Confirmed: Harbaugh headed to University of Michigan

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Confirmed: Harbaugh headed to University of Michigan

Coach Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers are parting ways after four seasons, which included three trips to the NFC Championship game and one Super Bowl appearance.

Harbaugh has accepted a job to become the next coach at the University of Michigan, sources confirmed Saturday evening to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s Dave Feldman.

The New York Times was first to report the official agreement.

Harbaugh and the 49ers are believed to have reached an agreement to allow Harbaugh to leave after four years of his five-year, $25 million contract. He is expected to be on the sideline Sunday when the 49ers finish their season against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium.

Harbaugh is scheduled to be introduced at a press conference Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Harbaugh played at Michigan under legendary coach Bo Schembechler from 1982-’86. Recent media reports have placed Harbaugh's contract at six years for as much as $49 million.

Harbaugh, an immensely popular figure for the 49ers’ fan base with his black “SF” fleece and khakis, leaves after returning the organization to prominence. When the 49ers hired Harbaugh in January 2011, the club had not made the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons.

[RELATED: Reports: Michigan reps in Bay Area in pursuit of Harbaugh]

It has been a foregone conclusion for most of the season that Harbaugh would not be back with the 49ers due to irreconcilable personality issues with CEO Jed York, general manager Trent Baalke and team president Paraag Marathe.

In four seasons as 49ers coach, Harbaugh’s teams posted a regular-season record of 43-19-1, entering the season finale Sunday.

“There are a lot of distractions around here -- a lot of distractions,” 49ers tight end Davis told CSNBayArea.com last week. “All season long there were a lot of distractions. But we tried our best to fight through them. Even now, there’s a lot of talk about Harbaugh not being here.”

Speculation that this would be Harbaugh’s final season surrounded the 49ers from the opening week of the season. Amid reports of the 49ers’ eventual parting of ways with Harbaugh, York offered a tepid response via Twitter on October 5, just prior to the home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

York wrote: “Jim is my coach. We are trying to win a SB, not a personality or popularity contest. Any more questions?”

[RELATED: Jim Harbaugh Michigan gear already for sale]

A day later, York said any reports that the 49ers would fire Harbaugh after the season were “categorically not true,” during an interview on "The Rich Eisen Show.”

“We’re focused on getting back to and winning the Super Bowl,” York said. “That’s really the only thing that’s on anybody’s mind here. I’ve said this all along: I would like for nothing else to be in the worst negotiating position possible with Jim.”

But York did not offer any more football-related comments until the closing moments of the 49ers’ 19-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving night.

“Thank you #49ersfaithful for coming out strong tonight. This performance wasn't acceptable. I apologize for that,” York wrote.

Harbaugh did not directly address York’s comment, but he made it clear exactly how he felt with York’s choice of words.

“It’s our job to move on without excuse, without apology and get it right. Make it right,” Harbaugh said.

But the 49ers could not get it right.

[RATTO: Harbaugh goes for comfort, what's next for coach?]

The loss on Thanksgiving was the beginning of the longest 49ers losing since Harbaugh became coach. After an embarrassing December 7 loss to the Oakland Raiders, who entered the game with just one victory, the 49ers officially fell out of playoff contention with a 17-7 loss at Seattle.

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Afterward, quarterback Colin Kaepernick said it was strange to hear the rampant talk about Harbaugh coaching his final season with the 49ers.

“That’s something I can’t fully wrap my mind around why that would be the situation,” Kaepernick said. “But he has my full support, no matter if he’s here or somewhere else. I hope he’s back here and I think he’s a great coach.”

Harbaugh came to the 49ers as the organization’s 18th head coach after a wildly successful run at Stanford, where he inherited a one-win team and turned the program around to become a national power.

"It's the perfect competitive challenge," Harbaugh said at his introductory press conference with the 49ers. "I look forward to coaching against John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and the many great coaches in the NFL. That kind of challenge, I willingly accept it and I look very much forward to it."

Late in the 2012 season, Harbaugh’s 49ers defeated Belichick’s New England Patriots. And he met his brother, John Harbaugh, and the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

The 49ers rallied from a 28-6 deficit in the third quarter and stood 5 yards from a potential Super Bowl title before three consecutive incomplete passes sent the organization to its first loss in the NFL championship game.

