How to stunt a QB’s growth

Here is my Wednesday column on how to stunt a quarterback’s growth.

SANTA CLARA – Here is how you throw a quarterback under the bus:

Last Sunday, the Raiders had an 18-point lead over the Steelers at halftime. In the second half, Raiders’ head coach Dennis Allen went ultra-conservative, letting his quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, pass the ball just six times. As you might expect, the Raiders scored zero points in the second half and almost lost – they ended up winning by only three.

Allen shut down his own offense. He is a former defensive coordinator and when he gets a lead, he really believes his team can win by playing good defense and making the clock run fast enough to expire. That’s a bad strategy, Dennis. Put more points on the board.

Allen should have blamed himself for the Raiders’ brutal offense in the second half, but he blamed his quarterback: “I didn’t want to do anything that was going to give (the Steelers) an opportunity to get back in the game,” Allen said, inching the bus’ front-right tire across Pryor’s chest. “We wanted to be able to run the ball. We wanted to be able to get some quick, short passes out … We didn’t complete the ball when we had opportunities to complete the ball … It’s not complicated: Block ‘em. Catch it. Throw it. Pretty easy.”

Wrong answer, Dennis. You just said your young quarterback can’t throw it. Pryor needs confidence and you may have just killed it. If you did kill his confidence, you also killed your team’s playoff chances this season and your future as a head coach. Congratulations.

It’s not complicated, Dennis. You don’t throw your quarterback under the bus. Pretty easy.

You’d think all head coaches understood this but they don’t, especially head coaches with a background in defense.

Take former 49ers defensive coordinator and current UCLA head coach, Jim Mora. Jr. Last Saturday, his team was tied at 14 against Oregon at halftime, and then Oregon outscored UCLA 28 to zip in the second half.

The problem was Mora Jr.’s offensive game plan. He didn’t use his best weapon – the read-option – nearly enough. UCLA called plays that looked like the read-option, but the coaches didn’t seem to trust his quarterback, Brett Hundley, to read anything or make a decision – most of the time he simply had to hand it off.

Too many times, an unblocked defensive end crashed down the line of scrimmage and Hundley gave the ball to a running back who was immediately squashed like a bug. If Mora had let Hundley read the play, Hundley would have kept the ball and run around the end for big yards.

When a coach calls the zone-read play with a pre-determined read, he is flipping coins.

Did Mora Jr. take responsibility for his coin-flip game plan at his postgame press conference? Of course he didn’t. Instead, he demonstrated how you throw a quarterback under the bus and then drive the bus back and forth over his body:

“(Hundley) needs to shine in these types of games before everyone starts talking about the Heisman,” Mora Jr. said, and then he blurted out, “I mean, let’s freaking do something around here first.” And then he got himself together, “I’m not talking about Brett. I’m talking about us.”

Good save, Jim. And good luck getting another five-star, blue-chip quarterback to come to UCLA after that unhinged tirade.

Hundley is your project, Jim. Hundley chose to play for you instead of Stanford or Oregon and if he had gone to either of those schools, he probably would be considered the best quarterback in college football right now.

You’re failing him, Jim. You’re supposed to have all the answers and tools to make Hundley better. When you throw a tantrum to the media about Hundley, what you’re really saying is you can’t make him better because as a coach, you’re not good enough. Hundley will be a first-round pick and some NFL team’s franchise quarterback, but you always will be the head coach who parallel parked a bus over the best quarterback you ever had.

Mora Jr. and Allen should learn from Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh only praises players publicly and that is one of Harbaugh’s best qualities as a head coach. A perfect example is Alex Smith. There were times Harbaugh seemed to lose confidence in Smith when he was the starting quarterback, but Harbaugh never criticized Smith publicly.

Last season when the 49ers played the Seahawks at Candlestick, Smith threw an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter and Harbaugh let him pass just once after that. After the game, Allen or Mora Jr. would have been in full bus-driver-mode. But here’s what Harbaugh said: “(Smith) was fantastic for us all night. Played with a lot of poise. Made some conversions for us. He played extremely well.”

It’s like Harbaugh was talking about a completely different game but it didn’t matter. What mattered to Harbaugh was boosting Smith’s confidence. Boosting Smith’s confidence after the previous 49ers’ head coaches, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary, tried to smash Smith’s confidence is one of the most impressive things Harbaugh has accomplished as a head coach.

