Jim Harbaugh cannot explain why Vernon Davis has been targeted just once in the red zone this season

SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Jim Harbaugh’s Wednesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.

You said that you expect LB Ahmad Brooks to play Sunday. Has the team taken any action against him for insubordination?

“We’ve addressed it. It’s not insubordination. Let’s just clear that one up.”


OK. What is it? What happened then?

“Got emotional on the sideline. Emotions played into it when it shouldn’t. We’ve got to overcome something like that. I trust Ahmad Brooks, believe in Ahmad Brooks. Know he’s going to make a vital contribution to our team has he always has. And the cold, hard facts are that the last 58 games, he’s started the last 58 games. Nobody has answered the bell more than Ahmad Brooks has for this football team. Certainly, nobody in this room can say they’ve done that. I haven’t done the research on the entire NFL or even our entire team, somebody may at least be tied, but you can’t get better than 58 out of 58. I trust Ahmad Brooks.”


So, when you try to put a player in, he doesn’t want to go in, how do you reconcile that with your stated philosophy, ‘It’s all about the team, the team, the team,’?

“You don’t know all the facts. And as I’ve said, it’s been addressed and onward. We’ll be moving onward with Ahmad Brooks.”


So, was it his decision to not play in the second half or a team decision?

“I don’t want to share it with you or publicly. That’s our business. I’ve answered the question.”


Will defensive coordinator Vic Fangio alone decide how much his defensive players will play for this weekend? Is that Vic’s decision or how much input do you have on that?

“Vic Fangio, the defensive coordinator, and the defensive staff will determine play time and rotation, as always.”


Does he have to make any kind of apology to his teammates or to the coaching staff?

“As I said, I’m not going to go into the conversations that we’ve had. It’s been addressed.”


There was a report a couple of weeks ago that you guys tried to trade him before the deadline. Can you comment on that? Any veracity to that?



Any comment or is there no veracity?

“No comment. As I addressed that two weeks ago.”


Do you envision having a three-person rotation? This is the first time you’ve really had three guys who have significant, significant playing time. Do you envision a three-person rotation at that outside linebacker position?

“Again, we’re not going to talk about what our plans are, what our scheme is, how we’re going to implement our personnel in a football game.”


As a head coach, and I know most of your emphasis is on the offensive side, do you get involved at all with those decisions on the defensive side?

“I answered that question.”


In that kind of the heat-of-the-battle moment, whatever happened with Ahmad, we’ve seen it in the past with WR Michael Crabtree or RB Frank Gore and other players. Star players, hard drive, great intensity – do you as a former player relate to that? Certain frustrations may happen in a game, at a time, does that play into some of the thinking of how you’re addressing this now with Ahmad?

“It’s an emotional game played and coached by emotional people. I’m aware of that, yes.”


How are you guys approaching LB NaVorro Bowman’s practice routine for this week?

“Today, he’s doing his rehab on the field and in the training room and weight room.”


Do you expect him to do any team drills this week?

“I don’t expect that today. Probably not this week, no.”


Can you just talk about the growth you’ve seen from C Marcus Martin in the three or so games that he’s started? Obviously, he had a rough start in the first one. What have you seen him improve the most over that span?

“What has improved the most? I don’t really have that list in front of me. I know it’s been good. It’s been solid. I know our offensive line is really coming on as a group in terms of their play, their physicality, their assignments. I go back and I look at the last six plays of our football game last week and our guys are striking people, they’re moving, more importantly, moving people up front. That was outstanding football. Take the ball from the two-yard line and knock it out to the 30 and have the punter kick a 59-yard punt and cover it, that was outstanding football. Feel like our offensive line is really playing extremely well.”


WR Anquan Boldin talked to us last week about how dropping balls, he hates it. Is it possible for this guy to become more intense than he already is after, a game, maybe a down game, so to speak?

“He’s at the highest level in all categories – intensity, focus. I don’t know if there’s another rung in the ladder to go, but I felt that before and he has climbed another rung.”


How do you help QB Colin Kaepernick get better in the fourth quarter in terms of his execution?

“I think it’s been pretty darn good, [Bay Area News Group writer] Cam [Inman]. His play.”


Overall or what about the fourth quarter?

“Do you have some statistics you’re going to refer to, you’re going to bring to my attention?”


He’s ranked pretty low in the fourth quarter. The last couple of games, you guys, well, all season long you’ve had trouble scoring, but the last two games also. He said that there’s stuff that needs to be worked on, obviously.

“We’re continually doing that as a team and as an offense.”


