Killion: Dreary outlook for Harbaugh, 49ers


Killion: Dreary outlook for Harbaugh, 49ers

Ann Killion
The 49ers handed out rosters on their first day of training camp.

Tried to make a ham sandwich with mine. Thought it was a piece of Swiss.Yes, there are a lot of holes in the 49ers roster. Not little holes, but big gaping ones at key positions. Positions that successful NFL teams generally need.Like:A starting center. Eric Heitman was released on Thursday. David Baas agreed to terms with the Giants.A top-line wide receiver. Michael Crabtrees recurrent foot injury will keep him out of action for four to six weeks. In other words, Crabtree will miss another training camp.A settled secondary. The 49ers released Nate Clements for cap space, failed to land Nnamdi Asomugha who signed with the Eagles and may be in a bidding war for Dashon Goldsons services.A starting running back. Frank Gore didnt report to camp, looking for a contract extension, and no one knows when hell be in.An upgrade at veteran quarterback. Alex Smith was signed for a seventh year while more intriguing prospects like Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb went elsewhere.MAIOCCO: Harbaugh misses three key 49ers at campThey also lost a locker room leader in Takeo Spikes. But, hey, they replaced replaced Joe Nedney at kicker.The storyline from Friday was supposed to be all about the launching of the new and improved Jim Harbaugh era. Harbaugh was the big fish the 49ers landed in the offseason and to make no mistake - he was an important one.Hes the first offensive-minded coach the 49ers have had in seven seasons. He was the most coveted coach on the open market back in January. He brings a new enthusiasm and vigor to the 49ers. But instead of a happy storyline about Harbaughs debut, the news coming out of the 49ers this week was increasingly dismal.And while its true that the 49ers recent coaches have been disasters, the organization needs more than just a new coach. They need upgrades in personnel. So it was troubling to hear owner Jed York say in a conference call this week that the 49ers efforts would be focused on resigning their own free agents and that he thought the team was close to competing for the playoffs.On Friday afternoon, when the free agent period officially opened and the NFL Network was blaring Free Agent Frenzy, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke was standing on the field watching practice. Any visions 49ers fans might have had of Baalke huddled in his office simultaneously working two land lines, a Blackberry and an iPhone to get help for the 49ers were incorrect. Baalke watched the entire practice, chatted with Harbaugh for a while after it was over and strolled off the field.RELATED: 49ers camp report: Harbaugh runs the show
Despite the apparent inactivity while the rest of the league is consumed with musical players, Harbaugh insists there is a plan.I do, Ive been involved in it and Trent Baalke and I are talking every day, on it and executing that plan and I think smartly, he said. I feel good about it and time and results will judge if we were correct in our thinking.He added, when asked if patience was part of his plan, that three quarters of the teams in the National Football League are taking that approach right now. It doesnt feel like that, with bidding wars breaking out all over. The Eagles and Patriots got a lot better. Other NFC teams the Falcons, the Bears, the Saints all have made moves. More relevant to the 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals just improved with the acquisition of Kolb. The 49ers arent just standing pat; they seem to be leaking players. And if you were to rank the teams in the weak NFC West right now, youd probably put the 49ers at the bottom.Before the lockout the storyline that was penciled in for July 29, the opening day of training camp, was the exciting debut of Harbaugh. The actual story on Friday was quite a bit drearier.

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

In Kyle Shanahan’s first breath after being introduced as 49ers head coach on Feb. 9, he mentioned Jim Harbaugh, along with Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Steve Mariucci.

The head coach of Michigan was listening, and he appreciated the gesture.

“It was very flattering that he said nice things about us at his news conference, and I appreciated that,” Harbaugh said on "The TK Show," a podcast from Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group.

“Now, I don’t think I was there long enough to be compared with Bill Walsh or Coach Seifert, etc. But I think did – and correct me if I’m wrong – I think we did set a record for coaching there the longest under the present ownership, if I’m not wrong.”

That is correct.

Since John and Denise York took over control of the 49ers in 2000 from Denise’s brother, Eddie DeBartolo, the 49ers have employed eight head coaches. Mike Nolan was fired after seven games of his fourth season. The two coaches who followed Harbaugh -- Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly -- were fired after 5-11 and 2-14 seasons, respectively.

Harbaugh’s teams advanced to the NFC Championship Game in each of his first three seasons, including a Super Bowl appearance. He and the 49ers “mutually parted ways,” the club announced, immediately after the team finished with an 8-8 record in 2014.

“I take pride in that,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe there should be an endurance medal, a courage medal, for that.”