Harbaugh knows confidence is essential for a quarterback because he played the position. When he played for the Bears, Mike Ditka, a defensive head coach like Allen and Mora Jr., routinely criticized Harbaugh to the media. And Harbaugh stunk in Chicago.

But in 1994, Harbaugh went to the Colts and played well for head coach Ted Marchibroda, a former NFL quarterback and offensive coordinator who was old-school, meaning he did not publicly undress his players. He was anti-bus.

“On a personal level, he was just a great friend and a coach you just loved to play for,” Harbaugh said on Tuesday. “He was very positive. Always so positive. He didn’t yell at you. There was a look that he could give you that was 100 times worse than being screamed at. He kind of just dropped his eyes like this,” and then Harbaugh demonstrated the look, sunk his shoulders and rolled his head. “This look of disappointment,” said Harbaugh, “It just rips your heart out.” And then he laughed. Reminiscing about Marchibroda made him glow.

No quarterbacks will glow like that when they reminisce about Allen or Mora Jr., a couple of bus drivers, a couple of defensive coordinators in way over their heads.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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  1. This is a nice piece. It would be SO much more relevant if you used NFL QBs exclusively, however, because there are plenty of examples of those, and Hundley is currently a total non-entity to all but UCLA football fans.

    Sam Bradford, RGIII, Andy Dalton, etc …

  2. Good read Grant, and a topic I find quite interesting – the dynamic between coaches and their players. And it isn’t strictly about the QB – coach relationship. It is ok to say the team needs to improve in certain areas, but singling out individuals to blame is a no no.

    It doesn’t matter the sport, teams in general play better for coaches that don’t publicly call out individuals for their performance, effectively blaming individuals for a defeat. Yet I see it happen a lot. That should be coaching 101, but some coaches just don’t get it.

    The truly great motivational coaches know how to use the media to not only boost a players confidence through praise, but also how to use it to boost a players determination and focus through the right mix of praise and dose of reality.

  3. Mora has a history of this type of thing. He made similar comments about Jeff Garcia when he was the 49ers d coordinator.

  4. i know the young video game generation doesn’t like traditional sound football strategy, like running the ball and winning the takeaway game. But did you watch the game?

    The Head Coach’s primary job is to win football games. He may have gone a little too conservative but it’s not like the offense was clicking on all cylinders. So ball control and field position with a lead is a sound strategy.

    here’s the ESPN recap
    Pryor was far from his best after the first play, completing 10 of 19 passes for 87 yards and two interceptions

    Harbaugh in Allen’s place would have done the same thing. Ya know, ball control, grind out the clock, field position etc… I mean it’s not like we haven’t seen that from the Niners before.

    1. I think Grant was talking more about his comments after. Like he said, he lost confidence in Smith after the INT, but never said it once in the media.

      1. eh, then Grant should take Terrelle Pryor out for pizza after the game with all the kids that get to feel good about participating in their games.

  5. and as long as the coaches isn’t needlessly criticizing his QB in the media, then the QB should have enough self esteem to take some honest assessment by the coach when asked about it by the media. ie…our offense did their job and got the lead, then they itwas shakey, so leaned on our defense to protect our lead. we won.

    if you’re QB can’t handle a little bit of honest assessment, he probably shouldn’t be playing a pressure position with a spotlight on it and should go home and polish his childhood participation trophies.

    1. It’s not the criticism that’s the issue; it’s the fact it was stated publically to people not in that locker room. You keep it in house between you and the player. There is absolutely no reason or positives to gain by calling a player out to the media. All that does is build an element of distrust and disrespect between the Coach and players.

    2. Nothing wrong with an honest assessment. Absolutely no need to use the media as your tool for letting your QB know what you think. That should be a closed door discussion.

    3. Jeeze! it’s not like Allen called out his QB for crappy play. He explained his strategy. It was an honest assessment of the situation and his strategic response was what 9 out of 10 football coaches would have done (that one might have been Mike Martz). Again, all he did was describe the situation that led to his strategy it was not an indictment of his QB.

      I’ll say again, if you’re QB is so sensitive to honest assessment in a passing reference to the press (cause you know the HC has to talk to them), then he probably can’t handle the pressure of actually playing QB.

    4. He didn’t call out his QB! The reason he mentioned it was because he was explaining his defensive ball control strategy. Again, if the QB can’t handle the Head Coach talking about the game and mentioning the “warts and all” of his team, then he probably can’t handle the pressure playing QB.

