Monday, December 29, 2014

Some Obvious Points about the Niners bailing on Jim Harbaugh

Maybe they won't miss this
Whenever a coach that has had success with a franchise that was terrible before he came to town gets rolled, there is much puling and crying from the faithful. So it goes with the Niners, now devoid of the coach that took them to the NFC Championship in 2011, the Super Bowl in 2012, and the NFC Championship again in 2013... and now run out of town, off to make serious bank in Ann Arbor as the next coach of the Wolverines.

As promised, a few quick and dirty points about this.

> The problem really isn't that Harbaugh won't be the coach any more. The team is aging, defenses don't last very long at this level, and QB Colin Kaepernick has really regressed this year. The idea that you can have a weak offense with those weapons and that defense staggers the imagination, and there are any number of QB guru types who would salivate at the idea of resuscitating his career. There's a very valid argument that Harbaugh has already done the best work he was going to do here, and that cutting him is just acting ahead of the curve.

> However, it's kind of analogous to the Eagles' move with WR DeSean Jackson. You had an asset; you got nothing from it. And until proven otherwise, you haven't demonstrated that your management is solid, because you've wasted the asset.

> Harbaugh is, of course, far from blameless in this situation. He's clearly a pain in particulars to work with, didn't show the ability to up his game with a maturing team, didn't do enough with Kaepernick, and so on, and so on. But the bigger issue is the standards in the Bay Area. The Niners are an ordinary organization that likes to think of themselves as elite, especially now that they have a new yard... but the reality of the division is that they have been falling behind for some time, really. Obviously, Seattle has passed them by, but Arizona isn't just having a better year; that's a better club, and it would be more obvious with any kind of health. St. Louis has, thanks to the Griffin heist, a ludicrous burst of young talent that's just a QB away from being all kinds of terrifying. If the Niners aren't lucky, they're going to be the last place team in this division for some time to come.

> What tends to happen to teams that have had a glorious past is that the present can never measure up, and the down years in between the eras are forgotten about. Look at how long the Cowboys tried to patch their way to success with veteran band-aids, or how the Slurs have spent decades in the wilderness; not being dominant any more is appalling once you've had the taste, and full rebuilds are avoided because We're Not That Way.

> But the reality of the NFL is that the brutality of the league and the shortness of careers means that if you are not rising, you are falling. San Fran was always going to have a weak 2014, just from the schedule and the new home field, Just making it in as a wild-card, and maybe getting Kaepenick better, and RB Carlos Hyde and some new starters on defense, would have made for a fine year... but that didn't really happen.

> I have no idea if Harbaugh will be successful in Michigan, and as I don't follow college football, don't really care. But at $8 million a year, and with the job security that comes at the non-NFL level, the only real issue he's got is trading Bay Area weather for Michigan. And money pays for a lot of heat and air conditioning, and that's not even taking into account the fact that money spends half as fast out of the Bay Area. He's set for life.

> Last point on this... there's a theory going around that you gauge the intelligence of moves like this by the reaction of the fans of your rivals, and, well, that's madness. In the final days of the Andy Reid Era, all you heard from the media geishas was how the rest of the NFC East was going to be overjoyed to be rid of Andy Reid, as if Reid wasn't 12-20 in his last two years with an expensive roster, and hadn't won the division in half a decade. The value of a coach is hard to quantify unless they are obviously terrible or brilliant... and Harbaugh was neither in 2014. Declaring this team dead and buried because they bounced a coach after a disappointing year is premature...

But if they don't make a hell of a hire, and soon?

It won't be wrong.

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