How Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers plummeted from the cusp of Super Bowl glory to rock bottom

How Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers plummeted from the cusp of Super Bowl glory to rock bottom


– [Narrator] In January
2011, the San Francisco 49ers were at rock bottom. Across the prior eight seasons they’d lost 82 games and missed the playoffs each year. Had a quarterback taken first overall whose career looked to be beaten and battered into oblivion. But then, they won the
Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes. CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke miraculously landed the hottest
coaching commodity around. And with Harbaugh
captaining the Niners ship, their days as an NFL bottom
feeder looked to be over quick. He brought quarterback Alex Smith’s career back from the dead, with a passing attack that leaned heavily on wideout Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. The power run game Harbaugh installed for tailback Frank Gore flourished behind an offensive line of maulers anchored by All-Pro
left tackle Joe Staley. But this was a team whose
defense led the way and set the tone, and that
all started with a front seven that oozed superstar talent. Interior D-lineman Justin Smith was the heartbeat of the team and its MVP. The attention he demanded
from opposing offenses freed up not only Aldon
Smith, their sensational rookie pass-rusher,
but also planet Earth’s top two inside linebackers, Patrick Willis and electric first year
starter NaVorro Bowman. With Harbaugh pushing
all the right buttons they cruised through the regular season, racking up 13 wins and
clenching the NFC West title plus a first round bye. And though they won a thrilling back and forth game for the ages on this last second missile from Smith to Davis, they also lost Ted Ginn to
a knee injury in the game and boy did they feel
their return specialist’s absence the next week. Facing the Giants in the
NFC championship game, the Niners had already rallied to overcome one turnover by replacement return man Kyle Williams and force overtime. In the extra frame, the
Niners forced a punt that Williams fielded
and again turned over, enabling a chip shot field goal to end their season in agonizing fashion. When the next season rolled around, Harbaugh led them to a 6-2 start and had Alex Smith
playing exceptional ball, though a Week 10 concussion
opened the door for backup Colin Kaepernick to shine, compelling Harbaugh to
ride the hot hand and stick with the youngster. After again winning their
division, Kaepernick thoroughly dominated
the Packers in his first career playoff game,
dissecting ‘em through the air and running all
over ‘em on the ground. Highlighted by this
56-yard touchdown that gave ‘em the lead for good on a night where he rushed for the
most yards by a quarterback in any game in NFL history. Then he went to Atlanta to
win the NFC Championship Game, earning a trip to New
Orleans and Super Bowl 47. After falling behind
28-6 against a Ravens team coached
by Harbaugh’s brother, the Niners rallied to
cut the deficit to five for their final possession,
where they drove down to the doorstep of the goal
line and NFL immortality. But on 4th-and-goal,
Baltimore got quite handsy with Crabtree and no flag meant another year of brutal heartbreak. Nevertheless, under the
guidance of Harbaugh, who, according to Hall
of Famer John Madden, had done the best coaching job in the history of the NFL in year one, the team was in magnificent shape. They had an abundance
of talent all overseen by the khaki-wearing miracle worker and nothing could get in their way. Well, nothing but the pride
and ego of Niner management. In the 2012 NFL Draft that
proceeded that Super Bowl run, Trent Baalke executed
one of the most ghastly draft classes imaginable,
with the seven guys he picked combining to play just
42 games for the team. Punctuated by first
round wideout A.J. Jenkins who I will now show
you every all-time pass the Niners ever threw to him. That’s it. And that hideous draft
class is what sparked the first real fissure in
the Harbaugh-Baalke dynamic. But they were still set up beautifully and just had to take care of
some offseason housekeeping to keep the train rolling. With Kaepernick now firmly
entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback, they flipped Smith to Kansas City for a
couple 2nd-round picks, while on the same day trading for grown man wide receiver Anquan Boldin. During the summer, Harbaugh and Jed York held talks to extend his contract. But York refused to cut the
check necessary to get it done. Clinging to the logic that he didn’t want to pay Harbaugh like a
Super Bowl-winning coach, because he hadn’t won a Super Bowl. And while that’s technically accurate, it’s also pretty flawed logic. I mean, had the officials properly flagged Jimmy Smith at the end of Super Bowl 47, with the Niners then winning, would that somehow have made Harbaugh an inherently better football coach? So, he’d need to keep
proving himself, no problem. They again remained arguably
the NFL’s top team in 2013, but with Seattle edging
‘em out for the division, San Francisco got to take a lovely January trip to Wisconsin featuring a wind chill reaching double-digits below
zero for Wild Card Weekend. But the California-based
team pulled it out, and with a win the next week in Charlotte, Harbaugh became the only
coach in NFL history to make the conference championship game in each of his first three seasons. During the following
week’s de facto Super Bowl in the Pacific Northwest,
the Niners managed to take a 2nd half lead
on this absurd backyard-style touchdown pass from
Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin. Their next possession ended with a punt, but they should’ve kept the ball when the refs failed to enforce what clearly should’ve been
a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down. – [Announcer] We see Lee
get hit with that plant leg and Mike Pereira, was that the proper call? – [Mike] No, and I think Jim Harbaugh, was making the point with Gene Steratore — if you hit the plant leg like they did here with the angle turning over, that’s roughing – [Narrator] In Seattle’s
ensuing drive that shouldn’t have happened
in the first place, they came up short on a 3rd down with 14:50 left to play. In a lead with a 40-second play clock, the discombobulated
Seahawks were somehow able to call a timeout 58
seconds later. This wasn’t some run-of-the-mill bad call. It was an inexplicable administrative gaffe that removed a delay of game
penalty from the equation. So on a drive that never
should’ve existed, on a 4th-and-7 that arguably should’ve been 4th-and-12, Seattle parlayed their
serendipitous fortune into scoring what was ultimately
the game-winning touchdown. This battle royale also
provided the first huge domino to fall in leading to
San Francisco’s demise when midway through the 4th quarter, NaVorro Bowman suffered this grisly knee injury while ripping the
ball away from the Seahawks and clearly maintaining
possession before getting dogpiled with that shredded knee, only to see the refs give
the ball back to Seattle. It took about a month
for the next gut punch when reports started emerging of the 49ers having nearly completed a
trade of Harbaugh to the Browns before getting nixed at the 11th hour. Now, Harbaugh can certainly
be high maintenance and his maniacal drive to
win can be prone to rubbing his superiors the wrong way,
but that’s how he thrived and despite all the winning it produced, York and Baalke apparently just preferred to have a yes-man who
never pushed back as coach. The very next week, a report
surfaced that Harbaugh was losing the locker room. It was the beginning of
a year-long, drama filled whisper campaign throughout 2014 with seemingly weekly leaks
to the media by Jed York and/or his minions, engineered to try and make Harbaugh look bad. And with their All-World
linebacker sidelined for the entire year after that horrific knee injury in Seattle, the
misery was just beginning. Their very first game in
brand new Levi’s stadium saw them choke away a 13-point
4th quarter lead against the awful Bears,
when they let Jay Cutler toss three touchdowns
in a 7-minute span. A month later, on the shitty
Edward Jones Dome turf, the other half of their
inside linebacking royalty succumbed to a toe injury and underwent season-ending surgery. Harbaugh somehow kept
them afloat for awhile, and they won 7 of
their first 11 games. But then things spiraled
wildly out of control. Starting with a Thanksgiving
night embarrassment against the Seahawks in
a game so demoralizing that York felt compelled to take to social media to apologize for the
product put forth on the field. In the wake of that tweet, the Niners fell to the 1-11
Raiders the next week, dealing a near-fatal blow
to their playoff hopes which were shortly thereafter
officially extinguished with a Week 15 loss in Seattle. Following that loss,
management informed Harbaugh that he would not be returning
in 2015 and before the season was out, he
accepted an offer to return to Ann Arbor and coach his alma mater. Upon the conclusion of a
distraction infested 8-8 season, York crafted
a statement saying the two sides were mutually parting
ways, which was a lie. York fired him. Harbaugh himself would
eventually confirm that indeed he was told he
wouldn’t be the coach anymore, and that the 49er hierarchy had left him. And York issued that pink
slip with no coherent plan in place to replace him,
as he and Baalke royally bungled the coaching search. They were on the verge of
hiring Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, with
an arrangement of him as head coach and star
incumbent D-coordinator Vic Fangio remaining in
place, but that deal blew up at the last minute when
management gave Gase an ultimatum that D-line coach
and longtime York favorite Jim Tomsula had to be his
defensive coordinator. It didn’t work. So they just
made Tomsula the head coach. Less than two months into his tenure, utter disaster struck the organization to kick off a period
where key 49ers were dropping off the roster like flies. March 10th, 2015, 6-time All-Pro
linebacker Patrick Willis announces his retirement
from the NFL at age 30, citing chronic foot problems. On the very same day, they
watched the best back in franchise history and one of
the very best of all time depart when Frank Gore signed
with the Colts in free agency. And for the cherry on
top, savage run blocking left guard Mike Iupati signed with the the division rival Cardinals. While Willis’ stunning
retirement was a monumental blow from out of nowhere,
the one silver lining was the presence of promising youngster Chris Borland who was
coming off a tremendous rookie season in which he led the league in tackles over the
2nd half of the season despite missing the final two games. So, at inside linebacker,
they were all set to welcome back Bowman from
his devastating knee injury, and plug Borland into
Willis’ spot, until six days later when the 24-year-old
Borland also shockingly said goodbye to football amid
long-term concerns of the repetitive head trauma
inherent to his position. Not a month later, they lost
Crabtree when he ventured across the bay to Oakland. And in May, Justin
Smith officially hung up the cleats after 14
