SANTA CLARA, Calif. (TNS) — The final week is underway for many 49ers’ tenures, and none is spotlighted more than coach Jim Harbaugh’s.
Harbaugh refrained Monday from contributing to constant speculation that Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals will mark the end of his four-year tenure.
“I haven’t participated and I don’t intend to now,” Harbaugh said at his news conference. “This has been a good 12 months of this kind of thing. No reason to start now.”
A Fox Sports report Sunday morning stated that the 49ers expected to part with Harbaugh within 48 hours of Sunday’s finale, and that the team approached Harbaugh to gauge his interest in the University of Michigan’s opening.
“What will happen, will happen. What won’t happen, won’t happen,” Harbaugh said. “I work at the pleasure of the organization. I’ll let them have the floor on that.”
CEO Jed York said before the season that Harbaugh’s contract would be addressed after this season, which will include no playoff berth for the first time in four years as the 49ers (7-8) limp into Sunday’s season finale against the Arizona Cardinals (11-4). General manager Trent Baalke reiterated a week ago that Harbaugh’s future wouldn’t be addressed until season’s end.
Harbaugh suggested that Sunday’s report from Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer wasn’t accurate — at least in terms of the 49ers asking Harbaugh about the Michigan post — and he suggested that Glazer “go back and ask his source for more clarification.”
Having fended off questions about his job status for much of the past year, Harbaugh was asked Monday if that has been difficult. His response: “That’s a good question. That’s a very good question. The high road is the only road I know. Let’s keep on that.”
Harbaugh’s exit is expected to be followed by a slew of marquee players.
Frank Gore, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, is among those ticketed for free agency, which would be a first in his 10-year career. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, left guard Mike Iupati, linebacker Dan Skuta and cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver are other starting-caliber players not under contract for 2015.
Retirement could finally beckon defensive tackle Justin Smith after 14 seasons, and maybe even kicker Phil Dawson or wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Other veterans could exit because of salary-cap concerns and diminishing returns, such as outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks or tight end Vernon Davis.
“Like the players, like the coaches, we are dedicated to doing our job,” Harbaugh said. “Finish what you start, that’s the mindset.”
That said, Harbaugh said his mindset this week will be to appreciate his co-workers, and he hopes his 51st birthday on Tuesday is accompanied by “a great day of meetings and practices.”
“Definitely we know this is going to be the last week of the season and I’m going to enjoy it,” Harbaugh said. “I’m going to enjoy all the players, all the coaches, the staff, all the people in the building I enjoy being around, the trainers, the front-office, the entire organization, spend time with the scouts here in town. Just everybody.”
Asked whether he has any shred of happiness amid this season’s woes, Harbaugh responded: “Football is not fun when you lose. That’s a heartbreaking thing. Then there’s a new week and new opportunity. I definitely get happier and happier as that new opportunity approaches.”
That new opportunity likely will arise elsewhere, as soon as next week, if Harbaugh is fired or traded.
Harbaugh didn’t sound concerned about where that future is headed, and he cited his family for such an optimistic outlook: “I’m so proud to report to you I have the best wife, Sarah Harbaugh, and six wonderful children. I’m proud to report my family will always be bright with the family I have.”