Thursday evening, San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York addressed head coach Jim Harbaugh's contract status on Yahoo! SportsTalk Live. During the show he said he and Coach Harbaugh had agreed to table contract discussions until after the season concluded. The thought was they would meet up a week or so after the season ends to pick up this discussion.
Friday morning, York spoke with CSN Bay Area and said that money was not the sticking point in the getting a contract extension wrapped up. Instead, York said Harbaugh made it clear that he did not want to do a deal too early. Harbaugh apparently told York that as a leader of the team, he did not want to set that kind of precedent. Eric Branch reported something similar that's worth a read.
Coach Harbaugh was asked about this later at his Friday press conference:
49ers CEO Jed York said yesterday that you guys have tabled contract talks until the end of the season. Why is that the right thing to do?
"Isn't that refreshing? It has to be refreshing for you, refreshing for everybody in our building, refreshing for our fan base that the concentration will be on the 2014 season, and our goals as a football team and achieving those goals. That's the 49er way that I subscribe to. As I've stated on the record these past months, and this past week, that all focus is on the 2014 season and achieving our goals. Now, the organization and I are in lockstep and all energy, all focus is on achieving our goals."
Jed, I guess, also said that you expressed to him you didn't want to go over the contract to set a precedent since you have two years remaining. Is that correct and what exactly--?
"That's another thing that I'm on the record for. Expressed that last summer. When we talked about, I was presented with a new contract, it's just my feeling, it's just a principle, just a value. When you're the leader of the team and you're running in for a contract extension every couple years, it has a tendency to send everybody else running for the water cooler."
With the lack of a long-term commitment between you and the team, at some point later in the season when colleges and NFL teams might start looking for coaches, it does lead to that becoming a distraction. Is that not an issue and not something you're worried about?
"All focus is on the 2014 season and accomplishing our goals. I understand your speculation. I think you can afford to get out in front of your headlights more than we can, that are in this trying to accomplish our goals. So our energy, our focus is on the 2014 season. I think it's very refreshing."
This adds an interesting little twist to the whole situation. The rumor mill has said Jim Harbaugh wants everything from the highest salary in the league, to more power, to who knows what else. This would seem to further indicate that is not quite the issue. Coach Harbaugh has said on two separate occasions that he has never asked for any of that. The Florio's of the world are going to continue to call BS on that, but even if it is, the 49ers are sticking to their message.
There were some reports that the 49ers made an offer to Harbaugh earlier in the offseason and he never responded. That would appear to work with this notion of waiting until next year to get the contract done. Some will believe it, some will choose not to. But I can sort of see the logic in this, particularly given that Harbaugh and the 49ers have not reached that ultimate prize.
I do wonder how much of this is meant to at least try and preempt players making a push for a new contract. In this case, Alex Boone and Vernon Davis were two guys looking for a new deal with two years left on their current deals. I don't know that this will influence future players, but it's certainly an interesting way to play the whole situation.