Shanahan mentioned Harbaugh during his opening remarks at the introductory press conference earlier this month:

“I’ve got to start out thanking Jed and the whole York family. Giving me this opportunity is, it’s a dream come true and it’s not just an opportunity to be a head coach, but to be a head coach at a place like this where you talk about Bill Walsh, you talk about George Seifert, Steve Mariucci, Jim Harbaugh and you can go down the line with the coaches.”

Said Harbaugh, “Just appreciated it. Appreciated it, and not just for me personally, but appreciated that for all the wonderful players we had and the wonderful coaches and the effort that was put in. People poured their hearts and souls into those years. It’s just appreciated that Kyle would make that comment.”

Harbaugh said he has deep respect for Shanahan and new 49ers general manager John Lynch, whom Harbaugh asked to speak to his Stanford teams during his four-year tenure as head coach.

“Yeah, I would’ve loved to have worked for John Lynch,” Harbaugh said. “He reminds me a lot of the athletic director we have here Warde Manuel, who’s also a former player and a teammate of mine. Common sense guys who are team guys, just the way they go about their business always speaks volumes.

“I thought John took note when they were going through the process. e didn’t want his name mentioned and I think that’s . . . I don’t know if a lot of people noticed that, but I think that’s a profound thing. I think that speaks volumes for who he is as a person. He wants to do a good job and it’s for the right reasons. He’s a competitor at the highest level, so I have great respect for that.”

Kawakami also asked Harbaugh about whether he believes quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still capable of being an NFL starter.

“There’s no doubt he can be an NFL starting quarterback,” Harbaugh said.

“I’m sure Kyle, the coaching staff there and John will meet on it, they’ll think about it, they’ll watch, much like we did when we got in there in 2011. And they’ll make the best decision they can for the team and the organization and it’ll play out the way it’s going to play out.”

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

During the month the 49ers had no general manager or head coach, Tom Gamble was the next-highest-ranking football official and was charge of the personnel department on an interim basis.

But CEO Jed York made it clear from the beginning Gamble, whom Trent Baalke promoted to assistant general manager just prior to the start of training camp last summer, would not be considered for a promotion to general manager.

John Lynch, with no front-office experience, was hired over Arizona’s Terry McDonough and Minnesota’s George Paton. Before Lynch’s introductory press conference, he hired two top lieutenants in the personnel department to usurp Gamble on the organization's power structure.

On Wednesday, the 49ers announced what had become inevitable: Gamble was leaving the organization.

“I must thank Jed, the York family and the entire 49ers organization for the wonderful memories they provided me and my family, but it is time I move on,” Gamble said in a statement. “This past month, I have had the pleasure of working alongside John Lynch and the talented staff he has assembled. The team is in capable hands and I wish them nothing but the best.”

Lynch’s first move as general manager was to hire Adam Peters away from the Denver Broncos to serve as 49ers vice president of player personnel.

Lynch worked alongside Peters when Lynch took part in Broncos meetings and prospect evaluations, which included a trip to the NFL scouting combine, prior to the 2013 draft.

“That month, month-and-a-half, I actually sat next to Adam every day,” Lynch told “Those are long meetings. I’d listen to him and we’d talk in between about players. I just saw way back then, he’s a guy who’s highly respected in the league. I firmly believe in two, three years, he would’ve been a GM. He was on that track, at least.”

During Lynch’s introductory press conference a week later, he announced the hiring of Martin Mayhew as senior personnel executive. Lynch and Mayhew were teammates in the secondary for Lynch’s first four NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Mayhew spent seven seasons as Detroit Lions general manager. Mayhew should be able to provide Lynch with valuable counsel as learns on the job after spending the past eight seasons as a TV analyst on FOX.

“Martin has sat in the seat as a general manager and his experience will play an integral role in helping us locate the type of football player we want representing this organization both on the field and in the community,” Lynch said.

Gamble recently completed his 29th NFL season and his 10th with the 49ers in two stints. After he was fired as Philadelphia Eagles vice president of personnel late in the 2014 season, and came back to the 49ers in the 2015 offseason.

While with the Eagles, Gamble was one of the few individuals in the front office who worked well with Chip Kelly. Gamble played an important role in speaking up for Kelly and bringing him to the 49ers last offseason.

Kelly and Baalke were fired after the 49ers' 2-14 season, and the 49ers promoted the ability to create a fresh start when a new coach and general manager. While the 49ers were expecting Gamble to remain with the organization through the draft, his spot with the organization was going to be tenuous with a new regime.

“He is a class act who has helped a great deal in this transition, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him,” Lynch said in a statement. “After working together over the last month, Tom and I agreed that it would be in both of our best interests for him to pursue other opportunities.”