SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jim Harbaugh gathered his players and told them he is leaving, and they joined their voices for one final, familiar chant: “Who’s got it better than us? No-body!”
“The last, ‘Who’s got it better than us?’ I said it as loud as I could,” said wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who could soon follow the San Francisco coach’s departure.
Harbaugh will not fulfill the final season of his $25 million, five-year contract coaching the 49ers that he signed in January 2011, reaching a mutual agreement with the team to part ways. The announcement came after Sunday’s 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals and following a 8-8 season in which San Francisco had hoped to establish some momentum in new $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium.
“It’s been the time of my life,” Harbaugh said. “Been a lot of great memories, great moments. ... It’s been a tremendous four years, it’s been a pleasure to work and serve for this organization. I feel great about what we accomplished.”
Harbaugh wouldn’t say whether he is indeed about to accept the job at alma mater, Michigan, except to offer vague hints and say he wouldn’t be around come Monday.
When asked specifically about taking over the Wolverines program, he said, “There will be announcements made concerning those things.”
Might he miss the NFL if he moves to Ann Arbor?
“Is the NFL going somewhere?” Harbaugh quipped.
The unraveling of 2014 began months ago, almost a year back, really. San Francisco lost in the NFC championship game last January at Seattle, then watched the rival Seahawks go on to win it all. Shortly after, CEO Jed York acknowledged the Cleveland Browns inquired about trading for Harbaugh.
The 49ers saw thousands of empty seats at most games this season. San Francisco was eliminated from playoff contention with a 17-7 loss at Seattle on Dec. 14, its second defeat to the rival Seahawks in an 18-day stretch.
Harbaugh guided the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games and had a Super Bowl-or-bust mentality for this season that quickly turned sour.
The 49ers came oh so close to their sixth Super Bowl championship after the 2012 season, losing 34-31 to Harbaugh’s big brother, John, and the Baltimore Ravens.
Harbaugh had a 49-22-1 overall record in four years with San Francisco, which might look to promote from within to replace him. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula’s name has been mentioned.
Jets fire coach Ryan, GM John Idzik
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Woody Johnson was tired of all the losing, the four straight seasons without going to the playoffs.
So, the New York Jets owner decided to completely clean house.
Johnson fired coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik on Monday, one day after completing one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
With the Jets (4-12) sitting home for the postseason for the fourth consecutive year, Johnson chose to start fresh with a new coach and GM — and said the team already contacted the top candidates on his short list.
He wouldn’t reveal who they are, but Johnson made it clear he wants a head coach who is a presence in all three aspects of the team — offense, defense and special teams — which was a frequent criticism of the defensive-minded Ryan. He also indicated that the next general manager should have a strong background in personnel, which was regarded as one of Idzik’s shortcomings.
Ryan was 50-52, including 4-2 in the postseason, in his six seasons with the Jets. His first few years were filled with guarantees, strong statements and two consecutive trips to the AFC title game. But, in the end, there were not enough wins to back up all the big talk.
Falcons fire Smith after losing season
ATLANTA — Mike Smith’s status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn’t enough to save his job.
Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his “heart of hearts” he didn’t believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
Smith’s firing came one day after the end of his second straight losing season, capped by Sunday’s ugly 34-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers before booing fans at the Georgia Dome.
Smith’s 66 wins in seven seasons are the most for any Falcons coach. He reeled off five straight winning seasons for a franchise which previously had not finished above .500 in back-to-back years.
For an owner looking to the future, those accomplishments were overshadowed by the Falcons’ 10-22 combined mark the past two seasons, including 6-10 in 2014. Blank acknowledged his confidence in Smith was shaken despite his affection for the coach.
Bears fire GM Emery, coach Trestman
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears fired general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman on Monday, making sweeping changes after missing the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.
Trestman is out after going 13-19 in two seasons while Emery lasted just three years. The Bears went 5-11 in a mostly miserable season, never challenging for the NFC North lead after the first few weeks as quarterback Jay Cutler and the rest of the offense struggled mightily.
Emery did not take questions from reporters.
Trestman, in a statement issued through the team, thanked the team-owning McCaskey family for the opportunity to coach the Bears.
The new GM and coach could have a big decision to make with quarterback Jay Cutler. He tied Philip Rivers for the league lead with 18 interceptions after signing a huge, seven-year contract at the end of last season.