49ers

Confirmed: Harbaugh headed to University of Michigan

harbaugh-jim-walking-away-black-long-sleeve-stern.jpg

Confirmed: Harbaugh headed to University of Michigan

Coach Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers are parting ways after four seasons, which included three trips to the NFC Championship game and one Super Bowl appearance.

Harbaugh has accepted a job to become the next coach at the University of Michigan, sources confirmed Saturday evening to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s Dave Feldman.

The New York Times was first to report the official agreement.

Harbaugh and the 49ers are believed to have reached an agreement to allow Harbaugh to leave after four years of his five-year, $25 million contract. He is expected to be on the sideline Sunday when the 49ers finish their season against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium.

Harbaugh is scheduled to be introduced at a press conference Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Harbaugh played at Michigan under legendary coach Bo Schembechler from 1982-’86. Recent media reports have placed Harbaugh's contract at six years for as much as $49 million.

Harbaugh, an immensely popular figure for the 49ers’ fan base with his black “SF” fleece and khakis, leaves after returning the organization to prominence. When the 49ers hired Harbaugh in January 2011, the club had not made the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons.

[RELATED: Reports: Michigan reps in Bay Area in pursuit of Harbaugh]

It has been a foregone conclusion for most of the season that Harbaugh would not be back with the 49ers due to irreconcilable personality issues with CEO Jed York, general manager Trent Baalke and team president Paraag Marathe.

In four seasons as 49ers coach, Harbaugh’s teams posted a regular-season record of 43-19-1, entering the season finale Sunday.

“There are a lot of distractions around here -- a lot of distractions,” 49ers tight end Davis told CSNBayArea.com last week. “All season long there were a lot of distractions. But we tried our best to fight through them. Even now, there’s a lot of talk about Harbaugh not being here.”

Speculation that this would be Harbaugh’s final season surrounded the 49ers from the opening week of the season. Amid reports of the 49ers’ eventual parting of ways with Harbaugh, York offered a tepid response via Twitter on October 5, just prior to the home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

York wrote: “Jim is my coach. We are trying to win a SB, not a personality or popularity contest. Any more questions?”

[RELATED: Jim Harbaugh Michigan gear already for sale]

A day later, York said any reports that the 49ers would fire Harbaugh after the season were “categorically not true,” during an interview on "The Rich Eisen Show.”

“We’re focused on getting back to and winning the Super Bowl,” York said. “That’s really the only thing that’s on anybody’s mind here. I’ve said this all along: I would like for nothing else to be in the worst negotiating position possible with Jim.”

But York did not offer any more football-related comments until the closing moments of the 49ers’ 19-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving night.

“Thank you #49ersfaithful for coming out strong tonight. This performance wasn't acceptable. I apologize for that,” York wrote.

Harbaugh did not directly address York’s comment, but he made it clear exactly how he felt with York’s choice of words.

“It’s our job to move on without excuse, without apology and get it right. Make it right,” Harbaugh said.

But the 49ers could not get it right.

[RATTO: Harbaugh goes for comfort, what's next for coach?]

The loss on Thanksgiving was the beginning of the longest 49ers losing since Harbaugh became coach. After an embarrassing December 7 loss to the Oakland Raiders, who entered the game with just one victory, the 49ers officially fell out of playoff contention with a 17-7 loss at Seattle.

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; height: auto; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Afterward, quarterback Colin Kaepernick said it was strange to hear the rampant talk about Harbaugh coaching his final season with the 49ers.

“That’s something I can’t fully wrap my mind around why that would be the situation,” Kaepernick said. “But he has my full support, no matter if he’s here or somewhere else. I hope he’s back here and I think he’s a great coach.”

Harbaugh came to the 49ers as the organization’s 18th head coach after a wildly successful run at Stanford, where he inherited a one-win team and turned the program around to become a national power.

"It's the perfect competitive challenge," Harbaugh said at his introductory press conference with the 49ers. "I look forward to coaching against John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and the many great coaches in the NFL. That kind of challenge, I willingly accept it and I look very much forward to it."

