Harbaugh was given the game ball and a Gatorade bath at the end of his team's victory over Arizona on Sunday. It felt like a celebration, but the 49ers knew it was the end.
"I had the time of my life. It's like that song," Harbaugh said with a smile after the game. "I had the time of my life; I really did."
The Niners missed the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons before Harbaugh took the reins in 2011. He instantly turned San Francisco into a perennial contender, leading the team to three straight postseason berths, including a Super Bowl appearance and two other trips to the NFC Championship Game. However, his final season roaming the 49ers' sideline was a disappointment: The team trudged its way to an 8-8 record.
"Jim and I have come to the conclusion that it is in our mutual best interest to move in different directions," owner Jed York said in a statement. "We thank Jim for bringing a tremendous competitive nature and a great passion for the game to the 49ers. He and his staff restored a winning culture that has been the standard for our franchise throughout its history."
The front office and Harbaugh clearly had their differences, and we have to wonder if the 49ers will be able to find another coach as capable as Harbaugh. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has been mentioned as a strong in-house candidate. On Monday, Rapoport reported that the 49ers will be lengthy and methodical in their search for their next coach, and that they are in no hurry. Rapoport elaborated on *NFL AM *as to more potential candidates for the coaching job, including Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and UCLA coach Jim Mora.
Harbaugh didn't try to hide the fact he was leaving in his postgame press conference, even before his departure was officially announced. Harbaugh was asked about possibly joining the University of Michigan as their next head coach.
"There will be announcements made concerning those things," Harbaugh said.
Rapoport said on NFL Gameday Highlights that Harbaugh is "almost certain" to wind up as Michigan's coach, with a salary ballooning north of $8 million. Harbaugh finishes with a 49-22-1 career record in San Francisco.
"I count up these wins, that's 49 wins. It seems appropriate," Harbaugh said.