      Good lord, when did this country become a bunch of whiny, panty waisted, fragile ego….

  6. I’m also pretty sure Pryor’s confidence wasn’t an issue after a game.

    I imagine a reporter asking Pryor about it after the game.

    Reporter: “Terrelle, how do you feel about your coach’s comments about a perceived lack of confidence in the offense and your ability to pass the ball?”

    Terrelle Pryor: “Huh? My feelings? I HAD A 93 YARD TOUCHDOWN RUN!!! WHOOHOOOO!!! WE WON B!!!!!TCHES!!!!!!”

    1. Not upset with that choice – Osgood is the better STs player and Moore doesn’t offer much as a WR. Freeing up roster space for an imminent Mario Manningham activation.

  7. I agree with not criticizing your players to the press. Can’t do it. That stuff has to stay behind closed doors, but how do you know they instructed Hundley just to hand off Grant? Maybe he was just reading things poorly which was part of Mora’s frustration. Maybe he had just made too many mistakes for them to trust him. His passing in that game was also pretty poor.

  8. I don’t disagree with the premise, but you frequently come across like you have a vendetta. For all I know you do…

      1. You really don’t see it? All I’m saying is you would do well to tone down the personal attacks and remember that when you make game plan “assumptions” you aren’t qualified to really question the x’s & o’s. That’s all…

    1. sometimes it seems he does (Anthony Davis?).

      But seriously, this post/article is just his attempt at an interesting angle of events for a story. and he should be encouraged at thinking about football this way. it will help keep his stories and reporting interesting beyond simply reporting the news and the facts. it’s the interpretation of facts and events where a sports writer makes their name.

      In this case I think his analysis simply needs some seasoning and may reflect a little too much of modern society’s need to boost people’s (QB’s) self confidence.

      1. People often conflate self-confidence with an undeserved sense of accomplishment. The latter is bad, the former is good. Your brain works 30% better when you are in a positive state of mind as opposed to a neutral, stressed, anxious, or unhappy state of mind. In a game of inches, a 30% boost is huge. So keeping your players confidence up is important, because it means they will be in a more positive state of mind.

      2. @danlge

        that’s hogwash. the latest research indicates that inflating self confidence harms people more than helps them and does little to contribute to their success. it prevents people from honest self assessment in order to overcome or accept their own short comings.

      3. @allfnorfnay

        lol, hogwash eh? ;)
        you may be conflating sports-performance related confidence with child-development-related self-esteem, or just people being over confident because they are stupid. It sounds like you are talking about the Dunning-Kruger effect… maybe? If so, that is referring intellectual abilities, and inability of some people to accurately judge said abilities in an academic setting. We are talking about sports performance in world class athletes where there really is no issue of competence, therefore the competence-confidence paradox doesn’t apply. At this level in any sport, confidence is essential to performance. If an athlete lacks confidence, the nagging anxiety about whether or not they can perform will negatively impact their abilities.

      4. It’s been over 15 years since I was in sports psychology…so I don’t remember the specifics of what I’ve read and where I’ve read it or heard it lectured. But yeah, Kruger sounds right…and Jack Bauer??? (either i’m getting 24 mixed in or I’ll have to look it up)

        no issue of competence? the whole issue is Terrelle Pryor’s competence at playing quarterback and the possible blow to his confidence due to remarks made by his coach to the media. So I’d say it’s relevant.

        No question that confidence is important for playing sports. But if one’s self esteem is not conditioned to take criticism or objective assessment than that person probably shouldn’t be playing Quarterback…cause ya know it’s a pretty high pressure position. Either that or we start awarding participation trophies along with the MVP awards.

  9. Dennis Allen is on borrowed time. He seems to have a zero relationship with his players, he has done reasonably well with the defense but he is a defense minded coach. He reminds me of Mike Nolan. Totally clueless on how to handle a QB.

  10. Grant, are there any NFL (current or former) QB’s that you can cite where his HC spoke negatively to the press about his performance that you think dramatically affected his career?

      1. Grant, you already mentioned Harbaugh in your article. I’m just wondering if there were any other QB’s that you can think of? Not trying to be antagonistic, I just have been trying to think of other QB’s that may have been “thrown under the bus” by their HC’s that really tanked afterwords.

