SANTA CLARA, Calif. - As each Sunday passes, more reports arise about Jim Harbaugh's uncertain future with the 49ers.
After all, he's in the fourth year of his five-year deal and has yet to sign a contract extension despite unprecedented success. Harbaugh is the first head coach in NFL history to reach at least the conference title game in each of his first three seasons.
Sunday, Harbaugh had pointed words following his team's third win of the year.
"My destiny lies between these walls with these men,” he said postgame.
Sunday morning, Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reaffirmed his report from earlier in the season noting the team was at odds with Harbaugh hours before the 49ers took on former quarterback Alex Smith, whom Harbaugh replaced with Colin Kaepernick midway through 2012 after he suffered a concussion.
Glazer speculated that, according to his sources, Harbaugh would not be back with the 49ers no matter what, even if they won a Super Bowl in 2014.
San Francisco's CEO Jed York took to Twitter to back his coach following that revelation, tweeting: "Jim is my coach. We are trying to win a SB (Super Bowl), not a personality or popularity contest. Any more questions?"
ESPN had also reported Sunday players were unhappy with the way Harbaugh treated Smith during Payton Manning's free agency period. The report said Smith received answers from Harbaugh that did not match with the facts of the situation, leaving some players to lose trust in their coach. Harbaugh and members of his staff reportedly traveled to Duke university to workout with Manning before he signed with the Broncos.
Harbaugh was asked how his team has responded to all the outside chatter.
“The team doesn’t have to respond," he said. "The team has to do their job and play football. It’s my job to love them – those players, those coaches, everybody in our organization. It’s their job to love each other. They don’t need to respond in any other way than their job. The football team has done good. And the better you do, the more you do, then the more people try to trip you up.
"Whether you’re getting praised, whether you’re getting criticized or whether it’s silence, all three have their obstacles. All three have things that have to be addressed. But they also all three add, any of the three, can add to the competitiveness, add to the determination. And our football is very determined and very competitive.”
The story is unlikely to go away, even if the 49ers keep winning. And the players willing to go on the record have continued to refute the reports of discontent in the locker room.
“I love Coach Harbaugh," Kaepernick said. "I’d go to war with him any day of the week. He’s a competitor, he wants to win and he’s going to do anything to put this team in a position to win.”
Fullback Bruce Miller dismissed the idea of dissension in Santa Clara.
"We don’t put anything into (the reports)," Miller said. "Everybody here, from top to bottom, players, staff, coaches, they know what our goal is. And that’s winning championships. We’re not worried about anything outside (anonymous) sources, rumors, or anything. We know what’s going on in here. We’re all fighting for each other to win championships."
Ditto for kicker Phil Dawson:
"There is zero problem in the locker room. Zero. We are all focused. The team is completely unified. We believe in our coach and love playing for him. All this noise, honestly I don’t understand it. It is certainly not the read I get. I see a bunch of committed guys who believe in their coach and playing hard. Look at our last two victories coming right down to the wire. Our guys are giving everything they have so that is certainly not consistent with some of the noise you are hearing outside of the locker room."
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