Harbaugh is 49ers' difference-maker

York and Baalke need to remedy this situation. Harbaugh has two years remaining on his original contract. While San Francisco certainly could wait another year to extend Harbaugh before he entered a lame-duck season in 2015, it should recognize what Cleveland did. Harbaugh has value. He has not won a Super Bowl yet, but he has made San Francisco relevant again. He has made them into an annual contender.

Having stability at the top of an NFL franchise is as important as having a franchise quarterback. San Francisco has both.

For his part, Harbaugh needs to recognize that few coaches have it better than him. He has a young quarterback in Colin Kaepernick who continues to grow and evolve. He has one of the best offensive lines in football. He has playmakers on both sides of the ball. He has a defense that is as feared as any in football.

And despite the fact that they might butt heads, Harbaugh has a general manager in Baalke who has proved to be adept at identifying, signing and retaining players who fit Harbaugh's system.

There has to be a middle ground. The Niners need to find it, otherwise there will continue to be inquiries from other teams about Harbaugh's availability. There will continue to be speculation. There will continue to be noise that detracts from the team's ultimate goal of winning a sixth championship.

San Francisco's brass can say it wants Harbaugh to remain the head coach, but if it is sincere, it needs to extend his contract. Otherwise, Cleveland won't be the last team that thinks it can poach a man who has won 36 games in his first three seasons as an NFL head coach.

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