I still believed. Despite what I saw, I truly believed.

Against the Giants' abysmal D, we'd scored 16 points despite 5 interceptions, only the last of which put it away. Against the Redskins' demoralized D, we'd scored 17 points, needing another near-miracle finish. And Seattle's D, having survived the first round of HGH testing, had quietly regained its place at the top of the league.

But damn it all, I still believed.

Because I believed in Jim Harbaugh.

I'd made a promise, you see. Nearly three years ago, we talked about faith. We talked about how certain figures—especially sports figures—have a superhuman aura about them, an aura that simply compels your belief. It's not that they truly do win all the time––which, of course, is impossible—it's that their losses don't seem to stick. They remain unbeatable, regardless of how many times they've been beaten. Naturally, that's unreasonable, but that of course is precisely the point. A confidence that's unshakable, even in the absence of reason—that's the very essence of faith.

During that first season, Harbaugh had already shown he was human. "But humanity aside," I boldly proclaimed, "he's still our new Superman, every bit the savior we'd hoped. [And] I won't lose faith in Superman."

And despite a slew of gut-wrenching tests, that faith didn't waver. After his second season, which ended in utter agony, I reiterated his coaching "genius" and proudly declared that I "wouldn't trade him for anyone else." And last New Year's Eve, despite a season of near-complete turmoil, I still just couldn't let it go. "You can ask your questions, lay out all your reasons for doubt. ... Yet no matter what, Harbaugh seems to come up with the answers. Of course I understand he might lose. But I'll never, ever, believe that he will."

And even this season, after asserting that Harbaugh's offensive schizophrenia was the spitting image of his pants-dropping predecessor's, I went on to predict, nevertheless, we'd be the league's best by the end of the year.

You're entitled to ask me what I was thinking, but that's just it: I wasn't really thinking at all. Faith, again, is the absence of thought, a state where the heart dismantles the mind. And no matter how much my mind was screaming, my heart remained in Harbaugh's hands.

And so, somehow, against Seattle on Thanksgiving night, I still believed.

But now, no more.

Naturally, I should've known. The method for beating Seattle is easy to design (if not necessarily easy to execute). Avoid their pass-rush, and avoid their corners. In other words, attack the middle of the field, and do it quickly. Increase your tempo to keep their D a half-step behind. And then use short passes, especially to your backs and tight ends. And once you've established a rhythm that way, then you can throw to receivers deep, but never, ever, outside the numbers.

That is to say, you run the West Coast frickin' Offense. Famously, Harbaugh promised to run it; but infamously, Harbaugh lied. So naturally, I should've known.

Despite our offense's recent woes, we didn't change a goddamn thing. We played at a slogging, mind-numbing pace, running the play-clock all the way down. And with rare exceptions, Colin Kaepernick threw deep into coverage, wasting play after play after play; each looked like it had been sketched on a napkin, and none had the slightest chance of success. And then, of course, just as he did in the title game—and because we never make the same mistake once—he challenged Richard Sherman outside the numbers, and did it with maybe his two worst throws ever, giving Sherman another chance to be the total Dick that he is.

Kaepernick has been destroyed. I'll never forget that Super Bowl run. I've never seen such a lethal blend of precision and power. He stood tall in the pocket, zipped through his progressions, found the open man, and delivered strikes all over the field. And every time he started to run, he simply took my breath away. And he did all this with a thrilling abandon, an absolute aversion to fear.

Now, thanks to Harbaugh, Kaepernick plays like a terrified rookie. Harbaugh's afraid of injury, so Kaepernick's afraid to run; the most awesome dual-threat in the history of the league now isn't a dual-threat at all. And because Harbaugh's passing scheme is basically all vertical—without what Alex Smith called "pressure-beaters"—Kaepernick can avoid the rush only by scrambling, and he's gotten so used to having to scramble, he's scrambling even when he can step up. And because he's scrambling (or thinking about scrambling), he isn't seeing the field anymore, and that, of course, leads to deadly mistakes.

Instead of doing a coach's most basic job—putting his players in position to succeed—Harbaugh's put them in position to fail. And having put them there, he's left them there. Call it stupid, or call it stubborn; either way, it's now become a total embarrassment. And, as Jed said, with a promise of change: it's totally unacceptable.

My illusions now shattered, everything looks different now. What do you call a coach who doesn't replace a punt-returner who's obviously a nightmare waiting to happen? A coach who can't get his team lined up on the first play of a Super Bowl? A coach who stands idly by while his young QB plays hero-ball with Lombardi on the line? A coach who entrusts his NFL offense to a coordinator whose experience in that position consists of a job at Holy Spirit High School in Absecon, New Jersey?

Not a "genius," that's for sure.

During Harbaugh's tenure—now coming to an end, without any doubt—I've endured a constant battle between what I was seeing and what I was willing myself to believe. A battle between the mind and the heart. At the very beginning, my mind took note of Stanford's bruising, run-first offense, yet my heart latched onto a totally different, romantic idea, the notion of Walsh's last disciple restoring his master's brilliant philosophy. After Harbaugh's first game—a game where we ran on seven third-downs—my mind cried out that something was wrong ("I think we've had a misunderstanding"), but then, of course, the wins piled up, and my heart couldn't resist the Walshian script ("It's Niners football, but Niners football 2.0 ... it's total genius just the same"). And ultimately, despite noting Harbaugh's "illogical" methods, I threw up my hands and took the leap: "faith is what Jim Harbaugh's earned." And despite three seasons, with three incredibly gruesome endings, my faith in Harbaugh remained intact.

Seeing aside, it simply felt so good to believe.

But at some point, if you're true to yourself, you've got to see it. And if you don't, your heart must yield, your hope consumed by hard experience. What you see trumps what you believe, and you wonder why you believed at all.

Sadly, with Harbaugh, that is what I'm wondering now.