This week, SB Nation is putting together a hypothetical asking each NFL site to pose their biggest what if in recent memory. Every team has that event that impacted the team in some way, leaving fans to wonder what would have happened if it had gone the other way.
Alex Smith vs. Aaron Rodgers remains one of the biggest hypotheticals, as does what happens if Eddie DeBartolo didn’t try and bribe the governor of Louisiana to build a riverboat casino (or at least, didn’t get caught). But I wanted to talk about a more recent hypothetical, and what it might have meant for the past couple years.
We’ve talked extensively about how things went south after the relationship between Jim Harbaugh, Trent Baalke, and Jed York went south. After the “mutual parting,” the 49ers fell apart quickly, but it was felt in Harbaugh’s final year, with the team finishing 8-8 after falling apart late in the season.
If the relationship had not entirely soured, what do people think would have happened in 2014 and into 2015 and 2016? It’s not a simple what if to consider. The team saw significant roster turnover after the 2014 season. There was some talk of players being a bit worn out by Harbaugh, although it’s not fully clear beyond Alex Boone who that might have entailed.
I suppose one problem with the counter is the fact that Harbaugh is wired in a way that is going to grate on some people. If he didn’t grate on people the way he did, who knows if he would have been as successful as he was with the 49ers.
Harbaugh would have been a better coach than Jim Tomsula, but Trent Baalke hamstrung the roster with many of his personnel decisions the past three years. Of course, a better relationship between Harbaugh and Baalke maybe leads to better communication on draft picks, but just based on how things went in the front office from 2014 to 2016, it does not seem like it would have been too surprising to see the 49ers take a step back from their Super Bowl contending ways. I don’t think they bottom out like they did, but they would have still faced a host of roster questions.
How do you think things would have gone down from 2014 to 2016 if the relationship hadn’t soured?