Santa Clara, Calif. — Those of us on the Jim Harbaugh Watch had a lot to witness and absorb Saturday night. In a mostly meaningless game for them, the 49ers' head coach and his team provided an indelible memory.
"Probably the greatest comeback I've ever been a part of," said San Diego wide receiver Malcom Floyd, breathlessly.
The 49ers led by two touchdowns entering the fourth quarter. Then the 49ers crumpled, as the Chargers tied the game with 29 seconds left in regulation and won in overtime, 38-35.
"It doesn't feel like there's a lot to say right now," Harbaugh said quietly as his Q&A session wound down. "Tough loss."
Yet for all that, the entire tableau reminded us how much we'll miss the whole Jim Harbaugh Experience. Throughout the wild evening, the 49ers head coach was doing his trademark Harbs Strut up and down the sideline, headphones clamped over his skull, hands on his hips, elbows akimbo, play-card at ready.
At times, he was screaming. At times, he was applauding. At times, he was staring toward the field with sort of a stunned look. Once, after he came out onto the field almost as far as the yard-line numerals to greet his players after a positive play, the 49ers bench was warned about sideline interference.
Hard to fathom that Harbaugh won't be doing any of this on a 49ers sideline much longer. Practically no one believes he will be with the 49ers in 2015 to coach the final season of his five-year contract.
We don't know exactly how it's going to play out after next Sunday's season closer. But the hunch is that one way or another, Harbaugh will end up coaching an NFL team next season, whether he does so after being fired or his agent is permitted to work out a trade. Harbaugh will have the leverage to do what he wants.
There are also those persistent University of Michigan rumors. The latest Michigan murmuring is that Harbaugh's family and friends want him to strongly consider a move to the Wolverines, but Jim himself feels more of a pull to stay in the NFL. This jibes with everything we've observed and learned about Harbaugh during his eight head-coaching years in the Bay Area.
It's no secret that Harbaugh sees practically every waking moment as some sort of contest. He has a desire to compete at the highest level. The Super Bowl is the biggest game of the year in football, not the Rose Bowl.