The 49ers made it back to the playoffs in 2013, but were eliminated when Kaepernick’s pass toward Michael Crabtree end the end zone was tipped by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and intercepted by linebacker Malcolm Smith with 22 seconds remaining.

York and Harbaugh were unable to work out contract extensions after the past two seasons. Last year, when the Cleveland Browns contacted York about the possibility of swinging a trade for Harbaugh, York called Harbaugh to see if it was something Harbaugh wanted to pursue.

“He wasn’t in the office,” York told Bay Area reporters in March at the NFL owners meeting. “So I talked to him probably an hour after the Browns thing. I called. There was no answer. I texted and said, ‘Hey, give me a ring.’ He was at preschool with (his daughter). ‘Listen, I just want to ask you, was there any interest in your part? This is the phone call I got.’ “

Harbaugh called him back and said, according to York, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“And that was the end of it,” York said.

The sides announced at the beginning of training camp that they would table contract talks until the end of the season – in essence, making this a make-or-break season. But the 49ers struggled on the field and off the field.

Tight end Vernon Davis and guard Alex Boone did not take part in the team’s offseason program due to contract issues, prompting Harbaugh to say, “(It’s) not the decision I envision being the 49er way.”

Defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested for alleged domestic violence before the 49ers’ first game. The organization cited “due process” while keeping McDonald active and playing during the investigation. When McDonald was investigated again as a suspect in an alleged sexual assault on Dec. 17, the 49ers released him later that day.

The 49ers experienced an injury-riddled season in which 18 players finished the year on injured reserve, including linebackers Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Chris Borland, and nose tackles Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey, center Daniel Kilgore, tight end Vance McDonald, and first-round draft pick Jimmie Ward.

Harbaugh never talked about his other coaching options, which included the possibility he could remain in the NFL.

“What will happen, will happen,” Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. “What won’t happen, won’t happen. I work at the pleasure of the organization and I will let them have the floor on that.”  

Owners of No. 1 overall pick, Browns still searching for franchise QB

Owners of No. 1 overall pick, Browns still searching for franchise QB

CLEVELAND -- Finding Bigfoot has been more productive than the Cleveland Browns' search for a franchise quarterback.

This flawed football quest drags on.

For nearly two decades, the Browns, once a standard of NFL excellence and now a league punching bag, have been running in circles as they try to find a quarterback to lead them from the darkness to relevance and respectability. Since the franchise's inglorious expansion return in 1999, they've started 26 quarterbacks, a roll call of names that haunt even the most loyal Cleveland fans holding out hope the team will one day get it right.

From Tim Couch to Trent Dilfer, from Derek Anderson to Cody Kessler, and let's not forget that year of fun with Johnny Manziel, QBs have cycled through Cleveland like tourists, with none sticking around for long.

It's been a running joke.

And until the Browns find that long-term answer at quarterback, they'll continue to be looked at as a laughingstock.

They'll have another chance to perhaps end this long pursuit in this week's NFL draft. With the No. 1 and No. 12 overall picks, and four more selections in the first three rounds, the Browns are positioned to finally fix the most important position on the field.

This could be the year Cleveland fans have longed for, the one when the Browns find their Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. But as fate would have it, this year's QB class isn't highly regarded. Many draft experts feel there isn't a quarterback worth a first-round selection and that Cleveland should wait until 2018.

That's just so Browns, whose experiment with Robert Griffin III backfired last season, resulting in the latest QB confusion.

"We're going to keep searching," coach Hue Jackson said recently. "I think we all understand, no one's really claimed this position yet on our football team so we need to do everything we can to continue to add a player that we feel, as an organization, really good about, that can lead our football team and we'll continue to chase that."

The chase continues Thursday when the Browns try to find that elusive, essential piece. Or fumble again.

Here are some quarterback tidbits to chew on when the Browns go on the clock:

UP TOP: Cleveland seems locked in ON Texas A&M defensive stud Myles Garrett at No. 1, and while he's proficient at sacks, there are no three- or seven-step drops in his future. The Browns are impressed with North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, a former Ohio Mr. Football, despite his inexperience (only 13 college starts), but probably not enough to take him first. Landing Garrett and Trubisky would be a dream scenario, but Cleveland may have to trade up as the rebuilding Jets have sent out vibes they prefer Trubisky.