  11. Good article and premise. And while Ditka/Harbaugh is indeed a classic example of a publicly prickly attitude between Coach and QB, I noted you called Ditka a defensive coach even though Mike was a TE through his career. I admit he played the TE position like Butkis would’ve, but he was Old School ground & pound not so much a defensive minded guy. His main influences were Halas and Landry.

    1. Grant you should take to heart what Cosell continues to say about Gore and how much in contrast it is with your own take on the player.

      1. No, because you have on many an occasion used Cosells film reviews and opinions to back many of your own assertions.

      1. I can agree with that to a certain extent.

        Williamson’s comment that Kaepernick’s play was brilliant on Sunday feeds right into it.

    1. in what way do you (or Grant) believe 49er fans have a false sense of security? the obvious answer of course is playing well against the Jags. but other than that…..

    2. They’re one game behind the division leading Seahawks. Any fan having a “sense of security” should be considered an absurdity….

      1. That “sense” would be coming from the perception that they have been playing well lately (and perhaps the corollary that such good play is indicative that the team has fixed the woes that plagued them during the embarrassing whoopings they got during the 2 game skid).
        It is not just fans who have it, I saw an ESPN guy this morning say the 49ers were the best team in the league right now, and citing stats from this dominant winning streak.

    3. Jack,
      Is the false sense security based primarily on the analysis of Colin’s play at QB, or the level of competition? Grant thinks that that Ck is the most valuable Niner right now.
      I think he can be, but it’s hard to put so much value on a QB where you have to limit the size of the playbook in order for him to be successful. Likewise, I don’t think Alex Smith was ever considered the most valuable Niner, and for the most part they are managing the offense. Alex may be better at running the offense, while Colin was more dangerous if a play broke down after his two reads.
      Seattle doesn’t appear that dominant to me, so I fall back on the dangerous NO and the potentially explosive Offense like the Lions and Cowboys, two teams with decent running backs and enough defense to slow down the Niners offense.
      The Rams are also sneaky, but the Niners put a pretty good beat-down on them in Saint Louis. I can’t see them taking one at the Stick.

      1. NO, DET, Dallas? The 49ers know how to beat the first two, and I’m pretty sure they know how to disarm the Cowboys….

      2. Fan 77,

        Troll alert, troll alert! Thought the Hawks were the team to beat in the NFC?

        You’re right! I agree, N.O Saints is a great team, they have a good defense and they have an explosive offense. But I still think the Seahawks are the best team in the NFC.

      3. Capeman,
        I thought that for a little bit. I’m a Niner fan regardless of the Pot Kettle party say. But I’m also a fan of football and can be objective.
        I thought Seattle has the aura of that juggernaut, until you start to look at how close those wins are. Hey a win’s a win and they beat the Niners, so until the Niners answer, they are not the best team. However, Seattle clearly can be beat and has weaknesses. And with Sidney Rice out for the season, they have an uphill climb. I don’t care who the best team in the division is, I want the Niners to be the best team in all the land! That’s why they better develop that 2nd WR!

      4. the qb is usually the most valuable—complain as they did about alex smith, after he hurt his shoulder in 2007 most niners fans i heard were saying he has got to get back and play

      5. Fan 77

        Good questions. I believe that CK hasn’t proven himself a true NFL starting QB until he can go through his complete progressions. What happens when Crabtree and Manningham return and all he can see is Boldin and Vernon? He doesn’t read quickly enough to see all of his receivers and decide.

    4. Equally compelling is that as soon as Kaep is unleashed on the running game, his play IS brilliant. Nobody on this blog seems to have focused on the part of the Williamson article that discusses his recently rediscovered running prowess, which some punters are connecting to recovery from a foot injury.

      1. The game that clearly caused a false sense of security was the Packers in Week 1. It made GRo believe that Gore was obsolete. It’s also the game in which punters believe Kaep was injured.

      2. Jack

        I’m not arguing with that, based on public knowledge, but if there WAS something wrong with his lower extremeties, it would explain why he was so limited for a couple of games.

      3. That’s true too E. They definitely backed off the called runs for a couple weeks, and when they did come back to it the scheme was a little better.

      4. Jack I agree with E, If you take a look at Colin in the past 8 games you can see a drastic change in his explosiveness and speed when he runs. CK just appears much more comfortable running with the ball in the past few games. In the first four to five games For some reason Colin was not running full speed or did not commit to a longer run even if he had the opportunity! I truly believe there must have been some leg issue that slowed him down and also impacted the play calling! I heard due to the leg injury CK could not plant his foot securely which it impacted his accuracy as well.

