Shortly before his 49ers took the field against the New York Giants Sunday, a report by the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport indicated that this will be Harbaugh’s last season with the team.
Rapoport said “it would be a surprise” if Harbaugh returned as head coach for the final season of his five-year contract in San Francisco.
Previously, Rapoport and others have reported that Harbaugh had worn out his welcome with the front office and many of his players. However, after those reports surfaced, many of his players stood up for Harbaugh.
And on Sunday, cornerback Chris Culliver made a strong statement of support for his head coach.
After the cornerback picked off an Eli Manning pass – one of five 49ers interceptions of Manning in a 16-10 victory over the Giants – he ran over to Harbaugh and handed him the ball.
Culliver said he gave Harbaugh the ball because of the friendship they have and the fact they share an inside joke.
But Culliver also said it was a show of support for Harbaugh.
“He’s our coach,” Culliver told the team’s website. “Whatever he say, we rock out with it and we go to war with him leading.”
Harbaugh said he “was touched” by Culliver’s gesture – but said he would give the ball back to the cornerback.
Sunday’s report by Rapoport indicated not only that this would be Harbaugh’s last season with the Niners, but that his wife doesn’t want to leave the Bay Area – meaning that he might be a candidate for the Raiders’ job next season if Oakland decides not to bring back interim head coach Tony Sparano.
Former 49ers great Jerry Rice also recently said he believes this will be Harbaugh’s last season with the team.
However in October, 49ers CEO Jed York tweeted his support for his head coach.
“Jim is my coach,” he tweeted. “We’re trying to win a SB, not a personality or popularity contest. Any more questions?”
In addition, team leaders such as tackle Joe Staley and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have said there’s no truth to reports Harbaugh has lost the support of the team.
“I love coach Harbaugh,” Kaepernick said last month. “I’d go to war with him any day of the week. I mean, he’s a competitor, he wants to win and he’s going to do anything to put this team in a position to win.”
The 49ers have now won two straight to improve to 6-4, and play host to 3-7 Washington this Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. With six games to go, San Francisco is tied with Seattle for second in the NFC West and has the third-best record in the wild-card race.