grueling years in the trenches. How crucial was Smith to
the Niners’ excellence of yesteryear? Well, in 2012 the Niners
played 19 regular and postseason games. In the first 13,
San Francisco’s D was absolutely smothering. Then he tore his triceps
off the bone in Foxboro in Week 15. He somehow
returned to play in the playoffs with a giant
brace, but across their final six games with
Smith either sidelined or playing with one
arm, the defense totally and completely fell apart. Just a couple weeks
later, their O-line took another hit when right
tackle Anthony Davis announced that he, too, was walking away from football at age 25. And to cap the offseason from hell, Aldon Smith was arrested for the 5th time in his four years as a Niner when he was charged with DUI, hit and run,
and vandalism in August 2015. As spectacular as his pass-rushing
potential was, that was the final straw and he was
released just hours later. Then it came time to play football. With a coaching staff that
was in completely over their heads and Kaepernick
playing through ailments that would require not one,
not two, but three surgeries, they lost six of their first eight games before more drastic change struck. Vernon Davis, the only tight end in NFL history with multiple
seasons scoring at least 13 touchdowns, had now gone 19 straight games without
finding the end zone and was flipped to Denver the day after the Niners got steamrolled
in St. Louis in week eight. Two days later, Tomsula
officially announced he was benching Kaepernick. The keys to the offense were
then handed to Blaine Gabbert, a nice guy who tries his
hardest, but happens to be a remarkably incompetent NFL quarterback who no one should want in the
same time zone as their team’s city unless it’s as an opponent. Shockingly, he did not
pull a rabbit out of the hat over the second half of the season, and down the stretch, even led the team to a pitiful loss against Johnny
honest-to-goodness Manziel. Just a couple years removed
from annual contention, the team finished up a
rotten 5-11 season and were among the dregs of
the league both offensively and defensively, going nowhere fast. York decided to take a half measure, firing Tomsula after
his lone, rancid season, but keeping Baalke in charge
of the football operation. And with the current disastrous
state of the franchise, their options for a
new coach were limited. Baalke eventually settled on Chip Kelly, the deposed former Eagles coach. Kelly inherited a team with
a quarterback situation in complete flux. Not only was Kaepernick
recovering from operations to his shoulder, thumb, and
knee, but he was very nearly traded to Denver, only
to remain a Niner when he refused the pay cut the
Broncos wanted him to take. With Kap unable to do much
football work in the offseason, Kelly opened the 2016
season by again trotting Gabbert out as the Niners
starting quarterback. With the only reasonable
explanation for his ongoing presence on an NFL
53-man roster being that he must know where all
of the bodies are buried. A Week 1 win over NFL
punching bag, Jeff Fisher, provided a false sense
of competence before everything immediately
came apart at the seams. They’d lose their next four games, a stretch in which Bowman
suffered another awful injury, this time a ruptured Achilles’ that robbed the defense of their leader,
and punctuated by a loss to the Drew Stanton-led Cardinals before Chip mercifully yanked Blaine
Gabbert from the lineup and inserted Kaepernick. But spearheaded by the
league’s worst defense, the losses just wouldn’t stop avalanching. That vaunted run D from the Harbaugh era, which didn’t allow a
single rushing TD for the first 14 games of his tenure, while in that time not allowing a single back to crack even 65
rushing yards on ‘em, was now replaced by a softer-than-tissue-paper unit that hemorrhaged yardage. Opposing backs feasted
on the Bowmanless Niners as they became the only
team to ever allow a 100-yard rusher in seven straight games. With the NFL having also
caught up to Kelly’s unorthodox offensive principles, it was all part of a
franchise record 13-game losing streak for the 49ers. Despite that, one of the very few players who did actually play
relatively well was Kaepernick, Literally an above average passer in 2016. But throughout the season
he took a knee every week during the pregame
National Anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality, And for that, would become
essentially blackballed by the league’s owners. On January 1st, 2017, after ending their repulsive season with
loss number 14, York fired his coach for
the third year in a row, this time finally sending
Baalke packing alongside him. The San Francisco 49ers
under coach Harbaugh had developed a blue collar
identity that fought like hell week in and week out, did a whole lot of winning,
and should have continued to do a whole lot of winning. However, they suffered through
some excruciatingly tough breaks, lost some aging
foundational pieces, and endured the departures
of some extremely talented players much earlier
than anyone could have foreseen for a variety of reasons. But more than anything
else, management just couldn’t resist trying to fix something that was the furthest thing from broken. Winning wasn’t good
enough, they just had to win their way and get
the credit for it, too. And because of that,
they ruined everything and sent the organization
rapidly spiraling back to rock bottom. Hey y’all, thanks so much for watching. I gotta say, producing
and re-living a video on the collapse of a
team I love with every fiber of my being was just bunches of fun. Anyway, don’t forge to like, subscribe, and click to watch more of our stuff.

