Why Harbaugh should not covet personnel power

York on Harbaugh: 'He knows we want him here long term'

Why Harbaugh should not covet personnel power
December 19, 2013, 10:30 am
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If Jim Harbaugh had more personnel power, he couldn't get away with saying things like "pay the man," as he did about Phil Dawson's contract situation on Monday. (USATSI)

Programming note: Watch Thursday’s 49ers press conference with Jim Harbaugh, Andy Lee and NaVorro Bowman streaming live at 11:55 a.m. right here.

CEO Jed York has been candid about his desire to work out a contract extension with Jim Harbaugh in the offseason.

And, it seems, the deal will come down to dollars and years.

Harbaugh, York says, has never spoken to 49ers management about acquiring more power in making personnel decisions. And that makes a lot of sense.

After all, many of the players think of Harbaugh as one of them. And that is certainly what Harbaugh tries to portray, too, whether he’s throwing warm-up passes before games or he’s publicly stumping for his players to get new and better contracts.

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The role of the “good cop” works for Harbaugh. That leaves general manager Trent Baalke, who has final say on personnel matters, and chief negotiator Paraag Marathe to work behind the scenes to make the difficult decisions.

Over the course of his first three seasons, Harbaugh has offered his public support for the 49ers to re-sign Josh Morgan, Dashon Goldson and Randy Moss – none of whom returned to the 49ers.

Harbaugh was also publicly in Alex Smith’s corner for a new contract and repeatedly talked about him as an "elite" quarterback in 2011. Then, while Harbaugh was “evaluating” free-agent Peyton Manning in a workout after the season, the 49ers’ decision-makers played hard ball with Smith.

Smith eventually settled for a deal that made him the 19th-highest paid quarterback in the NFL. After losing his job in the middle of the next season, Smith was traded to Kansas City.

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This season, Harbaugh supported Tarell Brown’s quest to recoup the $2 million of salary he unknowingly lost when he did not take part in the offseason program. The sides have made no strides toward a new deal.

Harbaugh has lobbied for contract extensions for safety Donte Whitner and kicker Phil Dawson.

“Pay the man,” Harbaugh said Monday in reference to Dawson.

He could not say those kinds of things if he had more contractual power to actually make it happen.

What Harbaugh said is the same thing 49ers fans can say to York when it comes to locking up Harbaugh to a long-term deal.

There’s no need to give him more power. Simply, pay the man.