SANTA CLARA — We are now at that magic point when Jim Harbaugh won’t waste half a moment to describe his relationship with 49ers CEO Jed York.
I can understand it: How do you describe something that doesn’t really exist anymore?
“Do you really want my answer?” Harbaugh shot back caustically when I asked him Monday about his rapport with York these days.
“Or are you just asking it for your own pleasure?”
No, Jim, I asked because I wanted to hear your answer.
“What I want is to attack this week, get it right,” Harbaugh said, trying to direct conversation to the Raiders game Sunday.
That wasn’t an answer in any way, shape or form to a direct question about his relationship with his boss, but oh well.
There’s nothing left except winning or losing and finishing out this bizarre 2014 campaign for Harbaugh and the 49ers.
Every other important issue has been decided, especially since Seattle clobbered the 49ers 19-3 on Thanksgiving, which pushed York to tweet that the performance was “not acceptable.”
York hasn’t materialized to take actual questions for months now, so we’ll have to go by the Comment Re-Tweeted ‘Round the World.
York is unhappy, and when the owner is unhappy, the coach is usually headed out the door.
And by the way: York wanted and expected a Super Bowl trophy at the end of this season.
So … the 49ers are 7-5, have four games left and have a long way to go before they can even think about qualifying for the playoffs.
We know that Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke have wrestled through bumps and arguments for years, which means that Baalke certainly won’t be the one stepping forward to protect the coach now.
And the 49ers locker room, at this point, seems numb to the whole thing after months of speculation and intra-office intrigue.
The bland play on the field has been exactly what you’d expect from a team that doesn’t quite know whether it’s fighting to keep a coach employed or trying to get him fired.
Which leaves York, who hired Harbaugh and watched him take the 49ers from mediocrity to three straight NFC Championship games.
Now York is supposed to have the final say on Harbaugh’s future.
Maybe Thursday’s message was the final say, truly.
One lightly discussed part of the 49ers’ tangled mess is the deepening personal and professional divide between York and Harbaugh.
They were never close pals, but now they’re symbolically on opposite sides, both plotting the right method of separation.
Will the 49ers trade Harbaugh to the Raiders or Jets or somebody else? Will Harbaugh refuse any trade and force the 49ers to fire him with one year left on his contract?
Will York just wash his hands of Harbaugh when and if the 49ers are eliminated from the playoffs, so York and Baalke can rush favored assistant Jim Tomsula in as the interim coach?
This is all in play because Jed York wants it in play, and Harbaugh is fine with it.
“I don’t worry about my future — haven’t participated in any of that speculation,” Harbaugh said. “I think I have a recessive gene for worrying about my own future.
“We’re going to attack this week, and we’re going to get this right.”
This started as a Harbaugh-Baalke issue, but now it’s increasingly about York’s inability to figure out how to keep the two very talented and stubborn alpha dogs from slamming into each other.
And it’s about York’s own frustrations with Harbaugh and Harbaugh’s expensive and unwieldy offensive staff, led by coordinator Greg Roman.
My understanding is that Harbaugh knows that York and Baalke want Roman out but has refused to make that move and will continue to refuse.
Stalemate, for now.
Jim, do you want to be back here next year?
“What I want is to attack this week and get it right,” Harbaugh said.
Again, a nonanswer. On persistent questioning, Harbaugh said he has not spoken with York about the owner’s frustrations over the Seattle game and didn’t speak to him over the long holiday weekend.
In the big picture, there is no doubt that York has picked Baalke over Harbaugh, and now York is letting Harbaugh twist in the wind.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll even got in a jab at York when asked about York’s angry Twitter moment.
“Our owner would never do that,” Carroll told Seattle reporters.
Of course Paul Allen wouldn’t do that — because Carroll has won big for him and because he wouldn’t dream of undercutting his coach.
Jed York did that. Jim Harbaugh doesn’t have to describe how things are going between the two men now because it’s out there for all to see.
Read Tim Kawakami’s Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at [email protected].