100 thoughts on “How Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers plummeted from the cusp of Super Bowl glory to rock bottom

  1. I love the honest perspective of Colin. As a Colts fan, I remember Andrew Luck being ranked by analysts and fans alike behind him and Russell. I knew better. But it's funny as hell that all of a sudden, he was garbage.

  2. Niners fan here. Let’s not rewrite history, Kaepernick was horrible his last 3 years in SF. He got blackballed for the kneels but was cut because he sucked. This isn’t political it’s fact

  3. This channel makes really amazing content but your editing makes me think my monitor is constantly dirty because of those weird floaty particle things.

  4. You completely failed to mention the blackout! Ravens had all momentum taken away after the blackout that let the 49ners back into the game

  5. So many players I idolized and watched since the year Gore and Smith got drafted gone just like that. Sorry niners and Jeddy boi, the legend lives on and I gotta root for him, GO BILLS!

  6. The funny part about all of this is that I became a 49ers fan DIRECTLY AFTER the HORRENDOUS 2014 offseason… I still don’t know what success looks like.

  7. 3:43 to 3:54, anyone who has ever played football as a kid with a bunch of older boys can relate to this. They’ll give you one chance, just one chance, to get the ball. But if you drop that pass, you might as well go home, ‘cause you ain’t ever touching that football again.