Late in the 2012 season, Harbaugh’s 49ers defeated Belichick’s New England Patriots. And he met his brother, John Harbaugh, and the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

The 49ers rallied from a 28-6 deficit in the third quarter and stood 5 yards from a potential Super Bowl title before three consecutive incomplete passes sent the organization to its first loss in the NFL championship game.

The 49ers made it back to the playoffs in 2013, but were eliminated when Kaepernick’s pass toward Michael Crabtree end the end zone was tipped by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and intercepted by linebacker Malcolm Smith with 22 seconds remaining.

York and Harbaugh were unable to work out contract extensions after the past two seasons. Last year, when the Cleveland Browns contacted York about the possibility of swinging a trade for Harbaugh, York called Harbaugh to see if it was something Harbaugh wanted to pursue.

“He wasn’t in the office,” York told Bay Area reporters in March at the NFL owners meeting. “So I talked to him probably an hour after the Browns thing. I called. There was no answer. I texted and said, ‘Hey, give me a ring.’ He was at preschool with (his daughter). ‘Listen, I just want to ask you, was there any interest in your part? This is the phone call I got.’ “

Harbaugh called him back and said, according to York, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“And that was the end of it,” York said.

The sides announced at the beginning of training camp that they would table contract talks until the end of the season – in essence, making this a make-or-break season. But the 49ers struggled on the field and off the field.

Tight end Vernon Davis and guard Alex Boone did not take part in the team’s offseason program due to contract issues, prompting Harbaugh to say, “(It’s) not the decision I envision being the 49er way.”

Defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested for alleged domestic violence before the 49ers’ first game. The organization cited “due process” while keeping McDonald active and playing during the investigation. When McDonald was investigated again as a suspect in an alleged sexual assault on Dec. 17, the 49ers released him later that day.

The 49ers experienced an injury-riddled season in which 18 players finished the year on injured reserve, including linebackers Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Chris Borland, and nose tackles Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey, center Daniel Kilgore, tight end Vance McDonald, and first-round draft pick Jimmie Ward.

Harbaugh never talked about his other coaching options, which included the possibility he could remain in the NFL.

“What will happen, will happen,” Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. “What won’t happen, won’t happen. I work at the pleasure of the organization and I will let them have the floor on that.”  

Jordan Matthews may be the answer to 49ers' red zone problems

jordanmatthewsendzoneusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Jordan Matthews may be the answer to 49ers' red zone problems

Newly-signed wide receiver Jordan Matthews could be the red-zone threat that the 49ers have desperately needed.

In 2018, the 49ers were worst in the NFL in red zone efficiency in terms of scoring touchdowns. They only managed to hit pay dirt from inside the 20-yard line 41.18 percent of the time. For perspective, the Steelers topped the list, scoring a touchdown 73.47 percent of their trips in the red zone. 

The 49ers weren’t much better in 2017. They scored a touchdown 47.06 percent of the times they visited the red zone which ranked them 27th in the league. 

Matthews might just be the answer to the 49ers' problem. Of his 22 career touchdowns, 16 have been from the red zone. What is noticeable when looking all of his scoring plays is how easy he makes it look.

One argument for Matthews’ red zone production could be scheme, but he’s been productive in both Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson’s offenses. Matthews is also an equal opportunity receiver, as he has caught touchdown passes from Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, and Mark Sanchez. 

Obviously credit needs to be given the above listed quarterbacks for making the throws, but Matthews has some traits that make him effective in a shortened field. 

He gets open

When Matthews runs a route, he knows how to position himself so he stays in front of the defender. While sometimes it involves a little boxing out and contact, most of the time it’s as simple as out-maneuvering his body so he is an open target. 

Example: Week 13, 2018
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Matthews runs a simple dig route along the goal line and keeps himself between the defender and the quarterback. Wentz throws a quick four-yard pass on what looks like his first read for an easy touchdown.  

