Jim Harbaugh's long-rumored departure from San Francisco has become a reality. Harbaugh and the 49ers mutually parted ways, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Harbaugh is expected to be introduced on Tuesday as the new head coach at the University of Michigan per multiple reports.
He will reportedly take a six-year, $48 million contract to coach the Wolverines. Harbaugh had one year remaining on his five-year, $25 million contract signed with the 49ers in 2011.
It's an inglorious end to what was otherwise a highly successful stint for Harbaugh, who took the 49ers to the NFC Championship in each of his first three seasons and earned a Super Bowl berth in 2013. But rumors of a rift between the head coach and team management have been omnipresent since flaring up in the offseason.
In February, rumors emerged that Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke were "barely speaking" and that the team had attempted to trade a disgruntled Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns. In September, Deion Sanders cited unnamed sources from within the locker room claiming that the players wanted Harbaugh gone, and in October Jay Glazer reported that Harbaugh would be out of San Francisco after the 2014 season even if he won the Super Bowl.
Instead of winning a Super Bowl, the Niners stumbled to a 8-8 record and missed the playoffs for the first time in Harbaugh's tenure. The tumultuous season was accompanied by constant speculation of where Harbaugh would coach in 2015. Multiple reports linked him to the vacant Oakland Raiders job and as recently as mid-December the Miami Dolphins had emerged as a rumored trade partner.
But Harbaugh, a former Michigan quarterback who was hired by the 49ers after a successful stint in the college ranks at Stanford, ultimately chose to return to his alma mater to continue his coaching career.
As the end of the NFL regular season drew closer and the Michigan rumors became more prominent, the dysfunction within the 49ers organization also got worse to an extent, when offensive lineman Anthony Davis took to Twitter to call out offensive coordinator Greg Roman. There have long been rumors of offensive players being unhappy with the game plan, and further rumors to suggest that Harbaugh refused to accept the fact that Roman was someone who needed to go. This reluctance could have been partially influenced by Harbaugh's desire to keep things under his control, which once again boils things down to an issue of a power, a recurring theme in recent 49ers dysfunction.
Here is the full statement from the team announcing the change:
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The San Francisco 49ers and Jim Harbaugh have mutually agreed to part ways. The 49ers organization has begun its search for the team's next head coach, while Harbaugh is now free to consider his next coaching opportunity without any constraints.
49ers CEO Jed York and General Manager Trent Baalke will hold a press conference in the Levi's(r) Stadium auditorium at 1:00 p.m. PST on Monday, December 29, to address the announcement and the organization's subsequent coaching search.
"Jim and I have come to the conclusion that it is in our mutual best interest to move in different directions," said 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."
"For the last four seasons I have had the great privilege to coach one of the storied franchises in the history of football," said Harbaugh. "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."
York added: "We are now squarely focused on finding the next head coach of the 49ers and I am very confident in Trent's ability to lead that process. With the great leaders and talented players we have in our locker room, we are ready to move into the next chapter of our team's history."
Harbaugh, who just concluded his fourth season with the franchise, led the 49ers to an 8-8 record in 2014 and a 49-22-1 overall record (5-3 in the postseason). During his tenure, the 49ers won two NFC West titles, reached the NFC Championship game in three consecutive seasons and advanced to Super Bowl XLVII. Harbaugh is the only coach in the history of the NFL to lead his team to the conference championship game in each of his first three seasons, and his 44 regular season coaching victories rank second in the NFL during his four-year tenure with the 49ers.