Kyle Terada-USA Today Sports

Kyle Terada-USA Today Sports



As the voices around the league start to subside in their assertions that Jim Harbaugh is on his way out after this season, the team has again taken on a familiar winning edge. Sitting at 4 wins and 2 losses a month and a half into the season with significant pieces missing on both sides of the ball is a decent situation to be sitting in. However, the negative reports about the cohesiveness of the Coach-Team relationship have not been redacted by the more credible voices and questions linger about what will really happen as the season concludes.

I'm a firm believer that where there's smoke, there's fire. But the whole storyline of Harbaugh getting forced out never made a great deal of sense. Roughly 8 months ago we were seeing images of a team united, "woo-ing" it up with Ric Flair before they won a tough playoff game on the road in Green Bay. It certainly didn't seem like there was any locker room discord at that point. Yes, the offseason was atrocious in so many ways, but the speed with which things went from harmonious to chaotic was questionable in its plausibility.

The assertion that Harbaugh's grated harshly on the front office and members of the team certainly does make sense in light of his personality and the anecdotal evidence that surrounds his stops at all points on his resume. But keeping in mind where this franchise was 4 years ago and what they would have given to dig themselves out of irrelevancy at that time, makes me wonder just what kind of colossal prick you have to be to orchestrate this kind of turnaround and then get shown the door shortly thereafter. Combine that with the fan-support that this coach has (and the fact that there truly is no better candidate likely to be available anytime soon) and it would have to be a historically out-of-touch decision to make to jettison the one man that's essentially been the face of the rejuvenation of your franchise. Jed York has made some questionable decisions in the past but this would be a tough pill to swallow. If the Golden Goose is still laying Golden Eggs, you let it be as big of a khaki-wearing asshole as it wants until the eggs stop coming.

Now I'll probably get flamed for this, and maybe rightfully so, but I'm wondering if all this noise and reports of internal strife are being purposely manufactured by the team and maybe even Harbaugh himself. Why go through the trouble, you ask?

Well when's the last time you saw a Ray McDonald headline outside of the Bay Area news cycle? The Jim Harbaugh headlines were coming far more frequently on ESPN and SI.com than are the McDonald ones the past few weeks and I'm sure the 49ers are perfectly fine reading headlines about the former situation than they are the latter (which seems like it's on a SJPD cruiser-ride to nowhere about now).

Taking this theory a step further, we have to understand the most sought after commodity in the NFL today isn't size, speed, or intelligence. It's disrespect.

In the first part of this season, the 49ers have been overflowing with disrespect. They've had heaps of the stuff.

"The coach has lost the players."

"The players are undisciplined."

"The defense is showing its age."

"The front office hates the coach."

"The stadium is too hot."

"The fans are a bunch of thugs."

"The stadium is too far away."

"The remote control hot-dog ordering thingy isn't working well enough."

Whether it's about their coach, their players, their stadium, or their play on the field, there just were not a lot of nice things being said about the team even after the 2 victories that took them back over .500. We all know how Jim Harbaugh feels about too much praise being heaped on his team (hates it, makes them soft) and I have to believe that he's loving the pressure on them now and how that chafes an already-salty group of veterans hungry to etch their names rightfully into the history books.

The 49ers have more talent than at any other time in the last 15 seasons. They also have a coach that loves the whole "barbarians at the gate" mentality and is obviously just crazy enough to live in the chaos that he himself creates. You have to combat the malaise that can come over a team that's been thisclose to the brink of greatness for the past 3 years and come up short again and again and again. Creating a media firestorm around the coach seems like a reasonable way to get the ones who are already drinking the Kool-Aid to buy-in that much harder and rally the rest around their coach.

We may never know where the Harbaugh stories are originating, but it's certainly worth wondering if this is one of the best examples of how to use the fervor of the 24 hour sports media to the advantage of the team. Even if it is not, after the past 3 victories, all of which the team trailed at some point, it's clear they're playing with an edge. So the plot thickens even as the headlines subside as they head to Denver as true underdogs. As a fan, especially with the team on a 3 game winning streak, I can't wait for the next episode.