This is my Thursday column on the Jim Harbaugh rumors.
This Monday, as the 49ers started to prepare for the Rams, Jim Harbaugh told the media, please, don’t ask the players if they like him.
“That’s not their job to defend the head coach,” Harbaugh said. “Their job is to do their jobs – to play football, have each other’s backs, and that’s what I’ve always seen out of them. Love each other – that’s their job as well. So, hopefully, you can let them do that.”
Harbaugh had to address the rumors emanating from Santa Clara that he’d lost his locker room, some players dislike him and some members of the 49ers’ front office dislike him, too. No one in the organization has said that stuff publicly, but Deion Sanders, now a reporter for NFL Network, says all of it is true, says sources in the organization spilled the beans to him. And Fox reporter Jay Glazer said on Sunday he doesn’t see a scenario where Harbaugh coaches the 49ers next season.
The whole discussion is preposterous. Let’s talk.
Rumor No. 1: Harbaugh lost the locker room and players don’t want to play for him anymore.
Demonstrably untrue. The 49ers are 3-2. They just beat the Eagles and the Chiefs, two teams that made the playoffs last season. Not many teams are better than the 49ers right now and not many teams are as tough.
Harbaugh is a genius at making his players play harder than the opponent. That’s Harbaugh’s gift, his best quality as a head coach. Harbaugh makes his players play like bullies.
Rumor No. 2: Some players don’t like Harbaugh.
Who asked them? They are paid to hit and be hit and be hard and cruel sometimes. A coach who is fierce might be better for them, might be more appropriate for the sport they play. It is not badminton for Pete’s sake.
It is not a requirement to like the coach. It could be a deficit. If a football player drops a pass, a football coach shouldn’t hold his hand on the sideline and ask, “Are your feelings hurt?” A football coach should say, “If you can’t do it, I will get someone else who can.” A player may not like it, but he will play for that coach.
The whole “liking” concept diminishes what really is going on. This is not a domestic issue. These are not friends who are intimate and go to movies and talk things out. This is a hard world. They’re paid millions to know that.
All that matters is bringing the team together and winning. Bill Walsh once said you can bring a team together in their dislike for the head coach. Players will play to prove they don’t need the coach or to prove he’s wrong about them.
You don’t have to like a leader. You have to follow him.
Rumor No. 3: Some people in the 49ers’ front office don’t like Harbaugh anymore. Rumor is Harbaugh ticked them off by coaching a rookie minicamp during the ribbon cutting for Levi’s Stadium.
Who does Harbaugh think he is, a coach?
Another rumor is the 49ers’ front office didn’t appreciate Harbaugh showing up to the Super Bowl media day wearing khakis and a sweater, dressed like a coach.
Maybe the front office wanted him to wear a tuxedo or a tutu or dancing slippers. Maybe the 49ers should have hired a ballerina to be the coach. It seems the front office’s main problem with Harbaugh, if there is one, is he’s too much of a coach.
Mike Singletary wasn’t too much of a coach. He was more of a motivational speaker. And he dressed well. Maybe the 49ers should bring him back.
Didn’t the 49ers do research when they hired Harbaugh? The Niners hired a hard-nosed football coach, not Sigmund Freud. Harbaugh hasn’t changed. He was the same hard-nosed coach when he coached at Stanford, 15 miles up Highway 101. He’s a disciple of other hard-nosed coaches, Mike Ditka and Bo Schembechler.
Harbaugh is such a coach he wears one-inch cleats during games, like he wants to run in the huddle with his players and tackle someone. Isn’t that a good thing?
Harbaugh may not be nice, but he was nice to ownership. He was a standup guy, took bullets for them. How many times did Harbaugh stand in front of the media and answer questions about grass and Ray McDonald?
Harbaugh became a spokesman for grass and due process. And he was a good sport about it. He answered those questions day after day after day, and they weren’t his questions to answer. He’s just a coach. The CEO and the General Manager, Jed York and Trent Baalke, should have answered those questions. Each guy answered them only once. Harbaugh was the one who showed character and courage. Aren’t those qualities you want in a coach?
York can get rid of Harbaugh if he wants, it’s his team. But York better replace Harbaugh with someone better.
Better? Like who?
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.