49ers CEO Jed York and General Manager Trent Baalke only had kind words for departing coach Jim Harbaugh at a news conference on Monday, reiterating that there is no bad blood among the parties and his leaving is a mutual decision.
But after weeks of "philosophical discussions," York said that he and Harbaugh couldn't come to any sort of agreement. What those discussions were about, though, York wouldn't say.
The bottom line for both Harbaugh and Baalke, they told reporters, is that a football team needs to win Super Bowls, and the 49ers simply did not achieve that this season, during which the team finished 8-8. Harbaugh's next gig will be coaching the University of Michigan football team, according to reports by CSN Bay Area and other outlets.
He leaves a $25 million, five-year contract he signed in January 2011. The announcement of the khaki-clad Harbaugh's departure came Sunday after a 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
"We've accomplished a lot of good things," Baalke said. "But the ultimate prize in this are Super Bowls. We all know that. We didn't reach that goal of a victory."
He added later: "For whatever reason, we couldn't put this together."
York hinted that there were troubles off the field with players as well this season. "The 49ers are supposed to win with class and we haven't won or acted with class," York said. "The level here is not acceptable."
Most recently, defensive end Ray McDonald was cut from the team after San Jose police began investigating him this month on a sexual assault allegation, following a domestic violence arrest - for which he was never charged - in August. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith was suspended for nine games for violating the league's policies on substance abuse and personal conduct. Smith was arrested earlier this year for drunk driving and weapons violations, to which he pleaded no contest.
When asked why Harbaugh was taking all the heat for the losses and the players' conduct, York acknowledged that he too, is responsible for the team.
"Ray McDonald was ultimately my decision not to do anything," York said, adding later that he learned the 30-year-old had been drinking and making poor decisions, something he couldn't live with anymore as the chief leader of the team. He acknowledged that the team needs to do a better job addressing "alcohol issues" among the players. He said he was putting that onus on himself, not Harbaugh.
As for finding another coach, Baalke said there is no short list, and he wants to find a "teacher" coach like the great late Bill Walsh, who won ten of his 14 postseason games, including three Super Bowls.
Baalke said the search might take a while, or at least, "as long as necessary to make sure we have the right person in place." Then, he added that he expects the search for a replacement to include interviews over the next "seven to 10 days."