San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has already become known as a fiery competitor in his short time as an NFL head coach, but his inability to keep from defending his team even after the game is over is exactly why players want to fight alongside him.
The fiery aura the former NFL player has, both on the sidelines and in the locker room, and the way he can relate to his players and the emotions they feel throughout the season has helped make San Francisco one of the legitimate superpowers in the league once again.
Harbaugh may only have two seasons under his belt as a head coach in the NFL, but the immediate success he’s had—lost in the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl—and the demeanor in which he carries himself rubs off on the team.
The 49ers may have lost the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort from Harbaugh or his coaching staff on the game plan; San Francisco just didn’t execute the plays it needed to make in order to win.
There was also an egregious non-call on fourth down in the fourth quarter that cost the 49ers their chance at a comeback that caused Harbaugh's blood to boil. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was the intended receiver on a fourth-down pass, but Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith clearly impeded the play.
No penalty was called on the play, and Harbaugh was visually upset on the sidelines (h/t Bleacher Report).
While Harbaugh swore he would handle the post-game press conference with class (h/t Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports), the fiery coach couldn’t help but defend his players and call out the lack of penalties in the waning minutes of the game:
You know, I really want to handle this with class and grace, and we had several opportunities in this game. We didn't play our best game, and the Ravens made a lot of plays and battled back. They competed to win. But there's no question in my mind that it was a pass interference, and hold on [Michael] Crabtree on the last one.
There was so much pressure on Harbaugh throughout the entire Super Bowl process, not just as the coach of one of the participants, but dealing with the drama and stress of having his brother John coaching the other team.
Jim is a volatile yet loyal leader that loves to be active and wear his emotions on his sleeve, so having to contend against his brother had to be a nightmare.
Despite the fact that Harbaugh will likely feel great joy for his brother later in life, the pain of losing on the biggest stage of them all is why it was no surprise that the young coach went on record defending his players.
That unbridled passion that Harbaugh showed after his team’s Super Bowl loss is what players want to see in a leader and what a fanbase wants to see from a head coach.
Some pros in the NFL may find the coach’s sideline antics overboard, but the man gets the stars on his team playing well and uses each player to the best of their ability.
As long as the team keeps winning, people will continue to love the way Harbaugh shows his emotions on his sleeve.