Is T Anthony Davis going through concussion protocol?



He wrote some things on Twitter about the exchange or when he first started hearing things. Can you talk about what you knew when he was down on the field and what you were doing when you went out there?

“What did I holler?”



“Get off the field!”


At what point did you know that he sustained a concussion?

“When he came to the sideline, I saw our medical staff and they took his helmet and we didn’t allow him to go back in the game.”


Your secondary went under an overhaul this offseason. Are they playing as well as you kind of envisioned, these guys being productive that you have back there?

“Playing darn good. Playing great team defense. Getting the turnovers. Being opportunistic. Playing very well against the run. So, yes, they’re doing an outstanding job. Team defense, outstanding job in the secondary right now. Some guys have really stepped up and are playing outstanding football. [S] Antoine Bethea, he’s just been rock solid the entire season. [S] Eric Reid had one of his best games this past week. [CB] Perrish Cox has been outstanding. [CB] Chris Culliver, huge impact in this last ballgame and the game before, playing top-notch football. [CB] Dontae Johnson contributed in the football game in key ways, especially on the fourth-down play near the goal line, and others. So, it’s been outstanding. [49ers secondary coach] Ed Donatell, our secondary coach, deserves a lot of credit. Does a heck of a job coaching those guys. And then the guys, they’re just playing great individually and they’re playing very well together.”


I realize an in-the-game situation there, why you want a guy off the field. Does it change if you knew he had a concussion or is it just get the guy off the field and then we have to deal with whatever the injury is on the sideline?

“Yeah, that’s it.”


Get the guy off the field regardless of the injury?

“If he can. If it’s humanly possible. I wanted to remind him of that. If he can’t, he can’t. I wanted to holler that out.”


Do you think there should be something in place in the NFL where if an injury such as that occurs that the clock would, the play clock would stop, the regular clock would stop and then everything would resume once the guy is safely off the field?

“Yeah, that’s possible. That’s a thought. Yeah, it does make sense.”


WR Quinton Patton when he came back from his foot injury last year had a pretty strong rookie season yet I don’t recall the last time he was active. Can you give us a sense of how he’s doing and whether we’ll likely see him in the near future?

“Working extremely hard. He’s had a very willing attitude and he’s been patient. I think his time is coming.”


The nickel is often talked about as one of the more difficult positions on the defense. What went into the thinking to put Dontae there as opposed to Perrish Cox Sunday?

“He’s got length. He’s a very good player, very coachable player, a very good learner. Perrish has really been playing well at the right corner position. Rather than making two moving pieces, that was the thought.”


Did the matchup of having Cox on Giants WR Odell Beckham, Jr. play into that at all? Wanting Cox on him instead of a rookie?

“Perrish has been doing an outstanding job at that left corner position. He’s earned it. He’s playing extremely well. That’s where we positioned him. Anything’s possible. But I think that’s been the best way to go.”


This weekend against Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, what do you see he brings to the table as far as performance? You guys are no stranger to him. What are you seeing a difference from last year to this year, especially in this last game?

“I’ve always had great admiration for Robert’s talent. His execution, he’s extremely gifted as a pocket passer. When he’s out of the pocket he’s very dangerous to run or throw on the run. Gifted in the QB-driven area and plays, in terms of reads and keeps. And he’s got arm strength and accuracy. He’s an outstanding player.”


Do you still see him as a threat like he was on the ground as far as running the ball like he was in the past or do you feel like he’s lost a step or two?

“He’s a threat, yeah. The film shows it.”


The red zone offense is ranked 31st in the NFL. I’ve noticed that TE Vernon Davis has one target in the red zone this season, it was a touchdown. He had eight touchdowns in the red zone last season. Why hasn’t he been more involved in the red zone this season?

“We want that. We want him involved.”


Why has he only had one target this year? It was the first trip to the red zone in the first game of the season. He hasn’t had one since. Is there a reason?


This article has 72 Comments

  1. One target and one TD pass in the RZ for Vernon Davis is criminal, and the head coach, who also, in truth, is the OC, claims that he has no idea as to why that TE is virtually an unknown in the RZ. Not a real answer, JH, and I hope the media is not dumb enough to swallow that answer. If a TE of the quality JH claims VD to be, and your first team offense has yet to score a TD in the 4th Q for what appears to be most, if not all, of the season, I definitely would be designing some plays where that TE would be the primary receiver. As the late, great Bill King would say, “Holy Toledo!”

