Plutonium-grade baby deer skin and Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh -- AP

It’s obviously too early to assess Jim Harbaugh in his new job – he was hired four months ago and has yet to actually coach.

But I’m prepared to give Harbaugh high marks in one area: language.

This quality may not produce wins, but it’s produced a few smiles since he took over in January.

Given his reputation for intensity and competitiveness, I’d pegged Harbaugh as another humorless, cliché-spouting, head-coaching drone. But I was 110 percent wrong. He’s actually shown tremendous upside in front of a microphone. We’ll have to maintain an even keel and take it one day at a time – who knows how descriptive or glib he’ll be in the midst of a three-game losing streak – but so far he’s shown all the potential in the world.

Here’s a sampling:

Q: What can you tell us about defensive coordinator Vic Fangio?

Stock coach’s response: “Vic’s a very intense guy.”

Harbaugh: “A cold-blooded, stone-cold, serial killer.” – Feb. 18 on KNBR

Q: Your thoughts on Cam Newton, coach?

Stock coach’s response: “He’s obviously a very talented young man. A special, special talent. He has qualities you just can’t coach. I think he’s got all the talent in the world.”

Harbaugh: “That’s plutonium-grade raw material, you know?” – March 22 at NFL owners meeting

Q: Do you worry about how Alex Smith will respond to the inevitable boos if he comes back next season?

Stock coach’s response: “Well, look, that’s part of our business. And that’s part of being a quarterback in the National Football League. You’ve got to be tough-minded. You’ve got to have the ability to tune that stuff out. You’ve got to be able to focus and dig deep and lead those 10 other guys in the huddle. This a bottom-line business. We’re all being evaluated.”

Harbaugh: “Well, the question is, ‘Do you have baby deer skin or skin like an armadillo?’” — April 13 to Sacramento Bee

Q: What were your impressions of Trent Baalke during the draft?

Stock coach’s response: “Trent Baalke was very calm and level-headed.”

Harbaugh: “Trent Baalke was a steely-eyed missile man.” – April 30

Q: Is route running important in the West Coast offense?

Stock coach’s response: “Yes.”

Harbaugh: “Yes. That’s like breathing air for human beings.” – April 30


Q: Do you expect Alex Smith to be back with the 49ers next season?

Stock coach’s response: “Well, look, that’s to be determined. That’s something I’m not really going to get into with you guys. Is that a possibility? It could be. Does that mean it will happen? No. Not necessarily. The fact is we’re in the midst of a lockout and we’re not at liberty to discuss, um, I mean, Alex Smith is an unrestricted free agent and it would be inappropriate for me to sit up here and speculate on something that …”

Harbaugh: “I do.” – April 30

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