NFL

NFL AM: 49ers And Harbaugh Officially Part Ways

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Harbaugh Wins, Gets Blown Out

In perhaps the worst kept secret in the National Football League, the San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh have parted ways.

“Jim and I have come to the conclusion that it is in our mutual best interest to move in different directions,” said 49ers owner Ned York. “We thank Jim for bringing a tremendous competitive nature and a great passion for the game to the 49ers. He and his staff restored a winning culture that has been the standard for our franchise throughout its history. Their commitment and hard work resulted in a period of success that should be looked back on proudly by our organization and our fans. We wish Jim and his family all the best.”

In four seasons as 49ers head coach, Harbaugh finished with 44 wins including three consecutive NFC Title Game appearances and one Super Bowl appearance. In the eight years preceding Harbaugh’s arrival the team won just 46 games.

“For the last four seasons I have had the great privilege to coach one of the storied franchises in the history of football,”Harbaugh added. “We accomplished many great things together as a team during this period, which is a tribute to the incredible efforts of some of the most dedicated players and coaches in the NFL. I will miss competing alongside this group of players and coaches, I have the utmost respect and admiration for their hard work and support. It has been my honor to share the sideline with these mighty men. I will always appreciate and remember fondly, the passion and support of our Faithful fans, and want to express my particular thanks to them.”

Harbaugh and 49ers general manager Trent Baalke didn’t see eye to eye as both are described by a league source as “egomaniacs.”

Several reports have stated that Harbaugh and his family are flying to Ann Arbor, Michigan where he will take the helm at his alma mater, the University of Michigan.

Dead Men Walking

The Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears seasons ended with collective thuds as both teams ended disappointing 2014 campaigns with embarrassing losses.

Mike Smith’s Falcons had an opportunity to erase the first 15 games of disappointment with a home date against the Carolina Panthers for the NFC South title. Instead, they were blown out on their home field, 34-3.

“This is a business about winning football games and that’s how you’re judged,” Smith said. “I understand that, and I’ll leave it at that.”

That admission by Smith is more or less him writing his own pink slip. It was reported that earlier in the week Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank had hired a firm to help him with a coaching search.

Hiring a firm instead of consulting your own general manager likely means that GM Thomas Dimitroff will soon join Smith on the chopping block.

Meanwhile in Chicago, Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman was stuck giving the keys to his offense to the recently benched, but resurrected due to concussion Jay Cutler.

All Cutler did was lead the Bears to three field goals against the Minnesota Vikings, who sported the 15th ranked defense in the NFL entering the game. The once gunslinging Cutler finished by completing 23 of 36 throws, for 172 yards.

Trestman wouldn’t acquiesce to the rumors of his premature departure.

“I expect to be back. I couldn’t look at it any other way or with any other kind of focus,” Trestman said.

Cutler isn’t quite as certain about his future in the Windy City.

“I don’t think anyone knows what’s going to happen,” said Cutler, acknowledging his own uncertain status. “No one knows what direction we’re going. But I’m pretty confident that we’ll know relatively soon.”

Trestman may find out his fate as early as Monday, but Cutler’s fate will likely be determined over the next few months.

Tank You Very Much

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers apparently accomplished their primary goal on Sunday, which was to get the No. 1 pick in the draft by all means necessary.

And we do mean by all means necessary.

It’s rare that you see a team that isn’t in preseason or preparing for the playoffs resting starters in the second half of a football – especially a football game that they’re leading by 13 points.

That’s the exact situation Lovie Smith’s Bucs were in on Sunday before they started to rotate linemen and ultimately grasped defeat from the jaws of victory in a 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

“Well, you can say a plan for the future,” Smith explained when asked about the peculiar rotation. “I felt like we were running the football fairly well. Playing pretty good defense. We felt like we could get a look at some of our players. We did want to get a look at some of the players we haven’t seen, yes.”

Lovie was asked if roster evaluation trumped winning.

“Not at all, as we see it,” Smith said. “With the lead, we wanted to play some of our linemen. We wanted to see some of them in the second half. That was a part of our plan going in. We had a lot more success in the first half than I thought we would, especially being able to run the football. With the lead, if you play pretty good defense you should be able to hold on to that.”

Clearly, Lovie is sticking to his story.

Josh McCown, who didn’t attempt his first pass in the second half until roughly 7:00 remained in the game, backed his head coach’s game plan.

“I don’t think anybody tanked it,” McCown said following the game. “We played the guys that we played to rotate guys in to give them a look. As far as players are concerned, the draft and that stuff is not relevant to us as far as how we’re playing. You know, we play and execute the plays that are called. The guys play that are put into the game to play and that’s our job. All that other stuff is for people to try to speculate about, but we competed hard and that’s the main thing. Again, we had a chance to evaluate some younger guys and as we build this thing that is what it’s about. We need to be able to see guys, like I said. I trust our leadership and those guys have to make decisions and being able to see guys play in certain spots helps them.”

That game plan that McCown supports so vehemently is the one that’s going to land his replacement in the Bay Area in April. We’ll see how much he trusts in the organization when he’s asked to take a pay cut or is released.

The Bucs violated the spirit of competition on Sunday, even if it was to their own long-term benefit. It’s a sin to try to lose a game on the field. Not trying your best to score, even if it’s due to coaches’ poor decisions is unforgivable. If the Bucs wanted to pull off these antics, they should have signed a quarterback off the street and played him, along with their backups for the entire game.

This team has been an embarrassment all season long, it’s not really a surprise that they would take it even a step further in the season finale.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.