WHY NOT WATSON? Clemson's Deshaun Watson would seem to fit Jackson's profile of the ideal QB: mobile, dynamic, successful. The Browns, though, don't seem enthralled with Watson - not in the first round anyway - unless their silence is a smoke screen. There are other good options like Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Texas A&M's Patrick Mahomes or California's Davis Webb, who may all be available after Round 1.

DRAFT DEBACLES: The Browns' track record drafting QBs - or any position - is abysmal over the past decade, which is why many Cleveland fans fear the team will mess up again. Since 2007, only OT Joe Thomas and CB Joe Haden have proven to be good choices. Eight other first-round picks are no longer on the roster.

Along with Couch, the No. 1 choice in '99, the Browns have used first-round picks on Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Manziel, who was Johnny Goofball in an orange helmet. Those mistakes shouldn't deter the Browns from selecting a QB early, but they are grim reminders that there are no givens.

WAITING GAME: Would waiting one more year be so bad? Draft experts point to the 2018 QB class, led by UCLA's Josh Rosen and USC's Sam Darnold, as being more talented than the 2017 group. That wouldn't preclude the Browns from taking a quarterback later in this draft, just not in the first round.

HOMETOWN HEROES: Trubisky is the latest in a long line of Ohio-born QBs tabbed as the Browns' next savior. Quinn, Charlie Frye and Brian Hoyer all grew up as Browns fans, but none was able to lead the turnaround. If Trubisky is picked, the pressure on him to be the team's leader and face of the franchise will be immense.

BYE-BYE BROCK?: The Browns made a shocking move in free agency, acquiring QB Brock Osweiler, his $16 million guaranteed contract and a 2018 second-round pick from Houston. Cleveland made it clear Osweiler was not part of the future, but he's still on the roster and could be part of a fall-back plan if the Browns don't get their desired quarterback.

 

Report: 49ers strongly considering QB at No. 2

Report: 49ers strongly considering QB at No. 2

General manager John Lynch and the 49ers have created the desired intrigue about what the club will do with the No. 2 overall pick in this week’s NFL draft.

The team remains “open for business,” in the words of Lynch, to trade the second pick. If the 49ers are unable to find a trade partner, the team can do any number of different ways with that pick. The first round of the draft is scheduled for Thursday evening.

After edge-rusher Myles Garrett, widely projected to go to the Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 overall pick, there does not seem to be much separating the next dozen prospects on the board at a number of different positions.

Now, there is buzz the 49ers could go with a quarterback – likely, Mitchell Trubisky of North Carolina – with the No. 2 pick. That possibility gained steam Monday morning with a report from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, citing “several sources,” that the 49ers are “strongly considering” selecting a quarterback with the second pick.

One league source last week told NBC Sports Bay Area some around the league believe the 49ers would draft Trubisky or Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

“If the 49ers are waiting on Kirk Cousins, just remember that Trubisky is a better prospect now than Cousins was coming out of the 2012 draft,” the source said.

Cousins, who is set to play his second consecutive year as Washington’s franchise player, was a fourth-round selection under then-coach Mike Shanahan, New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was his father’s offensive coordinator when Washington drafted Cousins.

Lynch has been open in his scouting and praise of this year’s draft class. He has attended workouts of top quarterback prospects: Trubisky, Deshaun Watson (Clemson), DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame), Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) and Davis Webb (Cal).

"I think most of this quarterback class should be later down the line, whether it's first round or second round,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said recently. ESPN’s Mel Kipier and Todd McShay had Trubisky as the first quarterback selected by the Browns at No. 12 overall.

“I think these guys are somewhat getting a bad rap,” Lynch said at the NFL scouting combine. “You turn on the film, and there’s a lot to like.”

The 49ers head into this week’s draft with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as the only two quarterbacks on the roster.

The 49ers have shown no interest in re-signing any of the top three quarterbacks on the team’s roster last season: Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder. Each of those players remains unsigned.