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.
Date: October 17, 2014 at 2:40 PM
Comment: Thank you for writing a reasonable article on this subject. While I don't think the theory that Harbaugh started it all really makes sense (he's ALL about football, not PR smokescreens), I do appreciate the logic regarding the decade of loosing seasons prior to Harbaugh and how it would be a historical out-of-touch decision to release him that others are throwing around.
It's fairly clear to me that a handful of the local beat writers (e.g. - Kaplan, Kawakami, others who just hate that JH won't disclose more information) really started this, then bent the ear of some of the ESPN folks. They seem to be on their own mission to take him down because he isn't a good buddy of the press and because he won't divulge game plans to the opponents. They're also the same writers who wrongly blame JH for all of the legal issues the players have. They are also on my personal blacklist now, I refuse to read any more of their articles.
Some people want football articles to be about football, others want something more like Jerry Springer coverage. The latter will keep those other beat writers employed, just like Springer's show is still on TV.
Date: October 17, 2014 at 10:53 AM
Comment: What I don't understand is why would Deion S. get involved?
By: Mr. P
Date: October 17, 2014 at 10:19 AM
Comment: Great subject for an article. I believe there are 3 elements potentially in play. 1 might be ownership applying pressure on Harbaugh contract negotiations. 2: Possibly a few grumblers in the locker room after an ugly start and preseason. 3: Sports media has gone crazy with hype and exaggeration for ratings with zero accountability - almost trolling for ratings.
Date: October 17, 2014 at 10:09 AM
Comment: Great story and perspective. Refreshing creative writing steering away from the obvious plot holes. Well done from a first time reader and yes...DIEHARD NINER FAN. Good day.
Date: October 17, 2014 at 8:42 AM
Comment: The only thing worse than the sludge that comes from the 24 hr news cycle... is the 24 hr sports cycle, or more aptly... the 24 hr NFL media cycle. There just isn't enough garble for the masses, so they make it up. This has been going on a while, but it does seem to be reaching a fever pitch this days. There is just so much media and not enough relevant football information, so the rest is this soap opera garbage. The NFL is happy about it, but I think they should use caution. The core of the brand is that happens on the field. They are putting too much focus on what happens off it and are turning the NFL into wrestling.
Date: October 17, 2014 at 8:00 AM
Comment: I think all the bad rumors were maybe half truths... I could see younger veterans on the cusp of being cut talking smack, but the core of the team loves Harbaugh. I don't know what the Hell Dilfer, or Dion Sanders are seeing. I think people like Glaizer and Sanders just don't like Harbaugh, or the team for whatever reason. That said, betcha Dion isn't anywhere to be seen this Thanksgiving.
Date: October 17, 2014 at 6:41 AM
Comment: I could see Harbaugh planting these stories lol. I think the owners could get rid of him because of what happened with Mariucci, which they were dumb to let him go. That's more about the owners than Harbaugh. If they let Harbs go, they are idiots.
By: Giant John
Date: October 17, 2014 at 5:49 AM
Comment: I have been thinking this for a while. The stories just didn't add up and it is quite Harbaughesque to do this kind of thing... Just sayin'
Date: October 17, 2014 at 5:24 AM
Comment: Agree. I would add...
Harbaugh is not 4-2. Harbaugh and his staff are 4-2 without Aldon Smith, Navarro Bowman, Anthony Davis, Kendell Hunter, Glenn Dorsey, and Marcus Lattimore. In addition, winning games with banged up Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, and Mike Iupati. And now banged up Jimmie Ward, Stevie Johnson, and Patrick Willis.
Plus Ray McDonald chaos and locker room rumors.
Plus a schedule that puts the 49ers are on TV basically nationwide for 6 of 6 weeks.
I would argue Harbaugh and his staff should stay and all the players should go before Harbaugh should go. Half of the second string is #2 defense in NFL.
There is no possible way Jed York will let Harbaugh go. It would be the worst business decision since the Vikings traded for Hershel Walker.
Date: October 16, 2014 at 10:44 PM
Comment: If our players were sick of their coach they wouldn´t play the way they´re playing. As simple as that and a I agree in your conspiracy theory.
Date: October 16, 2014 at 10:05 PM
Comment: The only smoke is from the fire of a petty front office jealous of Harbaugh. Reminds me of Jerry Jones and Jimmie Johnson and we all know how that ended: decade and a half without a playoff win after the Johnson effect wore off. Harbaugh has this team ready to go. The off field problems are ALL on Baalke. Harbaugh has never had character problems in San Diego or at Stanford, so the problem is not with him. If Baalke is so hungry for credit, then he needs to take FULL responsibility for the characters he's drafted.
Date: October 16, 2014 at 8:12 PM
Comment: Enjoy this article, it seems to me wherever the so called sources keep revealing the pulse of this team. It just keeps them rallying them together, so I say keep writing the negative about this team and hopefully it carries them air the way to a superbowl victory!!! #Go49ers