San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh likes to leave the world guessing. He’ll poke, jab and knock on the media’s and fans’ brains because he can, and what comes out of his mouth has people tuning in, tweeting, reading, etc.
When he seemingly came out of left field during an organized team activities press conference to clear up that the 49ers never had a real interest in Peyton Manning, it was head-scratching, at first.
Folks, that’s just Harbaugh being Harbaugh.
Let's setup how this all started. Harbaugh’s comments, as Matt Maiocco pointed out, were more than likely directed as a response to Carolina Panthers' linebacker Jon Beason, who responded on Twitter to comments Alex Smith made about Panthers’ rookie QB Cam Newton.
Smith said, to paraphrase, that high passing stats don’t necessarily equate to wins, as shown by Newton and the Panthers' 6-10 record in 2011.
Smith’s comments set off the back-and-forth fire storm between 49ers and Panthers players and coaches for the past few days. Harbaugh now becomes the big figure in it all after making a point to discuss the situation almost two months after it initially transpired. Why did Harbaugh feel the need to speak up?
There’s two reasons. First off, Harbaugh LOVES to toy with the press. In his press conference after a local college pro workout day last year, Harbaugh made a point to shake every media member’s hand.
He had a coy smile as if to say, “I’m really not that bad of a guy folks, really.” He even gave me a friendly wave from his Toyota Tundra when at the stoplight of Centennial Boulevard and Tasman Drive as we both went home.
Then the preseason came and did those friendly gestures ever just fly out the window and did the go-figure-it-out-yourself attitude take its place.
Second, Harbaugh just loves to take a question and take it somewhere you didn’t expect. There’s a few times when he’s not even bothered to answer a question he’s asked in a press conference.
For example, after the win over the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 20, the very first question of the post-game presser—asked by myself—was, “what does it feel like to be the first 49ers head coach to lead this team to a winning record since 2002?”
His response, from what was on my voice recorder: “First of all, congratulations to our players on this win and they’re the ones who are leading it. I just want to make that perfectly clear…We give advice. We stand over on the sideline. We don’t block or tackle anybody. These strong men. These guys are the ones who are leading it.”
Because the “advice” given to the 49ers by Mike Singletary last year made them a playoff team too.
Harbaugh is trying to show that he’s selfless, but doesn’t answer the question. He doesn’t say how he feels about it, and rather says it’s a credit to the players. Nothing wrong with the answer but it didn’t answer the question.
What Harbaugh is doing, reviving the Smith-Manning discussion when it appeared to be dead for a while is getting everyone’s mind off what’s happening at OTAs, in my opinion.
Who wants to talk about offseason workouts? Like Allen Iverson says, “It’s practice! Not a game, practice!” Even if Dashon Goldson hasn’t shown up and could hold out.
Who cares to talk about anything else but this quarterback circus which was all the buzz when it was originally happening?
Harbaugh wants to, because that’s Jim being Jim, and what he says, no matter how trivial it may be, matters.