SANTA CLARA â€” San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York is tired of the legal troubles involving his team, hinting Monday that the standards slipped under former coach Jim Harbaugh while pointing the blame at everybody involved including himself.
As the off-field problems and arrests mounted, Harbaugh stood and spoke for the franchise each time â€” exactly how the front office wanted it. He handled the tough questions and all the mundane day-to-day dealings in between.
The 49ers had 10 arrests involving six different players since January 2012, most in the NFL.
“There are things that I didn't necessarily like â€” Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, that you don't speak more loudly on because you win,” York said. “And that's my failure. There were things that in conversations that we had, I know what my gut was. And we had conversations and we did things that probably didn't jell well with who I am. And I would rather do the things that we need to, but stay at the level of class that I expect of the San Francisco 49ers. And this isn't shooting at Jim and saying, 'Jim made all these decisions.' I want you to clearly hear that.”
Broadly referred to as “philosophical differences,” the issues between York and Harbaugh ultimately were too great to maintain a winning relationship.
That is York's take on what transpired anyway. He and general manager Trent Baalke addressed Harbaugh's departure a day later in what the owner reiterated was a “mutual decision.”
York wouldn't elaborate on his chat with Harbaugh or what they didn't agree upon during the coach's successful four-year tenure that included three straight NFC championship game appearances and a runner-up showing in the Super Bowl after the 2012 season.
“We've had philosophical discussions and when we sat down we just couldn't come to a place where we thought moving (on) together was the best for either party,” York said. “We didn't win the Super Bowl. If we don't win the Super Bowl, we're not executing. Our mission is very simple: The San Francisco 49ers win with class. We haven't won, and I don't think we've conducted ourselves with the level of class that I expect of our organization. We've had off-the-field issues. That's going to happen in sports. The level that it's happened here is not acceptable.”
Harbaugh, meanwhile, was long gone already and poised to be formally introduced by his alma mater, Michigan. He didn't return messages seeking comment as photos emerged of him arriving in Detroit.
York said he understands if fans are frustrated that the team parted ways with Harbaugh given the successful turnaround since his high-profile hiring in January 2011 and with one year left on his $25 million, five-year deal. Harbaugh was free to sign anywhere, York said.
“Jim is a very good football coach. I certainly understand why our fans would want him to stay,” York said. “They're upset, I get it.”
Players cleaned out lockers, and began fielding questions about what they want in a new coach. Several said they'd love someone a lot like Harbaugh.
Of the expected internal candidates, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, there is support for both. Neither York nor Baalke would say who they might interview in what they called an upcoming 7-10 day period. All the assistant coaches were still employed as of Monday, York and Baalke said.
Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn also are expected to receive interviews, Quinn perhaps as early as this week given the Seahawks have a bye as the NFC's No. 1 overall playoff seed. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is likely to get an interview.
“We're going to take as long as necessary to make sure we have the right person in place,” Baalke said. “We were 8-8 this year. There are no excuses. It starts with me. … This isn't a rebuild situation, this is a reload situation.”
York and Baalke met with the players Monday as everybody parted ways for an earlier offseason than anyone expected following a disappointing 8-8 season that began with Super Bowl aspirations. They expressed the need for accountability.
“Sometimes things don't work out, and it's a business,” fullback Bruce Miller said. “They make those decisions. But we had a great time with him and loved playing for him.”
Now, the players are preparing for whoever might be their next leader.
“He's going to have to have pretty much everything that Jim Harbaugh had,” tight end Vernon Davis said, “because he was good. He was really good. If you look at who we were, our identity, in the beginning before Harbaugh even got here, we were pretty much nothing.”