He’s fast enough to beat a defender

Matthews has the ability to use his body, but also has enough speed to flat out get open. Matthews ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and being 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, it’s likely that opponents forget about his speed. 

Example: Week 4, 2017
Buffalo vs. Atlanta 

Midway through the second quarter Matthews runs a nine-yard slant from the right to the left. He gets so far in front of the defender that Taylor has an easy throw for the touchdown. 

He can grab a jump ball

Matthews is a big bodied receiver, more so than anyone else in the receivers room. His size alone will gives him an advantage in jump ball situations. 

Example: Week 3, 2014
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Just before the half ended, Matthews ran a go route to the back of the end zone. He was double covered but got up above the defenders enough to grab Foles' 11-yard pass for the touchdown.

[RELATED: Matthews a lifelong 49ers fan]

He is difficult for defensive backs to read and follow 

Example Week 2, 2015 
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Matthews runs an out route on the goal line with less than three minutes left in the game. Before he changes direction in front of the defender, he makes slight contact enough to delay their motion, allowing him to get in front for the completion and touchdown. 

Matthews ability to change direction quickly might be his most impressive and valuable quality. Many of his touchdowns were when he nearly ran straight into a defender before turning in his route. It doesn’t give the defensive back time to react before the ball is thrown his way.

Matthews has quite a few tricks in his repertoire and coach Kyle Shanahan will be taking advantage of each of them on the field.

NFL draft prospect Josh Allen has visits scheduled with 49ers, Raiders

joshallenap.jpg
AP

NFL draft prospect Josh Allen has visits scheduled with 49ers, Raiders

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen will get familiar with the Bay Area during the NFL's pre-draft process.

Allen, the national defensive player of the year after recording 17 sacks as a senior, told NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday he has visits scheduled to meet with the 49ers and Raiders. He will also visit the New York Giants, New York Jets and Detroit Lions prior to the April 25 draft, he said.

Allen should not have to wait too long to hear his name called on draft day. Both the 49ers, at No. 2 overall, and the Raiders, at No. 4, are possibilities to select him. Area scout Steve Rubio represented the 49ers at Kentucky's pro day.

On Thursday, Allen had dinner with the Raiders, including general manager Mike Mayock and senior defensive assistant Jim O'Neil.

“It was good, just a casual meeting. We basically talked about life. He’s awesome, a cool person," Allen said of Mayock. "He's a football person and a business person. It was fun."

Matt Maiocco

O’Neil, who works with defensive backs, had plenty of players to scout on Friday. Kentucky has five defensive backs who might end up getting drafted.

Cornerback Lonnie Johnson and safety Mike Edwards could be Day 2 picks. Cornerback Derrick Baity Jr. and safety Darius West were also invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and could be Day 3 selections.

Another Kentucky defensive back, cornerback Chris Westry, had an impressive showing with a 40-yard dash time clocked in the 4:31-4.33 range. Westry, who stands 6 foot 4 ½, also had a vertical jump of 38 inches.

“Westry was the only DB not invited to the combine and he lights it up here today,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “That was really good for him. The other guys did a great job at the combine. He’ll have time to make that up with his measurables, how tall he is and how he runs. He’ll have plenty of time to make that ground up.”

Allen did not work out on Friday, opting to stand on the marks he recorded last month in Indianapolis. Allen was measured on Friday in the Kentucky weight room before the on-field workouts. His hand measured at 8 ¾ inches, while his arm is 32 7/8 inches with a wingspan of 81 ¾ inches.

Allen was a consensus All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He did not miss a game in his four-year college career.

[RELATED: Why Allen couldn't lie to Ronnie Lott meeting 49ers]

“Any time you’re looking at that high of a pick, people are looking at something to pick on. They’re going to see if there are any flaws,” Stoops said. “And I think you can ask anybody in this community, anybody in this organization and anybody in town that’s been around Josh, he’s the same. It's important to him.

“He’s a great player. If you like what you see on the football field, you’re going to love what you see in the locker room and what kind of person he is.”