Jim Harbaugh is, without question, the most fascinating personality among the Bay Area’s major pro teams. He’s up, he’s down, he’s friendly, he’s terse, he praises on the practice field and yells on the sidelines. His press conferences are always unique and often rather tense. However, they’re rarely informative.
Since Harbaugh is the heart, soul and personality of the San Francisco 49ers, every word he utters is reported, parsed and overanalyzed. We’ve all done it, myself included. But this week it got even more ridiculous than usual. Two occasions in particular stood out.
1. Stop the presses: Harbaugh didn’t tell the world his quarterback sucks.
I know you’re not going to publicly criticize one of your players, but when fans look at Colin’s performance the last two weeks and they look at the stats, a lot of people are puzzled based off of what he did last year. When the offense has struggled it looks like he has struggled. I guess, what is your response to when people say, ‘what’s wrong with Colin?’
“I think he’s doing a heck of a job. I guess I’d be puzzled to why people would think that. What’s most important is what we see. I’m puzzled to why you or anybody else thinks that.”
The word “puzzled” made the rounds rather quickly. That makes sense, since it’s not a word that’s used all that often these days, but it was used in response to that same word’s inclusion in the last question of that press conference.
What else is Harbaugh supposed to say? “You know what? The scribes, pundits, so-called experts and fans are all correct. I made the wrong decision. I should’ve stuck with Alex Smith, and Kaepernick is probably a lost cause due to the reasons specified by Trent Dilfer. The lack of production in the passing game is a problem that’s crippling this team, and it speaks to the fact that Kaepernick is and never will be an elite NFL quarterback, and our haste to put him in that position speaks poorly on myself and the rest of the coaching staff.”
Yet, if you do a search on “Harbaugh puzzled,” page after page of stories come up about Harbaugh’s quote.
2. BREAKING: the 49ers will make a decision on Michael Crabtree before their next game.
How has this week of practice been for WR Michael Crabtree?
“It’s been good. Did some good things.”
Do you expect him to be added before Monday’s game or is that still TBD?
“I would look at that as a decision over the next 48 hours.”
Harbaugh said this less than 53 hours before kickoff on Monday night against Washington. So what’s going on with Michael Crabtree? The 49ers will have made that decision at some point in the next 48 hours, and we’ll find out at some point. There’s no other information here. The press isn’t allowed to watch practice, where Crabtree “did some good things.”
Is Harbaugh wrong for withholding information? No, because Washington knows there’s a chance Crabtree might play and there’s no reason to inform them that they can start working on a defensive gameplan focused on stopping a Crabtree-less San Francisco offense.
I’ve always been convinced that Harbaugh sees his weekly pressers leading up to games as games themselves. He prepares by researching everything that’s being said or written about him, his team and the NFL at large so he knows what questions he’ll face. Lately, when he gets a question he has no intention of answering that he knew was coming, he seems to take pleasure in deflecting. His tell? The word “understand.”
Not to rake him over the coals, but is that something that a young quarterback is always working on, always improving upon? That seems to be one of the toughest parts about playing quarterback is that something that naturally a young guy has to continue to get better at.
“I understand. I understand what you’re doing, what you’re trying to do and glomming onto somebody’s opinion, but I think it’s whatever they think.”
In terms of the penalty situation, not just LB Ahmad Brooks’ penalty last weekend, there was a questionable call in the Carolina-New England game. I was asking CB Eric Wright about this yesterday and he says, ‘the way some of these rules are, it’s almost like you’re learning on the fly out there,’ in terms of how to play within the rules. How do you coach up your players to these evolving rules?
“Just in general, I think I’ve been trained, learned, not to talk about the officiating. I understand what you’re asking. How do we coach the players? What should be going through their mind? Yeah, I know.”
There’s no reason to stop watching Harbaugh’s press conferences or skip reading the transcripts. They’re fascinating in their own way because we get a small glimpse into how Harbaugh thinks and operates, not because of the information provided.