Patrick Willis: 49ers rift with Jim Harbaugh didn’t cause retirement

Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) /

49ers legend Patrick Willis told Niners Nation a notable detail about his retirement and whether or not the Niners’ rift with Jim Harbaugh played a role.

Most San Francisco 49ers fans wisely have tried forgetting that 2015 offseason in which nearly everything for the franchise that could go wrong ultimately did.

Starting off with the fractured relationship between the front office and then-head coach Jim Harbaugh, which led to the “mutual” parting of ways immediately after the regular season concluded.

What followed was a mass exodus of players that turned a Super Bowl-contending Niners squad into one of the laughingstock teams of the league for the next two seasons, two years that most San Francisco fans should be forgetting about if they can.

Perhaps the most painful exodus was the retirement of a true 49ers legend, linebacker Patrick Willis.

Some fans might have been OK with the remaining exodus of players if Willis ultimately hadn’t elected to hang up his cleats. But, after an eight-year career that included seven Pro Bowl appearances and five first-team All-Pro nods, he called it quits.

Did 49ers parting ways with Jim Harbaugh convince Patrick Willis to retire?

It’s probably a question many Niners fans thought right after Willis’ retirement announcement tearfully made its way through to the Faithful.

Did the linebacker decide to retire because of how San Francisco handled its situation with Harbaugh?

Thankfully, that’s something Niners Nation’s Kyle Posey asked Willis on a late Shanaplan video podcast, and you might be surprised at Willis’ answer (at the 19:21 mark):

To quote some of what Willis said in response:

"Being honest. The time was then. I had felt it. …Then, when that day came, I knew that feeling in my gut, my heart, and my mind. They just weren’t aligned anymore. And without that, I know I’m not the person or athlete I knew I could be. That’s when I told myself it was time."

Related Story: Patrick Willis must be next 49ers great to get into Pro Football Hall of Fame

It sure sounds as if what happened between Harbaugh and the 49ers had zero bearing on Willis’ eventual decision. And while there was a brief rumor that suggested Willis might unretire, fans can recall how the perennial All-Pro quickly shut that down right after it went live.

Although Willis did share some notable memories about the Harbaugh years with Posey, as well as talking about the current edition of the Niners defense, and you’ll want to check those out from Niners Nation, too.

Next. 30 greatest players in 49ers franchise history. dark