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March 18, 2014
Cold War over? Baalke, Harbaugh appear to be working together


Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke at each others' throat? Sending snippy emails back and forth? Staring straight ahead when they pass each other in the hallway? Both men are careful not to allow even the slightest peek into their inner sanctum, so it's impossible to say for sure whether any cold war between them has thawed or rages on. But the free-agency period has offered some significant clues that they have been working hand in hand in recent weeks.

* Trading for Jonathan Martin. Baalke is the one who pulls off trades, indeed he's the one that handles any additions or subtractions to the 49ers' roster. But it was obviously Harbaugh who was pushing to add his former Stanford pupil. Harbaugh spoke highly and confidently of Martin when he left the Dolphins in October. He did the same in the independent Ted Wells' report that looked at allegations of bullying and hazing inside Miami's locker room. In short, Harbaugh has been Martin most vocal defender and champion, and his addition to the 49ers' roster has Harbaugh's fingerprints all over it.

* Trading for Blaine Gabbert. As general manager, Baalke is the team's top talent evaluator. But he gives Harbaugh more license when it comes to quarterbacks. Harbaugh took a long look at Gabbert during the 2011 draft. And while we don't know whether Harbaugh lobbied to trade for Gabbert, it's reasonable to assume that Harbaugh had plenty of input before Baalke pulled the trigger on this deal. Quarterback likely was a sore point between the two in the past. In the last three years, the 49ers' backups at the position went from McLeod Bethel-Thompson to Scott Tolzien to B.J. Daniels to John Skelton to McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Baalke would prefer to be less impulsive when it comes to roster maneuvers. That they agreed on adding Gabbert is a positive sign.

* Considered signing Toby Gerhart. The 49ers reportedly were one of the teams interested in adding free-agent Toby Gerhart, who ended up signing with the Jaguars. Gerhart, of course, was a workhorse running back for Harbaugh at Stanford. It's very difficult to see how Gerhart would have fit on a 2014 San Francisco squad that is crowded at running back (but easier if you assume that Frank Gore won't be around in 2015). Jacksonville surely provided a better opportunity and offered more money. Still, that Baalke would consider Gerhart might be seen as an olive branch to Harbaugh. Few of Harbaugh's former Stanford players have landed on the 49ers' 43-man roster, and those that have been there - Owen Marecic - have been short-lived.

* Finally, the 49ers handled the free-agency period the way they have the last three years. That is, they didn't pounce on any high-priced acquisitions, instead choosing to go bargain hunting and waiting for the market to cool. Is everything normal at 4949 Centennial Boulevard? In the last week Harbaugh and Baalke at least have sent the message that it's business as usual.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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