    1. Hairball pretty much never answers any real questions. He is like a slimy politician in that way. Just speak gibberish, or answer a question with a question.

      1. Correct yet Grant decided to write a topic header questioning the HC’s ability to answer a question.

        Great example of why these guys have no interest in giving any meaningful answers.

      2. Grant,
        Harbaugh will not give you TMZ style material. Neither will CK. The sooner you realize that, the easier your job will become.

  2. Harbaugh said that there was no reason why Davis has been targeted in the red zone only one time. As an English major from a powder blue university, how did you come up with such a misleading title for posting this transcript?

      1. Prime: It’s a legitimate question. The headline is misleading.

        htwaits: Sorry, I didn’t see your question before I posted my comment.

            1. One thing that Grant is never involved in is the adolescent cross gender sexual name calling that some bring to this forum.

    1. The entire niner offense has struggled in the red zone, not just Vernon.
      They need a bread and butter play, and it should start with Hyde. He looks unstoppable on a pitch.

  3. Dollard to donuts .. the first 4 questions
    came from Kawakami …

    (what are the odds ?)

    Milleneum… with questions like that..
    it’s no wonder The Harbs has much disdain for the press ..

    1. Actually, I would probably be similar myself. The press just repeats itself over and over, I wouldn’t have any patience with them either. I might be like Marshawn Lynch, just fine me, it would be worth it to not deal with the press. But I do wish that Harbaugh would be a little more honest and open sometimes.

      1. Maybe if the coach gave an honest answer, the media would not be viewed as many seem to think. It does not hurt to give an honest answer. Why not say, “Good point. We have to do a better job of making sure that VD is at least a #2 or #1 target in the RZ.” After all, everybody really knows that is the case in the first place. Also, when all else fails, just look at the RZ stats, and even JH knows they stink in the RZ. There are no secrets.

          1. Exactly ..??

            Are you kiddin’ Grant ?

            Who was it that asked the first 4 questions ?

            Those are TMZ (muckraking) types of questions..

            It’s my guess that if you “press types” (today)
            were more like Wayne Walker was with Bill Walsh..
            you’d get a lot more out to the interviews with That Harbs ..
            but ..no …

            the tone of most of these questions (most of the time)
            is a lot more combative than inquisitive ..
            and leading the pack is that butt-head Kawakami !!

            What say you, Grant ?

            1. Is it any wonder we get no transparency as to who asks the questions? Just anonymity. The very ones that clamor about transparency!

              Today on 95.7 no acknowledgement that the press made a mistake but a double down on Harbaugh being more forthcoming. SMH

              1. Those idiots on 95.7 (Chris Townsend and his side kick) were ripping Harbaugh for being abrasive to everyone around him. That’s just pure speculation. He’s abrasive with the media for a reason, but we don’t know how he is with his players, coaches, front office, etc.

          2. Not “exactly” Grant. the questions sound more like an interrogation than football questions. They were stupid, angry and full of insinuation. The Bay area press corps sucks and if you want to really get ahead in the game, you need to stay as far away from guys like Kawakami (aka river spirit) as possible.

            Snideness is not a personality plus…

          3. There must be a circle of journalistic hell that involves covering Bill Belichick. I hope you don’t end up there in some version of an afterlife, Grant.

          4. Mike
            If that exchange took place then the next days headline would be ” Harbaugh taking tips from media on how to call plays” I mean Grant is already playing O Quality control coach and writing articles on what they should do this would just further encourage the foolishness

        1. So what you really want is a guy who will stand up there and say nothing but use a lot of words.

          You’ll get that tomorrow from Roman.

          1. No, Jack… not necessarily .. but
            what I’d love to see is a little
            “Journalistic Integrity” ..
            (if there is such a thing anymore)

            The 2nd rule in Journalism is …
            “.. You’ll catch more flies with honey than
            you will Hydrofluoric Acid ..”

            I don’t always want the press to throw soft balls..
            but at least show a modicum of tact… and a smidgen
            of “professionalism” ..

            There is a right way and a wrong way to ask probative
            questions ..

            And, Kawakami has never learned that …

            Make no mistake .. he is NOT a professional …
            He’s a little baby who gets his feelings hurt when he
            doesn’t get the answer to questions he has
            no business asking… and then he makes stuff up
            on his column …

            It’s people like him that give an honest profession …
            a bad name

            (Just maybe .. Kawakami should read
            about This Guy )

            1. Did you see that RG3 Presser? Somebody (Nick?) posted it. After the ‘we suck’ interview he’s gone all BB.
              What’s it all mean Mr. Natural?
              Don’t mean s#%*.

