49ers Need to Stop Screwing Around and Pay Their Coach and Quarterback

Aaron Nagler@Aaron_NaglerNFL National Lead WriterMarch 3, 2014

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh talks with quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Let me get this straight.

Jim Harbaugh has guided the San Francisco 49ers to 36 regular-season wins over the course of his first three years as head coach. The two previous head coaches, Mike Singletary and Mike Nolan, took twice as long to win 37 games. 

There's also the not-inconsiderable feat of the team having played in the NFC Championship Game every year of Harbaugh's tenure and being within a failed red-zone trip from bringing home a Lombardi Trophy. 

And yet, after the simmering tension behind the scenes in San Francisco exploded into the national consciousness when Pro Football Talk dropped its mini-bombshell about the Browns' failed attempt to land Harbaugh via trade, a continuing theme seems to be making its way through the NFL ecosphere.

One that tells us that the 49ers would be more than happy to let Harbaugh walk away, that they shouldn't extend his contract or pay him "big money" until he wins a Super Bowl, that not only has the relationship between him and general manager Trent Baalke been less than serene, but that the coach has begun to "wear thin" in the locker room.

I'm sorry, is this the line for a Miley Cyrus concert or the National Football League? 

Since when has anything other than wins and losses mattered when it comes to evaluating and, in turn, paying a head coach? 

Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

Oh sure, you have the odd precedent, like when the Chargers drove Marty Schottenheimer out of town after ownership sided with GM A.J. Smith in their showdown of personalities, giving way to the Norv Turner era in San Diego.

Or when Jerry Jones, desperate to prove he could win a Super Bowl without Jimmy Johnson, did just that by parting ways with the man most responsible for the Cowboys' stunning championship runs in the 1990s and replacing him with this guy. Of course, after winning that Super Bowl with almost all Johnson-picked players, Jones went on his incredible run of mediocrity that persists to this day. 

These examples and a few more should be considered stark warning signs for the 49ers and their fanbase, who seem all too eager to shuffle Harbaugh out the door. 

Does he want to be one of the league's highest-paid coaches? Probably. Can you blame him?

He took a team that opponents used to circle on their schedule as an automatic win and turned it into a perennial contender. And he's done it with two vastly different guys at the game's most important position. 

Which brings us to the other mind-numbing part of this 49ers drama, wherein people opine on how Colin Kaepernick is not worthy of the $18 million-per-year paycheck he's reportedly seeking, per The Boston Globe's Ben Volin (h/t Pro Football Talk). 

It's as though 49ers fans want to go back to the days of Trent Dilfer and Tim Rattay.

This is how it goes, Niners fans. You pick a quarterback in the draft. He sits for a bit. He plays. He plays really, really well. Your team wins a bunch of games. The young quarterback's contract has one year left.

You pay him.

Near as I can tell, the case against Kaepernick is as thin as the case against Harbaugh. "Neither has won a Super Bowl." Great. With that line of thinking, you'll be paying both of them after they have

You think they're expensive now? Ask the Ravens about waiting for a guy to win a Super Bowl before you pay him. 

Or worse, you won't pay them; Harbaugh will leave, and Kaepernick will go through the same thing Alex Smith went through, with new coordinators and new systems until he's rendered ineffectual. "But Aaron, Alex Smith was so good before getting benched in San Francisco!"

Who was the coach who turned him into a functional NFL quarterback again? 

The cost on both Harbaugh and Kaepernick will only go up. A price of $18 million per year for a franchise quarterback (that's what Kaepernick is, by the way. I know it's been a while since the 49ers and their fans have seen one) is pretty much the going rate.

Harbaugh wants more control? The 49ers should be running to offer that before he wins a Super Bowl and asks to be the highest-paid coach in the NFL as well. (Which is currently Sean Payton at $8 million per year. Harbaugh is worth that right now.) Naturally, Harbaugh has denied this on the record, per SI's Michael Rosenberg. Kind of like how he denied pursing Peyton Manning

Pay them. Now. 

Or let the coach walk, screw up the quarterback and get ready to return to 5-11 and 7-9. At least you'll see the 49ers on the clock much earlier in the evening during the NFL draft. 

This shouldn't be this hard. 


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