After Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke’s joint press conference Friday, Jed York informally held court.
During the nearly 20-minute session, reporters wandered in and out of the scrum surrounding the Niners president and CEO. As a result, York kept getting asked the same question: Do you feel vindicated?
“I think that’s the 15th time I’ve been asked that question,” he said, laughing, at one point.
But York understood why the question was a so popular. Up until Harbaugh’s hiring, he had been skewered for hiring the largely unproven Baalke, an in-house candidate, after a less-than-exhaustive search. There were also reports that ex-Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, not exactly a hot head-coaching candidate at the moment, had expressed reservations about the Niners’ front-office structure after the team reached out to him as a possible fallback plan.
York said he understood the skepticism — and the perception that he and Baalke were out of their league in the recruitment of Harbaugh. Such talk now seems flawed after they got their man, but York said they still have plenty to prove.
“I’m 29 years old,” he said. “Trent’s a first-time general manager. Are people going to have questions? Yeah, absolutely. And they should. And just because we hired Jim today doesn’t mean that, ‘OK you guys are there and you guys are ready to go.’ We need to build a team that’s going to win.”
• We may never know what exactly was fact and fiction in the reporting of Harbaugh’s three-day recruitment.
To hear York tell it, though, the multiple reports Friday that Harbaugh was leaning toward staying at Stanford were inaccurate. York said there was a strong sense from Harbaugh on Thursday night that he was headed to the Niners.
“He talked about it (Thursday) night — just wanting to sleep on it,” York said. “He said he felt pretty good, but he wanted to make sure. And the contract wasn’t that difficult to put together so we were able to knock that out late morning, early afternoon. And Jim came over and signed.”
At various times since Wednesday, Harbaugh appeared ticketed for San Francisco, then Miami, then Stanford before signing with the 49ers.
Harbaugh said he did plenty of “soul searching,” which included prayer in addition to consultation with his wife, parents, older brother and Ravens coach John Harbaugh and contacts from around the NFL. He said he ultimately came to a place where “I knew in my heart and my gut that the right decision was the San Francisco 49ers.”
But he didn’t specify when he arrived at his decision. And he didn’t bite when asked how close he was to taking another job. Instead, he took a jab at the media swirl around his decision, “Well the thing I’ve learned this week, and as we’ve all known for a very long time, if it’s on the Internet, it’s true.”
• The Niners were reportedly close to finalizing a deal with Harbaugh on Wednesday before the Dolphins came calling late in the day. York was eager to get Harbaugh hired, but careful not to drive him away with a high-pressure pitch.
“We told him ‘If you want to sign right now and you feel comfortable, then great, we want you to be our coach,’” York said. “’If you want to see what some of the other options are, you need to see if this is the right fit for you. There can’t be any doubt in your mind.”
York said they didn’t give Harbaugh a deadline to make his decision
“We wanted to make sure that he made up his mind,” he said. “We didn’t want to put pressure on Jim and I think we played it the right way.”