            2. mwn,

              I think with Harbaugh you get praise for players and opponents with a few historical quotes mixed in no matter how you phrase it.

              Most HC’s are that way because they fear giving opponents anything to use against them. They are paranoid and suspicious; comes with the territory.

              1. EXACTLY, rocket !!

                The difference between The Harbs and Bill Walsh is..

                Bill was eloquent when he spoke .. and it
                took you an hour or so (after the interview)
                to realize …
                he hadn’t said a thing ! .. Whereas ..

                The Harbs is very blunt .. and if he doesn’t like
                where you’re heading with your questions ..
                he clams up..
                (and gives you the “evil glare”)

                This (understandably) rubs this generation
                of the “gotcha” -TMZ type “reporters” the wrong
                way … but.. my point is ..
                if they just follow the rules of (real) journalism ..
                they would get much farther with him …

                Being combative with Harbs is the wrong street
                to go down

              2. Glenn Dickey has made a career out of asking meaningful questions that didn’t require the target to take evasive action. His approach got him some nice insider book deals too.

                He also doesn’t think Kaepernick is an elite quarterback.

              3. MWN,

                Yeah Walsh was great, but even he showed exasperation with the media regularly. These guys are under tremendous pressure to win each week and at the same time have to deal with the weekly gong show of silly questions and attempts to find controversy. Washington is a great example of why most HC’s and players are so stand offish in their approach to it. Gruden made a simple comment that RGIII should worry about himself and that has now grown into a full fledged soap opera with articles today being written about a rift between HC and QB that could have one or both gone after this season. That’s why the Harbaugh’s and Belichick’s of the world don’t say anything remotely newsworthy or meaningful. They know something is going to be taken and twisted into a drama piece by media trying to create stories.

                It’s ridiculous and I’m not sure who the media feels they are writing this crap for because most football fans, at least the ones I know, just want to focus on the games.

    2. Every week it is another game of gotcha. Sunday the press tried hard to get Harbaugh to throw Brooks under the bus. He refused. For 3 full days we have been subjected to speculation about what should have been done about Brooks. Now, we get the real story that Brooks was benched for mouthing off and it has been dealt with, but the press still insists that it ought to know what went on, as if that would finish discussion but it would only start a new round of pontification by self appointed experts. It gets tiring.

      I think if they asked football questions Harbaugh would answer them. I don’t blame him for not addressing something that wouldn’t benefit his team’s capacity to win – “We’re on to Cleveland.”

      1. EastCoast—Exactly! There seems to be a lot going on behind the scenes that no one seems to know about. Probably more than we can even speculate about from the obvious incidents we can see. I think it is natural that we want to know what is really going on but it makes no sense for coaches to unload things that really should stay in house to the public via the press. Harbaugh unlike Walsh and some other coaches is not very adept at circumventing questions with double talk so he does it in the only way he can. Subtlety does not describe him at all.

        1. Harbaugh is anything but subtle. But he does answer some questions, not those that are procedural, tactical, strategic or those that are aimed at tearing a player down.

          1. Very unlike Gruden’s comments about RG3 which he later stated were inappropriate for a presser. The same can be said for RG3’s statements that brought on Grudens criticism. Interesting that some posters would have both Harbaugh and Kaepernick be more open and forthright with the press. The REDSKINS coach and QB’s eloquence are an example of why it is often much better to speak less rather than to say too much..

  4. Grant:

    Who writes the headlines for your entries? This one is misleading. There’s a difference between not explaining something and being unable to explain it.

    This isn’t the first time the headline has been misleading.

  5. Harbs ran a very tight end centric offense at Stanford. Bottom line if he and Roman want to feed the ball to a player, it can be done. * see Crabtree *

    1. I hope they aren’t thinking about Thanksgiving this Sunday. I know I am, but I’m just a schmuck fan.

  6. Jim Harbaugh’s job is to win football games, not press conferences.

    He’s not going to answer any question that could even remotely affect his chances of winning a football game and to truthfully answer the VD question could do that. Maybe VD is not at full strength, or they just don’t trust him right now. In both cases this is information that JH does not want to give to the other team and in the latter he’s not going to air the teams dirty laundry and throw VD under a bus for the press.

    JH does a great job of never giving the press any reason to take one of his answers and go to one of his players with “JH said this about you, what do you have to say about that?”

    You know what, I changed my mind, part of his job is to win press conferences and when he doesn’t give these guys what they want, he wins. As fans, ultimately what do you want, to know everything about the team or for them to win football games?

