The Jim Harbaugh era is over for the San Francisco 49ers, and it ended the same way it began:
With a victory and an offense powered by veteran running back Frank Gore.
Gore – whose tenure also could now be over in San Francisco – carried the ball 25 times for 144 yards in San Francisco’s 20-17 season-ending victory over the playoff-bound Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium.
It gave Gore (in the final year of his contract) two consecutive 140-yard plus rushing games to finish the season, giving him 1,102 for the campaign – his fourth consecutive season of 1,000 or more rushing yards under Harbaugh.
The Niners, meanwhile, finish the season 8-8. It was the first non-winning season for Harbaugh, who finishes his four-year coaching career in San Francisco with a 44-19-1 regular-season record. He also was 5-3 in the postseason with three trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl appearance.
But with still a season to go on his contract with the 49ers, the rumors are rampant that he will be fired or released from his contract and take a job as head coach at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, or another NFL team. For now, Michigan is reported as the most likely landing spot, with an official announcement coming perhaps as early as Monday or Tuesday.
On Sunday, the 49ers did something they rarely did this season, coming from behind in the second half.
Trailing 17-13, the 49ers drove for the go-ahead touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Colin Kaepernick to fullback Bruce Miller in the third quarter.
The 49ers then held on to send Harbaugh out a winner.
Kaepernick finished with one of his better games over the final third of this season, completing 15-of-26 throws for 204 yards and two TDs, without an interception, while also running 63 yards. Anquan Boldin added a 76-yard scoring reception, and the defense was strong when it needed to be late.
Now, the season of disappointment, injuries and the strange twist that apparently will send one of the league’s best coaches packing, is over.
It should be a very interesting offseason.