SANTA CLARA – Here are selected quotes from Jed York’s and Trent Baalke’s season-ending press conference.
YORK: “First, I want to thank Jim Harbaugh for four great seasons with the 49ers. He helped us restore a winning culture, a fiery, competitive culture. I am greatly appreciative of that. I wish him the best. I wish Sarah and his children the best wherever they end up going forward. He will always be a part of this franchise and I will remember his time here very, very fondly.
“I want to thank our great fans, the 49er faithful. We didn’t give you enough to cheer for this year. But that didn’t stop you from coming out even in the last two games where we really didn’t have anything to play for, we weren’t playing for playoff contention, and you guys brought it. I appreciate that. I appreciate everything that you guys do for us.
“It’s up to us we compete for and win Super Bowls. That’s our only goal. We don’t raise division championship banners. We don’t raise NFC Championship banners. We raise Super Bowl banners. Whenever we don’t deliver that, I hope that you will hold me directly responsible and accountable for it. We look forward to getting this thing back on track and giving you guys exactly what you deserve.”
L. COHN: Why are you confident that you can get a better head coach than Jim Harbaugh?
BAALKE: “I don’t look at it like that. This organization has had to replace some awfully successful head coaches in the past. Jim is no different, a very successful coach. Are we confident that we can replace him? You always go into that with that strategy. There are a lot of good football coaches out there. What we need to do is go out and find a coach that can come in here now and lead this football team.
“We’re not in a rebuild. This isn’t a rebuild situation. This is a reload situation. We have a lot of confidence in this team, the players in that locker room. We’re going to need to make some adjustments, we realize that. There always are philosophical differences – there always is. Every organization has them. For whatever reason, we weren’t able to pull this thing together. And now it’s time to move on. We’re confident in our ability to do that.”
KAWAKAMI: There were a series of reports since the beginning of the season about Harbaugh’s status, whether he would be the coach next year. Were you the source of any of those stories?
KAWAKAMI: Were you disturbed at all when you heard those reports?
YORK: “There are distractions for every team in every situation. As a professional organization, you need to figure out how to put the distractions aside and move forward. When Jim and I sat down before the season started, going into the year he had this year and next year under contract.
“It’s not abnormal for somebody to have two years left on a deal. It wasn’t like this was a lame duck coaching year. If I understand correctly, Jason Garrett is in a lame duck coaching year, and they’re the only team that has gone 8-0 this season on the road. They’re in the playoffs. They’re playing pretty good football. It’s not a great example of there was a distraction before because you didn’t have a long term contract in place with Jim, so that’s why this season didn’t go the right way. And I don’t think Jim made that an excuse. And I’m not making that an excuse. I don’t think that’s a significant issue.”
KILLION: How accountable are you and Trent for what happened this season?
YORK: “We’re all accountable.”
KILLION: In what ways?
YORK: “We didn’t win the Super Bowl. If we don’t win the Super Bowl, we are not executing on our vision. Our mission is very simple. The San Francisco 49ers win with class. We haven’t won, and I don’t think we’ve conducted ourselves with the level of class that I expect out of our organization. We’ve had off the field issues – that’s going to happen in sports. The level that is has happened here is not acceptable.”
PURDY: What did you learn this season?
YORK: “When you go from not getting to the playoffs for 10 years, and you get there in Year 1 of a coach’s tenure, even if they have hard discussions, you need to find a way to continue to get better. And I would say for me personally, there are things that I didn’t necessarily like Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, that you don’t speak more loudly on because you’re winning. And that’s my failure.
“Ann, you asked about that with off the field stuff. There were things and conversations that we had, I know what my gut was. We had conversations and we did things that probably don’t gel well with who I am. I would rather do the things that we need to but stay at a level of class that I expect from the San Francisco 49ers.
“And this isn’t shooting at Jim and saying, ‘Jim made all these decisions.’ I want you to clearly hear that I’m not saying that. If you want to make a decision on things that you’re talking about, like Ray McDonald. Ray McDonald was ultimately my decision to not do anything. It was. And when his first issue came up, he was not charged with anything. We sat down with Ray and said, ‘Ray, whether you were guilty or not, you can’t put yourself in these types of positions.’ And very shortly after that, he did that again.
“You need to make sure people are accountable. That’s up to me. We might not win the Super Bowl every year, but we can conduct ourselves with class, and we can conduct ourselves in a way that makes me proud. And I would put that on me. I’m not putting this on Jim.”
L. COHN: When you sent out that tweet Thanksgiving night, was that acting with class? You’re the one who brought up the topic.
YORK: “Yeah. When we invite 70,000 people to change their Thanksgiving day routines and rituals and we perform the way we did, I’m disappointed by that. I apologized to our fans when we didn’t give them a reason to cheer. And they were there. They cheered and they stayed there for the entire game and they did an unbelievable job for us, and we…
L. COHN: Jed, I can tell you that I get a lot mail and a lot of tweets. Very few people defended you on that. You may have a reason, and Trent may agree with you. I can tell you that my readership really does not think you acted with class then, and maybe when Mark asked what you learned, maybe that’s something you need to learn.
