Jim Harbaugh

Former 49ers GM Baalke happy to see Harbaugh return to NFL

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INDIANAPOLIS — The man who worked closest with Jim Harbaugh during his four-year stint in the NFL has no doubt what to expect this time around.

“I always felt he would return,” Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said of Harbaugh at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“He’s a good football coach. He’s won everywhere he’s been, and he deserves a chance to come back into the league, and I’m glad he got that opportunity.”

The Los Angeles Chargers hired Harbaugh last month, shortly after he won a national championship as head coach at the University of Michigan.

Before things soured, Harbaugh and Baalke formed a successful tandem atop the 49ers’ organization.

As the 49ers general manager, Baalke was tasked with building the roster for Harbaugh to coach.

San Francisco advanced to the NFC Championship Game in three consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2013, including one trip to Super Bowl XLVII.

But that union came to an uneasy end following an 8-8 season in 2014 with the 49ers announcing the sides had mutually agreed to part ways. The differences had more to do with their personalities than Harbaugh’s performance.

Harbaugh returned to coach at his alma mater, while Baalke remained with the 49ers for another two seasons before he was fired. Harbaugh spent nine seasons at Michigan, and finished his tenure with a 15-0 record and a decisive victory over Washington in the national championship game.

Now, it’s on to the NFL for Harbaugh and a good number of the players who helped him win it all.

There are 18 Michigan players at the NFL Scouting Combine, which is the most for any school in any year of the event.

“Maturity wins, right? That was a very mature football team — a lot of fifth- and six-year guys on that national championship team,” Baalke said. “That’s no different than the league. Look at who wins Super Bowls, it’s mature football teams.”

Harbaugh has fielded successful programs at every level he has coached, beginning at the University of San Diego, then Stanford, the 49ers and Michigan.

“I think Jim did an outstanding job of building continuity, where players wanted to stay and finish out their careers and they wanted to win a national championship, and that’s what they did,” Baalke said. “Hats off to Jim and the University of Michigan for what they built there. That’s what we’re all trying to build, a winner. And you do that with mature players.”

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