ORLANDO, Fla. – Yes, there might be tension between 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke.
And that’s just the way 49ers CEO Jed York said he likes it.
“We’ve been realistically competing for the Super Bowl for the last three years,” York told Bay Area reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “We’re in the final four, you get to the final game, there’s a lot of tension. There’s a lot of buildup and when you don’t win, you drive and push even more. And that creates friction.
“They get along. They’re just grinding. They want a ring. They’re battling and fighting to get to a ring. And sometimes it wears on people. But I like that tension. I think they like that tension. Both of them compete better when there’s something to compete against. I think we’re in a good spot.”
York suggested the tension between Baalke and Harbaugh is minor-league stuff compared to the working relationship between coach Bill Walsh and owner Eddie DeBartolo during the 49ers’ dynasty days in the 1980s.
“Bill Walsh was our coach for 10 years, I mean, Eddie fired Bill five times and Bill quit four times,” York said. “It just wasn’t in a world of Twitter. It was a different news cycle and a different lens into that world.
“When you’re competing for Super Bowls -- and that’s the goal of the organization -- that creates tension. Those guys find a way to work together and work create together to make sure we’re always competing for a Super Bowl.”
It is difficult to argue with the results since Baalke and Harbaugh have worked together. In three seasons, the 49ers have advanced to the NFC Championship game three times, including a trip to the Super Bowl. Prior to Harbaugh's arrival, the 49ers failed to reach the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons.
“I think they work very well together,” York said. “They push each other. I think they work -- not necessarily in tandem because they have different views on things -- but they find a way to figure out the balance of ‘What does this team need to do for the next three to five years to remain competitive and what do we do today to get better?’
“That’s a natural rub on every single team between every general manager and head coach. Ninety-five percent of the time they’re on the same page. Five percent of the time it gets really interesting.”
York said he has not spoken to Harbaugh about a contract extension since the end of the season. The sides did not reach an agreement last year and decided to table any discussions until a later date. Harbaugh has two years remaining on his original five-year, $25 million deal.
“I don’t want to talk about contract; he doesn’t want to talk about contract,” York said. “I know he wants to be here. We want him to be here. I expect us to be able to work something out.”
When asked if he expects that to happen this offseason, York declined to put a timeframe on it. “Just in general," he said.