What’s next for 49ers, Harbaugh?
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jim Harbaugh welcomes a sit-down with 49ers CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke to discuss the future — his future — after a season that will end in two weeks without a playoff berth for the first time during his four-year tenure.
Harbaugh said Monday no meeting is scheduled and wouldn’t say whether he should be the one to initiate it.
“I’m always available to talk to the owner and general manager, of course,” Harbaugh said a day after the Niners were eliminated from playoff contention with a 17-7 loss at Seattle. “Everybody’s been head down, everybody’s been focused on the season — players, coaches, front office. That’s been our approach.”
There’s an uncomfortable vibe around team headquarters given the uncertain future of Harbaugh, who has one season remaining on the $25 million, five-year contract he signed in January 2011. Especially with two remaining home games at Levi’s Stadium, where the 49ers (7-7) have hardly established much of a home-field advantage.
Now, Harbaugh wants to end this disappointing year on a positive note. San Francisco hosts San Diego on Saturday night then finishes the season at home against NFC West-leading Arizona on Dec. 28.
“We have a lot to play for. Play these next two games like our lives depend on it,” Harbaugh said. “So, playing for a winning season, playing for each other, playing for the team, playing for the honor of the game.”
Several big-name 49ers also might be playing their final games in a San Francisco uniform, including franchise all-time leading rusher Frank Gore, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, linebacker Ahmad Brooks and defensive lineman Justin Smith if he decides to retire.
Gore sustained a concussion Sunday but Harbaugh said he reported to the team’s facility Monday doing well.
“Frank is in today. They said he’s feeling good, as good as can be expected,” Harbaugh said.
Never one to offer an excuse for why things went wrong, Harbaugh nevertheless has dealt with key injury losses. That list includes linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who was unable to return from the devastating left knee injury from last January’s NFC championship game at Seattle that required surgery. San Francisco also missed linebacker Patrick Willis down the stretch, nose tackles Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams and center Daniel Kilgore, among others.
“I’m sure they factor in. How much I don’t have a specific answer,” Harbaugh said.
Given the injuries and disappointment of a lost season, there will be questions about key positions on both sides of the ball and few jobs necessarily safe.
“The character of this team has always been there, no matter what people think, we don’t really care,” right guard Alex Boone said. “It doesn’t matter, there are no excuses —we need to execute better. Proud of the way guys fought, we will watch the film and it is what it is. We will continue to fight though, we can’t give up.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Harbaugh’s longtime coaching rival in the NFL and college game, said on his radio show Monday morning that the embattled Harbaugh seemed to appreciate his counterpart’s support leading up to Sunday given the constant speculation on Harbaugh’s job status.
“I talked to him before the game and he came up and said something just about the week and comments that were made during the week and he was grateful somebody took a stand for him, I think,” Carroll said.
Safety Antoine Bethea hopes to see the team stick together for the home stretch.
“Finish the season strong and go into the offseason with our heads held high. No quit,” he said. “We are eliminated from the playoffs, but we will see who will come to work these next two weeks and give it all for each other.”
NOTES: Harbaugh didn’t rule out RT Anthony Davis, who has missed the last four games with a concussion, returning Saturday against the Chargers. … Brooks (dislocated thumb) could have a tough time playing if he can’t use his hand and push people to do his job, Harbaugh said. He is another player who might not be back in 2015. … Two key rookies, RB Carlos Hyde and LB Chris Borland, were scheduled for MRI exams on their injured ankles.