Outspoken Hall of Fame cornerback, and former 49er, Deion Sanders was on NFL Network Sunday night and asked a question that many have asked over the last nine months.
"Are you really down with your head coach, San Francisco 49ers?" Sanders said. "Because the way it looks and what I’m hearing, you’re really not down for your head coach. And that’s a problem."
The timing of the question is notable considering Jim Harbuagh's team is coming off it's most important win over the season, a galvanizing 26-21 performance over the previously undefeated Eagles that ended a two-game losing streak.
"Personally I think that’s a bunch of crap," Harbaugh said of Sanders' question and assertion Monday.
The backdrop of Harbaugh's 2014 season is complicated. Reports surfaced in February of a trade being in place that would have sent Harbaugh to Cleveland Browns for draft picks. And that lit a fire under reports of discontent between Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke, and perhaps owner Jed York.
The 49ers' brass has done little aside from go on the record to deny anything more than natural creative tension that's commonplace among colleagues.
But perhaps the most telling aspect of Harbaugh's circumstance is that he has not yet signed a new contract extension, despite unprecedented success. Harbaugh is the first coach in league history to make the conference title game in each of his first three seasons. He is currently in Year 4 of a five-year deal and is unlikely to enter next season without putting pen to paper on something new, with San Francisco or elsewhere.
The sticking point: Harbaugh (and his representatives) are rumored to want a deal that makes him one of, if not the league's highest-paid coach. And the 49ers' stance would indicate the team is waiting on a championship first.
All the while, Harbaugh has been staunch against the use of unnamed sources when asked about rumors involving other jobs or discontent in his 49ers locker room, as was the case Monday.
"If somebody’s got a good story to tell, why not put their name to it? If you got a good story to tell, you’d put your name to it. If I got a good story to tell, I’d want to put my name to it. So I don’t put a lot of credibility to the unnamed source," Harbaugh said.
Do these allegations bother Harbaugh?
"People say what they say," he said.
Another former 49er, Trent Dilfer, who's been known to come to the team's facility in recent seasons to watch game tape, went on ESPN Radio Monday morning with a similar assertion.
"I do think it's become almost toxic," he said on "The Herd."
Harbaugh's response: "I haven’t seen Trent or Deion around (the team facility) much."
Both Sanders and Dilfer have ties to the 49ers. The former is close to receiver Michael Crabtree, who is in the final year of his contract and is another that has not yet signed a new deal to remain with the 49ers.
Should the 49ers continue to win, as they did Sunday, this story will likely lose steam. But more deflating losses, like the previous two weeks, could add gasoline to the fire.
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