Will the 2014 season be Jim Harbaugh's last as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers?
The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport added some fuel to that speculative fire on Sunday, reporting that Harbaugh may be butting heads with his players following a difficult offseason.
"According to sources I’m speaking with, including many in the 49ers locker room, Jim Harbaugh may already be losing the players," Rapoport said on NFL Gameday Morning.
Already short an injured NaVorro Bowman for Week 1, the 49ers also will play their first nine games minus starting linebacker Aldon Smith, who was suspended by the league for his off-field behavior. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald will suit up Sunday, but he too could face league discipline in the near future after an arrest last week on a domestic violence charge.
This all occurred on top of longstanding rumors that Harbaugh has a rocky relationship with 49ers GM Trent Baalke. Pro Football Report even reported in February that the Browns and 49ers had a trade in place to move Harbaugh in as Cleveland's head coach; Harbaugh nixed that possibility, per the report.
Harbaugh's current contract, which pays him $5 million per year in base salary, runs through the 2015 season. Despite that -- and despite the fact that San Francisco is 36-11-1 in the regular season under Harbaugh with three NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl trip -- evidence continues to pile up that both Harbaugh and the 49ers may be ready to move on in the near future.
"[The 49ers' players] have dealt with a lot over the last couple of years," Rapoport said. "Some of the way he’s treated them, some lack of respect."
Rapoport later tweeted that "Harbaugh irked some veterans by taking the team to Baltimore for days to practice against his brother." The 49ers and Ravens played in Week 1 of the preseason on Aug. 8 (a 23-3 Baltimore win), then conducted three joint practices before the 49ers returned to San Francisco.
“I feel like we got a week-plus worth of work in,” Jim's brother and head coach of the Ravens, John Harbaugh said at the time. “It’s not just because of tempo and attention to detail. It’s the fact that you just see schemes that you’re not going to see. You can practice for months out here and you’re not going to see the things we see because our team doesn’t do those things on both sides of the ball. [It was] very valuable.”
San Francisco opens its 2014 season on Sunday afternoon at Dallas. Next week, the 49ers will play their first regular-season game at new Levi's Stadium -- a Sunday night matchup with Chicago.