      5. He had a foot injury Chicago. That had something to do with it. Having open running lanes also helps. What his TD run against Tennessee and the first one against Jacksonville. They blocked it about as good as you can.

        Healthy Kaepernick + good blocking = rediscovered running prowess

  12. Grant, nice read. I specifically appreciate your perspective since so many people do not understand Jim H! People believe he is not approachable or easy to talk too! Your interpretation of Jim Harbaugh should help the fans understand Jim is a true professional and as a former player and now as the head coach, all he cares about is the team’s psychology. If you look back to his time as a head coach he never throws any players under the bus and the players that do not perform they just disappear without embarrassment. I very much respect his approach. I know its frustrating as a fan not to get much information from the coaching staff but i prefer it over the time we use to have coaches that publicly attached players!!! Do you remember how information use to leak in the locker room?

    1. Chicago,
      A good example is how he is treating the Kyle Williams situation. He continues to say positive things about KW, but I’m sure he’s looking for alternatives. Dixon last week and perhaps LMJ next game to take over in punt and kickoff return duties.

  13. Grant,

    There are times I think you “blow hard” in trying to demonstrate your football knowledge and evaluation prowess, but I think this piece is very well conceived, insightful and well written. Thanks. J49

    1. the only part I disagree with is when it talks about the 4 man line and putting Tank in at End in place of Ahmed Brooks. I’m more inclined to think Tank would rotate in for Justin Smith or McDonald on the inside….especially with McDonald’s injury.

      1. Wasn’t Tank looked on as being a 3 technique that could eventually fill any position on the line?

        Personally, his physical attributes seem better for DE especially when combined with his speed.

        I believe that Tank will be a future star for us. Dail is the player I’m hoping becomes a stalwart as NT.

      2. AES,

        They’re looking at Tank as a possible “5-technique” (though the alignment changes depending on the defensive call…could be a 4 technique at times) in the base defense.

        But he could play the 3 tech (4-man line Defensive Tackle) in the Nickel like Justin Smith and Ray McDonald or he could play End depending on his pass rush skills. The reason the Niners drafted him was because of his natural incredible athletic ability which provides increased scheme flexibility.

    2. Reading that fired me up. Tank and Lattimore were both potential top five first rounders. We gave them both on the cheap.
      We are getting stronger and healthier at the right time. Only one puzzle piece missing to complete our superbowl run.

  14. Grant,

    The real question should be “How to spot a bitter fan“.

    Yes, your beloved Bruins, Raiders, and Cowboys all lost last week. Your article screams of a bitter reaction to that reality. If you step back and objectively look at the situation, those teams all suck. They will continue to suck. The sooner you realize that, the less of a negative affect it will have on you.

  15. Grant – UCLA’s first hoops game (exhibition) is delayed. Most of the lights are out at Pauley. 25 min delay so far. Damn, my Niners have gone through this twice, now my Bruins? Lol

  16. What are the odds Tank wins defensive rookie of the year? My prediction is ten sacks in 8 games could do it. His biggest competition is and will be Eric Reid.

    1. I’m curious to see where Tank lines up.

      Aldon and Lemonier were DEs in college. Fangio converted them to OLB.

      Tank was also a DE in college, but he’s pegged to go inside playing Justin’s DE/DT hybrid spot. At 273 lbs, I imagine he’s bulked up a little to play inside.

      Which 4 of the following would you put into the game in 3rd and long?
      Aldon, Brooks, Lemonier outside?
      Justin, RayMac, Tank inside?
      Dorsey, Dial inside alternatives?

      Its going to be fun!

      1. I think it depends on the match up.

        in obvious passing situations, I’d put in:
        Brooks, Carradine, J. Smith, A. Smith/Lemonier

        against teams that run out of 3 WR personnel packages I’d go with Brooks, McDonald, J. Smith, A.Amith/Lemonier.

        against power running teams that run out of 2TE (both receiving TEs) I’d go with Brooks, Dorsey, J.Smith, Carradine.

      2. allforfunnplay I like your thinking for the obvious passing situations.

        Unless he’s gassed or on tired legs, I’d want Aldon in on every obvious passing situation.
        Lemonier/Brooks, Carradine, J. Smith, A. Smith

        With all that athleticism Fang will TE Stunt alot and lining people up all over the place.

