Multiple reports Saturday evening indicated that San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has agreed to take the same job with the Michigan Wolverines. With Harbaugh now prepared to depart Santa Clara, the focus now turns to what the 49ers are going to do next.
The likeliest scenario at play here is defensive line coach and assistant head coach Jim Tomsula taking over for Harbaugh.
Tomsula has been in his current role with San Francisco since 2007. He actually replaced Mike Singletary for the final game of the 2010 season as the team’s head coach on an interim basis. Widely respected around league circles, Tomsula would also be a popular choice among players in Santa Clara.
If the 49ers look offense, former Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren turns into a real possibility. He was San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach from 1986-1988 before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 1989.
Other potential candidates include Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.
Either way, it’s going to be an extremely tough sell to a 49ers fan base that seems to be up in arms over the team’s divorce with Harbaugh, a coach that has been among the most successful in franchise history.
Everyone wants to direct their ire at CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke. And while both will likely share in some of the blame when the entire mess that occurred in San Francisco this season becomes public, Harbaugh shouldn’t be immune here. He has a reputation for being an incredibly hard-headed individual and someone that isn’t easy to get along with. That much is already known.
At the end of the day, it was personality conflicts that led to the demise of a relationship that seemed headed in the right direction less than a year ago.
But to outright indicate that Harbaugh was solely responsible for San Francisco’s success in the previous three seasons leading up to 2014 is ridiculous. The establishment of a new front office structure was set in place long before Harbaugh arrived. The basis for a new stadium in Santa Clara also predates Harbaugh.
This doesn’t even take into account the talented team that Harbaugh took over in 2011.
Listen, we can’t possibly take much away from what Harbaugh did as a 49ers head coach. We can, however, look at this team as it is currently formed and draw a conclusion that San Francisco isn’t going to go quietly into the night simply because the relationship between the organization and Harbaugh didn’t end well.
There is a ton of young talent on this roster. The pieces are in place. And San Francisco is an attractive destination for head coaching candidates. It’s all about York and Baalke succeeding in the next search for a head coach. If that doesn’t happen, then they deserve a vast majority of the blame. You simply don’t replace someone of Harbaugh’s caliber by making a phone call. It’s going to be a difficult process.