's behind you is huge."
Did he have just a little extra oomph today before the game when you guys were hitting shoulders and pads before the game? You and coach.
"Yeah, we wanted to make sure today was a good one, that we went out the right way. We knew this was a possibility and we wanted to make sure we laid it all out on the line for coach."
Think you might become a Michigan fan?
"I'll always be a fan of coach Harbaugh. Not too sure about Michigan though."
The 49ers have announced they're mutually parting ways with [Head Coach] Jim Harbaugh. Your thoughts about that?
"I respect Coach Harbaugh. I respect [CEO] Jed [York]. That's the decision they made. It's a business. I wish Coach Harbaugh the best. He's a great coach. I liked how he approached the game of football. My best years, they were with him as a team. He was here and we won. I just wish him the best. I know whatever team he goes to, whether it's NFL or college, he's going to be fine. He's going to get it done."
What did it mean for you to have the kind of game that you had today? To send him out a winner?
"It meant a lot. Especially that this could be my last year and it's his last year. I respect him a whole lot and wanted to finish it right for him. I wanted to finish it right for my fans who've been with me since I was 21 when I first got here. They've been great fans. They've been down with us. Even though this year was a disappointing year, they were still here. I just wanted to finish right. If I'm not here, I wanted to show my fans the way a 49er is supposed to play."
Can you identify the young gentlemen (his sons), please?
"They're going to be here one day. As long as daddy keeps standing behind them, they're ballers."
Is Coach Harbaugh recruiting now?
"If he goes to Michigan or whatever college, they've got a shot."
Was it weird, bitter-sweet emotionally knowing that head coach Jim Harbaugh won't be here?
"Definitely weird. He had a lot to do with me re-signing back to the team. So, it's definitely weird. For me, it's something that you didn't see coming especially with what he had done in previous years. I mean, unprecedented, first three years that you go to at least the NFC Championship. So, definitely didn't see that coming."
Do you even understand what happened? We're on the outside looking in. He's been a very successful coach. I don't understand what's going on. Do the players? Do you?
"No. But, we don't make those decisions. So, you're asking the wrong guy about that. If it was my decision he would be here. But, obviously not. It's not my decision."
You said you re-signed because of him. What was it about his coaching style that made you re-sign?
"Me and him had a connection. I just liked the way that he goes about his business. The same way that I do. No nonsense type guy. Loves to win. Loves to compete. You see it in the way that he comes to work every day. The guy loves the game of football. I believe if he still could play he would probably be out there. You can see that. So, that had a lot to do with, like I said, me signing back here."
Is it a different feel to end this year? Not going to the playoffs, don't know if RB Frank Gore will be back, don't know if G Mike Iupati will be back, don't even know what the future has in store for Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. How have you personally been able to handle those uncertainties?
"It's the NFL. It is what it is, you take it one day at a time. Enjoy the moment, enjoy this game tonight and we'll see what this offseason brings for everybody."
Is Head Coach Jim Harbaugh going to address the team tomorrow?
"I'm not sure. I just know there's a 10:00 meeting tomorrow. I will be there, I think everybody else will be. Like I said, you take it one day at a time, enjoy this moment right now ending the season with a win, a much-needed win, and look to get better next year."
Did Head Coach Jim Harbaugh say anything to the team or do you have a sense for his future?
"I just appreciate everything from him and all the coaches. Like I said, it is a good feeling to get this win and celebrate with my teammates."
Did he say anything to you about his future after the game or last night?
"Not really. I guess we'll discuss that tomorrow or perhaps the next day."
What are your impressions of his leadership and how he ran this team the last four years?
"I've been here all four years. This is the organization that drafted me. It has been a good run with three NFC Championship games and a Superbowl appearance. We had a good run. I appreciate everything that is going on here. I just take it in and keep going."
If you found out that Jim Harbaugh was going to take the Michigan job, what would be your reaction?
"That it is the best decision for him and his family. He is his own man and I support him one hundred percent."
Would you miss him if he left?
"I would definitely miss him. He's a great coach. He's my coach."
What did Head Coach Jim Harbaugh say to the team after the game?
"He just said thanks for fighting and battling. He asked us the infamous question, who could possibly have it better than us?"
And what was the answer?