      3. i put a slash with Aldon and Lemonier because I’m not sure about Aldon’s availability pending his legal issues and impeding judgement from the league. Brooks is still a better pass rusher than Lemonier at this point IMO.

    1. At first I thought this was some arcane reference to Greek Classics literature (Homer) that was going way over my head.

  17. Wow!

    I can see an overblown sense of journalistic entitlement when all the opinions of a reporter outweigh the integrity of the content of his POV. With all due respect, where do you get off even attempting to criticize the action of professional coach… just like me criticizing you? Well, that’s where free speech comes in, but seriously, you have an “arm-chair coach” mentality that discredits you. How in the world are you going to know what it’s like to coach anyone of those team when you can’t even hold a clipboard the right way.

    What’s the point of the article? To discredit professionals at their craft, to cause stir within the cognitive football ranks or to simply attempt to provide some thought into the situation. Well, it’s seems like the POV comes from a non-pro coach who’s wannabe attitude lends itself to scrutiny rather than those who you try to undermine and question.

    We are not perfect, but from one pro to another, I don’t throw stones unless I’ve been in their shoes. It’s just respect, something missing in today’s realm.

  18. In other news, the Eagles just traded Isaac Sopoaga and a sixth round pick to the Patriots for their fifth round pick. The Niners should have made this trade if the cost was that low, but they probably balked at his $3.75 million dollar contract. Too bad, he could have filled in nicely at NT.

    1. they also have issues making space on the roster for their players coming back like Aldon (hopefully), Manningham, Crabtree and Carradine (they just released Marlon Moore). So I don’t think there was room for Sopoaga and he hasn’t been playing well anyway so I’m not sure if he’d be a significant enough upgrade over Dial as a back up NT.

      1. Yeah, he didn’t come cheap to the Pats, but I can see how it made some sense for them. It’s also a tribute to Woolfolk how much they miss him.

      2. actually, I think other than the draft picks, his remaining salary is about half of his $750K base salary (the Eagles still have to pick up his bonus).

  19. I fundamentally don’t have a problem with not criticizing your QB in public but I question the Harbaugh and Pederson approach with Alex Smith can and will back fire on you. The guy is not a top flight QB and you just like everybody else you’ve got your eye on the door looking for the next guy to walk through it in a way that doesn’t happen when you’ve got a franchise guy. The “he’s my guy”, “elite” and “best QB in the NFL” comment make you look ridiculous at best and hypocritical at worst when it comes time to make a move. It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see how the situation with Alex Smith could have destroyed this team. I’m not privy to what is being said in the locker room, which is most important, but to be a lavish in your praise of Smith then switch on a dime has to give you pause. Reminded me Jack Nicholson Joker, “Bob, you’re my #1 guy!!!”

    1. Roderick The he’s my guy, elite and best QB in the NFL comments can make you look ridiculous. To who? The media? Fans? Let me answer that with two words. Who cares? Coaches job is to win. Does Harbaugh win? Hell yes. I do’nt think he cares one bit whether you think he is ridiculous or some wrirter who played in the band in high school thinks hes ridiculous. He will just keep on winning whether its with Smith or CK.

      1. Pretty much right on that OC. It’s taken us a while to begin to ‘get’ Jim. To me he’s about being relentless; relentlessly dedicated to working and getting better, relentlessly positive in his language and leadership.
        Several commenters are asking for more examples of a QB wilting under his own Coach’s criticism. I suggest that both positive and negative comments have a cumulative effect. Ditka/Harbaugh was overtly and publicly a tussle. Nolan/A.Smith was more subsurface and seemingly passive-aggressive on Nolan’s part. When Sing and Harbaugh passed in the airport, Sing stressed getting Alex started on a confident footing. Norv Turner’s mentoring helped AS.
        So individual statements “Chilo is a fine professional who’s dedicated to getting better every day”. (Not a true quote, I made it up for example). Well, bs, but it encourages Chilo to try to get better and encourages his team mates also in their efforts. We can laugh at “He’s the best!”, but with very few exceptions, the players are buying in.

      2. Guys,
        I am a Harbaugh fan. I think it’s one thing to make comments that instill confidence. It’s quite another to go overboard in your praise. “He’s my guy”, “He’s clutch”, “he’s pro bowl worthy”. Those comments made it seem like Alex was cemented in his position. He wasn’t going anywhere. Especially because he was winning. Ugly, but he was winning.