  8. What is the one common denominator here? Jed York, who was born on 3rd base and woke up thinking he had hit a triple. He's a moron. Closely followed by Trent Baalke, who loved drafting guys with knee injuries because they were available. He never figured out WHY they were available.

  9. everything seems to be gettin better now with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. i promise everyone we will be at top again soon.

  10. Bro that wasn’t a flag on Jimmy lol
    It was within five yards and he didn’t hold, the ball was also out of reach
    And who’s to say Baltimore doesnt make it past midfield with JUSTIN TUCKER who’s hit 61 even if the 9ers score? Would’ve been 35-34 without extra point and at best the ravens could’ve still tied it

  11. Nobody blackballed Kaepernick please stop pushing this SJW narrative. Nobody wanted him because he’s not worth the distraction. He’s not worth the cameras and not to mention his girlfriend fucked up an offer from the ravens by calling their owner a slave owner because he want him to earn the job and not be given it.

  12. I will never forget that robbery in Seattle. That championship game was the 49ers! The NFL took it from the 49ers just so they could have the sea chickens with the so-called best defense (best holding defense) playing those bum Denver Broncos with the number 1 offense. The 49ers great defense would have destroyed Payton manning and Denver on there way to what would had been there 7 or 8 Lombardi trophy

  13. This was an excellent video. You perfectly recounted a story that isn’t talked about enough. And I always thought they brought in Harbaugh just to get them back to credibility in time to sell seat licenses for the new stadium and had no intention of keeping him long term or even fielding a winning team long term.

  14. 15:32 Nuff said. Act like a fool, get treated like one. Also, Back when Kappy was a good boy, that SB loss to the Ravens was a freaking FLUKE!!!!! They allowed Crabtree to get raped in the endzone because Ray Lewis was retiring that year. No waaaaay were they not giving that SB to the Ravens that year. What a f&@^#&g joke. The only SB the Ravens ACTUALLY won was in 2000.

  15. As a Niners fan: fuck Jed York! His uncle built this team into the NFL staple that it is, and he inherited it on a fluke. He literally trashed his own uncle's legacy. Fuck him.

  16. My first 49ers home game was that playoff game against the Saints. One of the greatest games I've ever seen. That stadium exploded when Vernon caught that winning touchdown!

  17. As a 49ers fan I can honestly say that Trent Baalke & Jed York are the biggest reasons why we got as bad as we did before we finally brought in Kyle Shanahan & John Lynch

  18. Jed yorks lack of owner experience and ego ruined a great team. Sure we lost the superbowl but jed york decided to dismantle the team instead of adding and tweaking the team. Managment screwed harbaugh and the team. Great video!!

  19. Jed York. Elite, take credit for everything your people do just because you are the team owner's son.
    He has Jerry Jones syndrome.

  20. The craziest thing I think the 49ers have turned it around they have a healthy Jimmy garoppolo they have a much better offense and defense and I do think they have a chance to steal the six wildcard seed in the NFC 10-6 or 11-5 I think two wild cards are coming out to the NFC West division the Los Angeles Rams 11-5 finishes on NFL regular season

  21. Harbaugh was and is a blowhard. Smith should have NEVER LOST HIS JOB DUE TO INJURY. It took a season, but the defenses caught up to Colin Squidwards gimmick. And I am so glad that Hardblow is languishing in Michigan. 🖕🖕🖕

  22. We should have won the nfc championship game against the Seahawks. The 49ERS had more bad calls that went to the Hawks and pretty much gave them the win. Think im lying go watch tape. And possibly could have won the SB that year instead of the Seahawks. The powers that be dictate who goes and possibly even wins games. But we "all" new this though right people 💯🙊. They (powers that be) just got really sloppy with that game and hoped no one really noticed, but both 49er and Seahawk fans do, and should know that the only ones to really benefit from this are the powers that be. Yes I still support Kap and his movement and yes I am a disabled Veteran of the US Armed Forces 😎👍🏾. God bless you all.