YORK: “Thanks for the lesson, Lowell.”
L. COHN: It’s my pleasure.
G. COHN: Jed, what qualities are you looking for in the next head coach?
YORK: “I want a teacher. I think what made Bill Walsh so successful is that he was a great teacher, whether that was players or whether that was other coaches. You look at his successful coaching tree, and I think if you look in the 49ers’ Hall of Fame down the road, I want to say as of 2012 or 2013, 29 of the 32 coaches in the NFL had either a direct or an indirect relationship with Bill. And that’s what made this organization so successful. And you’re able to transition from one three-time-winning Super Bowl head coach to another two-time-Super-Bowl-winning head coach, and there were many other tentacles beyond that. What I want to make sure that we have is somebody that understands that level of teaching, understands how to get more out of less and continues to build an organization that wins both on and off the field.”
INMAN: How transparent is this search going to be? Are we going to know what candidates you’re bringing in?
BAALKE: “Are we ever transparent in what we do? You’ll know what everybody else knows. This will be a search that we’re going to conduct with a small group of people involved. We’re going to spend the next several weeks interviewing, 7 to 10 days hopefully. And then hopefully be in a position to make a decision at that point in time. But we’re going to take as long as necessary to make sure that we have the right person in place.”
BRANCH: What philosophical differences did you and Harbaugh have?
BAALKE: “We’re not going to get into the exact philosophical differences. It was a mutual parting of the ways. There were some issues that we weren’t going to come full circle on, and we made that decision to move on.”
L. COHN: Jed, do you already have a short list of candidates you’re interested in?
YORK: “I think we have an idea of who fits that quality of a teacher, and somebody that can come in and build everything that we’re looking for. But to say it’s a short list, I don’t think we want it to be a short list. I think we have a very talented football team that didn’t live up to what we expect this season. We need to get better. We need to find the right person to come in.
“It’s not about going out and saying, ‘OK, we found somebody and this is somebody everyone in the media likes and we win the press conference.’ We’re not out to win the press conference. We’re out to find out who’s the right coach and go through everything that we possibly can and make sure that this is a person that is going to be here for the next 10-plus years, and hopefully have a successor. And make sure we have those levels of conversations with people and understand everything that we’re looking for going in and make sure that this is a detailed process that we end up with the right guy for the San Francisco 49ers.”
PURDY: How will the mechanics work? Trent, will you interview a bunch of candidates and bring a certain number of them to Jed?
YORK: “We will do them together.”
Q: You just got rid of a coach who averaged 12 wins a year. What will the expectations be for the next coach?
YORK: “To win the Super Bowl.”
Q: In Year 1?
YORK: “We expect to win the Super Bowl every year. That is our goal.”
Q: What if that coach doesn’t win the Super Bowl the first couple years?
YORK: “Then we’re going to have figure out if that’s the right fit.”
KAWAKAMI: Is Harbaugh free to sign with an NFL team at any point?
L. COHN: Jed, Jim isn’t here but Trent is here and, in a sense, you’ve thrown in your lot with Trent. Why? Why is it that you are with Trent right now?
YORK: “I don’t know if I agree with the premise of the question where it was Trent or Jim. That wasn’t the case.”
L. COHN: OK, but Trent is still here, so let’s put Jim out of it for a moment. What qualities in Trent attract you and keep him here as the man in charge?
YORK: “I think Trent has been a good leader for us. I think Trent has been good at being able to identify talent. He shares my vision that it’s Super Bowl or bust. And he understands that. We had a conversation the other day about where are we going and we need to get this right. Trent understands he needs to get that right. There is no lack of accountability with Trent.”
BRANCH: Both of you guys have mentioned teaching as an important quality of coaching. What kind of teacher was Jim Harbaugh?
YORK: “I thought Jim was great with our quarterbacks. I thought he did a lot of great things from a teaching standpoint.”
BRANCH: But it was more position specific?
YORK: “I think he definitely focused offensively. But we wanted somebody that can help get our quarterbacks and our offense straight, and I thought Jim did a really good job of that.”
BRANCH: Are you guys both looking at someone who can teach other positions just as well?
BAALKE: “Well, if you’re a football coach, you can coach a variety of positions. Jim’s a good football coach. And he’s a good teacher. And you look at the success he’s had, it’s evident that he’s a good teacher. All we’re trying to do is carry that message forward.
“I’ve been around some awfully good football coaches, going back to Coach Parcells, Coach Schottenheimer, Coach Belichik – I’ve been around a lot of very good football coaches, coaches that have had a lot of success in this business, and the one thing that’s clearly evident in all of them is they’re good teachers. They have very good command of the game of football and can teach it at a lot of different levels, a lot of different positions. That’s what you’re looking for moving forward, an individual that can do those things, not only among players but among his own coaches as well.”
BACH: Trent, you had ultimate say over the roster when Jim Harbaugh was the head coach. Will you still have that ultimate say, or is that something you will negotiate with the new head coach?
BAALKE: “That’s in my contract and I would think that’s the way it’s going to stay.”