Harbaugh does have a huge ego. All successful coaches have to have a fair amount of ego in order to have the drive that is needed to win. However, in Harbaugh's case, he got a triple measure of ego. His ego shows up in just about every thing he does. From his constant baiting of officials on the sidelines, to his just plain rude treatment of questions by the media, to his stubborn refusal to move away from power running in the red zone despite continued lack of success, to a half dozen other things, Harbaugh's ego clearly stands in the way of the needed adjustments to maximize the talent on this team. Combine all that with his Type A personality and his act will wear very thin very quickly with both media and players.
I hate to keep going back to Bill Walsh all the time but he is still the measuring rod for local media. Walsh was always pleasant and accommodating with media. Even when he didn't want to reveal something, he would politely answer the question in a way that all could understand. Harbaugh, by comparison, blatantly moves into another area completely, thereby making whatever answer he gives of no value to the press that is getting paid to try to get something out of him that makes sense to readers. Harbaugh has gotten a pass from everyone so far because he has turned the team around and gotten some wins. The truth is, most of the talent on this team came before Harbaugh. All he has done is put the pieces together, something Singletary, one of the most unprepared, unqualified HCs ever to hold the position, could not do.
There are other problems:
Couple of specifics: Harbaugh continues to rely on the same schemes rather than recognizing the need for change. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the red zone last night. While Seattle was spreading the field, often with an empty backfield and 5 receivers, which resulted in ridiculously easy TDs throws for Wilson, the 49ers could not get anything done with their heavy sets. This has gone on all season long but still JH refuses to recognize what should have been obvious.
Harbaugh refuses to recognize the short-comings of a very inexperienced, though physically talented, QB. I love Kaepernick. He comes from a town just a few miles from my house. I love his back story. However, his lack of experience was never more clearly demonstrated than last night. So while that lack of experience by itself did not loose the game, his confusion and lack of confidence clearly had an impact on the way the offense was playing. Harbaugh's stubborn refusal to put Smith into a game in which Kaepernick was clearly struggling is another example of ego overcoming judgement.
Alex Smith was admired and appreciated by his teammates, not only for what he overcame, but for his cool and success in calling plays and making adjustments at the LOS. He was, as admitted by all, a master game manager. Of course the players will publicly support whoever the coach puts in the position, they also have their own feelings which they keep inside. Those feelings and reservations do affect their confidence and play on the field. Going into a big game like last night, and seeing the problems caused by inexperience so early in the game, it had to have an impact on the play of the offense. Never before have we seen individual players on the OL getting beat so consistently as last night. There is nothing else other than a lack of confidence to account for the tentative and inconsistent play of the OL.
Of course there are other flaws on this team. The secondary was exposed due to the lack of pass rush (Justin Smith's loss was crushing) but that happens to the best of secondaries. Also the lack of a speed guy to keep the Seattle safeties out of the box continues to be a problem. The absence of the #1 draft pick, a guy with the kind of speed sorely needed by this team right now, is another suggestion that Harbaugh's ego is in the way. Why he doesn't get Jenkins into the game is a baffling question. Did Baalke just completely screw up that pick? We likely won't know the answer to that until next season. For now, Harbaugh's demonstrated ego masks the question.
Will last night have any positive impact on Harbaugh to modify his approach? From what I have seen, the answer is no. We will continue to see more of the same stuff. Getting out coached by more flexible, more NFL-experienced HCs is the likely prospect for the playoffs based on what this season has brought us to this point.
[ Edited by dj43 on Dec 24, 2012 at 10:41 AM ]