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Donte Whitner talks his three years with the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh’s departure, and the evolution of the NFL

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The former 49ers safety was Matt Maiocco’s latest guest on the podcast and he brings some great memories with him, as well as some nice tidbits on the Jim Harbaugh departure. You can listen to the podcast here.

Matt Maiocco’s podcasts never rest, even in the slow parts of the offseason. He had former 49ers safety Donte Whitner as his latest guest and the two took a stroll down memory lane.

Whitner was a fantastic safety during his time with the 49ers, laying wood wherever he went (which led to him nearly changing his last name to “Hitner”) and letting any receiver who did catch the ball pay dearly for it. With Jim Harbaugh taking control of the 49ers the same year Whitner signed with the team, Whitner is credited to a lot of the success of then-49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio—and Harbaugh’s by extension—defense.

Obviously the state of the 49ers and their struggles after Harbaugh’s departure was brought up and Whitner had an interesting story as to the aftermath of Jim Harbaugh’s departure from the 49ers.

“I was going through free agency at the time, I actually did an event for the ownership of the 49ers in the Youngstown [Ohio] area. I asked a question to one of the officials and somebody—I’m not going to say the name—but it was one of the officials from the San Francisco 49ers said they actually regret the decision that went down with Jim Harbaugh and everything. And the way that it went down? They said they actually regretted it. “

Whitner gives a vague time period on when this happened saying it was free agency. He left the 49ers when his contract was up in 2014, but this was a season before Harbaugh and the 49ers “mutually parted ways.” Whitner went to the Cleveland Browns and was released in 2016, but didn’t sign up with Washington until October, a bit long after free agency ended for most players. It sounds like this was revealed in 2016, so either this was after Jim Tomsula was fired and before Chip Kelly coached his first few games or it was during the season when 49ers were watching the Kelly regime sink them further into the pits of mediocrity that Tomsula began. Either time frame you decide on, both are good points to realize you made a mistake.

It’s definitely been something the 49ers have been quiet about and when 49ers owner and CEO Jed York is asked about it in press conferences if he regrets letting Harbaugh go, he tries getting around the answer.

Below are the timestamps. You can listen to the full podcast using the widget above or you can go to it here.

00:40 - What he’s been up to lately
02:09 - What sticks out on his three years with the 49ers
03:19 - Remembering the 2011 team (Jim Harbaugh’s first year as head coach)
04:55 - Perception of Jim Harbaugh
06:00 - Thoughts on playing in Super Bowl XLVII
07:04 - Remembering the 2013 NFC Championship Game
08:30 - Paying attention on afar on the 49ers later struggles after Harbaugh
09:53 - Eric Reid and other safeties looking for work
12:02 - The helmet rule change
15:00 - What rules would be if he knocked out Pierre Thomas today like the 2011 divisional
16:11 - Thoughts on the current 49ers/experience with Kyle Shanahan
19:30 - Offseason of the Seattle Seahawks