  23. I really like how we're just completely ignoring the fact that the Ravens dominated the first half of the Superbowl, and only after the power outage, which was totally just a coincidence btw, did the 49ers come back. But yes, It's the no call at the end that lost the game for the 49ers.

  24. yo yo Kaep was not good after Harbaugh left. Pls stop lying to the people. I am a Niners fan. We pushed Kaep out not because of politics. Because he sucked. The league figured him out. He could not throw anything but inaccurate fastballs.

  25. The previous beloved 49ers owner, Debartolo, in a perior of less than 20 years took us to 5 Superbowls. The Yorks (Jerks, as I like to call them), have trashed this team for over 20 years, and have given us nothing. The Jerks have the worst Owners 49er have had.

  26. On a side note, as a diehard Ravens fan I was so mad when we gave away Anquan Boldin after that superbowl… Absolutely hurt us both short and long term. Flacco never really grew after that but I'm glad the 49ers and Boldin had a good situation. Btw, I was so angry/confused for you 49er fans when you Jed Yorke was basically sabotaging Harbaugh future with the team.

  27. Jim Harbaugh was legit, no way should management ego have got in the way of letting him coach. The wins would’ve kept on coming and eventually the Super Bowl wins. It was just a matter of time. For Jed to not pay Jim properly for taking a losing team to becoming a dominating winning team is a tough task and Jef as well as Trent F’D it up royally. I hope Jed stays TF out of Kyles way and let’s him do his thing. 5-0 2019 is a great start. Keep it going.

  28. He didn't even cover the Tomsula angle right. Tomsula was well known to be the rat who was leaking stuff to the press. You can dig it up, but there are multiple reports of it. Then when Tomsula was fired, Harbaugh would basically remark what comes around goes around. The niners gave Tomsula 20 million after they fired him because they knew no one would hire him for a while given what he had done. It took a year then the Redskins finally brought him as a D line coach and… here we go again.

  29. For all the people who use to blame Kap for the downfall need to watch this. I'm a niners fan so I already knew what was going on.

  30. And now…Now we have hope again. 6-0 right now. I'm so glad Jed York learned to get his head out of his butt and not meddle with a good thing.

  31. I'm a 49ers fan and i'll say this, Jim Harbaugh is a choker when it comes to crunch time not given the ball to Frank Gore i think we were at the six yard line was a stupid decision. Winner's like coach Walsh (rest in peace) simply know how to get it done just look at him in Michigan the last five seasons. Choker Harbaugh!!!!

  32. 4:40 don't blame the refs. Jim Harby threw the ball 4 times from ONE YARD line. That's not a SB-winning coaching. Hence, Jim is not a Super Bowl winning coach. And now he can hardly win in college ball

  33. Harbaugh really wasn’t that great. Vic Fangio was the real genius behind the 3 year run. The niners offense was never spectacular EVENTHOUGH they had several weapons (probably more than the current 49ers), the defense which was called by Vic Fangio was what made that team good, that defense was much better than Seattle’s defense and that’s not me being biased that’s me being honest.. That team succeeding was what was supposed to happen, that team was absolutely loaded i mean willis is a hall of famer, bowman can be argued to be a hall of famer, justin smith will be a hall of famer, if Aldon Smith had continued playing how he was playing he would be the all time sack leader by now.. Frank Gore is soon going to become the NFL’s 3rd all time leading rusher, Joe Staley will be a hall of famer, Mike Lupati was an all-pro, Vernon Davis was the 2nd best tight end in the league, and alot more. Shannahan has proven to me to be a better coach than Harbaugh because he does more with less, the 49ers are currently 6-0, have the 2nd best defense in the league, and are scoring a healthy 26 points per game. They have proven to be a legitimate superbowl contender despite being a much younger team than the 2011-2012 49ers. Nothing against Harbaugh, he gave us lots of great memories and many San Francisco fans really miss the old 49ers, that team was special and really captured the hearts of many 49ers fans.

  34. I expected whining about the Seahawk game. There were some calls but not the super bowl against the Ravens. You get down 28-6 no excuses

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