John Froschauer/ap file photoHow surprising would it be if Niners coach Jim Harbaugh returned next season? It may end up being no surprise at all.

Why should Niners’ next step go as everyone plans?

Much time, energy, speculation and angst has been expended over the past several weeks, as anyone with a passing interest in the 49ers has weighed in on where Jim Harbaugh might be headed.

There's been a great deal of doubt regarding his return to the Niners' sideline ever since it was made clear that he would not be getting his coveted contract extension before the current season started.

Both parties downplayed the significance of the contract talks being tabled, clearly counting on the notion that the public would see plausibility in the hiatus being the byproduct of everyone involved wanting to maintain that single-minded, laserlike focus on the task at hand.

The task at hand, of course, was the quest for a Super Bowl title. And with the adoption of a Super Bowl-or-bust mentality comes the suggestion that anything not directly related to winning on Sunday is a distraction.

But as we've so clearly seen, the exact opposite of the team's intentions came to pass.

(And pass … and pass … and pass. Will you run the freaking ball one time already? In case you haven't noticed, guys, your passing game stinks like month-old tuna salad left out in the sun.)

The tabling of those talks has been, by far, the central story line in a Niners season stocked with off-the-field distractions and incongruity. And when Jed York sent out his infamous tweet on Thanksgiving night, any doubt that Harbaugh was gone after this season appeared to disappear like Colin Kaepernick in the fourth quarter of a big game.

The entire Harbaugh situation, in fact, has been emblematic of the season on the whole. Absolutely nothing has gone as planned.

This is why, after you've worn yourself out trying to determine where Set-Jaw Jim is going to be next year, you might want to start considering something else that nobody's expecting.

Harbaugh ain't going anywhere.

Think about it: What does Harbaugh like to do more than anything in the world? You'd like to think the answer to that question is winning football games, but you don't really see the man smile a whole lot after victories. Most of his smiles are of the smug variety, after (or as) he's toying with the press. Niners general manager Trent Baalke seems to enjoy jacking the media, too. His banal nonanswers in weekly paid interviews with KGMZ (95.7 FM)'s Damon Bruce are unintentional comedy of the highest order.

Little Jed? He doesn't deal with the media at all. He hides in the ghostly shadow of Uncle Eddie, still probably wondering how the hell he was handed the keys to one of the NFL's most storied franchises.

<p>Again, absolutely nothing has gone as planned for the Niners this year. So why should this? Harbaugh has another year on his deal, he'll coach it out, and the best the rest of us can hope for is that they reach another contract impasse next summer and we get to do it all over again.

Jed YorkJim HarbaughMychael UrbanSan Francisco 49ers

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