  7. One factoid for us all to remember:
    No sportswriter or columnist or blogger or broadcast analyst in the Bay Area knows as much about football as Jim Harbaugh. Not one. We commenters to blogs don’t either; not one of us.
    Hear that E? 77? It’s fine for us to debate and discuss and try to get a handle on our team, and to second guess too. The coaches do that after the fact, but they have so much more information than we do that many of our efforts are laughably wrong. To have Grant and others throwing out their snarky “Indeed” comments is truly sophomoric and unaccountably self-congratulatory. Perhaps another instructional message to Harbaugh on the Roll Out Pass? Pffffffft.

  8. OK; next rant:
    >>>>> I hereby apologize to Ahmed Brooks for what I wrote and even more so what I was thinking of him as in our ignorance we FALSELY ACCUSED HIM OF QUITTING ON HIS TEAM. For refusing to enter the game; a wholely false accusation. The entire pro football world indicted him. On Monday Night Countdown he was shredded by trusted analysts and some HoF ex-players. Guys I respect and admire, Ditka, TJ, CC criticized him harshly on national tv; it was a beat down.
    OK, so finally the story gets out that he did NOT quit. He did NOT refuse to play. He lost his temper, lost his poise, lost his focus and went off on Tomsula, so they sat him.
    So, most on this blog, and overwhelming most in local and national media , owe Ahmed an apology.
    We were wrong. No wonder JH knew he’d be playing him Sunday, he just had to get over some- thing.
    Since we’re in hindsight mode I’ll offer this critique on Coach. In this case, instead of protecting the sanctity and privacy of the Locker Room and in-team interactions, if Jim or the PR people with Jim’s approval had let that info out sooner, back channel or out front, then Ahmed would have faced much less public character assassination.
    Switching up his usual tactics with the Press might better have achieved his standard of protecting his players. As usual, hindsight is 20/20.
    Once again: Mr. Brooks, I was wrong and more wrong to accuse without knowing enough. I’d be happy to say that to your face, with or without anybody watching.

    1. Good post BT, but I honestly think Harbaugh couldn’t care less about how things are portrayed in the media unless it’s something he can use to motivate his players with. I would guess the last thing he was thinking about was how to diffuse the Brooks matter publicly.

          1. This incident could be a way for Harbaugh to spin the reaction of the team as “us against the world”. If Brooks had simmering bad feelings against the coaches about the Cleveland “trade” (even if it was a rumor and possibly false to boot) this might bring him fully back into the fold.

    2. Yeah, I was right there with the masses ready to kick Brooks to the kerb. With the details coming out now it definitely sounds like Brooks took the news his role would be reduced poorly, but it was a coaches decision he not play, not his own.

      So, I’m happy to admit it looks like I was wrong about Brooks taking himself out of the game in a hissy fit. I will say, though, that if what he said or did was bad enough to be sat the rest of the game then what he did was also not good, was still a hissy fit, and still selfish. But much easier to forgive heated words than a team mate that is refusing to pitch in to help the team.

      1. Heated moments with a proud personality. I’m happy to let the team handle it.

        If we look at the last few incidents, I think the team looks pretty measured and respectful of their personnel.

        1. East & Scooter
          You guys are on it. Still a distraction but it reminds me of getting tossed from a game for fighting. Unprofessional and thoroughly avoidable. Lack of availability hurts your team’s effort; don’t do it.
          Quitting would be an affront.

          1. I played soccer, but I remember my defense playing up too high and many goals scored. I lost it and rather than defend a pass I decked him. Lost my head. It happens to everyone. My coach handled me and I learned to control my frustration.

  9. Hey, how come this weekend’s game is being broadcast on CBS? I’m not complaining, it’s going to be on back here in NYC and no Joe Buck, but it seems odd – two NFC teams and Fox has the NFC rights. Anyone got the lowdown?

    1. Rib,

      I believe it has something to do with the Thursday night package CBS worked out with the league. To give them an even number of Sunday games, they got some Fox games to broadcast.

      1. rocket, googling “NFL cross-flex” reveals the rationale. This article has a pretty good explanation:


        “The “cross flex” mechanism will serve a similar purpose. Select games can be flexed between CBS and FOX. In the past, a game with two NFC teams had to be on FOX and a game with two AFC teams had to be on CBS. Now, the league can theoretically move an all-NFC game to CBS or an all-AFC game to FOX in select cases. This will help balance out the television schedule, especially in a week where one network has all the most intriguing games.”

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