Two points about Jim Harbaugh and his tenure with the 49ers:
1. The team is likely to hold onto Harbaugh – no matter what occurs in the next few weeks – until the season is over in order to try to get draft picks in return for the head coach, who has another year remaining on his contract.
2. Getting draft picks will not be easy.
Trading a coach is not like trading a player. Harbaugh would have to sign off on any deal, and no team would want to acquire him without working out a new contract.
Furthermore, Harbaugh would be loathe to weaken his new team by trading draft picks to his old team.
And then there’s this: Harbaugh is Harbaugh. He was difficult to deal with during the time when he was embraced by the organization. How can anyone expect him to work hand in hand with the 49ers when they are trying to get rid of him? Harbaugh is hard-wired to compete at everything he does. He will see this as a competition, too.
And yet the 49ers are obligated to at least try to get something in return for a head coach who has won more than 70 percent of his contests over the last four years. After talking to agents and league observers, here are some tactics the 49ers could perhaps employ:
Hostage situation. Not only is Harbaugh under contract for another season, most of his staff is, too. If Harbaugh wants to bring buddies like Greg Roman, Geep Chryst and John Morton with him to his new team, the 49ers could ask for compensation in return for releasing them from their contracts. Or maybe they hold defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who also is signed beyond this season.
Why it might not work: The 49ers would ostensibly be bringing in a new offensive staff and wouldn’t want the offensive coaches mentioned above. All Harbaugh and his new team would have to do is wait out the situation.
Sweeten the deal. It’s likely that Harbaugh’s next team will be deficient in talent. Perhaps the 49ers tell that team they will deal Harbaugh as well as players in return for draft picks. After all, the 49ers have an abundance of defensive linemen. They also may have a veteran tight end they would be willing to unload.
Why it might not work: Veterans are expensive, draft picks are not. If Harbaugh’s next team is in rebuilding mode – which is likely – a savvy general manager would be more interested in keeping his picks.
Money talks. Perhaps Harbaugh’s new team doesn’t have deep pockets and maybe they can’t offer him a blockbuster coaching deal. The 49ers – who suddenly do have deep pockets – could offer him money to leave with the stipulation that they get to work a deal with the other team. The league frowns on cash transactions; perhaps the 49ers work out a deal in which a portion of his $5 million salary does not offset.
Why it might not work: I’ve been told by people I know and respect that I’m wrong about this upcoming thought, but my sense remains that Harbaugh is someone far more interested in winning than he is in money. That is, he’d rather leave the 49ers with no picks than fill his pockets with cash.
In the end this becomes a blinking competition. Harbaugh’s leverage is that he knows the 49ers don’t want him and that there will be a number of teams that do. The 49ers’ leverage is that they will have arguably the most desirable opening of all the teams looking for a head coach and could afford to wait things out
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.