As the search for a new coach continues, top coaching candidates no longer view the 49ers as a desirable choice because of the way their president and general manager have trashed Jim Harbaugh.
Jed York has set a high standard for the next coach: He must get to the Super Bowl while winning with class.
Class? It would be nice if York would display some himself. He and general manager Trent Baalke have indirectly laid the 49ers' problems at Harbaugh's feet.
The latest example was a leak to a writer who could be trusted to write the story without checking other sources, that the rift between York and Harbaugh started when Aldon Smith was arrested while driving under the influence of alcohol early in the 2013 season. York apparently wanted Smith benched but Harbaugh played him.
Time for a reality check. Bill Walsh said a coach's primary duty was to win. Harbaugh knew that, so he played his best players and ignored the off-field problems.
And who brought in the players who have had problems off-field? Baalke, who has adroitly aligned himself with his boss and avoided criticism.
You can bet that this trend has been noted by other potential coaching candidates around the country. It would, for instance, be an absolute shock if Mike Shanahan came here after last coaching for an owner with unrealistic expectations.
That's why I have mixed emotions about defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He certainly has earned a shot at a head-coaching job and he knows the 49ers' defensive players very well. But does he deserve to come into a situation where he will be blamed when the team inevitably falls short of the expectations of owner and general manager?
Baalke, for instance, has said the 49ers don't need to rebuild but to “reload.” In fact, next season's roster may be weaker than this one. The Niners are unlikely to re-sign Frank Gore because he would be too expensive. Defensive tackle Justin Smith, the heart of the 49ers' defense, will probably retire. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree is almost certainly gone. Guard Mike Iupati will be a free agent and it's unlikely he'll return. There's talk the Niners will cut Vernon Davis to get more salary-cap room.
Baalke had better come up with one helluva draft this spring and his drafts of late have been spotty, good at spotting mid- to late-round talent like linebacker Chris Borland but weaker on the front end.
If he has only an average draft, it won't be enough, so you can be sure he'll shift the blame to the coach. Not publicly, of course. That's not necessary. All he has to do is whisper in the air of his gullible team CEO.
Nobody even knows at this stage what the Niners are looking for in a coach, or even which side of the ball he'll come from. There have been names of offensive coordinators thrown out there along with defensive coaches.
It won't be a college coach, I'm sure. The really successful ones have total control of their programs. There would be no incentive for one to come here.
So, be prepared for 49ers teams similar to those between Steve Mariucci and Harbaugh.