Jim Harbaugh, Niners already part ways as Black Monday looms
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians (left) hugs 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (right) after the game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)
The NFL’s Black Monday began early again this year.
Not even half an hour after San Francisco beat Arizona 20-17 on Sunday, the 49ers announced that the team and head coach Jim Harbaugh “have mutually agreed to part ways.”
The move was expected for weeks, if not months.
Reports from all corners of America by Sunday night said Harbaugh was expected to fly to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Monday to be introduced Tuesday as the new head coach of the University of Michigan Wolverines.
“The 49ers organization has begun its search for the team’s next head coach, while Harbaugh is now free to consider his next coaching opportunity without any constraints,” the Niners said in a news release, distributed the moment Harbaugh’s post-game news conference concluded.
Harbaugh certainly won’t be the only NFL head coach to lose his position on Black Monday, or in the days ahead.
At least three others appear ready to join him:
* Rex Ryan, a sure goner with the New York Jets.
* Mike Smith, whose Atlanta Falcons got blown right out at home, 34-3, by Carolina in a win-and-you’re-in playoff qualifier. The Falcons finished 6-10, after a 4-12 mark last year.
* Marc Trestman, the former Montreal Alouettes head coach who in just two years has taken the Chicago Bears from a 10-6 team with a great defence to a strife-torn 5-11 outfit with a rotten offence, unravelling quarterback in Jay Cutler and even worse defence.
As the seconds wound down at Levi Stadium, with fans chanting Harbaugh’s name, a Niners player gave him the game ball. Others gave him a Gatorade bath.
In four seasons Harbaugh compiled a shining 44-19-1 record with the Niners (.695), one of the best in NFL history.
“It’s been the time of my life,” Harbaugh said at his post-game news conference. “A lot of great memories, great moments.”
But team CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke tired of Harbaugh’s act. They’ll explain themselves at a Monday afternoon news conference.
The 51-year-old Harbaugh would not comment about his future, but Michigan is where he’s headed -- as we predicted a week ago Saturday in a column, in part because of sources in Ann Arbor.
Jets owner Woody Johnson would not address the future of Ryan, after four successive seasons of missing the playoffs and a 4-12 mark this year.
“Today is all about players,” Johnson told reporters in Miami, after New York’s 37-24 win.
Jets GM John Idzik is under almost as much heat as Ryan.
“Just understand that I’m not afraid of anything,” Ryan said. “I’m not afraid of what lies ahead, I can tell you that ... Woody will talk to me when he feels it’s the appropriate time.”
As for Smith, ESPN reported Sunday that the Falcons have hired the search firm Korn Ferry to identify head coaching candidates.
“I’m here as the head football coach until (owner) Arthur Blank tells me different,” Smith said.
“This is a business about winning football games, and that’s how you’re judged. I understand that, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Trestman heaped high piles of praise on his Bears for their unflagging effort in losing 13-9 at Minnesota. He added that it was a “very unusual” season.
“I expect to be back,” Trestman said. “I couldn’t look at it any other way, or with any other kind of focus.
“We all regressed. Our offence regressed dramatically for a number of reasons. I don’t think any of us got better. That certainly showed the last couple of weeks ... That’s something that has to be assessed moving forward.”
Trestman said he has a noon EST team meeting scheduled on Monday, and that’s as far as the team’s future is planned, as far as he knows.