Was it as loud as ever, maybe even a little louder? Did it feel a little different chanting it this time?
"It's always loud and it's always enjoyable."
Before his pregame talk to you guys, did Head Coach Jim Harbaugh talk to you personally or talk to the team about what might be occurring?
"No, obviously he didn't want it on our minds and I don't think it was on his mind at all. He was dedicated to being our head coach and being our leader, so we needed him. That's where he steered the course."
He was pretty clear to us that this was his final game with the San Francisco 49ers. Was he as clear to you guys after the game?
"No, he didn't know what was going on, where he would be. He had thanked us for being the people we are and he wanted to continue friendships and keep in touch with players and stuff, so basically you take what you want from that."
You know that this league is a business, but is it hard for you to reconcile the success that he's had here and the idea that he's now splitting with the team?
"Undoubtedly, when you make it to postseason victories and NFC Championships and a Super Bowl appearance as a head coach in your first couple years, basically you're driven by your success here. That's what the NFL is about."
Was it a little bit of a surreal atmosphere today with all the questions circling about the coach, or does that disappear when you take the field?
"No, I don't think about it at all. I know he's passionate about putting us in the right place and the right call that we need to be in, and being our leader out there on Sundays. No other day is different than today."
Did anyone have messages for him? We've heard about what he said to you guys, but did anybody say anything in front of the team to him?
"He came around as he does every game and shakes players' hands, and I think that was the chance for him to get to talk to some guys. I thanked him for the opportunity, I thanked him for his passion and giving me an opportunity here to play."
What did [Head Coach Jim] Harbaugh say to the team post game?
"He just said it's an honor and a pleasure to coach these guys. I can't say much more than that. He's been great. He has treated us with respect. He does whatever it takes to help the team win."
What is your hope for Harbaugh?
"Whereever he goes, I wish him the best of luck. It just sucks that we couldn't keep him here. It's a business."
Any message from Head Coach Jim Harbaugh or a message to Jim Harbaugh from you?
"So appreciative of everything he has done for me, my teammates, the organization. He's top-notch, class act. We appreciate everything he has done and we love him to death."
You came in the same time he did. Did he say anything to you guys last night or after the game today?
"Like he's done all season, just a top-notch professional and was focused on one goal and that was winning this game. When we came in, he had some words for us and thanked all of us, but really it goes to him and everything that he has done for our team."
If, as we imagine, he goes to Michigan and leaves the San Francisco 49ers, what would your feelings be about that? Any comment you could have?
"Wish nothing but the best for him and that's it. Hate that he's leaving, loved playing for him every minute, every day, and wish nothing but the best for him."
Do you think that sentiment is shared by the majority in here?
"Of course. Every single man is appreciative of the things that he has done for our team."
If this is potentially Head Coach Jim Harbaugh's last game, with everything you guys have been through, how good does it feel to have him go out on a high note?
"Exactly the same thing as [DT] Justin [Smith], same thing with Harbaugh. I wasn't here the full four years with him, but I really respect everything that they did here. Being able to come into a situation like that was awesome for me and I really benefited. I was just happy for him that we got a win today."
What do you think this team should be remembered for or Head Coach Jim Harbaugh best remembered for over the last four years if indeed, like all the reports say, he does go to Michigan?
"49 wins in four years. This year, we dealt with a lot of stuff and it was a down year but three straight NFC Championship games. That is what he should be remembered for."
Did Head Coach Jim Harbaugh have any message to the team either after this game or last night indicating ‘thanks for the memories' or anything like that?
"He spoke to the team yesterday and today and we'll keep that in house."
I understand there will be a team meeting tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. where Head Coach Jim Harbaugh will address the players. What has he said to you and the team this week as you entered this last game?
"Compete. That's it. We don't have anything to lose. Play with everything you have in you. What more can you say? What more needs to be said? We are all grown men here. You can't talk us into playing better or talk us into playing harder. It's on us to do it and we did it today."
What are your hopes for Harbaugh in his future?
"That he is successful. I am very thankful to him. He gave me the opportunity to play at the highest level. He has given me the opportunity to work my way up. I am grateful for him and thankful for him. I hope that he has a successful career which I think he will. He has been successful his whole career and I am sure he will continue to have that. I am just thankful for him and good luck."