        The danger is that because Harbaugh did go overboard with his praise, he got the team to believe his comments as well. Giving Alex’s spot to another unproven QB during a playoff run was a dangerous thing to do given the comments he made. Dangerous because of the slight effect it had in house with the players. I believe for some of the players is was disloyal. Harbaugh had to win with CK to pull it off, and he did.

      3. Old Coach, I think you’re spot on in regards to Harbs backing Alex. He doesn’t care about what anyone thinks, he does what he feels is best for the team. A team is a family, everybody is supported 100%.

        Roderick\Bay- I don’t think it made him look disingenuous, at least not to the team and that’s what REALLY matters. He was his guy at the time, he was winning, and he was playing at a high level, not fantasy high level, but effective nonetheless. That’s the definition of being loyal, through thick and thin, I got your back, and he did. He also saw that Kap brought more to the table, and you know damn well the players saw this too. What player would have a problem with backing a teammate but also allowing the more ‘dangerous’ player to get a chance to show his stuff? They all want to best players on the field next to them. I say besides maybe Staley, every player on that team was willing to follow their leader and back Kap.

        As they say hindsight is 20\20, that decision still looks pretty good don’t ya think? It only cemented the players trust in Harbs. His cred is pretty high with his players right now and the decision to switch to Kap had a lot to do with it.

      4. In the extreme, Harbaugh speaks to one audience only… employees of the San Francisco 49ers. Public praise, private criticism seems to be the rule.

        Much of what he says won’t make sense or even be true. He just doesn’t care. His one (and only) rule: Don’t ever say anything that has the remote possibility of harming our chances of winning.

        Not to say I like the whole Harbaugh style. He gets hostile when asked the most benign questions. Will belittle a questioner if he thinks the question isn’t football smart. Can charm one moment, then come off smug, paranoid and thin skinned later.

        I also think Harbaugh is crazy. Its not a bad kind of crazy, but nuts none the less.

      5. Excellent post, Brodie.
        “Just crazy enough!” – Peter Boyle from the movie ‘Steelyard Blues’
        Walsh carefully crafted his image so in those times when he chose to dip into the public sphere to apply pressure (e.g. Bubba Paris) his opinion carried weight. He was very manipulative of players, coaches, peers and the media. Parcells only bothered with the media if it fit a current need, such as if a player took something public first, but he looked at you like a wolf does and didn’t really care what you thought or wrote. BB just shrugs and avoids any question he doesn’t like.
        Like Brodie said, he doesn’t care if you/we think he’s nuts, and sometimes he seems so. ; >)

      6. Brotha Walsh years after he went after Paris publicly admitted that it was a huge mistake criticizing Bubba and if he had it all to do over again he would have left Bubba alone.

      7. Thanks Old Coach. I’d never read of BW’s contrition on that subject. It never sat well with me. Uh, but all those SB Rings did! : >)

      8. An old friend that was on the Niners coaching staff once told a story about Paris. He was on a team imposed diet. Had to lose weight.
        On a team flight, Paris got caught with a duffle bag full of “wings”. It was taken away from him.

    2. Bay i believe that the players know exactly what Harbaugh was doing. He was thumbing his nose at the Reporters and fans that were critical of Smith. He did’nt give a damn what anyone else thought as long as he felt Smith was his best chance to win he would stand with his man come hell or high water and as soon as he thought CK was the better choice he made the change. The players understand that football is a business they just do’nt want their coach to criticize them publicly.

  20. My problem with this take is I wish Grant could come up with a few examples of former NFL QB’s who have actually admitted that a coaches criticism (and I’m not talking about when coaches give public ultimatums or threaten the QB’s job, of course that can affect on-field performance) to the press had ever actually hurt their performance in games or in their careers.
    Or how about examples of former teammates who said that coaches media criticism hurt the QB’s they played with?
    Stories are written every week featuring players talking about former teammates, criticizing their old QB’s or trying to explain why they couldn’t get it together. I’ve never seen a player quoted blaming a QB’s failure on the way his coach talked about him to the press….

