SANTA CLARA -– With Jim Harbaugh’s future uncertain past this season, an old rival left no doubt about his feelings on the subject of the 49ers' coach.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll provided a strong endorsement for Harbaugh’s coaching ability.
“I’ve known about his coaching for a long time,” Carroll said Wednesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
“I’ve never seen him not be a really good coach. He’s a fantastic football coach. I’ve watched him do all the stuff he did at Stanford to turn that program around (and) what he did with the Niners. I know he’s a great football coach.
“Not everybody likes everybody or gets along with everybody. Sometimes they don’t see the magic that guys have. I think he’s a fantastic football coach. He’s proven that. There’s no question about that.”
Harbaugh’s relationship with 49ers ownership and management could be the main reason Harbaugh does not return for the final season of the five-year, $25 million contract he signed in January 2011. On the field, the 49ers (7-6) are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in Harbaugh's four seasons.
“The fact that he’s going through all those conversations and stuff, he’s a stud,” Carroll said. “He’s not going to waver. He’s going to keep battling and do what he does. He’s a great competitor. He always has been. That’s why they’re so dangerous coming in right now because of his leadership and his toughness about the way he runs his program.
“And the fact that all these conversations are going on, that’s just something I have nothing to do with. It has nothing to do with the kind of football coach he is and the style of play they generate and the way they bring it. I have tremendous respect for him.”
Carroll, then at USC, and Harbaugh had some heated battles as rival coaches in the Pac-12. But Carroll said the obvious tension between the two men was not representative of the respect for each other.
“All the other stuff you guys thought was going on, there ain’t much to it,” Carroll said. “Really, it’s two football guys going at it and two guys who love to compete and battle and there’s nobody I’d rather play. I love playing against him. And that’s the way it’s always been since the beginning.”
So would Carroll be surprised if Harbaugh is not back with the 49ers next season?
“I’m not commenting on that,” Carroll said. “It’s football season. You guys talk about that garbage, not me.”