Jim Harbaugh is the biggest jerk in the history of San Francisco 49ers head coaches.
Well maybe not the entire history, but at the very least in my personal history being a fan of the team. There have been 7 49ers head coaches since I became a fan as a part of my birthright: the legendary Bill Walsh providing the gold standard of conduct and preparation, George Seifert providing the gold standard of not fixing something that isn’t broken, Steve Mariucci providing the gold standard of disguising the decline of the franchise by propping up Jeff Garcia and handling Terrell Owens as effectively as any coach ever has, Dennis Erickson providing the gold standard for ineffective mediocrity, Mike Nolan providing the gold standard of nepotism being a bad thing, and Mike Singletary providing the gold standard for looking like a fool with his pants on the ground.
But Gotdamn, Harbaugh is a jerk.
Good football coaches, on all levels, have a little bit of jerk in them. Harbaugh’s father was a coach for 30+ years, his brother Jon is the head coach for the Baltimore Ravens, and his brother-in-law is Tom Crean, head men’s basketball coach at Indiana, meaning he already had a predisposition to certain jerkish tendencies.
If you’ve played organized sports, particularly football, on any level from Pop Warner to professional, I’m sure you’re more than well aware of the commonality that exists in the coaching profession. What other breed of human gets excited at the prospect of working twenty-plus hour days wearing khakis with a polo shirt and tennis shoes, while breaking down game film and neglecting their families? All for a job that, even if they are successful at it, will likely be letting them go after 2 1/2 seasons on average.
Jim Harbaugh though, he’s a certified a-hole. Last Sunday wasn’t the first time Harbaugh has behaved like a jerk on television (by now most people have been reminded about Pete Carroll asking him “What’s your deal?” after Harbaugh’s Stanford team put up 55 points in a rout at the Coliseum against Carroll’s Trojans), and so long as the 49ers keep winning, it won’t be his last. From the simple standpoint of one human being interacting with another human being, what Jim Harbaugh did to Jim Schwartz at the end of the 49ers-Lions win is indefensible. The “strong handshake” and push on the back were impossible to misinterpret. You can see through the (bleep)-eating grin Harbaugh had on his face during the postgame presser describing the incident that there was a very clear message being sent from him to Schwartz.
That message, basically: “F— yo’ couch.” (NSFW)
I’m looking at things objectively, which is difficult for me since I am a 49ers fan who wants to bask in my team being a surprising 5-1 right now heading into the bye. But the cloud hanging over this win is too dark. Harbaugh deliberately dismissed Schwartz’s entire existence with the handshake and push off (which was really more like a swim move used by a wideout against press coverage). Before you get the inclination to make excuses for the man, ask yourself, “Self, how would you have reacted were you Schwartz in that same situation?”
I know myself, my triggers, and someone slapping me unneccesarily on my back is one of them. I tend to overreact to things like that. Schwartz could have taken the high road and allowed the world to see the true character of the man who is responsible for the dramatic turnaround of the 2011 San Francisco 49ers, but he didn’t. That decision deserves some criticism, but not on th esame level of Harbaugh, who was a complete horse’s ass.
The National Football League won’t punish Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz for the handshake incident that has been seen by more Americans than the Zapruder film. It seems that the league doesn’t take much issue with two head coaches almost coming to blows at midfield of a nationally televised game, so long as they don’t tweet about it within 90 minutes of the final whistle. Both coaches addressed the incident in initial postgame interviews, and again on Monday after receiving inquiries from the league offices and having a day to cool down. Here’s what Harbaugh had to say about his actions:
“The thing that you feel bad about is that it detracts, takes away, from what our football players did, what their football players did, and the game itself,” said Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback. “When you see what is being talked about today, it’s about that last night. That was unfortunate. Like I said after the ballgame, I take responsibility for my part in that.”
Harbaugh effectively took the shine off the game that should have been about the players who didn’t allow a ten-point first quarter deficit to force them into the tank, an act that had become very familiar to 49ers fans over the past decade. Instead he made this about himself, and instead of celebrating Frank Gore’s return to elite running back status (15 carries, 141 yards and 1 TD; third consecutive week with 120+ yards and 6.5+ yards per carry), or the 49ers having the second best scoring defense in the NFL (16.2 ppg allowed) against some of the league’s better offenses: Detroit (29.7 ppg), Philadelphia (24.2 ppg), and Dallas (23.0 ppg).
Yet, we’re in Day 4 of discussing Harbaugh showing his a– on television. I know he’s he good coach. Not because of his current 5-1 record. Not because he took the Stanford Cardinal to an 11-1 record, an Orange Bowl win, and two Heisman trophy candidates (Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck). Not because he lead the University of San Diego to consecutive 11-1 seasons.
I know he’s a good coach because I know he’s an a–hole.