  21. Grant, apologies as this is a 49er Blog, but I’m going to respond to your Mora comments. As a Bruin fan, I was happy to read Jim Mora’s quotes following the Ducks game. He does not want his team, nor their fans, to be happy with moral victories. I think he is trying to shed the gutty little bruin mentality, and I appreciate it. Mora’s done a pretty good job of bringing UCLA back to respectability. Remember where they were when he got there. They were terrible. He has them good (not great) now. But it appears to be building. They started 3 true freshmen on the offensive line against the Ducks. That’s asking a lot.

    I also hope Mora told his team, including Hundley, exactly what he said to reporters following the game. They need to hear it. I also hope these Stanford/Oregon losses keep Hundley at UCLA another year, because I don’t think he is ready for the NFL, tho he will probably leave.

    Also, your remark how Hundley would probably be considered the best college QB if he would have attended Stanford or Oregon? If he would have chosen Oregon, chances are he would be 2nd string. But yes, he probably would at least be starting at Stanford…. maybe. One last thing, don’t think Hundley was a 5-Star Blue Chipper. He was recruited heavily, but I don’t think he was 5-Star (sorry, now I’m just nit-picking).

    Anyways, just my two cents.

      1. Mora has always been a little unhinged. He is known for going off on players through the media and in front of the team. He did on more than one occasion during his time in SF, and has done it since he left.

        It’s part of what you get with him.

      2. Touche! I had only seen 4 star from a couple others. Maybe not emotionally unhinged, maybe just frustrated and disappointed. It was a tough loss but as I was saying, Mora may not want anyone happy with a moral victory and the way he talks to us (fans) is through the media. I hope he said exactly those words to Hundley. Hundley is not above the team and tho Hundley’s offensive line probably contributed to his poor passing, Hundley shoulders some of the blame. Mariota outplayed Hundley, but he has a better supporting cast. Thanks for the response.

        1. Thanks for writing in. Mora should have expressed more frustration with Noel Mazzone’s offensive game plan. It was lacking. They should have given Hundley more autonomy to read the DE on the read-option and keep the ball and run with it.

      3. I just wrote above re Harbs “Public praise, private criticism seems to be the rule. ” Its good management in any profession.

        Didn’t hear the presser, but talking to a player though the media is never good.

        I sometimes wonder if Alex Smith would have a better deep passing game if Nolan/Singletary didn’t publicly question his toughness (thus forcing him to play on a shoulder that later needed surgery).

      4. True on Mazzone. This is two games in row I’m scratching my head over the play calling. Maybe Bruins just aren’t ready for prime time. Hopefully the Bruins will get a 2nd chance VS the Ducks for the Rose Bowl and will have some things ironed out by then.

    1. I expect him to see limited action against the Panthers. Workload will increase week to week unless there’s a setback. It’s critical for him to get NFL experience prior to the playoffs.

  22. Next year is going to be real interesting as far as who makes the team. One example of this is the running back position. We will have Gore, Hunter, LMJ, and Lattimore. With Gore playing the rest of the RBs don’t get to touch the ball much. LMJ rarely suits up, even tho that is suppose to change. Four running backs is a bit much well unless the injury bug hits, which would change everything. Hunter is still coming back from his injury, due to the lack of touches its hard to figure if he is the same runner that he was. Gore will be 31 next year and from what I can see he is running just fine. Lattimore is an unknown, I have a suspicion that he is going to be a good/great running back. Its hard to figure Harbaugh thinking process but I am thinking with his statement about LMJ that he needs to find out if LMJ can play in this style of offense. If all four prove out that they indeed are good running backs then next year the Niners will be without one of them. Two things concern me about LMJ (I am a huge fan of LMJ). One is his blocking ability and the other is his penchant of putting the ball on the ground. LMJ can run up the middle even tho some in here say he cant. He can also run outside and he can catch passes. He is fast/quick and can score from anywhere on the field. LMJ needs touches like Gore gets touches as most running backs need touches to get into a rhythm. I am not sure if the Niners way of doing things promotes LMJs ability to its maximum.

  23. Just stumbled across this acticle on QB development Chris Brown wrote in August. He talks about how Jim Mora Sr. sealed his fate by criticizing Peyton Manning to the media in 2001 (playoffs?!), just like Dennis Allen criticized Terrelle Pryor and Jim Mora Jr. criticized Brett Hundley. Brown also talks about Sid Gillman’s method of teaching quarterbacks. Fascinating stuff.

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9590729/how-new-class-promising-nfl-quarterbacks-reach-greatness

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