“I didn’t leave the 49ers. I felt like the 49ers left me,” Harbaugh told Kawakami. The successful coach quickly exited San Francisco for Ann Arbor, Michigan, just after his fourth season as an NFL head coach concluded.
Mired in what appeared to be a consistent struggle with upper management, Harbaugh left despite taking the 49ers to three straight NFC title games, a destination the franchise hadn’t seen since 1997. Harbaugh also confirmed he was told he wouldn’t be back with the 49ers after a Week 15 loss in Seattle. The current Michigan coach, who will work for $5MM this season, didn’t deny then-defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was campaigning for his old job before getting it in January.
“There was definitely a point where you walk down the halls and you … I wasn’t reading anything that was on the Internet, I was really focused on doing my job … but definitely walk down the halls and people look away or they look at you and you know something’s going on,” Harbaugh told Kawakami.
On to those who plan to be paid by NFL franchises this season …
- If franchised, Ndamukong Suh‘s salary will balloon into the stratosphere reserved for baseball players and Roger Goodell, but Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin doesn’t care at this point, according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com. He plans on the free agent defensive tackle returning for a sixth season in the Motor City. Of course, there are other deciding voices on this expensive matter. Suh would draw a staggering $26.9MM should the Lions franchise him. The former No. 2 overall pick’s cap number was north of $22MM last season, according to OverTheCap.com. The near-$27MM figure would represent more than 19% of the Lions’ overall salary cap if they exercise this option. The team has 23 free agents and only $14.5MM worth of cap space, so some major restructuring would be necessary to make Austin’s ideal vision come to fruition.
- Rams coach Jeff Fisher shed some light on his recent offensive coordinator hire, per ESPN’s Nick Wagoner on Twitter, saying it was going to be an in-house candidate. Fisher also noted he had only one in-person interview — Nathaniel Hackett — and a couple of phone conversations with Kyle Shanahan and Adam Gase (via Wagner on Twitter) before promoting quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti. Jeff Garcia was interviewed for the quarterback coach job on Thursday and Friday, but more interviews are coming (Twitter link).
- Amid another contract renegotiation, Larry Fitzgerald could finally enter the free agent market, but Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explains why the 31-year-old Fitzgerald departing would not be the right move for his own sake. Fitzgerald is due $8MM if he’s on the roster when the new league year begins March 10, but that contract carries a $23.6MM cap charge, which is probably a non-starter for most players, let alone a one who hasn’t topped 1,000 receiving yards in a season since 2011. The Cardinals need to slash more than $10MM, according to OverTheCap.com, to move under the salary cap by March 10, and Fitzgerald’s deal is front and center.