SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) - Someday, sports archaeologists will stumble across artifacts from the Harbaugh Era and wonder "what went wrong?".
They'll look at the 49ers' remarkable turnaround under Harbaugh, read the headlines about the West Coast rivalry between the Niners and Seahawks (and between Harbaugh and Pete Carroll), they'll see the 3 straight NFC Championship game appearances.
And they'll ask, "What killed the dinosaurs?"
It may take that long for 49ers fans to understand how an organization could be so dysfunctional as to turn its back on success.
Somewhere in the relationship between Harbaugh, owner Jed York, general manager Trent Baalke, and maybe others in Niner-land, things got off the rails. Harbaugh has freely admitted he's not the easiest guy to get along with. But here's a bulletin: sometimes, genius comes with an asterisk.
Harbaugh's resume leaves little doubt about a couple of things: the man can coach some football, and his players love him (or at least respect him). It's increasingly obvious that all that "Harbaugh has lost the locker room" stuff being reported a few months ago was part of a disinformation campaign mounted by The Powers That Be.
It's possible that whoever York and Baalke hire will enjoy Harbaugh-style success (a 49-22-1 record, bookended by wins in his first game and his last). But ask yourself this: if you're the next Harbaugh, do you want to work for the kind of people who ran the last Harbaugh out of town?
It's also possible that Baalke is the real genius here. After all, he's given credit for running a front office that drafted players like Colin Kaepernick, Mike Iupati, NaVorro Bowman, Anthony Davis, Aldon Smith and Eric Reid. Maybe the next coach will find enough talent to win like Harbaugh did.
The next season or two will tell the truth about this; win-loss records don't lie. As John Madden is fond of saying, "Winning is the best deodorant". But no matter how much Arrid Extra Dry the 49ers slap on, the Harbaugh departure will always smell a little weird.
Maybe those future historians will be able to explain why.
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