The players feed off him. He’s got them buying into this blue-collar, go-to-work mentality. He’s got them thinking positives (defense, running backs and special teams) and not negatives (can’t throw downfield).
Jim Harbaugh is not only Coach of the Year in the NFL so far, he’s coach of the decade. And in that aspect, consider this aspect of the “Shakegate” incident that occurred after the Detroit game with Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
Schwartz and Harbaugh worked together as assistant coaches at Baltimore. Last spring, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh had dinner with Schwartz. The Lions coach, according to John, told Jim that if the lockout extended into the spring and summer, there was no way Jim could get his team organized and get in the work to compete in the NFL.
Jim Harbaugh reportedly said, “I’ll find a way.” And he has. In the press conference Monday at 49er headquarters, Harbaugh downplayed the incident.
“I remember a topic on the lockout, I remember having dinner with Coach,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “I don’t remember any...I don’t know if you have the specifics, I don’t remember those words verbatim. There was talk on the challenges of first-year coaches in the lockout situation.”
Trust me on this. He remembers. And trust me on another thing. Harbaugh challenged the first Detroit score to tight end Brandon Pettigrew. He threw a challenge flag on a play that can’t be challenged and drew a penalty for it. Here’s how that situation got explained on Monday.
Q: There was something the camera definitely picked up where [Schwartz] was saying something like ‘know the rule’ or ‘he doesn’t know the rule’, commenting about your challenging something you couldn’t challenge.
Harbaugh: “We knew the rule. We knew that that would be a penalty.”
Did you know that Schwartz had said something? Did you hear him say something?
“No, I didn’t hear anything out on the field. Was that the end of the question?”
And okay, let’s go with the challenge. Did you know immediately that you had done something you couldn’t do?
“No, we knew that you can’t challenge a scoring play but just the way it transpired and we saw the incomplete pass by the back judge, and then the referee came over and they huddled and talked. Then, touchdown went up. That just seemed very quick that we were lining up to kick an extra point and didn’t know if they really had the review to know where that stood. I threw the challenge flag to give them more time to look at it. But yeah, we knew we couldn’t do it.”
Harbaugh may not have heard it, but he knew that Schwartz was challenging him. And he answered. And coming out with a win was all that sweeter.